Families and supporters of Palestinians detained by Israel held a weekly sit-in in the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Gaza office Monday morning. Israel has agreed to release 26 veteran prisoners, including 14 from the Gaza Strip, as part of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in Washington, DC.
Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’
Tags: Israel, Palestine
The difference between the current Israeli situation and apartheid South Africa is emphasised at a very human level: Jewish and Arab babies are born in the same delivery room, with the same facilities, attended by the same doctors and nurses, with the mothers recovering in adjoining beds in a ward.
Palestinian human rights organization in occupied Palestinian territories called for an end to the discrimination practiced against 1948 Palestinians in Israeli hospitals.
Mossawa Center (MC) for Arab citizens in Israel pointed out that Meir hospital in the Zionist settlement “Kfar Saba” in 1948 occupied Palestine had separated between Arab and Jewish mothers in maternity wards.
“Meir hospital continues its racist practices and discrimination against Arab citizens,” the center stated in a press release, pointing out to another serious and racist act where Kfar Saba’s Meir Medical Center has banned Arab teachers and students from speaking Arabic.
Of course such spurious claims to Israeli “equality” disregard over four million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, now nearing their 45th year under Israeli military rule, and the dozens of delivering mothers and newborn babies who have died at the occupying power’s checkpoints. Nor do they include millions of Palestinian refugees prevented from accessing their homeland altogether.
Tags: Center for Political and Development Studies, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Gaza Strip, Islamic University - Gaza, Israel, IU Gaza, IUG, Malcolm Little, Palestine, The University of Gaza
At the end of the United States’ Black History Month, one week after the 47th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination in New York’s Audubon Ballroom, and another week shy of my first year in Gaza, I attended a talk on X at Gaza’s Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS) Tuesday.
My friend Yousef Aljamal, a translator at CPDS, coordinated the event. “We are being subjugated to occupation and racism,” he told me when I asked him why. “I see Malcolm X as a role model. He fought against racism, just as Palestinians are doing today.”
CPDS’s lecture hall held a larger crowd than it has during any other event I have attended there. The speaker, Refaat R. Alareer, is a popular teacher of English at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG). Joining CPDS regulars, dozens of his students had turned out for another opportunity to hear him.
“I don’t claim to be a Malcolm X specialist,” Alareer said. “I’m only a fan.” His interest in X, he said, began twelve years ago. “I was teaching a course, and there was an amazing passage about this man, of whom I had never heard before. The passage was so eloquent, so articulate, so amazing that it pulled me into this personality, this area of knowledge that I, again, never knew before.”
Alareer quickly ordered and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. “Malcolm X has had, since then, an amazing influence on my life, to the extent that I now name him as my number one role model,” he said.
Alareer’s talk covered the phases and transitions of X’s varied life, with a focus on two main themes: the influence of his childhood, and misconceptions that often cloud modern understandings of him. “If you ask anyone about Malcolm X, he will quote him about violence, and how violence is the most important means to regain and restore rights, dignity, freedom, equality – so many things.”
“By doing this, we are actually not doing justice to this great, amazing man,” Alareer added. “We are zooming in on only one part of his life.”
Alareer quickly sketched key points of X’s Black nationalist upbringing and the racism he and his family faced: the arson of their house as police and firefighters stood by, the former later questioning his father about his permit for the pistol with which he defended his family; the murder of his father; the liquidation of his family by county social workers; his mother’s nervous breakdown; and discouragement by his teachers. “He turned this curse into a bliss,” Alareer said. “This harsh life did not push him, for example, to suicide – to kill himself – or to become a serial killer.” Instead, X’s painful experiences pushed him to establish himself as one of 20th-century America’s foremost leaders.
Alareer also described an aspect of X’s life as the middle of seven children that, he said, explains “how, he, in part, came to be the Malcolm X we know. How he learned that sometimes, you have to make noise. Sometimes, you have to use violence. Sometimes, instead of being gentle, you have to be tough, like Hamlet’s motto of ‘be[ing] cruel to be kind.’” When his exasperated mother asked why X would “cry out and make a fuss until [he] got what [he] wanted,” unlike his eldest brother Wilfred (who later introduced him to the Nation of Islam), X “would think to [him]self that Wilfred, for being so nice and quiet, often stayed hungry … So early in life, [he] had learned that if you wanted something, you had to make some noise.”
As a young gangster, Alareer said, “[X] was nicknamed Satan for his profanity, for his atheism. He hated everything and everybody: gods, laws, etc.” And while the Nation of Islam (NOI) offered him a system of personal discipline and a means of organized struggle, its theology, in Alareer’s eyes, left something to be desired. “Unfortunately, Elijah Muhammed had a special version of Islam, which by no means stands for Islam, or what Islam means,” he said. “Elijah Muhammed claimed, at the end of his life, that he was a prophet of Islam. He claimed that all Muslims are Black, that Islam is the religion of Black people, and that God is black; that the white people are devils; and that they were created, not by God, the Black guy, but by some other guy by the name of Jacob.”
“These ideas are absurd, huh?” he asked. His audience, of which I may have been the only non-Muslim member, murmured its agreement. “What – what the hell?”
But X, Alareer said, “believed in this under the circumstances. It is stupid to think what Elijah Muhammed was preaching, but probably, if you were squeezed into the corner where Malcolm X was, I think you would do the same.”
X’s background in the NOI, Alareer said, prepared him for his 1964 hajj to Mecca and practice of Sunni Islam as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz . “As a criminal, as a prisoner, as a ‘Muslim’ who was not a real Muslim, as a Muslim who was a real Muslim, as a man of peace, as a man of violence, he was a man of all trades, in a sense. As a member of the Nation of Islam, he said that whites are the devil, but as a Sunni Muslim, he embraced all people as brothers.”
X’s famous statements on violence, Alareer said, were also circumstantial. “I think that Malcolm X was complementing the role [of Martin Luther King Jr.] at a time when everybody was calling for nonviolent, peaceful means to find a solution to the Black problem.”
And they were, Alareer emphasized, only a small part of X’s thought. “We always quote Malcolm X talking about violence,” he said. “If you want ideas about prison, Iife in prison, and prison reform, read Malcolm X. If you want ideas about family, about wives, husbands, children, daughters, and sons, read Malcolm X. If you want quotes and ideas about education, this man is amazing in every sense of the word. If you don’t read him, there is a blank area in your mind or heart that needs to be filled.”
“All Palestinians admire him, or should admire him, for many reasons,” Alareer concluded. “He wasn’t ashamed to change when he discovered there was another way he could follow and adopt, another means to improve his status and change his horrible life. As Palestinians, we can use different means and methods to liberate ourselves, to get rid of the occupation and the evils of the occupation, ‘by any means necessary,’ like he said. ” This portion of Alareer’s talk, beginning at 41:25 of the audio file and focusing on X’s implications for Palestinians and their struggle, really deserves to be heard by everyone, even those without the time to listen to the rest.
Afterward, I spoke with Jehan Alfarra, a 21-year old English literature student at IUG. “Malcolm X is a good character to identify with,” she told me. “He was a product of his environment. You can see how his childhood and life influenced his approach to the challenges he faced. In that, he’s like many of the Palestinians here. And I love the transitions in his life. I love his bravery. He was brave enough to admit how he felt, and to admit it when he had met more people, knew more about the world, and changed his mind. Palestinians in Gaza are under a mental siege, as well as a physical siege. Malcolm X shows how to overcome that.”
Tags: administrative detainee, administrative detention, apartheid, Gaza, Gaza Strip, hunger strike, ICRC, International Committee of the Red Cross, Israel, Khader Adnan, Palestine, political prisoner
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.”
Tags: administrative detainee, administrative detention, apartheid, Bissan Adnan, hunger strike, hunger striker, Israel, Khader Adnan, Ma'ali Adnan, Palestine, political prisoner
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.”