Preserving memory amid a war that still rages

in ElectronicIntifada

“If we lose our memory, hyenas will eat us,” Salman Natour once wrote. A novelist, playwright and cultural critic, Natour died after a heart attack on 15 February. Natour’s funeral in his hometown Daliat al-Karmel, near Haifa, was attended by thousands, including writers, activists and public figures. Continue reading “Preserving memory amid a war that still rages”

Palestinian hunger striker’s case to be reviewed by Israeli court

Supreme Court to decide on detention of journalist Mohammed al-Qiq, on hunger strike for two months and described as ‘close to death’

In Middle East Eye

Israel’s top court will this week rule on whether to release a hunger-striking Palestinian journalist who is described as being close to death, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Protesters have picketed an Israeli hospital to call for the release of Mohammed al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 63 days.

Jawad Boulus, Qiq’s lawyer, said that the Supreme Court in Jerusalem would on Wednesday rule on whether to release his client.

Qiq, a journalist from Dura in the occupied West Bank, was arrested on 21 November by Israeli authorities. He began his hunger strike a few days later, and is now in HaEmek hospital in the northern town of Afula.

Tens of journalists and Palestinian members of the Knesset Bassil Ghattas and Haneen Zoabi demonstrated outside under the rain, calling on Israel to release al-Qiq. Continue reading “Palestinian hunger striker’s case to be reviewed by Israeli court”

Palestinian hunger striker’s case to be reviewed by Israeli court

In the Middle East Eye,
Lina Alsaafin & I

Israel’s top court will this week rule on whether to release a hunger-striking Palestinian journalist who is described as being close to death, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Protesters have picketed an Israeli hospital to call for the release of Mohammed al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 63 days.

Jawad Boulus, Qiq’s lawyer, said that the Supreme Court in Jerusalem would rule on Wednesday about whether to release his client.

Israeli authorities arrested Qiq, a journalist from Dura in the occupied West Bank, on 21 November. He began his hunger strike a few days later, and is now in HaEmek hospital in the northern town of Afula. Continue reading “Palestinian hunger striker’s case to be reviewed by Israeli court”

Israel plans to force-feed Palestinian detainee in wake of new law

Published in Middle East Eye

Palestinians hold posters with slogans and portraits of detainees during a demonstration on 10 June, 2014 outside the Red Cross building in Jerusalem in support of Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for six weeks (AFP)

In what would be the first case since last month’s adoption of a controversial law, Israeli authorities have declared their intention to force feed a hunger-striking Palestinian, his lawyer said Saturday.

Mohammed Allan, 33, who is a lawyer, has been held in Israeli custody without charge under a policy known as administrative detention since last November. More than 50 days ago, he began a hunger strike in protest.

Despite his deteriorating conditions and his move to a heavily guarded intensive care unit at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, Allan is adamant to continue his strike, a decision supported by both of his parents.

But Jamil al-Khatib, his attorney, told MEE that Israeli judicial officials say they plan to force feed his client, using him as a test case for the new force feeding law passed last month.

In a statement published by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the group said “force-feeding violates medical ethics as it administers forceful treatment to a patient against his will, and is considered a form of torture.”

The law has been criticised by international human rights and medical organisations including Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights and the World Medical Association which expressed its denunciation of the bill when it was still discussed in the Knesset, describing it as “violent, very painful and absolutely in opposition to the principle of individual autonomy”.

Israeli officials are expected to file their request with an Israeli district court on Saturday night. At the same time, Allan’s supporters have planned a solidarity protest at the hospital where Allan’s mother launched her own hunger strike when officials initially prevented her from seeing her son.

“Even if the request of the Israeli Prison services and the prosecution is accepted by the District Court, we will issue a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice against the constitutionality of this law,” Jamil Khatib, Muhammad Allan’s lawyer, told Middle East Eye.

“Of course, since this is an issue of life and death, we will demand an injunction against force-feeding from the court. But this is not Allan’s problem alone, this is an issue that faces all Palestinian prisoners, especially administrative detainees.”

Hunger striking is the only nonviolent weapon at the disposal of Palestinian prisoners, particularly administrative detainees who are held without charges or trial and do not know what evidence has been used to incarcerate them.

According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the number of Palestinian held under administrative detention in Israeli occupation jails had reached 370 by the of June 2015.

In an attempt to highlight the inhumanity and danger of force feeding, artist Mos Def, also known as Yasiin Bey, simulated the procedure in a widely circulated video published by the Guardian.

The video targeted an American audience amidst the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners that was taking place in Guantanamo Bay, but Palestinian prisoner and a repeat hunger striker, Khader Adnan, told MEE that he believes there is no difference between Israel’s practices and the US.

“Israel uses the US administration’s practice in Guantanamo to put a stamp of legitimacy on its law, but this is a desperate attempt,” Adnan told MEE.

“The fact that Israel is resorting to this practice shows failure to deal with the resistance of prisoners and further exposes its injustice,” he said.

‘Tear me to shreds’

Allan was previously imprisoned by Israel in 2006 and was sentenced to three years in jail.

Soon after his release, he finished his training as a lawyer and became a member of the Palestinian Bar Association. Allan, the youngest of four sons, is supported by his parents with his hunger strike.

On Friday, Allan’s mother, Maazouza Odeh, arrived from her Nablus village of Ein Bos at Soroka Hospital, hoping to see her son, but doctors and other hospital staff initially refused her request.

“Even if you tear me to shreds, I’m not going to leave the hospital unless my son is with me,” she shouted.

In response, Odeh started her own hunger-strike and staged a sit-in outside the hospital despite the scorching desert heat amid a heat wave rocking the country.

After being threatened with arrest several times and sleeping outside the hospital, Odeh was finally allowed to see her youngest son on Saturday afternoon. Despite his critical conditions, seeing her son had given her a measure of relief.

“It was the first time I’ve seen him since June. He broke my heart but I support his strike until all his rights are guaranteed and I will never ask him to end it until he achieves his freedom,” an emotional Odeh told MEE.

Allan’s father, Nasreddine Allan, told MEE that he is frustrated by the lack of tangible actions made to help his son, despite the media attention his case has garnered.

“Unfortunately, the media attention given to my son’s case complemented by a sufficient popular support. Much of the reaction we have seen has been largely symbolic but no actual pressure happening on the ground,” he said by phone, on his way to the funeral for Saad Dawabsha, the father of Ali Dawabsha, the toddler who was killed in an arson attack last week.

His frustration was echoed by Odeh.

“We don’t just want phone calls from journalists and people asking about my son; we are waiting for people to join us, to put pressure on the Israelis to release my son. I will not forgive anyone who has remained silent about my son’s plight,” she said.

Not all cases the same

Beyond stripping prisoners of their autonomy, Khatib, Allan’s lawyer, pointed out that force-feeding could pose a serious health risk to prisoners.

Force-feeding employed against Allan, he said, could become the norm against other prisoners. He is concerned, however, of the lack of sufficient action by Palestinian politicians and the public.

“The problem with the way we deal with prisoners is that we treat them only as individual cases. All the action is based on sporadic reactions that die down few days later. Unless our whole handling of the prisoners’ issue change, things are not going to get any better.”

He also insists that one should be wary of comparing Allan’s case to that of Khader Adnan, a repeat hunger striker who became the face of Palestinian resistance to administrative detention after achieving his freedom through lengthy strikes.

“The cases are entirely different as Allan’s case is much more difficult,” he says. “Allan is suspected of holding organisational role at the Islamic Jihad, of planning military action, and of adopting the “International’/Jihadi ideology.”

Yet Khatib said he believes that Allan’s case will be vital both in the struggle against administrative detention and force-feeding as a whole.

خضر عدنان في إضرابه الثاني: ما تغيّر وما استمرّ

نُشر في موقع حِبْر

«ولدي خضر ليس عدميًّا أو هاوي معاناة ولا يبتغي مالًا أو جاهًا أو منصبًا رفيعًا»، يصرّ عدنان موسى، والد الأسير الفلسطيني المضرب عن الطعام خضر عدنان.

«هو يحبّ الطعام كثيرًا ويحرص على جودة الطعام الذي يتناوله وليس مستمتعًا بتجويع نفسه»، تردف نوال موسى، والدة خضر.

رأى الوالدان ضروريًا تأكيد ما قد يبدو بديهيًّا ونافل القول، أن ابنهما الذي طالما استخدم أمعاءه الخاوية سلاحًا لانتزاع حرّيته من سجّانيه، ليس طالب موتٍ أو عذاب، وإنما يستخدم هذه الوسيلة لثقته أنها الوحيدة المتاحة أمامه.

لماذا يُطلب من الفلسطينيين أن يثبتوا للآخرين أنهم ليسوا عشّاقَ موتٍ وأنهم يحبّون الحياة كسائر شعوب الأرض، وأن أفعالهم التي تبدو «انتحاريّةً» وبدون طائل تختزن قدرا هائلًا من الرغبة بالعيش بحدٍّ أدنى من الكرامة والحرية؟

قد يكون تشديدنا المستمرّ على غريزتنا الفطريّة بحب الحياة رد فعلٍ طبيعي على محاولات المنظومة الاستعماريّة تجريدنا من إنسانيّتنا والتي تكرّسها وسائل إعلام غربيّة كبرى من خلال تصوير الفدائيّين الفلسطينيّين كعشّاق موت وتهميش دوافعهم السياسية والدنيويّة والمادّية.

ولكن لتأكيد والدي خضر عدنان شغف ابنهما بالحياة بعدًا إضافيًّا يستهدف جميع أولئك المستهينين بفعله أو الذين ينتظرون استشهاد خضر كي يتحرّكوا، أو الذين يستهجنونه بوصفه فعلًا عدميًّا.

يدخل خضر عدنان شهره الثاني من إضرابه المفتوح عن الطعام احتجاجًا على تمديد سلطات الاحتلال الإسرائيلية أمر اعتقاله الإداري أربعة أشهرٍ إضافيّة. حين نتحدّث عن محاولات المنظومة الاستعمارية تجريد الفلسطينيين من إنسانيتهم، فإن سياسة الاعتقال الإداري التي ورثتها سلطات الاحتلال الإسرائيلية عن حكومة الانتداب البريطاني وتنتهجها لاستنزاف المجتمع الفلسطيني ووأد مقاومته، تجسد انتزاع إنسانية الفلسطيني بإحدى أكثر صورها فجاجةً. ليس الاعتقال الإداري أسوأ أو أكثر ظلمًا من سائر أشكال الاعتقال الأخرى التي يمارسها الاحتلال ويغيّب عبرها أكثر من 5000 فلسطيني في سجونه. كما لا ينحصر أفق نضال الأسرى الفلسطينيين عند المطالبة بـ«محاكمة عادلة» أو توجيه اتهامات. نحن نعلم أن لا محاكمات عادلة يمكن أن تجري تحت الاحتلال حتى لو التزمت بجميع الإجراءات القانونية والمعايير الشكلية والجوهرية التي يفرضها القانون الدولي، ببساطة لأننا لا نعترف بشرعيّة الاحتلال ومحاكمه أصلًا، ولأن ما قد تعتبره القوانين الإسرائيلية والدولية جرمًا، هو حقّنا الطبيعي بالمقاومة. لكن ما يضاعف قسوة الاعتقال الإداري هو ضبابيّته المتمثّلة بقابليّة تمديده بشكل مستمرٍّ دون أن يكون هنالك أي تحديدٍ أو إطار زمني للخلاص. في السجن المؤبّد أو طويل الأمد يعيش المعتقل في ظل يقين ما، لا يبعث بالضرورة على التفاؤل، ولكنه يعرف مصيره. أما تحت الاعتقال الإداري الذي يجهل فيها المعتقل «التهم» الموجّهة إليه فليست هنالك إمكانية ولو ضئيلة للدفاع عن النفس إذ يُلقى بالأسرى وأهلهم في نفقٍ لا تلوح له نهاية، قد يستمرون بالسير فيه أعوامًا عديدة، ومن المرجّح أن يتكرر هذا الشريط بعد الإفراج.

وهذا تمامًا ما حدث مع خضر عدنان الذي أمضى ما مجموعه ستة أعوامٍ متفرّقة في سجون الاحتلال الإسرائيلي بدون أن توجَّه له أي تهمة رسمية. فلم يجد أمامه إلا الإضراب عن الطعام كي يسلّط الضوء على قضية الاعتقال الإداري خاصة وقضية الأسرى الفلسطينيين عامة، ولكي يطالب بخلاصه الفردي من جهة أخرى.

لم يكن التفاعل الشعبي مع إضراب خضر عدنان السابق الذي امتد من كانون الأول 2011 حتى شباط 2012 فوريًّا أو سريعًا إذا أن الحشد الجماهيري وحملات الضغغط الالكترونية لم تبدأ إلا بعد دخول ابن قرية عرّابة اليوم الخامس والأربعين من إضرابه.

يبدو الدعم الشعبي لإضراب خضر عدنان الحالي هزيلًا فيما إذا قورن بالنشاطات التي شهدها إضرابه الأول، بيد أن هذه المقارنة تغفل أنه حتى خلال إضراب عدنان الأول لم يرتقِ الحراك إلى مستوى الزخم الذي تدفعنا النوستالجيا إلى تلك الأيام لتصوّره.

قد يكون أهم ما أحدثه إضراب خضر عدنان الأول فضلًا عن انتزاع الأسير خلاله حرّيته في 17 نيسان 2012، أنه أطلق الشرارة التي أشعلت فتيل حراك كان الأسرى الإداريّون محوره. فقد تبعت إضراب خضر عدنان الناجح عدة إضرابات فردية كانت أبرزها تلك التي خاضها كل من هناء الشلبي وثائر حلاحلة وبلال ذياب، ومن ثم شهدت الحركة الأسيرة إضراب ما يقارب الألفي أسير. تركزت مطالب الإضراب الذي استمر من 17 نيسان إلى 15 أيار على وضع حد لسياسة الاعتقال الإداري وإنهاء العزل الانفرادي والسماح للأهالي من قطاع غزة المحاصر بزيارة ذويهم المعتقلين في سجون الاحتلال. مع توقيع اتفاق قضى بإنهاء الإضراب مقابل تحقيق مطالب الأسرى، لم تتحقق هذه المطالب إلا جزئيًّا، أما «تعهد» سلطات الاحتلال بإعادة النظر في سياسة الاعتقال الإداري فلم يُخرق فحسب، بل يمكن القول أن الاحتلال صعّد من ممارسة هذه السياسة. ففي آذار 2012، أي الشهر الذي سبق انطلاق إضراب الأسرى للمطالبة بإنهاء الاعتقال الإداري بلغ عدد الأسرى الإداريين في سجون الاحتلال 320 أسيرًا، بينما بلغ عدد الأسرى الإداريين في نهاية شهر آذار من هذا العام 412 أسيرًا.

استمرّت الإضرابات الفردية حتى بعد انتهاء الإضراب الجماعي في أيار 2012 إلا أن معظمها اتّسم بطابعٍ فرديّ وأخفق في الدفع إلى تحرك حقيقيفي الشارع الفلسطيني.

متعددة هي العوامل التي أدت إلى تراجع ملحوظ بنجاعة الإضراب عن الطعام كوسيلة احتجاج، لكن أبرزها هو تجريد الوسيلة من طابعها الجماعي وتحويلها إلى أداة فردية. فمع أن هنالك ظروفًا موضوعية وذاتية قد تساهم في إنجاح الإضرابات الفردية، إلا أن قوة الإضراب عن الطعام كسلاح لتحدّي السجّان تكمن في جماعيّته وامتداده إلى أكبر عدد من الأسرى بغض النظر عن انتمائهم الحزبي. المبالغة في خوض إضرابات فردية طويلة الأمد أو إضرابات تفتقد إمكانية موضوعية لتحقيق هدفها أو التعبئة الجماهيرية لم تضرّ بالأسرى المضربين فحسب بل أضعفت من تأثير الإضراب كوسيلة احتجاج ومنحت سلطات السجون الإسرائييلية الآليات الكافية لمواجهة أي إضراب مقبل. امتازت الإضرابات الفردية طويلة الأمد بتزويد الأسرى المضربين عن الطعام بفيتامينات ومواد مدعمة ضمنت خلالها سلطات الاحتلال بقاء الأسرى على قيد الحياة وبذلك تجنّب تفجر الغضب الذي قد يعقب استشهاد أحد الأسرى جراء الإضراب. لا تتعامل سلطات الاحتلال مع الأسير المضرب عن الطعام كإنسانٍ يناضل من أجل كسب حريته أو تحقيق مطالبه بل كقنبلة موقوتة يجب درء خطرها بأقل الطرق كلفةً.

يبدو من المجحف انتقاد الأسرى الذين لجؤوا إلى هذا النوع من الإضرابات الجزئية والفردية عن الطعام، فكيف يُلام أسير على اللجوء إلى أسلوب المقاومة الوحيد المتوفر أمامه؟ إلا أن العوامل المذكورة تساعدنا على فهم تراجع فعالية الإضرابات عن الطعام وافتقادها قسطًا ليس ببسيط من المصداقية والتأثير.

وهنا يختلف إضراب خضر عدنان الثاني، فعلاوة عن كونه إضرابًا كاملًا لا يتناول فيه ابن الـ37 ربيعًا إلا الماء والملح (ومؤخرًا قام بتصعيد إضرابه فأصبح يرفض تناول أي شيء سوى الماء)، يحظى عدنان بإجماع واسع في أوساط الفلسطينيين على اختلاف توجهاتهم السياسية.

لم يركن عدنان بعد الإفراج عنه إلى بيته وعمله في مخبزه في عرّابة، بل كان حاضرًا باستمرار في معظم الفعاليات والتظاهرات الداعمة للأسرى أو المناهضة للتطبيع والمفاوضات. بعد أيام قليلة فقط من الإفراج عنه، شارك خضر عدنان بإضراب استمر 11 يومًا دعمًا للأسرى المضربين عن الطعام ودأب على زيارة عائلات الأسرى والشهداء برفقة زوجته رندة. تذكر رندة التي تأخذ على عاتقها الآن مسؤولية إدارة المنزل وتمثيل زوجها إعلاميًّا أنهما قاما بزيارة أكثر من 500 عائلة أسير وشهيد على امتداد الضفة الغربية منذ إطلاق سراح خضر، وتضيف أنه حال انطلاق أي مظاهرة لدعم الأسرى كان يسارع في العودة من عمله في المخبز لكي ينضم إلى المتظاهرين والمتظاهرات.

يُحسب خضر عدنان على حركة الجهاد الإسلامي، غير أنه ضمِن احترام ومحبّة شبّانٍ وشابّات ينتمون إلى تيارات فكرية مختلفة. ولا شك أن شخصيته القيادية البارزة وشعبيّته جعلت منه خطرًا ليس فقط بالنسبة للاحتلال الإسرائيلي بل بالنسبة للسلطة الفلسطينية أيضًا. حين سألت والد خضر عدنان عن سبب الصمت النسبي في الضفة الغربية تجاه قضية خضر عدنان، رغم ما يكنه له الناس من تقدير واحترام، أجاب بدون تفكير: «الخوف». – «تقصد الخوف من إسرائيل؟» – «لا، الخوف من السلطة الفلسطينية، التي حاولت ركوب قضيته حال الإفراج عنه لكنها سرعان ما وجدت فيه تهديدًا، ففي حين أن خضر يدعم المقاومة بجميع أشكالها، السلطة الفلسطينية تدعم التطبيع بجميع أشكاله»، يقول المسن الذي على الرغم من تجاوزه الـ78 من عمره، لا يزال يجري من مظاهرة لأخرى ومن مؤتمر صحفي إلى آخر من أجل دعم ابنه وكافّة الأسرى.

«تلقّينا اتصالات ورسائل دعمٍ من حلب، من أناسٍ يعيشون تحت القصف، ومن حمص ومخيم اليرموك ودمشق. تلقينا رسائل دعمٍ ن الولايات المتحدة ومن إيرلندا، أحفاد شهداء الإضراب عن الطعام في سجون الحكومة البريطاني»، يقول والد خضر عدنان، «إلا أننا لم نتلقَّ ولو كلمة دعمٍ واحدة من قادة السلطة الفلسطينية أو من وزارة الأسرى التابعة لها».

في ظل الغياب المتوقّع لدعم السلطة الفلسطينية، التي لاحقت أجهزتها الأمنية خضر عدنان عدة مرات بعد الإفراج عنه، تزداد المسؤولية المنوطة بالشباب الفلسطيني بمختلف أطيافه وأماكن تواجده لدعم خضر عدنان في إضرابه.

حين كانت معالي ابنة الأعوام الأربعة تُسأل قبل ثلاث سنوات عن سبب إضراب أبيها، كانت تجيب أنه مضرب لكي يتمكن من رؤيتها ورؤية شقيقتها بيسان، والتواجد بقرب والدتهما الحامل حينها بشقيقهما عبد الرحمن. كبرت معالي اليوم واختلف جوابها: «أبي مضرب كي يحصل على حريته ويدافع عن حقوق الأسرى». غنيٌّ عن القول أنها تستخدم كلمات أكبر من عمرها فالتمتع بـ«طفولة عادية» هو ترف حُرم منه أبناء خضر عدنان الستّة.

حكاية خضر عدنان مع الاعتقالات والملاحقات تعود إلى العام 1999 حين كان طالب رياضيّات في جامعة بيرزيت واعتقل لأول مرة من قبل قوات الاحتلال. تلت هذا الاعتقال اعتقالات عديدة، من بينها اعتقالان على يد أجهزة الأمن التابعة للسلطة الفلسطينية. يدرك خضر ورندة أن الإضراب لن يضمن ألا يتم اعتقال خضر مجدّدًا ولكن على الرغم من خوف العائلة الشديد على سلامة خضر، فهم واثقون بأنه سينجح في انتزاع حريته كما فعل في المرة السابقة.

Khader Adnan is starving for freedom again

Published in ElectronicIntifada

Adnan Mousa, left, attends a 23 May rally in Arrabeh village in the occupied West Bank, in solidarity with his son Khader Adnan who is on a total hunger strike against his administrative detention by Israel. (Ahmad Al-Bazz \ ActiveStills)
Adnan Mousa, left, attends a 23 May rally in Arrabeh village in the occupied West Bank, in solidarity with his son Khader Adnan who is on a total hunger strike against his administrative detention by Israel. (Ahmad Al-Bazz \ ActiveStills)

Maali was only 4 years old when her father, Khader Adnan, embarked on a 66-day hunger strike in protest at being held without charge or trial, a practice known as administrative detention, after his December 2011 arrest by Israeli occupation forces.

All she could understand back then was that her father was starving himself to be reunited with her and her sister Bisan — and to be next to their mother when she gave birth to baby Abd al-Rahman.

Adnan was released in April 2012. Three years later, at age 37, he is being held in administrative detention yet again — and has entered his second month of yet another hunger strike.

Maali, now 7 years old, explains that he’s doing it to “demand his freedom and defend the rights of prisoners.” She uses words you wouldn’t normally expect from a young child, but then again “normal life” is a luxury that Maali and her five siblings have never been granted.

Arduous journey

Khader Adnan’s experience of persecution and arrests stretches back to 1999, when the then undergraduate mathematics student at Birzeit University was arrested by Israeli occupation forces on charges of affiliation with the Islamic Jihad political party.

It was the first in a series of detentions — amounting to a total of more than six years in Israeli jails — during which Adnan has never been handed any formal charges or been given a trial even by the Israeli military courtswhich are notorious for failing to meet minimum international standards.

Two people who have been with him on this arduous journey are his parents, Adnan Mousa and Nawal.

They live in Arrabeh, near Jenin in the northern West Bank. Khader’s mother, Nawal, used to visit her son in the numerous Israeli prisons where he was held until she lost mobility and could no longer walk.

In 2012, Nawal attended one of his hearings in a wheelchair, but her health has since recently deteriorated and she cannot leave her home.

His father, now 78, goes from one protest to another in support of his son and other political prisoners. The elder accompanies Khader’s wife, Randa, to press conferences and vigils.

When Adnan Mousa told The Electronic Intifada that he was planning to go to Jerusalem for the protest in support of Khader Adnan, which took place on Friday, 5 June, his wife interrupted him.

“But I fear they [Israeli soldiers] would hurt you,” she said. He shrugged it off, insisting that he had nothing to lose.

“Hunger strike as a weapon”

For Randa, her husband Khader’s plight is nothing new.

“He used the hunger strike as a weapon, both in Israeli prisons and in the Palestinian Authority jails where he was arrested twice and on both occasions resorted to hunger strikes,” Randa told The Electronic Intifada.

Adnan’s 66-day hunger strike that began on 18 December 2011 secured his eventual release after it drew considerable popular support and international attention.

It also helped highlight the issue of administrative detention — a relic of British colonial rule continued by Israel, that occupation authorities use to intimidate and grind down Palestinians by holding hundreds without charge or trial. Prisoners are usually sentenced to six months at a time, but their detention can be renewed indefinitely.

In 2012, Amnesty International issued a report detailing the human rights abuses associated with administration detention, which, it said, Israel uses to “suppress the legitimate and peaceful activities of activists in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Amnesty called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of prisoners held under this policy.

According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, by the end of March, 412 Palestinian administrative detainees were being held in Israeli jails.

Escalated

Khader Adnan’s initial hunger strike also played a key role in sparking other individual hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners — most notably by Hana al-Shalabi, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab. They were followed by a mass hunger strike that began on 17 April 2012.

Hunger striking as a tactic, however, has gradually lost efficacy to mobilize the wider Palestinian public.

This is partly due to the fact that it was used by individuals when it is often most effective when implemented en masse. Its use has also varied, with most of the long-term hunger strikers going through partial hunger strikes that include only returning some meals at the start and later receiving vitamins and other nutritional supplements, but no solid food.

In Adnan’s case, however, his lawyer and his family have confirmed that he is undertaking a complete hunger strike that started with only water and salt. He has since escalated the strike, refusing anything but water.

Adnan’s father told The Electronic Intifada that Jawad Boulos, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club’s legal unit, had visited his son on Wednesday. Boulos tried to convince him to end his hunger strike, but Adnan strongly refused, despite drastic weight loss and deterioration in his health.

Currently held in solitary confinement in the Ramle prison clinic after being moved from Israel’s Hadarim prison, Adnan is also refusing treatment by any doctor employed by the Israeli prison authorities.

He insists he will only accept treatment by an independent doctor.

His wife Randa laments the lack of mobilization in support of Khader Adnan although it has been more than 30 days since he began the strike.

“[During] the last time, serious protests on the ground began only after the 45th day of his hunger strike and after he was nearing [danger to his life]. We cannot wait so long this time,” she said.

“Threat”

Adnan’s father believes that one of the factors contributing to the relative silence is fear. Not fear of Israel, however, but of the Palestinian Authority.

“The Palestinian Authority regards my son as a threat because while Khader supports all forms of resistance, the Palestinian Authority supports all forms of normalization,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority were quick to embrace Khader Adnan after his release in April 2012. However, it did not take a long time for him to be marginalized — and even threatened — by the PA.

Adnan’s continuous presence in the frontline of protests, his charisma and the admiration he garnered among Palestinian youth regardless of their political affiliations made him a leader and symbol.

Active and engaging, he regularly visited prisoners and the families of Palestinians killed by the occupation, usually accompanied by Randa. He visited the homes of more than 500 prisoner families and dedicated his life to the cause of the prisoners whether they were affiliated with leftist, Islamist factions or with Fatah, which dominates the PA.

“He returned to his work in the bakery only a week after his release,” Randa recalled. “He would go to the bakery at 2am and get back home at 12pm, but anytime there was a protest at Ofer [prison] or in Ramallah he would leave his work to attend it.”

“Yet during one of the prayers held after the killing of a Palestinian by Israel, he was harassed by Palestinian Authority security forces who tried to kick him out of the mosque. In another instance, he was detained for an hour by Palestinian security forces,” she explained.

Adnan’s father says that not a single PA official had called him to express his support. “We received messages of support from people in Aleppo who are under shelling. We received messages of support from Homs and Yarmouk refugee camp; from Ireland where they know very well what it means to starve for freedom. But we got no word whatsoever from the PA or the ministry of prisoners,” he said.

During the interview, Randa received a call from a prisoner’s mother whose son has been in Israeli occupation jails for 13 years. Such calls mean a lot to the family, as they show how overwhelmingly Adnan is admired.

“Partner in struggle”

“Khader is not just my husband,” Randa said. “He is a partner in struggle. I’ve been with him to protests and together we supported prisoner families. I never considered this a burden or an exhaustion but rather an asset.”

Randa was keen to stress how loving and gentle Adnan is.

“He always helped me look after the children, changing their diapers and doing stuff that some men never consider doing. During my pregnancy with triplets, Khader was the one cleaning the house and making every effort to keep me happy and comfortable,” she said.

While extremely concerned for his well-being, the family is both supportive of Adnan’s decision to go on hunger strike and confident that he will emerge victorious.

“We discussed the issue before he was arrested again in July last year,” his mother said. “I told him, please, if they arrest you again don’t go on hunger strike.’ He remained silent, but gave me a look that pierced my heart like a bullet — as if to ask me to respect his decision and not expect me to deprive him of the only weapon he would have.”

Khader Adnan informed his wife and his father of his plan to go on hunger strike in case Israeli authorities were to renew his administrative detention.

“Khader is not a nihilist,” his father said. “He’s not doing this because he wants to die and because he wants to hurt himself. On the contrary, he’s going through this because he loves life and believes that this is the only way to achieve freedom.”

 

Solidarity helped me keep fighting, says released hunger striker Samer Issawi

Budour Hassan
Originally published on ElectronicIntifada

There was a distinctly different ambience at the home of the Issawis this time around. It would be the first time that we were visiting expecting to meet Samer Issawi himself.

This visit was not about offering solidarity and support, an act we undertook repeatedly when Samer was in prison. This time the visit was not to participate in a demonstration calling for his release.

We did not hear the tediously familiar sound bombs that usually accompanied our visits to the village of Issawiyeh in occupied East Jerusalem.

This visit was a celebratory and congratulatory one.

Finally, a week after her son’s release, it was possible to look Leila, Samer Issawi’s mother, in the eye and smile incessantly, free from the anxiety and agitated hope that saddled our hearts when we met her previously. In Palestine, moments of collective joy and triumph are so rare that we feel like we snatch them from the jaws of our occupiers.

The release of Samer Issawi on 23 December 2013 was one of those moments of joy that will linger in the memories of all who witnessed it.

Dawn raid

On the morning of his release, journalists and supporters of Samer Issawi began gathering at the family’s home. Israeli occupation forces had already raided the Issawis’ home at dawn and the previous night, warning the family not to hold celebrations.

“They raided the house while I was praying at dawn and ordered us to refrain from celebrating,” Samer’s mother told The Electronic Intifada. “But this was out of our hands. We could not control people and stop them from celebrating and we did not want to.”

Neither the intimidation nor the presence of Israeli military forces at the entrance to Issawiyeh could prevent the massive celebrations that accompanied Samer’s arrival.

A group of women of all ages marched from Samer’s house into the streets as Samer, his mother and his sister Shireen were making their way home after Samer was released from Israel’s Shatta prison.

The women and girls created a wedding-like atmosphere, chanting revolutionary slogans, banging on darbuka drums and singing traditional Palestinian songs adapted for the occasion. As soon as the bus carrying Samer and his family made it into Issawiyeh, the crowd erupted euphorically.

Celebratory gunshots were fired in the air, youth climbed atop fences to catch a glimpse of their hero and children kept chanting Samer’s name and the word “freedom.” It was a popular and festive protest, bringing together Palestinians of all ages and political affiliations, something that Occupied Jerusalem has not seen in a long time.

Samer’s 16-year-old niece, Leila, had taken part in numerous demonstrations and clashes demanding her uncle’s release. She noted that the arrest of Samer in July 2012 — not long after he had been released as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas— had politicized an entire generation in Issawiyeh.

The extent to which Samer’s arrest and hunger strike have influenced the village was visible. You would see children as young as five engaging in political discussions and leading chants in protests.

“I felt like I was flying”

A protest tent set up by local youth in support of Samer was demolished over twenty times by Israeli occupation forces who subjected the entire village to collective punishment.

That only bolstered Issawiyeh residents’ determination to stand behind Samer.

With Samer surrounded by so many supporters and journalists, it was very hard to greet him and interview him on the day of his release. So we met one week later at his house.

We could not avoid asking his mother the predictable question about what she felt when she hugged her son after his release. “I lost count of the number of times I’ve had to answer this question,” she said. “My feeling could not be described in words. I was so happy that Samer finally got to breathe the scent of freedom and Palestine. I felt like I was flying.”

Samer’s mother has endured a litany of painful experiences. Her son Fadi was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces in 1994 during protests in Jerusalem following the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in Hebron.

“Hardly a moment passes without remembering Fadi. It’s been almost twenty years since his martyrdom but I still remember everything about him: his clothes, his favourite dishes and his smile.”

Entire family jailed

All of Leila Issawi’s other children — five sons and one daughter — have spent time in jail. “At one point in 2010, all of them were in jail: Samer, Medhat, Raafat, Shadi, Firas and Shireen. That was the first time they were reunited in 13 years, but then the Israel Prison Service separated them, jailing each of them in a different prison.”

Before his arrest in 2012, Samer had been arrested four times. He was arrested on 15 April 2002 during what Israel called Operation Defensive Shield, a large-scale invasion of several cities in the occupied West Bank. Samer Issawi was sentenced to thirty years in jail on charges of possession of weapons and engaging in armed activities with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Samer Issawi was among over a thousand prisoners released in the October 2011 exchange deal. But like several other prisoners released then, he was soon re-arrested.

The excuse given by Israel was that he had violated his release conditions, which banned him from travelling in the West Bank. The pretext is all the more ludicrous considering Issawi had only visited the nearby village of Kafr Aqab, which Israel considers to be within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.

Double-edged sword

In protest at his arrest, Samer Issawi began returning meals in August 2012 in a partial hunger strike that lasted for 266 days. Samer saw refusing food as his only option as he was facing twenty years of imprisonment, yet he believes that hunger strikes can be a double-edged sword.

“Of course, hunger strikes are much more effective when they are mass hunger strikes,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “I think that, for instance, administrative detainees held without charge or trial should go on collective hunger strikes rather than individual hunger strikes.”

“In my case, I had to go on an individual hunger strike because it was in protest at Israel’s violation of the prisoner exchange deal, but I’m aware that there is a big difference between collective and individual hunger strikes. In individual hunger strikes, we can take vitamins and glucose to last longer while mass hunger strikers only drink water. Mass hunger strikes are usually much shorter than individual hunger strikes and garner much more attention and popular solidarity.”

Samer believes that factional divisions among political organizations restrict the scope for mass resistance.

“We have to be honest and not shy away from mentioning our problems. The division along factional lines, particularly between Fatah and Hamas, has damaged the prisoner movement and unless all prisoners unite, we will not be able to improve conditions in jail or achieve freedom for all prisoners.”

In Samer’s case, the popular support and media attention he received particularly in the latter stages of his hunger strike proved crucial to put pressure on Israel to release him.

Women played key role

Samer and his mother Leila emphasized the important role that his sister Shireen has played.

“Shireen was the one shedding light on her brother’s case, writing about him on Facebook, speaking to the media and rallying local and international support,” said Leila. “Samer would not have emerged victorious without her efforts.”

Shireen, a lawyer, humbly downplayed her role by claiming she had done nothing special.

But her niece Leila insisted: “The ones who led the campaign to release Uncle Samer were women. Shireen and my grandmother, and so many of those who participated in solidarity protests were women as well, even outnumbering the guys.”

Banishment offers rejected

Throughout his partial hunger strike, Samer Issawi received several Israeli offers to be banished to Gaza but he rejected all of them. “Gaza is definitely part of Palestine, but I felt that accepting a deal that would expel me from my hometown Jerusalem would set a dangerous precedent and would betray the sacrifices of martyrs and prisoners.”

“Issawiyeh is my hometown and I never for a moment thought about accepting such a deal. On the contrary, whenever I was given an offer to be banished, I escalated my hunger strikes by refusing vitamins, for example.”

Buoyed by solidarity

Demonstrations in support of Samer — albeit not always particularly large — took place across Palestine. They included vigils at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City that were violently dispersed by Israeli occupation forces, daily sit-ins in Jaffa’s Clock Square that lasted for over forty consecutive days and protests outside Ramle prison hospital when Samer was held there.

Protests and solidarity actions also took place in Ramallah and Gaza and in many cities around the world.

“My lawyers repeatedly told me about those demonstrations and this definitely buoyed me,” Samer said. “Even at the start when there was little attention I was determined to keep fighting, but of course the support I got from Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora, as well as all the free people in the world gave me a lot of confidence.”

But despite the popular solidarity, high-ranking Palestinian Authority (PA) politicians offered little support. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas even refused to meet Samer’s mother.

Yet, ironically, a number of PA politicians have celebrated Samer’s release.

“I know that there were many of them who did not support Samer and they know that, but when they called to congratulate I accepted their congratulations,” Samer’s mother Leila said. “At the end of the day, this is a victory for Samer and for the Palestinian people.”

Samer insisted that it was Palestinian people, not leading politicians, who made his release possible. Asked how he felt about being regarded by many as an icon, Samer said: “I don’t care how people consider me, but I will always remain an ordinary man. Nothing will change in my life.”

“I will continue to enjoy spending time with the kids. I’m not an icon but simply a soldier in the fight for freedom and dignity in Palestine.”