Palestinian hunger strikes come to a head, world begins to notice
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By Michael Omer-Man <http://972mag.com/author/michaelom/> |Published
February 18, 2013As Palestinian hunger strikes come to a head, world begins
to take notice
*Four Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strikes to protest their
administrative detention and the conditions in which they are being held.
While the EU calls on Israel to respect its obligations toward Palestinian
prisoners� human rights, an Israeli NGO reports they are being treated
unethically in hospital.*
An Israeli prison guard escorts Samer Issawi, a Palestinian political
prisoner on hunger strike, out of his court hearing in Jerusalem, January
16, 2013. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
All anyone in Israel has spoken about for the past week is �Prisoner X,�
the Jewish-Israeli-Australian Mossad agent held secretly by his own
country, who supposedly took his own life in prison two years ago. But only
a few miles from the Israeli newsrooms in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, outrage
over a different type of prisoner in Israeli jails has been mounting for
months and is coming to a head.
Four Palestinian men in Israeli prisons are currently in the late stages of
prolonged hunger strikes protesting the legal basis of their imprisonment:
administrative detention and military committee sentencing decisions based
on secret evidence <http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=573>. Both
amount to imprisonment without knowledge of what they are accused of or the
right to a trial.
In recent days, the prisoners have reportedly intensified their hunger
strikes, refusing all medical treatment, including vitamins and minerals.
Their health is said to be rapidly deteriorating.
Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets throughout the
recent weeks, leading to violent clashes with the IDF and including
protests that shut down the Ramallah offices of the Red
[image: Tear gas outside Ofer prison (Oren Ziv /
Tear gas outside Ofer prison (Oren Ziv / Activestills)
Hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel have also protested in
solidarity with the hunger
the other side of the Green Line.
Demonstration in front of Ramle prison in solidarity with hunger-striking
Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi, February 4, 2013. Issawi is currently
held in an Israeli medical detention center in critical condition. (Photo
by: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Quartet envoy Tony
Blair have both called on Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinian
accordance with its obligations in international law. Responding to the
hunger strikers� deteriorating health condition, Ashton said
�Under international law, detainees have the right to be informed about the
reasons underlying any detention and to have the legality of their
detention determined without undue delay.�
The Arab League has demanded the international community take
break its �unjustified silence� over the injustices Israel subjects
Palestinian prisoners to.
In its preparations for U.S. President Obama�s upcoming visit to Jerusalem
and Ramallah, the Palestinian government is also reportedly pushing the
issue of prisoners<http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=303552>
the top of its agenda.
The longest of the hunger strikes is reported to be around 200 days. Samer
Issawi was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in
October, 2011, having served 10 years of a 30-year sentence. He began his
hunger strike nine months later, shortly after the IDF re-arrested him.
Issawi is protesting the legal mechanism that put him in prison without
access to due process. He was re-sentenced by a military committee using
secret evidence that neither he nor his lawyers can see, and therefore
cannot mount a defense in court.
Ayman Sharawna was also re-arrested and sentenced under similar conditions
using secret evidence, thereby denying him the ability to defend himself in
Two other prisoners on hunger strike, Jafar Azzidine and Tareq Qa�adan, are
being held in administrative detention; they were never charged with a
crime, told what they are accused of or given a chance to defend themselves
or clear their names.
Administrative detention, which is permissible under international law only
in extreme cases to prevent immediate and grave dangers, is widely abused
by Israel to imprison Palestinians. During a mass, 1,400-prisoner hunger
strike last year to protest the practice, Israel was said to be holding
over 300 Palestinians in administrative detention. Acknowledging the
legally problematic nature of the practice, even the most senior Israeli
security officials have admitted it is
But beyond the highly problematic and illegal (under international law)
mechanisms for detaining them, Israel�s treatment toward the hunger
strikers defies its own laws and regulations, medical ethics and
international conventions, Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) wrote
in a statement Sunday<http://www.phr.org.il/default.asp?PageID=116&ItemID=1701>
After petitioning Israeli courts to demand visits with the hunger striking
prisoners, PHR recently met with and examined them. The hunger strikers are
being kept shackled in their hospital beds and are being denied family
visits, despite being in danger of dying, it said.
�Israel�s use of administrative detention based on military regulations to
incarcerate individuals without trial is evidence that this is but one more
tool used to repress residents of the occupied territories,� PHR asserted.
�The fact that medical personnel are also involved, the violations of the
right to health and the courts failure to preserve the inmates� rights is
evidence of Israel�s widespread and systemic moral, ethical and
professional failures,� the statement added.
Israeli courts are set to hear appeals by Issawi in the coming days.
Also on Monday, a PLO official reportedly said U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro
promised him Israel would release 550 Palestinian prisoners ahead of
Obama�s visit in the coming weeks, according to Israeli daily
*Read a recent letter by Samer Issawi describing the reasons for his
determination to continue his hunger strike
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]