April 20, 2012
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 peoples’ 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 women.
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 charge.
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 being released.
"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 benefits everybody."
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 or trial.
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.