New Round of Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strikes

Palestinian scouts wave Palestinian flags and carry placard reads: "15 of May: Refugees, prisoners, Gaza, West Bank, Jerusalem, Palestine 1948... they are all one and same (Photo: Reuters - Sharif Karim)

By: Fadi Abu-Saada

Published Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ramallah – Of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, Palestinians will often say, “We have no honor without you.” This is especially true for those who go on hunger strikes to protest the low conditions of their imprisonments, in particular the Israeli policy of “administrative detention,” which permits the detainment of prisoners without trial.

In 2012, about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails went on a hunger strike. When the strike ended in May 2012, many prisoners were assured their release, but Israel did not follow through.

Currently, there are five Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons who continue their hunger strikes: Ayman al-Sharawneh, 36, from Dura near Hebron, and Samer al-lssawi, 33, from Issawiya in East Jerusalem, have been on hunger strike for 174 and 143 days respectively. Both are in critical condition. Jaafar Azzadine, 41, and Tareq Qaadan, 40, both from Arrabeh, and Yousef Shaaban Yasin, 29, from the village of Aneen in the Jenin district, were among scores of Palestinians detained by Israel in the West Bank after Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.

In 2011, Sharawneh was released from prison after serving ten years of a 38-year sentence for his part in an operation in Beersheba in which 24 Israelis were injured. But he barely had time to celebrate his freedom before Israeli occupation forces detained him again on January 31.

His wife, Nabila, described to Al-Akhbar how troops raided their home, forcing her and the children out into the rain before taking him away. During his previous incarceration, Nabila was allowed only one 40-minute visit a year.

Sharawneh’s brother, Jihad, said his physical condition has deteriorated. His lawyer informed the family that he was no longer able to move his body, and was only capable of breathing. He began refusing food on 1 July 2012, but still has not been granted a trial, or even a date for a court appearance.

Issawi was given a court hearing on 17 December 2012. When he attempted to greet members of his family in the courtroom, he was beaten up by Israeli security guards and knocked off his wheelchair. His lawyer sister, Shireen, was later arrested.

“I didn’t expect to see him in such a state,” his mother said. “I could see he was in very poor health. He was skin on bone. The court wouldn’t even let us greet Samer.” She accused Palestinian Authority officials of not doing enough to support the hunger-striking detainees.

Jaafar Azzadine’s morale is high and his mind clear, thought he can barely get on his feet and can no longer pray standing up. Family members told Al-Akhbar that Azzadine’s strike was not merely about his case and his freedom, but aimed at championing the cause of all administrative detainees and bringing an end to this unjust and arbitrary practice.

Azzadine’s brother Tareq, who had been sentenced to life, was one of the prisoners released to the Gaza Strip as part of the latest swap.

Tareq Qaadan has been arrested by the Israelis 11 times, spending a total of ten years in various Israeli jails and detention centers. Informed sources said he was experiencing increased pain and his condition was deteriorating steadily.

The hunger-striking prisoners are not alone. On Monday, a major Internet campaign was launched on their behalf, with the participation of hundreds of social media pages and websites, aimed at publicizing their cause and rallying worldwide support for them. Organizers said dozens of Palestinian, Arab, and European online groups were involved in the campaign, and that their Facebook pages had obtained over 10 million followers .

The campaign was an attempt to refocus attention on the cause of the prisoners and revive official and public interest and engagement in it, which has been waning in recent months.

The Palestinian Authority minister for detainees’ affairs, Issa Qraiqei, for his part called for the formation of a legal team to plan ways of using the UN’s recognition of Palestine as an observer state, entitling it to accede to various international human rights-related agreements and conventions, to defend the rights of the detainees.

He suggested asking the UN General Assembly to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in The Hague on the legal status of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, and the international community’s legal obligations regarding violations of their rights.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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