On April 17, Palestinian
Prisoners Day, Khader gained freedom. At issue is for how long? As announced,
Israel released him as scheduled. He endured 66 hunger striking days
to be free.
So was Hana Shalabi last October when released with other Palestinian
prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Held two and a half years without
charge, she wasn't free long.
On February 16, she was again arrested and detained uncharged. After
44 hunger striking days, she was lawlessly exiled to Gaza where she's
recuperating from her ordeal. Weeks after he resumed eating, Khader
also perhaps still struggles to regain full health.
On April 18, Maan News quoted him saying:
"The happiness I saw on my peoplesí faces made me forget all the suffering
I experienced when I was on hunger strike."
On arrival in Jenin, he went to an Arraba village sit-in tent to meet
Jaafar Izz Addin's parents. Imprisoned, he's now hunger striking for
justice. So are hundreds of other other Palestinian prisoners.
On April 17, they began an open-ended strike against abusive prison
conditions and practices. Children young as 10 are affected. So are
Khader, Hana, and others inspired them. They're doing it en masse for
justice. Hundreds more may join them. Israel holds thousands of Palestinian
political prisoners. Three al-Aridha brothers are among them - Amjad,
serving 20 years, Mahmoud for life, and Raddad indefinitely without
Khader also went to Kafr Raai village to meet Bilal Thiab's mother.
He's been hunger striking about 50 days. Asked about his last prison
moments before freedom, Khader said:
"It looked like an uprising as all my hunger-striking fellow prisoners
began chanting 'Allahu akbar' (Allah is greater)."
"I tried to bid them farewell, but I was denied that and was moved from
one detention center to another until I finally arrived at Salem center
in the northern West Bank."
Abusively moving him from one location to another delayed his release
16 hours. At Salem, ICRC got custody. They took him to Arraba. Khader
added that Israel's delay reactivated his hunger strike. He feared not
"They detained me in the darkness so that nobody could see them, and
when they released me they did it in the darkness so that nobody could
welcome me. They failed in that because I had a reception which indicates
that our people are still committed to the prisoners' cause and will
support them until they are all freed."
Israeli abuses don't quit. Even on days prisoners are released they're
abused. Windows in other prisoners' cells were "shut down" to prevent
them from seeing Khader leave.
He believes hunger striking for justice works. He supports prisoners
doing it in "stages." First dozens, then hundreds, then en masse to
expose prison and occupation harshness. He hopes hundreds more will
join those now striking.
"My hunger strike was not a new form of hunger strike, but the long
duration gave it special importance. This is like vertical expansion
where you construct a building on a small area of land, but that building
On April 17, Al Haq quoted hunger striking prisoners saying, "We will
live in dignity." The human rights organization highlighted thousands
of lawlessly held Palestinian political prisoners, many without charge
Their mistreatment "includes internment, the denial of family and lawyer
visits, prolonged periods of isolation, and the lack of fair trial."
Letting the whole world know is vital.
On Palestinian Prisoners Day, Al Haq marked the occasion by highlighting
abusive Israeli treatment and thousands of affected political prisoners.
Special attention was given to Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh. Ignored
by the international community, they've been hunger striking around
50 and counting. Israel only responds to world condemnation. Even then,
very rarely. Most often, it's to lash out.
UN Member States must pressure Israel to obey international law, stop
abusive practices, or face sanctions and other measures with teeth.
That and much more needs to happen to end decades of abuse.
On April 17, Addameer and 12 other human rights organizations "salute(d)
all Palestinian political prisoners, especially those engaging in brave
civil disobedience through ongoing hunger strikes." At issue are appalling
abuses and long denied justice.
They called imprisoning Palestinians "a form of Israeli institutionalized
violence." It includes torture and other ill-treatment from arrest to
detention. Brutality, injustice, and racism define Israeli policy.
Corporate profiteers are involved. The British/Danish security firm
G4S was highlighted. In 2007, its Israeli subsidiary Hashmira contracted
with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems.
Ketziot and Megiddo have them. Both notoriously hold Palestinian political
prisoners inside Israel in violation of international law. They also
service Ofer prison in the West Bank, as well as Kishon and Moskobiyyeh
where human rights organizations documented extreme torture and abuse.
G4S is complicit with other occupation practices. It provides equipment
and services for West Bank checkpoints along the Separation Wall's route.
Also to terminals besieging Gaza and for Israeli police and business
enterprises operating in illegal settlements.
"A panel of legal experts concluded that G4S may be criminally liable
for its activities." At issue is its involvement with Israel's illegal
Wall and other international law violations.
The EU announced it won't renew its G4S contract following pressure
from Palestinian rights organizations. Global civil society groups denounce
its complicity with lawless imprisonment, worker rights abuse, and other
human rights violations.
Addameer and other groups "demand that the Palestinian leadership bans
G4S from private and public tenders, and ask for the strict application
of the boycott legislation in the Arab world against companies cooperating
with the Israeli prison system."
On April 18, the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidity Network highlighted
ongoing mass hunger strikes. On April 17, 1,200 Palestinian political
prisoners began them. Another 2,300 refused meals. They intend greater
solidarity actions against detentions without charge or trial, abusive
isolation, and other harsh prison abuses.
Last October, as part of the Shalit prisoner swap deal, the Israeli
Prison Service (IPS) agreed to cease abusive isolation and other punitive
measures within three months if prisoners ended hunger strikes.
April 18 marks six months since the agreement. No policy changes occurred.
Business as usual continues. Israel makes deals, then breaks them. Mass
Palestinian hunger strikes protest what's no longer tolerable anywhere.
Ten or more Palestinians remain on long-term strikes of from 28 to about
50 days. Ahmad Saqer is Israel's longest held uncharged prisoner. April
18 marked his 32nd hunger striking day. Mohammed Suleiman protested
by refusing badly needed medical treatment.
Mohammad Taj demands prisoner of war status. He's been hunger striking
nearly five weeks. Others also against numerous abuses. All demand justice.
Israel provides none. IPS prohibited Addameer lawyer, Samer Sam'an,
from visiting hunger strikers in violation of IPS regulations. At issue
is further isolating them to break their spirit.
In response to Israeli abusiveness, Palestinian prisoners are increasingly
determined to hunger strike for justice. They hope the whole world's
watching. It's time to end decades of abusive injustice.
Palestinian courage needs supportive global pressure. Both must be sustained
for effectiveness. Change won't happen easily or quickly, but always
comes bottom up. Even Israel's not immune from what's too robust to
ignore. Hopefully, change is just a matter of time.
A Final Comment
April 18 marked Bahraini human rights hunger strike Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's
70th hunger striking day. Perhaps doctors can explain how he lasted
this long. He called his wife and said he'll stop allowing IV and other
intravenous fluids. He'll only ingest water.
On day 67, his family finally got to see him after being denied for
days. His daughter Zainab said one hour was provided. Family members
were searched and escorted by police and soldiers.
His appearance was frightening. "I didn't think he could look worse
than the picture we saw, but he did." He was a skeletal version of his
former self. He "looks like someone who is in the final days of a long
fight with a terminal illness."
Nonetheless, he greeted family members with a smile, saying: "Why do
you all look so sad?"
His eyes weren't normal or focused. His hands were ice cold. He hasn't
spoken to doctors for days. He's in imminent danger of death. He could
go any time. He said "Whatever happens is in the interest of the people."
He's willing to die for justice.
Like Khader, Hana, and other long-term hunger strikers, few anywhere
match their courage. They deserve sustained world support in response.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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