Hunger Striking for Liberation, Justice and Dignity
by Stephen Lendman
Samer Issawi’s a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist. In April 2004, he was wrongfully arrested. He committed no crime.
He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. In October 2011, he was released. He and over 1,000 other Palestinian political prisoners were freed. Israel did so in exchange for Gilad Shalit.
Harassment followed. Israel gave him no peace. He was arbitrarily detained numerous times. His sister Shireen said it was three or more times monthly. Each time he was harshly interrogated. He knew perhaps what was coming.
Months later he was rearrested. Israeli deals aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Terms are violated with impunity. Samer’s hunger striking in protest. He hasn’t eaten for over 250 days.
FreeSamerIssawi.org provides background information. It offers action alerts and more. It quotes him saying:
“Your solidarity gives me the power to continue my hunger strike until I achieve my demand of freedom.”
“It strengthens my steadfastness because it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the battle for freedom and dignity.”
Youth Against Settlements posted his Hunger Speech. It’s reproduced in full below.
He was the first Jerusalem ID card holder rearrested after his October 2011 release. Seven or more others were also.
They’re subject to Military Order 1651, Article 186, persecution. It authorizes a special military committee to arbitrarily order their full sentences completed. It can do so based on secret evidence or none at all.
Israel operates extrajudicially. International laws are spurned. Palestinians have no rights. They’re collectively punished. They’re arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned and tortured.
Thousands languish in Israel’s gulag. It’s one of the world’s worst. Western journalists ignore it. Lawless imprisonment, torture and other forms of abuse are suppressed. It’s commonplace scoundrel media practice.
On July 1, 2012, Samer was rearrested. He was held 28 days at Moscobiya Detention Center. He was isolated. He was tortured and abused. For 23 days, he was denied legal counsel.
He’s wrongfully charged. Israel claims he violated terms of his conditional release. He did no such thing. Later allegations suggested involvement in establishing terror cells. When no evidence exists, Israel invents it.
On February 21, 2013, Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court sentenced him to an additional eight months in prison. Doing so extends his original 30 year sentence.
On August 1, he began hunger striking. He’s doing so for liberation, justice and dignity. He demands his immediate release. He has every right to do so. Israel doesn’t care if he lives or dies. Police states operate that way. Israel’s one of the worst.
Western journalists largely ignore Samer. London’s Guardian was an exception. It proves the rule. It gave him op-ed space. He headlined “We are fighting for all Palestinians,” saying:
“My story is no different from that of many other young Palestinian(s).” They’ve lived “their whole lives under Israeli occupation.”
At age 17, Samer was arrested. He was imprisoned for two years. In his early 20s, he was rearrested. He was sentenced to 30 years for justifiable resistance.
“I am not the first member of my family to be jailed on my people’s long march towards freedom,” he said.
“My grandfather, a founding member of the PLO, was sentenced to death by the British Mandate authorities, whose laws are used by Israel to this day to oppress my people; he escaped hours before he was due to be executed.”
“My brother, Fadi, was killed in 1994, aged just 16, by Israeli forces during a demonstration in the West Bank following the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in Hebron. Medhat, another brother, has served 19 years in prison.”
“My other brothers, Firas, Ra’afat and Shadi. were each imprisoned for five to 11 years.”
“My sister, Shireen, has been arrested numerous times and has served a year in prison.”
“My brother’s home has been destroyed. My mother’s water and electricity have been cut off. My family, along with the people of my beloved city Jerusalem, are continuously harassed and attacked, but they continue to defend Palestinian rights and prisoners.”
Samer explained why he began hunger striking. He’ll continue doing so “until victory or martyrdom. This is my last remaining stone to throw at the tyrants and jailers in the face of the racist occupation that humiliates our people.”
His struggle isn’t for himself alone. It’s for thousands of others like him. He called Gazans much worse off than himself. They’re isolated and brutally attacked. Thousands died or were injured. Israel shows no mercy.
“My health has deteriorated greatly,” Samer explained. “Don’t worry if my heart stops. I am still alive now and even after death, because Jerusalem runs through my veins.”
“If I die, it is a victory; if we are liberated, it is a victory, because either way I have refused to surrender to the Israeli occupation, its tyranny and arrogance.”
Most Western broadsheets and other major publications never publish these type comments. Doing so is virtually unheard of in America. One-sided pro-Israeli support is featured. Its worst crimes go unreported.
Samer’s Hunger Speech
I am Samer Issawi on hunger strike for eight consecutive months, laying in one of your hospitals called Kaplan. On my body is a medical devise connected to a surveillance room operating 24 hours a day. My heartbeats are slow and quiet and may stop at any minute, and everybody, doctors, officials and intelligence officers are waiting for my setback and my loss of life.
I chose to write to you: intellectuals, writers, lawyers and journalists, associations, and civil society activists. I invite you to visit me, to see a skeleton tied to his hospital bed, and around him three exhausted jailers. Sometimes they have their appetizing food and drinks around me.
The jailers watch my suffering, my loss of weight and my gradual melting. They often look at their watches, asking themselves in surprise: how does this damaged body have an excess of time to live after its time?
I’m looking for an intellectual who is through shadowboxing, or talking to his face in mirrors. I want him to stare into my face and observe my coma, to wipe the gunpowder off his pen, and from his mind the sound of bullets, he will then see my features carved deep in his eyes, I’ll see him and he’ll sees me, I’ll see him nervous about the questions of the future, and he’ll see me, a ghost that stays with him and doesn’t leave.
You may receive instructions to write a romantic story about me, and you could do that easily after removing my humanity from me, you will watch a creature with nothing but a ribcage, breathing and choking with hunger, loosing consciousness once in a while.
And, after your cold silence, Mine will be a literary or media story that you add to your curricula, and when your students grow up they will believe that the Palestinian dies of hunger in front of Gilad’s Israeli sword, and you would then rejoice in this funerary ritual and in your cultural and moral superiority.
I am Samer Issawi the young ‘Arboush’ man according to your military terms, the Jerusalemite, whom you arrested without charge, except for leaving Jerusalem to the suburbs of Jerusalem. I, whom will be tried twice for a charge without charge, because it is the military that rules in your country, and the intelligence apparatus that decides, and all other components of Israeli society ever have to do is sit in a trench and hide in the fort that keeps what is called a purity of identity – to avoid the explosion of my suspicious bones.
I have not heard one of you interfere to stop the loud wail of death, it’s as if everyone of you has turned into gravediggers, and everyone wears his military suit: the judge, the writer, the intellectual, the journalist, the merchant, the academic, and the poet. And I cannot believe that a whole society was turned into guards over my death and my life, or guardians over settlers who chase after my dreams and my trees.
I will die satisfied and having satisfied. I do not accept to be deported out of my homeland. I do not accept your courts and your arbitrary rule. If you had Passed over in Easter to my country and destroyed it in the name of a God of an ancient time, you will not Passover to my elegant soul which has declared disobedience. It has healed and flew and celebrated all the time that you lack.
Maybe then you will understand that awareness of freedom is stronger than awareness of death. Do not listen to those generals and those dusty myths, for the defeated will not remain defeated, and the victor will not remain a victor. History isn’t only measured by battles, massacres and prisons, but by peace with the Other and the self.
Listen to my voice, the voice of our time and yours! Liberate yourselves of the excess of greedy power! Do not remain prisoners of military camps and the iron doors that have shut your minds! I am not waiting for a jailer to release me, I’m waiting for you to be released from my memory.”
A Final Comment
On April 13, 12 Israeli activists entered Kaplan Hospital. They did so peacefully. They tried visiting Samer. Police forcibly removed them. Two were briefly detained.
One said she chose “civil disobedience.” She’s been doing it “for some time.” She deplores holding “a dying man in prison.” It’s “illegal,” she said. “I refuse to obey these laws,” she added. “I entirely identify with (Samer’s) struggle.”
Israel rejected earlier appeals to release him. He’s denied proper medical care. He’s painfully shackled in Kaplan Hospital. He’s guarded 24 hours a day.
His health greatly deteriorated. He could expire anytime. He prefers martyrdom to lifelong persecution. Israel remains dismissively merciless.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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