Solidarity with Palestinian Hunger Strikers
by Stephen Lendman
Courage comes in many forms. Perhaps none stand out more than willingness to die for justice.
An estimated 2,500 Palestinian detainees began open-ended hunger strikes on April 17 – Palestine Prisoners Day. Others haven’t eaten much longer.
Some are perilously close to death. On May 5, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh refused food for the 68th day. A previous article described their grave condition. Six others are also imperiled.
On May 4, Al-Haq reported on Hasan Zahi Safadi. He’s been imprisoned uncharged since June 29, 2011. May 5 marked his 60th hunger striking day. Family members are denied permission to see him.
His brother Fou’ad said Hasan was held 55 days at al-Jalama interrogation center. Israel Prison Service (IPS) authorities then transferred him to Magiddo Prison. He joined other strikers in protest. IPS moved him from one facility to another. He spent much time in punitive isolation.
Hasan’s lawyer said he was physically assaulted and denied proper medical care. His health deteriorated badly. On April 6, he was transferred to Ramla Prison Hospital. Its treatment is appalling. Hasan pledges to keep hunger striking for justice.
Al Haq also discussed Nizar Samir-al Tamimi. He was first arrested in 1993. Last October, he was released as part of Israel’s prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit.
When arrested years ago, he was violently interrogated and abused physically and psychologically. Observers call it torture. Its standard Israeli practice. Even children aren’t exempt.
Nizar was forced to sit for hours in one position with his hands and feet painfully shackled and a plastic bag over his head. Weeks later in court, his mother attended his hearing. She was physically assaulted. A female soldier pushed her down and struck her head with her rifle butt.
Severely injured and hospitalized, she died two days later. Soldiers literally get away with murder. Interrogators tried using his mother’s death to pressure Nizar to confess to false charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Five times he hunger struck. Previous ones lasted no longer than 20 days. Issues always involve better food and medical care, education, family visits, punitive isolation, and other harsh treatment.
They focus on those issues now and more. Always they’re for justice Israel denies.
Prison conditions today are appalling. Punitive treatment is harsh and excessive. Detainees deserve better. They use their only available weapon. They refuse food for justice.
An unprecedented number now do it. Others join them daily. Word spreads. On May 4, hundreds protested outside Ramla Prison. Twenty or more arrests followed.
Family, friends, youth groups, peace activists, and political leaders expressed solidarity with strikers and all Palestinian political prisoners. Dozens of other residents, including detainee families, protested in front of a security base. Earlier demonstrators were held there.
Police responded violently. More arrests followed. Those targeted were attacked and tasered. A 16-year old boy was beaten so severely he required hospitalization.
Lawyer Maisa’ Ersheed was refused permission to see those held. MK Jamal Zahalka, head of the National Democratic Assembly, said prisoner demands include: family visits (especially for Gazans denied them for six years), and ending lawless detentions uncharged, isolation, and imposed sanctions under the punitive “Shalit Law.”
It prohibits family visits for Gazan prisoners. It also hardened their treatment.
Zahalka said Palestinian activism “is the beginning of daily activities in support of the detainees. We will be holding protests and marches on a daily basis. It is our duty to support the legitimate demands of the detainees.”
MK Ahmad Tibi, a physician, visited Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh. He examined them. They’re in grave condition. They need urgent civilian hospital care.
On May 2, hunger striker Rateb ad-Deek lost his hearing. His eyesight also deteriorated. He vomited blood after prison doctors administered wrong medication. Spurning medical ethics, they’re charlatans.
Rateb needs expert treatment. It’s not known if his condition is temporary or permanent. Reports say detainees in all prisons in the country’s south will join hunger strikers on May 7.
On May 4, Press TV reported that dozens of Gazans supportively began hunger striking. Erecting tents in Gaza City’s center, men and women participated. Hundreds of Gazan women also marched in solidarity with strikers. Still weak from her ordeal, Hana Shalabi joined them.
Hassan Abu Hasheesh, Chief of the Government Media office, said:
“The international community and UN agencies (must) take action against Israel for its crimes against Palestinian prisoners, and demand that Israel abide by international law and conventions relating to the treatment of prisoners.”
On May 5, IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizeman said 10 detainees were transferred to Ramla Prison Hospital for medical supervision. She didn’t say when or what treatment’s involved.
Addameer’s Sahar Francis said the men were moved on different days. Those involved have been hunger striking longest. Hamas vowed to retaliate if any die.
On May 4, Khader Adnan told Maan News that hunger striking dangerously jeopardizes prisoners’ lives, saying:
“During the first days, I lost appetite and suffered headaches for several hours, especially after the fifth day. The sense of smell became very strong and I could smell food from a long distance.”
He explained that from day five to 38, he was stable. However, he then suffered severe vomiting and yellow stomach and liver secretions. On his 58th day, he experienced severe lower abdomen pain. During his final eight days, he felt better.
“During the first seven days, I had basic checkups such as blood pressure, diabetes, temperature, and weight, but after the seventh day I refused to take any checkups until day 43 in an attempt to escalate the situation.”
On day 43, civilian hospital doctors discovered his low blood potassium rate. Blood clots can result.
“I was taken to several hospitals, and on day 54, blood tests revealed that my sugar rates were very low, and they gave me glucose.” “
“They offered to give me artery feeding, but I refused despite that the Red Cross, the Palestinian minister of health and the Palestinian leadership confirmed it would not mean an end to the hunger strike.”
He’s much better now. However, six days after again ingesting food, he needed surgery for small intestine trouble. Had he hunger struck much longer, he could have died any time.
On May 5, six West Bank villages had supportive protests. Israelis and international activists joined them. Israeli security forces confronted them violently. Arrests and injuries followed. Many needed treatment for tear gas inhalation.
Witnesses said soldiers assaulted them, invaded their communities, took over roof tops, and fired on protesters below. Tear gas canister detonations in fields burned olive groves. Soldiers did it maliciously.
A Final Comment
Late Saturday, Maan News reported that Fatah prisoners accepted Israel’s compromise to end hunger strikes.
Fatah representative Jamal al-Rjoob said IPS authorities met with its detainees in Shatta, Gilboa, Megiddo, and Hadarim prisons.
On May 4, PA prisoners minister Issa Qaraqe said an IPS committee offered 12 concessions. Prisoners accepted six, including:
(1) Gazan families will be able to visit relatives in prisons.
(2) An IPS/prisoner committee will be formed to move detainees from isolation.
(3) Three satellite TV channels will be restored.
(4) 400 NIS per month will be alloted for canteen privileges.
(5) Products there will include items prisoners need, including fruits and vegetables.
(6) Sick or injured prisoners will move by ambulance, not military vehicles.
Detainees also demanded restoration of educational services. It’s being discussed. Meetings are scheduled for May 6, 7, as well as one or more others to resolve outstanding issues.
On May 2, Human Rights Watch said Israel should “immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention.”
On May 4, Amnesty International published an “URGENT ACTION: Palestinian Hunger Strikers’ Lives in Danger,” saying:
“Two Palestinian hunger strikers’ lives are in danger, as the Israeli Supreme Court has delayed ruling on the appeal against their detention without charge or trial. Other administrative detainees on hunger strike are still denied access to independent doctors.”
Eight or more others are at risk. Readers were urged to contact Israeli officials to demand their immediate release.
Grievous crimes against humanity are being committed. Global pressure perhaps can help. Israel only understands hardball tactics. It’s time it tasted some of its own medicine.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.