Archive for February, 2012

 

 

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As hundreds of Palestinians rallied in Gaza today to demand that Israel release Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan, Yassar Salah, a 17-year veteran of Israel’s prison system, spoke about Adnan’s 60-day hunger strike and his own reasons for joining it.

“We are on hunger strike to show our sympathy and solidarity with Sheikh Khader Adnan, who is battling to overcome Israel’s system of administrative detention,” he told me in the protest tent outside Gaza’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound.

“Khader Adnan is fighting a just battle,” he said. “For that reason, he is continuing his struggle without paying attention to his own suffering. Losing his health, or even his life, doesn’t matter as much as ending injustice. Adnan is a hero. Freedom has a price, and he is paying the price of his freedom.”

Salah, who launched his hunger strike with ten other Gaza Strip residents on February 11, has taken similar actions before. “I hunger struck in prison several times, for 15, 18, and 20 days,” he said. “This is nothing new for me. I assure you that in this battle, we fight with our wills, not our bodies. By our hunger, by our pains, we are achieving our goals.”

“The Israelis humiliate their prisoners,” he told me when I asked about his years in detention. “They prevent us from continuing our education, or meeting out attorneys. Many prisoners are prevented from receiving family visits. Some are even isolated from their fellow prisoners. Prisoners are kept in cells alone for months, or even years, without any contact with the outside world. Sometimes guards entered our rooms in the middle of the night, searching for nothing, only to torment us.”

What did he and his fellow hunger strikers hope to accomplish, I asked him? “People here are showing sympathy and solidarity with Khader and his struggle,” he replied. “But the levels of sympathy and solidarity are not enough. We want more, among our people and outside.”

What kind of sympathy and solidarity? “They can organize sit-ins, maybe something athletic, or artistic, or political,” he said. “We want to see a variety of activities to express the message of Khader and the Palestinian people. The most important thing is for people to adopt his case as their own. The world must take action to stop his shameful treatment.”

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Randa and Khader Adnan's daughter Ma'ali, age four

As Khader Adnan entered his 59th day on hunger strike, his wife Randa appealed for the international community to end his isolation and save his life.

“My husband is dying inside an Israeli jail. The world should make sure I am able to see him,” she said. “And it should pressure the Israeli government to release him before it’s too late.”

Khader, a 33-year-old baker, graduate Birzeit University economics student, and Islamic Jihad Movement activist, was detained in a 3:30 am raid on his home in Arraba, Jenin on December 17. Israel’s forces have arrested him eight times, and he has spent over six years in its prisons, mostly under administrative detention orders. He has been unable to complete his studies because of these repeated imprisonments.

He began a hunger strike the same day to protest Israel’s administrative detention policy and the brutality of his captors, and to demand his freedom. Israeli interrogators responded by continuing the beatings that began during his arrest, tying him into painful positions for hours, ripping hair from his beard, smearing dirt onto his face, throwing him into a “punishment cell” with bright lights and loud noises intended to prevent sleep, and denying him treatment for his gastric illness, the disc problems in his back, and the injuries their fellow soldiers had inflicted on him. After they graphically insulted members of his family, including his two young daughters and elderly mother – a form of psychological torture used by Israeli troops to extract information from Palestinian suspects – he launched a speech strike, refusing to talk with them as well.

On January 8, an Israeli military court sentenced Khader to administrative detention until May 8. Israel holds 310 Palestinians under this extrajudicial measure, which allows its military to detain prisoners indefinitely without presenting accusations or evidence against them. Like other Palestinian prisoners, administrative detainees have minimal access to their families, whom Israel denies basic information about their relatives’ cases and conditions.

“I didn’t know what had happened to him until December 30, when the court held his first hearing,” Randa said. “My security application was rejected, so the prisons administration wouldn’t allow me to see him until a human rights organization coordinated our family’s first visit to him in the hospital last Tuesday. They refused to allow us to stay with him for more than 15 minutes.”

By then, she said, her husband could barely move to greet her.  His shrunken, ulcerated body seemed like a shell, with its life already gone. She was shocked, and her daughters Ma’ali (four years old) and Bissan (one and a half) frightened, by the sight of his long nails and his beard and hair, which were overgrown, disheveled, and falling out in clumps. He told her that his captors had prevented him from bathing, grooming, or changing his clothes since his arrest, 52 days earlier.

“Israel has treated my husband without any humanity or compassion for his deteriorating health,” Randa said. “It’s obviously very bad, yet they’re not only preventing him from receiving any treatment, but also attacking his basic dignity as a human being.”

A letter from Khader’s cell in the Ramleh prison hospital Saturday seemed resigned to his likely fate. “The only thing I can do is offer my soul to God as I believe righteousness and justice will eventually triumph over tyranny and oppression,” he wrote. “I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on.” On Monday, a military court rejected his appeal and approved his administrative detention.

Yet Randa seemed to hold onto a glimmer of hope, for her husband’s life and for the world.  “Israel denied Khader any fairness or decency,” she said. “But maybe the rest of humanity will show more mercy.”

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An ongoing hunger strike and encampment outside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza continued to demand that Israel release political prisoner Khader Adnan, now on his 55th day without food and believed to be nearing death.

Take Urgent Action: Day 53 of Khader Adnan’s Hunger Strike
Take Action for Hunger Striking Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan!
Palestinian hunger striker’s life at risk: Khader Adnan
Demand the Immediate Release of Khader Adnan
Khader Adnan’s life at risk as He enters day 54 of hunger Strike – since 17 December 2011

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Dozens of Palestinians in Gaza continued a hunger strike in support of political prisoner Khader Adnan as he entered his 54th day of refusing food from his Israeli captors.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012
International Committee of the Red Cross
Gaza, Palestine

Take Urgent Action: Day 53 of Khader Adnan’s Hunger Strike
Take Action for Hunger Striking Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan!
Palestinian hunger striker’s life at risk: Khader Adnan
Demand the Immediate Release of Khader Adnan
Khader Adnan’s life at risk as He enters day 54 of hunger Strike – since 17 December 2011

Maali, daughter of jailed Islamic Jihad spokesman Khodr Adnan, stands next to a picture of her father as she takes part in a protest outside Israel's Ofer prison near the West Bank town of Betunia on 30 January 2012. (Photo: AFP - Abbas Momani)

 

 

By: Joe Catron

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012

“Any movement that does not support its political internees is a sham movement.” – US political prisoner Ojore Lutalo

Political prisoners, their families, and their concerns and causes enjoy massive support in Palestinian society. Palestinians who may have never joined a boycott campaign or acted to break the siege of Gaza routinely demonstrate for the rights of detainees and contribute to support their families. Among political factions, the liberation of all prisoners is a clear point of consensus. Competing parties demand and celebrate the return of each others’ imprisoned members as a matter of course.

Political Prisoner Ameer Makhoul argues that the PLO’s official position on prisoners is, “a recipe for delaying and deferring the liberation of the prisoners indefinitely.”

In addition, he says that, “marginalizing the issue within the overall Palestinian agenda” fails to reflect this overwhelming sentiment.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of the global movement in solidarity with Palestinians and their struggle. Too often, it has treated a concern at the forefront of the Palestinian movement as an inconsequential afterthought, when it has mentioned it all.

Huge mobilizations by detainees, like the October hunger strike that, at its peak, included 3,000 people (and galvanized Palestinian society in support), received only a minimal amount of responses from overseas. Also, the daily struggles of individual prisoners, like the current hunger strike of administrative detainee Khader Adnan, barely elicit any notice.

Why does this matter? Aside from a basic principle of solidarity – backing the priorities of the people we support – these prisoners remind us, and the world, of “the Palestinians’ right, and duty, to resist occupation, colonization and displacement employing all means of struggle,” in Makhoul’s words.

Their perseverance, inside and outside prison walls, testifies to the fact that Palestine needs neither our charity nor our sympathy, but rather deserves our solidarity as it struggles to free itself.

The “internationalization” of prisoner support Makhoul advocates could renew the solidarity movement’s focus on this Palestinian agency. While Israel’s apartheid system includes too many shocking injustices to count, the prisoners are also an electrifying and radicalizing force, whose very existence defies attempts to depoliticize their struggle or reduce it to a humanitarian concern. A mobilized, energized and expanded worldwide solidarity movement would also offer much-needed political backing to them, and the families and communities that regularly mobilize for them.

Many organizations, both Palestinian and international, work to educate a global audience about these issues. Addameer, the Campaign to Free Ahmad Saadat, Defence for Children International, the International Campaign for Releasing the Abducted Members of Parliament, Samidoun, Sumoud, and the UFree Network, as well as media like the Electronic Intifada and the Middle East Monitor, generate tremendous amounts of high-quality information. But while information is a necessary prerequisite, it is ultimately from mobilization that public awareness, as well as political change, emerges.

Putting information to use – building a global campaign to free Palestinian prisoners – will require a strategy to build these organizations and expand their activities, while also engaging broader solidarity networks. Makhoul proposes a National Coordinating Committee, akin to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, to oversee these efforts. In the meantime, international solidarity activists can and should respond to the current “steadfastness, defiance and struggle” of Palestine and its prisoners.

Recurring popular mobilizations, like Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (April 17) and Gaza’s weekly occupation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), could be replicated, on similar or more modest scales, in cities from New York to Islamabad. (Of course Gaza lacks explicitly Zionist institutions, which might prove to be more opportune targets elsewhere.) Rapid response networks could answer detentions, repression, and resistance by protesting Israeli Embassies, consulates, and missions, as well as foreign governments and international organizations collaborating with Israel.

The prisoners’ struggle can also invigorate existing campaigns. It overlaps neatly with the three demands of the BDS movement: An end to occupation and colonization (including detentions), full equality for Arab and Palestinian citizens (in judicial and correctional matters as well as all others), and the right of return for Palestinian refugees (like those expelled from their homes following release from prison).

BDS organizers have pursued prison profiteers like G4S, JC Bamford Excavators, the Israeli Medical Association, and the Volvo Group. Anti-siege efforts like the Free Gaza Movement and Viva Palestinia, too, could highlight Israel’s prison apparatus as an essential part of the system of militarized apartheid they oppose – and one explicitly intended to crush legitimate resistance.

Being proactive should be the core principle on every front. Many solidarity activists have complained of the disproportionate media attention lavished on Gilad Shalit and his family, but few have taken the time to investigate the global networks built to support them, or to learn the many lessons they have to offer. Giving Palestinian prisoners meaningful solidarity will ultimately require a similar movement focused on making their lives and struggles unavoidable topics of any informed conversation on Palestine.

The Israeli government oversees the world’s most militarized society, and one that cannot sustain itself without massive, ongoing repression, from its border walls to its isolation units. The prisoners illuminate the ugly face of this 21st-century apartheid, while offering a glimpse of the decolonized society that will inevitably replace it. Their struggles stand at the core of the broader movement for a free Palestine. All of us who join their struggle should acknowledge their leadership, appreciate their sacrifice, and offer them our full support.

Joe Catron is a (BDS) organizer in Gaza, Palestine. A citizen of the United States, he joined the October hunger strike with Palestinian prisoners and is currently editing an anthology of prisoner’s stories. He blogs and tweets.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.