Tag Archives: Hunger strike

Two Sides of the Palestinian Coin: Hunger Strike/Gaza

28 May

 

 

The Palestinian hunger strike protesting Israeli prison conditions was suspended on May 27th after 40 days, at a time when many of the 1000 or so strikers were experiencing serious deteriorations of health, most were by then hospitalized, and the holy period of Ramadan about to commence creating continuity between the daytime fasting of the faithful and the prior desperate protest of the strikers. What was perhaps most notable about this extraordinary gesture of a mass prolonged hunger strike was that it was treated as hardly worthy of notice by the world media or even by the United Nations, which ironically is regularly attacked by diplomats and the media in the West for being overly preoccupied with Israeli wrongdoing.

 

It needs appreciating that recourse to a collective hunger strike is a most demanding form of political resistance, invariably provoked by prolonged outrage, requiring courage and a willingness to endure hardship by participants, as well subjecting their will to as harsh a test as life offers. To continue foregoing food for 40 days is a life-threatening and heroic, a commitment never lightly undertaken.

 

With Bobby Sands as their leader ten IRA imprisoned hunger strikers starved themselves unto their death in 1981. The world watched in rapt attention as this extraordinary spectacle of self-inflicted death unfolded day by day. Without openly acknowledging what was happening before their eyes, hardened political leaders in London silently took notice of the moral challenge they confronted, shifting tactics abruptly, and began working toward a political compromise for Northern Ireland in a manner that would have been unthinkable without the strike.

 

The Palestinians can harbor no such hopes, at least in the near term. Israel deliberately clouds the moral and political embedded challenges by releasing videotapes supposedly showing ‘snacks’ secretly being eaten by the strike leader, Marwan Barghouti. This fact that this accusation was vigorously denied by his immediate family and lawyer is occasionally noted in the world media, but only as a detail that does not diminish the impact of discrediting the authenticity of the strike. Whether true or not, Israel succeeded in shifting attention away from the strike and avoids doing anything significant to improve prison conditions, much less take steps to end the severe abuses of the Palestinian people over the course of an incredible period of 70 years with no end in sight. Prison authorities immediately resorted to punitive measures to torment those prisoners who were on strike. Such a response underscores ‘democratic’ Israel’s refusal to treat with respect nonviolent forms of resistance by the Palestinian people.

 

At this same time as the prison drama was unfolding, Gaza was experiencing a deepening of its prolonged crisis that has been cruelly manipulated by Israel to keep the civilian population of almost two million on the brink of starvation and in constant fear of military onslaught. Supposedly the caloric intake for subsistence has been used as a benchmark by Israeli authorities for restricting the flow of food to Gaza. And since that seems insufficient to impose the level of draconian control sought by Israel, three massive military attacks and countless incursions since the end of 2008 have inflicted heavy casualties on the civilian population of Gaza and caused much devastation, a cumulative catastrophe for this utterly vulnerable, impoverished, captive population. In such a context, the fact that Hamas has retaliated with what weaponry it possessed, even if indiscriminate, is to be expected even if not in accord with international humanitarian law.

 

A leading intellectual resident of Gaza, Haider Eid, has recently written a poignant dispatch from the front lines of continuous flagrant Israelu criminality, “On Gaza and the horror of the siege,” [<http://mondoweiss.net/2017/gaza-horror-siege/&gt;, May 25, 2017]. Eid ends his essay with these disturbing lines:

“We fully understand that the deliberate withholding of food or the means to grow food in whatever form is yet another strategy of Israel’s occupation, colonization, and apartheid in Palestine, and, therefore, should be viewed as an abnormality, even a pogrom!

 But what we in Gaza cannot fathom is: Why it is allowed to happen?”

 

At the start of Ramadan, Haider Eid appeals to the world to stand up against what he calls ‘incremental genocide’ “ by heeding the BDS call made by Palestinian Civil Society.”

 

It is significant that Eid’s appeal is to civil society rather than to the Palestinian Authority entrusted with representing the Palestinian people on the global stage or for a revival of ‘the peace process’ that went on for twenty years within the Oslo Framework or to the UN that accepted responsibility after Britain gave up its Palestine mandate at the end of World War II. These conventional modes of conflict resolution have all failed, while steadily worsening the situation of the Palestinian people and nurturing the ambition of the Zionist movement to reach its goal of territorial expansion.

 

Beyond this, Eid notes that the authority of BDS is a result of an authoritative Palestinian call to which the peoples of the world are implored to respond. This shift away from intergovernmental empowerment from above to a reliance on empowerment by a victimized people and their authentic representatives embodies Palestinian hopes for a more humane future, and for an eventual realization of long denied rights.

 

It is appropriate to merge in our moral imagination the ordeals of the prisoners in Israeli jails with that of the people of Gaza without forgetting the encompassing fundamental reality—the Palestinian people as a whole, regardless of their specific circumstances, are being victimized by an Israeli structure of domination and discrimination in a form that constitutes apartheid and different forms of captivity.

 

It seems that the hunger strike failed to induce Israel to satisfy many of the demands of the strikers for improved conditions. What it did achieve was to remind Palestinians and the world of the leadership gifts of Marwan Barghouti, and it awakened the Palestinian population to the moral and political imperative of sustaining and manifesting resistance as an alternative to despair, passivity, and submission. Israelis and some of their most ardent supporters speak openly of declaring victory for themselves, defeat for the Palestinians. Regardless of our religious or ethnic identity we who live outside the circle of Israeli oppression should be doing our utmost to prevent any outcome that prolongs Palestinian unjust suffering or accepts it as inevitable.

 

What is unspeakable must become undoable.

 

 

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THE PALESTINIAN HUNGER STRIKE: “Our chains will be broken before we are..”

16 May

 

 

On April 17th at least 1500 Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike of indefinite duration, responding to a call from Israel’s most famous Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti. It also happens to be that Barghouti is the most popular political leader, far more liked, trusted, and admired that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti is serving a series of lifetime terms for his alleged role in directing an operation during the Second Intifada in which five Israelis were killed.

 

Barghouti who has been in prison for fifteen years, gave his reasons for the strike as “torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence,” as well as a failure to abide by international legal standards pertaining to prison conditions during a military occupation. Even the normally timid International Committee of the Red Cross acknowledged prisoner demands by issuing a public statement asserting that the denial of family visits and moving Palestinian prisoners and detainees outside of the occupied territory to Israeli jails were violations of international treaty norms set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation.

 

Because Barghouti expressed his grievances in an article somewhat surprisingly published by the NY Times on April 16th. Surprising because the Times, an influential media outlet, has over the years been reliably deferential to the Israeli rationalizations for Israeli contested policies and behavior. It turns out that the newspaper was nervous about this departure from its normal operating mode. Barghouti’s piece only appeared in its international edition, and had a qualifying editorial note appended: “This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.” [italics in the original]

 

In retaliation for daring to publish this opinion piece Barghouti was severely punished. He was immediately placed in solitary confinement, has not been allowed to change his clothes for the past month, and is inspected by prison guards four times a day.

 

The notorious Canadian ultra Zionist media watchdog, Honest Reporting, explains on its website that its goal is “defending Israel from media bias.” Honest Reporting expressed its outrage by condemning the NY Times for opening its pages to a convicted Palestinian ‘terrorist.’ It is Orwellinan to so describe Barghouti, a political leader courageously defending his people against an unlawful and oppressive occupation that is approaching its 50th anniversary, and is now best understood as a crime against humanity taking the form of apartheid victimizing the Palestinian people as a whole, and not just those living under occupation. If the Honest Reporting was indeed honest it would expose the pronounced media bias in the West shielding Israel from international accountability and obscuring the severity of Palestinian grievances under international law and morality.

 

The world media treatment of this massive Palestinian strike is typical, although nevertheless disappointing. It gives meager attention to the dramatic character of such a prison protest that has continued for over a month, stimulating many solidarity demonstrations throughout occupied Palestine, a sympathy 24-hour hunger strike by South Africans including the prominent Deputy President Cyril Rhamaposa, and widespread shows of support throughout the Palestinian diaspora. The reaction of the Palestinian Authority has been evasive, with Abbas giving a token show of public support for prisoner goals, while letting it be known privately that he hopes the strike will end as soon as possible.

 

The behavior of the Israeli Prison Service is an indirect confirmation of prisoner discontent. In a sadistic taunt, Israeli settlers were allowed to have a barbecue in the parking lot in front of one of the prisons, apparently mocking the hunger strikers with the pungent aroma of meat being grilled. Worse than this, a fake video was distributed by prison official purporting to show Barghouti having a snack in his cell. This effort to discredit the strike and its leader has been angrily denied. Khader Shkirat, Barghouti’s lawyer, explained that there was no way food could be smuggled to someone in solitary, especially with frequent room searches. It was finally conceded by prison officials that food was delivered to Barghouti’s cell by prison guards trying unsuccessfully to tempt him to break the fast. Barghouti on his side responded via his lawyer, “I plan to escalate my hunger strike soon. There is no backtracking. We will continue until the end.” Barghouti, 58, has according to the last report has lost 29 pounds since the start of the strike, and now weighs 119, planning to refuse even water.

 

Even if this dire commitment is not carried through to a potentially grim finality it will not tarnish the significance of what has been undertaken, and the great reluctance of the world to focus its attention on such a display of nonviolent martyrdom. This is not the first Palestinian prison strike motivated by abusive prison conditions and instances of administrative detention, arresting and jailing without any formal charges. But it appears to be the most consequential due to the participation of Marwan Barghouti along with so many other Palestinian prisoners as well as producing many displays of solidarity beyond the prison walls.

 

As Ramzy Baroud has pointed out in an Al Jazeera article published on May 10, 2017, the strike, although putting forth demands relating to prison conditions, is really a reflection of the underlying ordeal, what he refers to as “the very reality of Palestinian life”; it is above all “a call for unity against factionalism and Israeli occupation.” The distractions created by the Trump presidency, Brexit and the rise of the European right-wing, and turmoil in the Middle East have given Israel’s leadership the political space to push their expansionist agenda toward an imposed outcome of one Jewish state imposing its will on two distinct peoples. Such an endgame for this version of colonialist displacement and subjugation of the indigenous majority population will extend Palestinian suffering in the short-run, but will over time undermine Israeli security and stability, and bring the long Palestine nightmare to an end.

 

The British leadership finally appreciated their own interests, forging a political compromise in Northern Ireland in the form of the Good Friday Agreement, which while fragile and imperfect, has mostly spared Catholics and Protestants further bloodshed. Will the Israeli and U.S. leadership grow responsive to the moral and legal imperatives that call for a sustainable and just peace between these two peoples before the political imperative of such an essential outcome assume more menacing forms?

 

Against all expectations, the South African leadership did eventually become so responsive, but only after enough pressure was exerted internally and internationally. The South African leadership produced a new dawn by releasing its prime ‘terrorist’ inmate, Nelson Mandela, from prison, and the rest is history. Marwan Barghouti is clearly available to play such an historical role in relation to Israel. It will be a tragedy if Zionist ambitions and American led geopolitics preclude this from happening! The road to peace for Israel is the similar to the road to peace for apartheid South Africa: dismantle the apartheid regime that now dominates and discriminates against the Palestinian people on a systematic and totalizing basis. Such a projected future may seem a dream, but dreams can be made to come true through the dynamics of a struggle for justice. If so, we may look back on Barghouti’s hunger strike as the beginning of a winning Palestinian endgame.

 

It is important that we appreciate that a hunger strike is not only a pure form of nonviolence, but is also a self-inflicted sacrifice by those who seek to exhibit their opposition to the existing state of affairs in this manner, hoping to create conditions that produce change. It is an extreme type of resistance that in its essence is an appeal to the conscience and compassion of its opponents and public opinion generally. As Gandhi found out in racist South Africa, if that conscience and compassion are not sufficiently present within a given society such tactics are futile, and violent resistance becomes the only alternative to submission and despair. Israel has been repeatedly challenged by the Palestinians to do the right thing, but responds increasingly by treating all of its adversaries as ‘terrorists’ regardless of their behavior, while itself continuing to defy international law thereby denying the most fundamental rights to the Palestinian people and repeatedly relying on excessive force to safeguard its dominance.

Palestinian Hunger Strikes: Why Still Invisible?

19 Aug

 

 

            When it is realized that Mahatma Gandhi shook the British Empire with a series of hunger strikes, none lasting more than 21 days, it is shameful that Palestinian hunger strikers ever since last December continue to exhibit their extreme courage by refusing food for periods ranging between 40 and over 90 days, and yet these exploits are unreported by the media and generally ignored by relevant international institutions. The latest Palestinians who have aroused emergency concerns among Palestinians, because their hunger strikes have brought them to death’s door, are Hassan Safadi and Samer Al-Barq. Both had ended long earlier strikes because they were promised releases under an Egyptian brokered deal that was announced on May 14, 2012, and not consistently implemented by israel. Three respected human rights organizations that have a long and honorable record of investigating Israeli prison conditions have issued a statement in the last several days expressing their ‘grave concern’ about the medical condition of these two men and their ‘utmost outrage’ at the treatment that they have been receiving from the Israeli Prison Service.

 

            For instance, Hassan  Safadi, now on the 59th day of a second hunger strike, having previously ended a 71 day fast after the release agreement was signed, is reported by Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, to be suffering from kidney problems, extreme weakness, severe weight loss, headaches, dizziness, and has difficulty standing. It is well established in medical circles that there exists a serious and risk of cardio-vascular failure for a hunger strike that lasts beyond 45 days.

 

            In addition to the physical strains of a prolonged hunger strike, the Israeli Prison Service puts deliberately aggravates the situation facing these hunger strikers in ways that have been aptly described as cruel and degrading punishment. Such language is generally qualifies as the accepted international definition of torture. For instance, hunger strikers are punitively placed in solitary confinement or put coercively in the presence of other prisoners or guards not on hunger strikes so as to be taunted by those enjoying food. It is also an added element of strain that these individuals were given false hopes of release, and then had these expectations dashed without even the disclosure of reasons. Both of these strikers have been and are being held under administrative detention procedures that involve secret evidence and the absence of criminal charges. The scrupulous Israel human rights organization, B’Tselem, has written that the use of administrative detention is a violation of international humanitarian law unless limited to truly exceptional cases, which has not been the case as attested even in the Israeli press. Hassn Safaedi’s experience with administrative detention exhibits the manner of its deployment by Israeli occupation authorities. Administrative detention was initially relied upon to arrest him when he was a child of 16, and since then he has served a variety of prison terms without charges or trial, and well authenticated reports of abuse, amounting to a total of ten years, which means that during his 34 years of life a considerable proportion of his life has been behind bars on the basis of being alleged security threat, but without any opportunity for elemental due process in the form of opportunity to counter evidence, presumption of innocence, and confronting accusations. Amnesty International has recently again called for an international investigation of the treatment of Palestinian detainees and reassurances that Palestinians are not being punished because they have recourse to hunger strikes.

 

            It is important to be reminded of the context of hunger strikes. Such undertakings require great determination of which most of us are incapable, and an exceptionally strong inner commitment that connects life and death in a powerful, almost mystical, unity. It is no wonder that Palestinian hunger strikers have been inspired by the 1989 Tiananman Square Declaration of Hunger Strikers:  “We are not in search of death; we are looking for real life.” The ten IRA hunger strikers, led by Bobby Sands, who died in 1981 at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland transformed the British Government’s approach to the conflict, leading to establishing at last a genuine peace process that was climaxed by the Good Friday Agreement that brought the violence mostly to an end. Hunger strikes of this depth send a signal of desperation that can only be

Ignored by a mobilization of moral insensitivity generating a condition that

Is somewhere between what psychologists call ‘denial’ and others describe

as ‘moral numbness.’

 

            So why has the world media ignored the Palestinian hunger strikers? Must we conclude that only Palestinian violence is newsworthy for the West?

Must Palestinian hunger striking prisoners die before their acts are of notice? Why is so much attention given to human rights abuses elsewhere in the world, and so little attention accorded to the Palestinian struggle that is supposed to engage the United Nations and underpin so much of the conflictual behavior in the Middle East? Aside from a few online blogs and the Electric Intifada there is a media blackout about these most recent hunger strikes, another confirmation of the Politics of Invisibility when it comes to Palestinian victimization.

 

            After all, the United Nations, somewhat ill-advisedly, is one of the four parties (the others being the United States, Russia, the European Union) composing The Quartet, which has set forth the roadmap that is supposed to produce peace, and should exhibit some special responsibility for such a breach of normalcy in the treatment of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons. Addameer, al-Haq, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel have called on three international actors to do something about this situation, at the very least, by way of fact-finding missions and reports—UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, the European Union, and the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Is it too much to expect some sort of response?  We do not expect the United States Government, so partisan in all aspects of the conflict, to raise its voice despite its protestations of concern about human rights in a wide array of countries and despite President Obama’s almost forgotten promises made in his June 2009 Cairo speech to understand the suffering of the Palestinian people and to turn a new page in Middle Eastern policy.

 

            Since I have been following this saga of hunger strikes unfold in recent months, starting with Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi in December 2011, I have been deeply moved by the consistently elevated human quality of these hunger strikers that is disclosed through their statements and interactions with family members and the public. Their words of devotion and loving solidarity are possessed of an authenticity only associated with feelings rarely expressed except in extreme situations when life itself is in jeopardy. This tenderness of language, an absence of hate and even bitterness, and a tone of deep love and devotion is what makes these statements from the heart so compelling. I find these sentiments to be spiritually uplifting. Such utterances deserve to be as widely shared as possible to allow for a better understanding of what is being lost through this long night of the soul afflicting the Palestinian people. Surely, also, the politics of struggle is implicit, but the feelings being expressed are at once deeply political and beyond politics.

 

            I can only hope that informed and sensitive writers, poets, singers, and journalists, especially among the Palestinians, who share my understanding of these hunger strikes will do their best to convey to the world the meaning of such Palestinian explorations in the interior politics of nonviolence. These are stories that deserve to be told in their fullness maybe by interviews, maybe through a series of biographical sketches, maybe by poems, paintings, and songs, but they need to be told at this time in the same spirit of love, empathy, solidarity, and urgency that animates theses utterances of the Palestinian hunger strikers.

 

            I paste below one sample to illustrate what I have been trying to express: a letter from Hassan Safadi to his mother written during his current hunger strike, published on July 30, 2012 by the Electric Intifada, translated from Arabic by a young Palestinian blogger, Linah Alsaafin, who contributed a moving commentary that is a step in the direction I am encouraging:

 

“First I want to thank you dear mother for your wonderful letter, whose every word penetrated my heart and immersed me in happiness, love and tenderness. I am blessed to have a mother like you. Please thank everyone who stood in solidarity and prayed for me.

What increased my happiness and contentment was you writing that you raise your head up proudly because of me…I hope your head will always be lifted high and your spirits elevated oh loved one. As for waiting for my release, I remind you mother we are believers.

We are waiting for God’s mercy with patience…as Prophet Muhammad related God’s words, “I am as my slave thinks…” As you await my release, think positively and God willing, God will not leave you and your work and He will not disappoint your expectations.

Thank God I have a mother like you, a patient believer who prays for me from her heart, and I thank you dear mother for the beautiful song you wrote that warmed my chest as I read the lyrics..

Congratulations to Nelli’s [his sister] twins…I pray to God they will be attributed to Muslims and to Islam and for them to receive the best upbringing, and for their time to be better than our time.

Say hello and salute Abu Jamal and thank him for his efforts and say hello to Ayah and Amir and tell them I miss them, tell everyone who asked about me I say hello, and pray for them.

How beautiful the last line in your letter is! “God is with you, may He protect you and take care of you…I leave you in His safe hands.”

Please mother, always pray for me using those words especially in the month of Ramadan, happy holidays.

Your son”

 

Akram Rikhawi and the Saga of Palestinian Hunger Strikes

9 Jul

 

       The persistence of Palestinian hunger strikes shocks me for two reasons: that these extreme expressions of moral freedom alert all who choose to expose their consciousness to such realities of the severely abusive arrest, detention, and interrogation procedures that many Palestinians living under Israeli occupation must endure; that the world’s media, foreign governments, the UN, the Arab League barely acknowledge such events, which if they occurred in other countries would generate outpourings of outrage and sympathy, and depending on the geopolitical calculus, hypocritical calls for the application of the ‘responsibility to protect’ norm.

       I post below a joint press release by respected NGOs of Palestine and Israel that summarize the desperate medical condition of Akram Rikhawi, who has continued his hunger strike for more than 85 days, an extraordinary display of discipline and resolve, the exemplary Palestinian virtue of samud (steadfastness). Mr. Rikhawi, whose home is in Gaza, has been held in prison since 2004 after being convicted to a nine-year term by an Israeli military court. He has been denied mercy by the Israeli authorities despite a present political atmosphere in which the Palestinian resistance has not been posing violent challenges to Israeli security behind the green line, and his condition would in any event make political activism an impossibility.

       As a result of the ‘Shalit Law,’ a vindictive violation of international humanitarian law that retaliates against Palestinian prisoners because of the capture of Gilad Shalit an Israeli soldier who was released a year ago, Rikhawi has been denied family visits since 2006 despite being the father of eight children plus the five young children of his recently deceased brother. Yasmine, daughter of his brother, summed up Akram Rikhawi’s tragic situation: “My uncle made a decision and we support him because we live life once; we either live it with dignity or we die fighting for it.” No human being should be forced to face such a dilemma, and those that do deserve our compassion and support. Jasmine describes Akram Rikhawi as the main source of financial and emotional support of the entire family, which was the center of his life. She describes him as an avid reader who was constantly challenging the family to engage in serious discussions, including issues arising from his intense opposition to the occupation.

 

       He suffers from multiple life-threatening ailments, including serious asthma and diabetes, and has been targeted for abuse since initiating this hunger strike as the following report makes clear.

       Putting all the pieces together, including the realization that many hunger strikes have been in process since Khader Adnan had recourse to a hunger strike on December 17, 2010 in protest against his arrest and confinement as a result of an administrative detention decree, we can reach some tentative conclusions:

–these brave acts of nonviolence have inspired Palestinians and some others, sustaining their dignity under the most difficult and inhumane of circumstances;

–Western countries and Western NGOs, claiming to be champions of humanitarian diplomacy, have spurned the moral and political challenges posed by these hunger strikes;

–despite such malign neglect, the hunger strikes have shined a bright light on the unlawfulness and cruelty of Israeli arrest and interrogation procedures and prison conditions that has increased awareness of this dimension of prolonged Israeli occupation of Palestine;

–with such an awareness comes responsibility, including acting on the request of Addammeer and Phsicians for Human Rights-Israel that letters demanding Akram Rikhawi’s release be sent to listed Israeli officials.

*****************************************************************

Concern mounts for the life of Akram Rikhawi on his 85th day of hunger strike

An independent doctor from PHR-IL visited Akram Rikhawi yesterday and an Addameer lawyer visited him today, along with Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi. Samer and Hassan are still denied access to independent doctors.

Joint Press Release, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

Ramallah-Jaffa, 5 July 2012—Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL) and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association are gravely concerned for the life of Akram Rikhawi, who is now on his 85th day of hunger strike. An independent doctor from PHR-IL visited Akram in Ramleh prison medical center yesterday, 4 July, which was made possible only after an appeal to the Israeli District Court, where the judge eventually ordered the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to allow the entry of the independent doctor no later than 3 July.

Following the visit to Akram, the PHR-IL doctor reported the alarming deterioration of Akram’s asthma, which continues to be unstable. The doctor believes Akram has been given very high doses of steroids as treatment, which can cause severe long-term and irreversible damage. The doctor reiterated recommendation for immediate examination by a lung specialist, which was not performed as recommended after the last visit by an independent doctor on 6 June.

Akram also reported that he is experiencing severe dizziness, can no longer walk and is having difficulty standing. Even more troubling, Akram has not been given any assistance in these matters, leaving him vulnerable to the danger of falling, which could result in fatal injury due to his osteoperosis. The doctor further noted that Akram is experiencing tingling and numbness in his left thigh, which could indicate peripheral nerve damage, and recommended immediate examination in a public hospital, for fear of permanent neurological damage.

The IPS has continued to punish Akram for his hunger strike by confiscating his books and reading materials, isolating him from other prisoners and cancelling his daily break. He is also being held in a cell with no fan or air conditioning, despite the high humidity and how badly it affects his asthma.

Akram pointed out to the independent doctor and to Addameer lawyer Mona Neddaf in her visit today that he was recently hospitalized at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, but was shackled at all times to the hospital bed and felt his needs were mostly ignored by the medical staff. He emphasized to Ms. Neddaf his desire to have unrestricted access to the independent doctors from PHR-IL.

Ms. Neddaf also visited Samer Al-Barq, who is on his 45th day of renewed hunger strike in protest against the extension of his administrative detention. Ms. Neddaf noted that he seems significantly weaker than during her last visit on 25 June. He is consuming only water with glucose.

Samer’s family has reported that he suffers from kidney problems and high blood pressure and has lost more than 25% of his original weight. On 21 June, PHR-IL submitted a request to allow access for independent physicians. On 25 June the IPS denied this request without providing any reasons.

Hassan Safadi is on his 15th day of renewed hunger strike, after previously spending 71 days on prolonged hunger strike. His last administrative detention order was due to expire on 29 June and, according to the agreement ending Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike, he was supposed to be released on that date. However, his lawyer was informed on 21 June of the renewal of his administrative detention order for a further six months, in violation of the agreement.

According to Ms. Neddaf after her visit with him today, Hassan’s lawyer submitted a request to the military judge that he review the agreement and consider his immediate release. The judge responded that he would give a decision on this matter in two weeks. Hassan stressed that he will not break his hunger strike until he is released to his home in Nablus.

Hassan was transferred to Ramleh prison medical center last week and is currently being held in an isolated cell. He is drinking water with salt and taking vitamins due to a low potassium level in his blood. He has lost approximately 8 kilos in weight since the beginning of his renewed strike. PHR-IL submitted a request to allow access for an independent doctor on 26 June and have not yet received a response from the IPS.

 

In light of the deterioration of the conditions of the remaining Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, PHR-IL and Addameer urge the international community to immediately intervene on their behalf and demand:

  • unrestricted access for independent physicians to all hunger strikers;
  • the immediate transfer of Akram Rikhawi and Samer Al-Barq to a public hospital, and the transfer of all prisoners on hunger strike for more than 40 days to public hospitals;
  • that no hunger striker be shackled while hospitalized;
  • that all hunger strikers—especially those in advanced stages of hunger strike—be allowed family visits, while they are still lucid;
  • that all information be given to families as to the medical condition of their loved ones, which is the responsibility of hospitals and medical staff in accordance with standards of medical ethics;
  • that Akram Rikhawi be granted release on humanitarian grounds;
  • that Hassan Safadi and Samer Al-Barq, along with all other administrative detainees, be immediately and unconditionally released.

*Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Akram Rikhawi be released immediately and receive adequate medical care.

  • Brigadier General Danny Efroni
Military Judge Advocate General
6 David Elazar Street
Harkiya, Tel Aviv
Israel
Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526
Email: arbel@mail.idf.il; avimn@idf.gov.il
  • Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon
OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command
Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
Fax: +972 2 530 5741
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
  • Col. Eli Bar On
Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
Beth El 90631
Fax: +972 2 9977326

*Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Akram Rikhawi.

Palestinian Hunger Strikers: Fighting Ingrained Duplicity

12 May

The article below was written jointly by Noura Erakat and myself, and was posted on the Jadaliyya website on May 11, 2012

[Palestinians hold photographs of their relatives jailed in Israel during a support rally for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 5, 2012. Image by Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo.][Palestinians hold photographs of their relatives jailed in Israel during a support rally for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 5, 2012. Image by Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo.]

On his seventy-third day of hunger strike, Thaer Halahleh was vomiting blood and bleeding from his lips and gums, while his body weighs in at 121 pounds—a fraction of its pre-hunger strike size. The thirty-three-year-old Palestinian follows the still-palpable footsteps of Adnan Khader and Hana Shalabi, whose hunger strikes resulted in release. He also stands alongside Bilal Diab, who is also entering his seventy-third day of visceral protest. Together, they inspired nearly 2,500 Palestinian political prisoners to go on hunger strike in protest of Israel’s policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Administrative detention has constituted a core of Israel’s 1,500 occupation laws that apply to Palestinians only, and which are not subject to any type of civilian or public review. Derived from British Mandate laws, administrative detention permits Israeli Forces to arrest Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, and without any show of incriminating evidence. Such detention orders can be renewed indefinitely, each time for another six-month term.

Ayed Dudeen is one of the longest-serving administrative detainees in Israeli captivity. First arrested in October 2007, Israeli officials renewed his detention thirty times without charge or trial. After languishing in a prison cell for nearly four years without due process, prison authorities released him in August 2011, only to re-arrest him two weeks later. His wife Amal no longer tells their six children that their father is coming home, because, in her words, “I do not want to give them false hope anymore, I just hope that this nightmare will go away.”

Twenty percent of the Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories have at one point been held under administrative detention by Israeli forces. Israel argues these policies are necessary to ensure the security of its Jewish citizens, including those unlawfully resident in settlements surrounding Jerusalem, Area C, and the Jordan Valley—in flagrant contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention‘s Article 49(6), which explicitly prohibits the transfer of one’s civilian population to the territory it occupies.

The mass hunger strike threatens to demolish the formidable narratives of national security long propagated by Israeli authorities. In its most recent session, the United Nation’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that Israel’s policy of administrative detention is not justifiable as a security imperative, but instead represents the existence of two laws for two peoples in a single land. The Committee went on to state that such policies amount to arbitrary detention and contravene Article 3 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which prohibits “racial segregation and apartheid.” Nevertheless, this apartheid policy has so far escaped the global condemnation it deserves. In general, Palestinian grievances are consistently evaded with the help of media bias that accords faint coverage to signs of resistance, including even this extraordinary non-violent movement mounted by Palestinian victims of institutionalized state abuse.

Although there has not been a principled or total abandonment of armed struggle by Palestinians living under occupation, there has been a notable and dramatic shift in emphasis to the tactics of nonviolence. For yearsliberal commentators in the West have been urging the Palestinians to make such a shift, partly for pragmatic reasons. Even President Obama echoed this suggestion in his 2009 Cairo address when he said,

Palestinians must abandon violence….For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’sfounding.

But when Palestinians act in this recommended manner, the West averts its gaze and Israel responds with cynical disregard, dismissing near-death Palestinian hunger strikers as publicity stunts or cheap tricks to free themselves from imprisonment. Today, Palestinians have epitomized the best of American values that reflect the global history of non-violent resistance, as they wage a mass hunger strike, engage in a global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli Apartheid, and risk their bodies on a weekly basis in peaceful protests against the Annexation Wall. The latter continues to expand its devastating encroachment upon and around Palestinian lands in defiance of a near unanimous Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice as well as countless Security Council Resolutions.

Yet, this America chooses to label the hunger strikers’ prison guards, the architects of racist laws and policies, as well as the engineers of the Apartheid Wall, as the sole and exemplary democracy in the Middle East. Rather than condemn Israel’s colonial practices, which constitute the core of Arab grievances and explain the widespread resentment of the US role in the Middle East, a US Congressional House panel has just now approved nearly one billion US dollars in additional military assistance to augment Israel’s anti-missile defense program. If passed, Israel will receive a record amount of four billion dollars in military aid next year—more than any country in the world.

There is a stark contrast between the round-the-clock coverage given to Chen Guangchen, the blind Chinese human rights activist who escaped from house arrest to the safety of the US Embassy, and the scant notice given this unprecedented Palestinian challenge to the Israeli prison system that is subjecting the protesters to severe health risks, even death. What is more, such hunger strikes are part of a broader Palestinian reliance on a powerful symbolic appeal to the conscience of humanity in their quest for long-denied rights under international law. Said deprivations include a disavowal of a peace process that has gone nowhere for decades, while a pattern of settlement expansion has made any realization of the widely endorsed “two-state solution” increasingly implausible. The prolonged nature of the occupation also steadily transforms what was supposed to be a temporary occupation into a permanent arrangement best understood as a mixture of annexation and apartheid.

In the face of this opportunity to place pressure upon Israel to comply with international law and human rights norms, the international community of governments and inter-governmental institutions has been grotesquely silent as Palestinians place their very lives at sacrificial risk. For its part, the United Nations’ most senior officials said nothing until a group of forty young protesters blocked the entrance of UN offices in Ramallah on 8 May, demanding the issuance of a statement on behalf of the hunger striking prisoners. Together with the help of a global social media campaign to trend #UNclosed, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UNRWA’s director Filippo Grandi have finally issued statements expressing deep concern. Grandi has gone the farthest to urge that Israel either provide trials for the detainees or release them, though his statement has been conspicuously removed from the Agency’s website.

It is hard to deny the irony of tacit approval, at worst, or timid condemnation, at best, in the United Nations, the United States, or elsewhere. In its 2008 Boumedienne decision, the US Supreme Court declared that (arguably) the world’s most villainous and immoral persons are entitled to habeas corpus review in US courts in order to avoid the cruelty of indefinite detention. Yet, Israel’s policy of detaining indigenous Palestinians who inhabit the lands the State seeks to confiscate and settle for more than four decades has denied those Palestinians exactly such legal protection. What are Palestinians to do in the face of such frustrating circumstances? What message does the lack of international support for their strong displays of nonviolence, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery send to them and to their Arab and Muslim counterparts who are once more exposed to blatant US hypocrisy in the region?

Palestinian civil society is now mainly opting for explicit acts of collective nonviolent resistance to register their dissatisfactions with the failures of the United Nations—or inter-governmental diplomacy in general—to produce a sustainable peace that reflects Palestinian rights under international law. The main expression of this embrace of nonviolence is the adoption of tactics used so successfully by the anti-Apartheid campaign to change the political climate in racist South Africa, yielding a nonviolent path to multiracial constitutional democracy. At the present time the growing BDS movement is working to achieve similar results.

Let us recall that successful global nonviolent movements are not restricted to fasts and marches, but include the boycott, non-cooperation, and civil disobedience tactics deployed by Palestinians today. Though President Obama, encumbered as he may be by a domestic election cycle, may feel compelled to ignore Palestinian responses to his call, the rest of the world should not.  Certainly, US-based and global citizens should demand that the Western media begin to act responsibly when dealing with injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people, and not sheepishly report human rights abuses only when committed by the adversaries of their state. The media itself is a tactical target and a residual problem. In solidarity with the hunger strikers, civic allies should address the institutional edifice upholding administrative detention. It extends from a discriminatory core and therefore its requisite treatment includes ensuring the enjoyment of internationally guaranteed rights; rights enshrined by the BDS call to action and reified by the movement’s steady and deliberate progression.

GravatarMy U. S. government, in this situation, is misguided and wrong wrong wrong….

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UN rights expert raises alarm over Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli Prisons

1 May

UN Press Release—HUMAN RIGHT COUNCIL–2 May 2012

UN rights expert raises alarm over Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli Prisons

GENEVA (30 April 2012) – UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk on Monday said he was appalled by the “continuing human rights violations in Israeli prisons,” amid a massive wave of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners.

In extraordinary acts of collective nonviolent resistance to abusive conditions connected to Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on 17 April 2012, Palestinian Prisoners Day. This hunger strike is a protest against unjust arrest procedures, arbitrary detention and bad prison conditions. Prison authorities have reportedly taken punitive measures against those on hunger strike, including by denying them family and lawyer visits, confiscating their personal belongings and placing them in solitary confinement.

“I am appalled by the continuing human rights violations in Israeli prisons and I urge the Government of Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian prisoners,” Falk said. “Israel must treat those prisoners on hunger strike in accordance with international standards, including by allowing the detainees visits from their family members.”

Falk noted that since the 1967 war, estimated 750,000 Palestinians including 23,000 women and 25,000 children have gone through detention in Israeli jails. This constitutes approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory or 40 percent of the total male Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Israel’s wide use of administrative detention flies in the face of international fair trial standards,” Falk said. “Detainees must be able to effectively challenge administrative detention orders, including by ensuring that lawyers have full access to the evidence on which the order was issued.” The Special Rapporteur noted that Israel currently holds around 300 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Falk called on the international community to ensure that Israel complies with international human rights laws and norms in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

ENDS

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

 

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx