Continuing Palestinian Hunger Strikes
by Stephen Lendman
Israel mocks democratic freedoms. Force-fed occupation injustice reveals its true face. It rivals the world’s worst tyrannies. Scoundrel media cover-ups can’t change facts.
Mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strikes persisted for weeks. Some lasted over two months. Miraculously no one died. Victories remain elusive. Negotiations produced Israeli promises to ease prison harshness. In return, most strikers resumed eating.
Pledges made are easily broken. Israel’s history proves its word is worthless. Palestinians have no rights, in or out of prison. Racism is policy. So is institutionalized persecution and violence against non-Jews. Arabs are despised.
Even Jews aren’t spared it they challenge government authority too far. No wonder many vote with their feet and leave. Like America, Israel is no fit place to live in. For Palestinians, it’s hell.
On May 24, Addameer headlined “Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi still on hunger strike as Israel’s violations continue,” saying:
“Israel has already violated the terms of the agreement addressing the demands of approximately 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners just over one week since they ended their historic mass hunger strike.”
Agreements with Israel aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Eventually they’re violated entirely. Hunger strikers are betrayed like all Palestinians, past and present.
Two prisoners remain on strike. Their health seriously deteriorated. They’re denied independent care. Ramleh Prison physicians make witch doctors look good by comparison. They’re charlatans. They betray their Hippocratic Oath to practice medicine ethically and responsibly.
Mahmoud is a member of Palestine’s national football team. Three years ago, he was imprisoned uncharged. On May 25, he began day 68 without food. He’s protesting against lawless detention uncharged under Israel’s draconian Unlawful Combatants Law (UCL).
Without evidence, it’s imposed based on “a reasonable basis” to believe Palestinians belong to a hostile group belligerently confronting Israel.
UCL is similar to George Bush’s “unlawful enemy combatant” designation. In 2009, terminology switched to “unprivileged enemy belligerent.” Language changed, but not intent. Detainees lose all rights. Israel and America replicate the worst of each other.
Legal obligations don’t matter. Targeted victims lose out entirely. Both countries wage war on Islam. State terror is official policy.
Israel promised Mahmoud a July release date. None so far was affirmed. Addameer lawyer Mona Neddaf visited him and five others in Ramleh’s medical center. She reported his condition so grave he could barely speak.
On May 25, Akram began day 44 without food. He’s been in Ramleh’s medical center since arrested in 2004. Serious diseases afflict him. They include diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis. Protracted striking left him precariously weak in grave condition.
Diabetes sufferers need minimal regular sustenance to survive. Akram can’t last much longer without it.
Neddaf also visited Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh. On May 14, they resumed eating. Bilal has stomach and head pain. His body rejects most nourishment. He digests only soup and milk.
He and Thaer struck for 77 days. Doing so risked death. Neither is out of the woods. Recovery will take months or perhaps years. Despite pledging to allow family visits, Bilal’s mother was denied permission to see him. Baseless “security” reasons were given.
Thaer also struggles to recover. He’s experiencing stomach, pancreas and back pain. On May 20, he was transferred to Ofer Prison for interrogation, then returned to Ramleh.
Both were promised release when their administrative detentions expire. For Thaer, it’s June 5. Bilal is scheduled for August 11. Each pledged to resume striking if Israel violates agreed on terms.
On May 14, Mohammad Taj ended his 60 day hunger strike for 24 hours after learning his POW demand would be met. Another promise made, another broken. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) violated its pledge.
On May 21, Mohammad again began eating. He told Neddaf details of his ill-treatment after resuming his strike. Despite his grave condition, he was transferred on May 15 to Al-Jalameh interrogation center.
“He was severely beaten and his clothes were forcibly stripped from his body. Prison guards also attempted to force milk down his throat.”
Addameer also documented blatantly violated pledges related to administrative detention. Numerous uncharged detainees got extensions. Israel promised otherwise. In addition, newly arrested prisoners are held uncharged. Doing it longer than minimal periods violates international law.
Israel finds new and repeated ways to affirm its rogue status. Justice and democratic freedoms don’t have a chance. Accountability remains denied.
Mahmoud Kamel Muhammad Sarsak spoke poignantly about his son, Mahmoud. He asked others to help save him. Public pressure and world embarrassment alone have a chance.
On July 22, 2009, he was arrested at Gaza’s Erez checkpoint. He headed for a West Bank Balata refugee camp football match. He was taken to Ashkelon Prison for weeks of interrogation.
On August 23, he was lawlessly detained under Israel’s UCL. Using it results in long-term indefinite detentions. Mahmoud was never charged or tried. On March 19, he stopped eating in protest. His fundamental rights are denied. He spent punishing time in solitary confinement.
“For us it is unbearable to see Israel has been awarded the hosting of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Under 21s football championship in 2013 and gears up to participate in the London Olympics, while it routinely arrests, tortures, imprisons and kills Palestinians, including football players, without consequence.”
“This is not fair play. Sports should show solidarity.”
Mahmoud and his family “call(ed) on all people of conscience to demand his immediate release, and to pressure governments and international organizations to force Israel’s compliance with the most basic standards of international law.”
In early May, Football Beyond Borders (FBB) expressed solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers. It noted Mahmoud’s unjust detention and critical condition. It announced it would boycott the 2013 UEFA championship games hosted by Israel.
In June 2011, dozens of Palestinian athletic teams wrote UEFA. They protested awarding Israel host city rights for 2013. They said in part:
“Football Beyond Borders, a student-led organisation which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues, stands in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak and all of the Palestinian political prisoners currently being detained by Israel on hunger strike, as together we protest the injustices being inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and draw attention to their plight.”
“Football Beyond Borders also takes this opportunity to announce our official boycott of the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships, which Israel has been awarded the honour of hosting.”
“Further announcements and planned actions will be made on this boycott in due course.”
Football Beyond Borders
C/o SOAS University Students’ Union
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG
A Final Comment
On May 24, the Palestine News Network said Sameh Elaiwe “was transferred from Nablus city to administrative detention one hour before his scheduled release date.”
On May 23, Foad al-Khafsh, head of Al-Ahrar Center for Prisoners’ Studies and Human Rights said an Israeli military court ordered him released the next day.
Israeli intelligence overturned its decision. He received four months administrative detention uncharged.
At issue, said Al-Khafsh, is breaking prisoner spirit and solidarity. Israel’s May 14 hunger strike agreement promised easing prison harshness. Terms included charging administrative detainees or releasing them once their terms ended.
Instead, over 25 administrative detentions were ordered in the past 10 days.
On May 24, Huwwara detention center prisoners began hunger striking. Issues include decent food, cleaning products to wash clothes and cells, adequate breaks, and overall respect for their rights.
Prison authorities spurned them. Prisoners said they won’t eat until fundamental demands are met. Israeli prisons are harsh gulags. Huwwara and Etzion are called worst of all.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
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.