Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Hunger strike a signal to world's oppressed"

{I was fortunate and honored to have interviewed Khader Adnan on Wednesday, April 18th a day after his release from the Israeli Ramleh prison hospital.}

Khader Adnan recounts his 66-day fast in Israeli jail that has made him a symbol of Palestinian resistance.

When Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan called his mother at 11:30pm on Tuesday night, she burst into tears. "He told me, 'Mother I am on my way home,'" she said. “For the first time in months my heart was at ease again." For Palestinians, Khader Adnan has become a symbol of resistance and steadfastness, or sumoud, after he waged a 66-day hunger strike against the Israeli prison service. He began his hunger strike immediately after his violent arrest by Israeli soldiers on December 17, 2011. He was detained under what Israel calls "administrative detention", a policy adopted from the era of the British mandate. Under administrative detention, Israel can detain a prisoner for up to six months, renewable indefinitely, without ever charging the prisoner or presenting any evidence against them.

There are currently more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, over 300 of those, in administrative detention. Adnan’s hunger strike, which eventually attracted international media attention and solidarity from around the world, inspired other administrative detainees to go on hunger strike. Hana Shalabi went on strike for 43 days before she was released and deported from her village in the West Bank to Gaza. Five others are now in the Ramleh prison hospital, including Bilal Thiab and Thaer Halahleh, who have not eaten for 52 days. After more than two months without food, Adnan’s lawyer brokered a deal in February with Israeli officials that saw him released on April 17. Coincidentally, that is the same day Palestinians commemorate Prisoners Day, which was marked this year by the open-ended hunger strike of 1,600 prisoners. 

Sahar Francis, director of the Ramallah-based rights group Addameer, saw Adnan's hunger strike as a catalyst for this current mass hunger strike movement. "I definitely think the successful hunger strike of Khader Adnan and his release was a main feature in inspiring the 1,600 prisoners to carry out this act now, which is a continuation of what they began in September 2011," he says. "It should be noted that a successful hunger strike depends a lot on internal support, international pressure from the EU and UN, and the policy of the Israeli prison authorities." Khader Adnan, who was was reunited with his family just before midnight on Tuesday, after visiting the families of the prisoners in Arrabeh, seven of whom are serving life sentences, later spoke to Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera: You've undergone the most difficult experience of your life and have been separated for months from your family. Why did you first stop by the families of other prisoners before seeing your own, and how does it feel to be free again?

Khader Adnan: Every day we live through Prisoners’ Day and its special symbolism. I went to see the families of those imprisoned before seeing my own family as a token of appreciation for their support during my imprisonment and their enduring anguish at having loved ones behind the bars of the Israeli occupation. My freedom is incomplete because of the prisoners who I've left behind. We salute all of the prisoners; Lina Jarbouni [the longest serving female prisoner], Sheikh Ahmad Hajj [the oldest prisoner on hunger strike], Omar Abu Shalalah, Jaafar Ezzedine, Hassan Safadi, and of course Thaer Halaleh and Bilal Thiab. I was received by Bilal Thiab's mother in [the nearby village of] Kufr RaI and relayed to her his message of endurance and commitment to his hunger strike.

After 66 days of refusing food, you spent 53 days recuperating. Did the treatment at the hands of the Israeli officers during your imprisonment improve after you ended your hunger strike?

No, not at all. Up until the last day in the prison hospital they would embark on ways to humiliate me, such as opening the door to stare at me whenever I would use the bathroom or shower. When I was hunger striking, they would purposely eat and drink in front of me. They would insult me, call me a dog. One told me that they still haven't done anything to me yet. Their manners are so unscrupulous. They tried to provoke me by repeating that my wife was unfaithful to me, and that my daughters were not mine. What else could they do? They banned the media from covering my case, proof that they are afraid of the truth. Even after I ended my hunger strike, as I was being transferred from the hospital in Safad to Ramleh, they did so in a way so that no one could see me. They kidnapped me and pushed me through an inner garage. My appeal was held in the hospital cafeteria! Is Israel that afraid of showing its true face to the world?

 How did you manage to find the resilience and strength in continuing your hunger strike, especially after the three times your family visited you?

[Hurried laugh] I don't know how I did it. All strength comes from God, and when I began my hunger strike I knew that it would be until freedom or death … sometimes I am puzzled myself! Israel granted permission for my family to see me not out of the goodness of their own hearts, but because they thought that the sight of my family would be enough to pressure me into eating again. It achieved the opposite effect, and I was further inspired to challenge my jailers. I've spent many sleepless nights from the pain my body was going through. However, my family's happiness, my people's happiness, and the free people's happiness all over the world made me forget that I've ever experienced pain throughout my hunger strike.

Sixteen hundred Palestinian prisoners are on their third day of an open-ended hunger strike in Israeli jails demanding improved living conditions, including the right to family visits and the right to receive family photographs. Will this tactic succeed in translating a popular resistance movement outside of the prison walls amongst Palestinians?

My stance will always be with the prisoners, whether next to them, behind them, or in front of them. From the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to the '48 territories and the exile, every Palestinian is obliged to stand united. We are all the children of the same cause, and one people living under the same occupation. I saw so much support from our family in 1948 Palestine, from the Palestinian doctors and nurses, the Palestinians in Haifa, the school girls from Nazareth who wrote an assignment on me … I will never forget their love. The mass hunger strike is a signal to all oppressed and vulnerable people everywhere, not just Palestinians. It's a message to everyone suffering from injustice, under the boot of oppression. This method will be successful, God willing, and will achieve the rights of the prisoners. I ask God to move the consciences of the free people around the world. I thank them all, especially Ireland, for they have stood by my hunger strike. I ask them to stand in solidarity with all the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in the past, present and future, with our tortured and oppressed people who live under the injustice of occupation day and night.
As the Palestinian prisoner to go on the longest hunger strike and survive, how does it feel becoming a symbol not just for Palestinian steadfastness but for resistance among other oppressed people?

During my days in the [Meir Ziv] hospital in Safad, occupied pre-partition Palestine, I was reminded of the holiness and the glory of this land. Being close to the resisting countries of Lebanon and Syria all gave me further incentive to defy the Israeli prison authorities, which I don't recognise. I have barely presented anything worth of value to the Palestinian cause. I work at a bakery and sell zaatar, and will continue to do so to remind every Palestinian that their roots are deeply entrenched in this land, among the olive trees and the zaatar.

Source: Al Jazeera

Friday, April 6, 2012

Israeli forces attempt to arrest 2-year-old Palestinian child

As published on Electronic Intifada on Wednesday

Mo’men Shtayeh probably owns a John Cena shirt, the WWE wrestler who the Palestinian kids hero worship, their shrill voices echoing in neighborhood streets of Cena’s catchphrase, “You can’t see me!” accompanied with waving a hand in front of their faces.

Mo’men Shtayeh has seen and knows too much. There is a chance — nay, a probability — that due to witnessing the Israeli army’s brutality and severe oppression in his village of Kufr Qaddoum, Mo’men might have grown up to be a warmongering Islamist (or perversely, a Tea Partier).

Mo’men Shtayeh represents a threat to the security of the Israeli racist occupying state. Apparently, it is well known that due to his savvy nature, Mo’men has been involved in drawing up specialized blueprints to attack enemy bases.

So it all makes perfect sense that the most moral army in the world, the Israeli Defense Forces, the fourth strongest army, the upholders of the beacon of democracy and godly light, tried to arrest Mo’men on Monday, 2 April.

The thing is, Mo’men is two-and-a-half years old.

Murad Shtayeh, the coordinator of the popular resistance committeee in Kufr Qaddoum and the father of little Mo’men, told The Electronic Intifada that heavily armed Israeli soldiers raided his house on Monday at 5:30pm. Two soldiers remained outside, two others went in the house, shouting they were going to arrest Mo’men.

“Mo’men was going inside the house,” Murad said, “when the soldiers suddenly took off from where they had been standing. They came running to the house like they were in a marathon, very fast and urgent, like a bunch of crazies.”

The soldiers claimed that Mo’men had not a nuclear warhead, or a submachine gun, but the most dangerous item in the world — a slingshot.

“Of course Mo’men didn’t have a slingshot in his hands!” scoffed Murad. “And even if he did, so what? He’s a kid.” For crying out loud.

The soldiers were adamant that Mo’men hand over his slingshot (which he doesn’t own) because he was using it to aim at the soldiers. What’s more, they wanted Mo’men to hand himself over to them too.

Bashar Shtayeh, Murad’s cousin, was also present at the scene. “The soldiers in the house drew their weapons and pointed them at the family,” he said, “threatening them that they would not leave unless Mo’men was handed over to them.”

A loud, angry arugment persisted for half an hour between Murad, other villagers who had come to see what the commotion was all about, and the soldiers. The soldiers then left, having cemented yet another moral meltdown in the occupation’s history. Not that they had morals in the first place.

But what of the toddler? Needless to say, Mo’men was terrified by what was going on around him.

“What can I say, of course he’s affected by this,” Murad said. “He was very scared. He’s doing slightly better now.”

Kufr Qaddoum began its weekly popular resistance protests in June 2011, against the encroaching illegal settlement of Qedumim that is built on the village’s land and to open the main village road that leads directly to Nablus.

The Israeli oppression against Kufr Qaddoum doesn’t just happen on Fridays. It occurs on a daily basis.

“Obviously, they thought this stunt — whether carried through or not — would serve as a punishment for us, but the truth is that it will not deter us from our protests,” Murad declared.

“Every day and night we have five to seven soldiers in the village harrassing us. Sometimes they come in with their dogs and fetch cars and houses. Yesterday [Tuesday] at 9:30pm the soldiers set up a checkpoint on one of the inner streets of the village.”

Mo’men Shtayeh, your little two-and-a-half-year-old self highlighted the absurdity, the idiocy, the shameful nature of the Israeli occupying army. May the force of John Cena be with you.

Editor’s Note: The family’s name is Shteiwi, not Shtayeh.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Palestine: Inside the Home of Hana Shalabi

Al Akhbar English published my interview with Hana Shalabi's sister Zahra on Hana's 40th day of hunger strike

On my Electronic Intifada blog, I wrote:
There are no words left after this. I picture Hana lying in a hospital bed, enduring an incredible amount of physical pain in addition to the taunts of the Israeli soldiers around her, who tell her over and over again that she will not survive, that she is not Khader Adnan, that the world does not care about her, that she will die alone and forgotten.

I don’t want to immortalize her; I just want her to live.

By: Linah Alsaafin
Published Monday, March 26, 2012

Burqin, Occupied West Bank – A tent, decorated with the flags of Palestinian political factions and posters of 29-year-old Hana, adorns the front yard of the Shalabi family home. On the eve of Mother’s Day, the tent had received a steady stream of visitors since the morning. Teachers and students from Burqin’s secondary school, members from the village’s women and farmers’ societies, and mothers of Palestinian martyrs gave the family long-stemmed roses and flowers, enough to form a huge bouquet.

Hana’s elderly mother Badia spends most of her days sitting inside the tent. She can’t stand being inside the house – it reminds her too much of Hana’s presence.

For the past 40 days, Hana Shalabi has been on hunger strike, consuming only water. Being held under so-called administrative detention, an outdated policy that Israel uses frequently to arrest and hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time under the pretense of security threats based on “secret evidence,” Hana hasn’t been formally charged with any crime. Her health is deteriorating rapidly and according to the last inspection carried out by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel last week she is at risk of “imminent death.”

Zahra Shalabi leads the way into the small but immaculate house. Zahra begins talking earnestly about her sister Hana, who despite being nine years her junior is the closest to her.

Hana’s elderly mother Badia can’t stand being inside the house – it reminds her too much of Hana’s presence.“Everything Hana did in this house now feels like a dream,” Zahra says, adding that “she would wake up in the morning and make tea or coffee for us both. Sometimes I can’t believe she is not here anymore.”
Hana is one of five Palestinians who have been rearrested by Israel after being released in the October prisoners’ release between Hamas and Israel, in violation of the deal’s conditions. Prior to her release in October, Hana had spent 25 months in prison under administrative detention, which can be renewed every six months.

During the last family visit, Hana informed her mother that she would begin a hunger strike if her detention was renewed for the sixth time. When the prisoners’ deal came out, it was a welcome and joyous surprise.

“We were all filled with immeasurable happiness,” recounts Zahra. “Hana couldn’t believe she was out of prison. We stayed up past midnight on the day she was released, just chatting and laughing so much. She told me stories about life in prison, the types of dinners she’d cook with the other female prisoners, the sanitary conditions of the cells, all in a joking way.”

The four months between October and February were trouble-free days, bursting with dreams and ambitions. Hana loved to socialize and meet with people. She was busy with getting her papers in order to register for university, with her eyes set on enrolling at the American University in Jenin. She wanted to get her driver’s license, and later buy a car. She went on a shopping spree, buying new carpets and curtains for her bedroom, as well as new clothes since she couldn’t stand to wear the ones she owned before her imprisonment. Also she dreamed of getting married and of finding the perfect man to spend the rest of her life with.

Hana is one of five Palestinians who have been rearrested by Israel after being released in the October prisoners’ release between Hamas and Israel.On February 16, at 2:30am, Zahra woke up to the sound of unusual noises outside the house. At first, she thought it was a few stray dogs, but then came the unmistakable rumble of an Israeli army jeep. Hana woke up in a frenzy, gasping “The Israelis, the Israelis!” She confusedly thought that the occupation soldiers had come for her brother Ammar, who spent two weeks in prison after the Palestinian Authority arrested him in 2009 on the baseless accusation of weapon possession. The thought of getting rearrested did not cross her mind until the Israeli commander called her name.
“She began jumping around like a caged bird,” Zahra says. “She was panicking, and kept repeating over and over again that she was not going to go with the soldiers because she didn’t do anything.”

The soldiers raided the house, making the inhabitants sit on the floor. One soldier grabbed Hana, who tried to push him away. He began beating her. Another unit went upstairs to her brother Ammar’s house, and scared the children by charging in with police dogs.

Clad only in light pajamas and prevented from dressing more moderately, Hana was taken outside in the cold by “Officer Shalom,” who interrogated her for five minutes. Shortly afterward, she was taken away and almost immediately began her hunger strike after being subjected to more beatings and forced to undergo a humiliating strip search in the presence of a male soldier.

Posters of Hana are plastered inside the house. On one wall is a large framed picture of her martyred brother Samer, who was shot by Israeli soldiers in September 2005. The picture had a Fatah subheading denoting his membership of Fatah’s armed military wing, Al-Quds Brigades.

When asked about Hana’s Islamic Jihad affiliation Zahra gives a small smile. “She’s not really Islamic Jihad. She doesn’t belong to any faction. When Israel imprisons you, their security services ask which political faction you belong to. Hana chose Islamic Jihad on a whim.”

Israel offered Hana a reduced sentence of four months on March 3 after 17 days of her hunger strike but she was adamant that she would only break her strike if she was released immediately. Again, it should be noted that no one knows why she is being held or what the evidence against her is.

“Is Hana Israel? Is she the US?” Zahra asks angrily.

“Does she have missiles or rockets? Where is the threat to Israel? Why can’t we visit her? I know Hana, we grew up together. She has done nothing. It’s the biggest injustice for Hana to die in prison, because she is innocent. I am sure my sister will not make it through another seven days. My sister is dying,” Zahra says as she begins to cry.

She continues by saying, “I would never place my enemy in my sister’s position. We remain steadfast despite the pain exploding within us. I would not wish this on anyone.”

Israel offered Hana a reduced sentence of four months on March 3 after 17 days of her hunger strike but she was adamant that she would only break her strike if she was released immediately.The Shalabis appreciate the moral support that has come from not just Palestine, but all over the world. However, they want that support to turn into action, to secure the immediate release of Hana, as she languishes in the Israeli Me’ir Hospital in Kfar Saba, where she was transferred to on March 20. Every time there is a court hearing to assess Hana’s appeals the family’s nerves are stretched thin in a psychological tug of war, only to have their hopes plummeted after every trial postponement.
On Monday, March 19, Hana’s parents met with the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas at the PA compound al-Muqataa in Ramallah. They asked him to secure the release of their daughter. Abbas replied that he would do his best, but Zahra dismisses his claims.

“Why does he call himself a president if he can’t use his diplomatic powers to release my sister? I don’t believe he is even trying. When Hana was arrested for the first time in 2009, ‘Captain Faisal’ the Israeli officer waved some papers in our direction when we demanded to know why she was getting arrested. He told us the PA gave him the secret file they had on her.”

Zahra is a thin woman who has grown old before her time. Her eyes are pits of sadness and she unexpectedly breaks down into tears in the middle of talking levelly for long uninterrupted stretches. She has trouble sleeping at night, often dreaming of her sister coming toward her with her hands cuffed, imploring Zahra to get them off of her. She wakes up fitfully, and says that she feels her sister’s pain.

“Her weakening heartbeat is my weakening heartbeat. Her stomach pangs are my own stomach pangs. If she dies, I hope she haunts the dreams of everyone who is responsible for her life, everyone who could have done something to secure her release but didn’t. The reality is that the world has failed Hana. What can we do other than put our faith and trust in God?”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Imperfect revolution: Palestine’s 15 March movement one year on

What was the 15 March movement really about?(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

As published on Electronic Intifada

On 17 February 2011, a group of young activists gathered in one of Ramallah’s nondescript cafés to plan for a revolution. Some already knew each other, others didn’t. They Skyped with four activists from Gaza in a meeting that initially focused on translating efforts on social media to action the ground, with the aim of reigniting the Palestinian street into demanding its rights from the oppressors once again.

This was the overture to the short-lived “15 March” movement, as it was dubbed by the local media after the event that took place on that day last year. The movement called for national reconciliation and used the rallying cry of ending the Hamas-Fatah division. Large protests took place in Gaza City and in Ramallah, where they were subsequently hijacked by Hamas and Fatah supporters and security forces, respectively. Many of the 15 March protesters were beaten up.

The movement petered out relatively quickly, and on the surface it seemed like that was that, just another unsuccessful minor chapter in Palestine’s history of factions, youth groups and political blocs. But who were the activists who called for the protest, and what was 15 March really about?

Breaking the mold

Before the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, different activists had contemplated arranging a big event on a particular day. Hamas’ stronghold on the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority’s control over the West Bank severely stifled freedom of expression and curtailed individual rights, creating a tense atmosphere not unlike that of a police state. Speaking out — however casually — against the wrong political faction would result in an arrest, a beating and threats. Youth activists were determined to break through the mold of autocratic rule by their own leadership, which they saw as an arm of the Israeli occupation.

As the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt played out, a few solidarity protests were organized by the activists in Ramallah. Demonstrators were beaten up and harassed by the Palestinian Authority’s preventive security forces. A protest or demonstration couldn’t take place in the West Bank without getting an approval or a license of some sorts from the PA. At the same time, many Facebook groups and pages against the Fatah-Hamas division and Israeli occupation began to appear, boasting tens of thousands of followers.

Ebaa Rezeq, an activist from Gaza, found out about the initiative from blogs and Facebook, before friends asked her to be a part of the group. “They were only starting work by talking to drivers, salesmen, families at home, schools and universities, trade unions and associations,” she recalled. “It wasn’t about getting youth groups and activists recruited; it was about getting the public involved and this was one of the reasons why I believed in this movement.”

Somehow, the date decided on for the protest was 15 March. The two main organizing groups with assertive roles were in Gaza City and Ramallah. Activists in Gaza decided to base the event around ending the division between Fatah and Hamas, which harmed them more than it did to the Palestinians in the West Bank.

A shallow slogan?

However, not everyone agreed that ending the division was the priority. Murad Jadallah, a member of the youth group Hirak Shababi al-Mustaqil (Independent Youth Movement) stated that there was no doubt the slogan “The people want an end to the division” was shallow to say the least. “It does not offer any implication as to what caused the division — which was the result of the absence of a unified national resistance strategy, not because there was one government in Gaza and another government in the West Bank — but at the same time it was a unifying slogan that that was easy for people to repeat.”

Activist Fadi Quran concurs that the slogan, modeled after the famous Egyptian chant of “The people want the fall of the regime,” was a soundbite that the local media could carry more effectively. The group in Ramallah wanted something that addressed and unified all Palestinians, because, as Jadallah put it, the last twenty years of the “peace process” had solidified the reality into geographical splits and concessions, in addition to disenfranchising refugees from the political process. Therefore, the demand for Palestinian National Council elections was introduced, with every Palestinian regardless of where he or she is based having the right to vote.

“Calling for PNC elections was not something new,” Jadallah pointed out. “The Hirak Shababi or other youth groups didn’t invent this call. It is merely a translation of the political concept introduced at the beginning of the 1990s, ‘Reorganizing the Palestinian house.’ That time period demonstrated that the Palestinian house, the Palestine Liberation Organization, had no democratic foundations as the mechanisms of decision-making were undertaken by an executive body within the PLO based on dictatorial ones.”

Hunger strike dynamics

Two days before 15 March, a hunger strike and sit-in by the youth began at Manara Square in Ramallah’s city center. Activists got wind of news that Fatah, along with other political parties, was planning to co-opt the event. Therefore, a pre-emptive action was necessary in order to convey the message of PNC elections louder than the parties’ mantra.

Maath Musleh spent 21 days on hunger strike. There were initially nine hunger strikers, but dozens more slept at Manara Square. Some were politically affiliated, others were not. They were attacked on more than one occasion by PA security thugs, and had their tent burned down. Musleh achieved seniority in the tent set-up because of his commitment to the hunger strike, and was determined not to impose any kind of structural leadership in the tent. The hunger strikers began to form their own dynamics, and pushed forward two more demands: the release of all political prisoners held by Fatah and Hamas, and an end to the propaganda wars implemented by both factions against each other.

“There were some people in 15 March who were against our hunger strike,” Musleh said. “They were convinced we were in over our heads.”

Tents were set up in the centers of Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin and Gaza City. The coordination between the activists was poor and fragmented. Fadi Quran attributes that to what he calls the “tyranny of completely horizontal groups.”

“We didn’t have a clear process for decision-making, which largely fell on those who were capable of pushing their ideas forward. In many cases that fell upon me, but I wouldn’t say it was leadership as much as tyranny, unfortunately — something I’m learning from.”

There were three different driving forces involved in 15 March: the hunger strikers, the other groups in the different cities, and the Ramallah-based group that numbered around thirty activists. As a result, there were a lot of demands coming from three dynamics without consulting each other first which contributed to obscuring the main message they had all set out to achieve, unity of all Palestinians through PNC elections.

“We learned that we couldn’t mobilize people by calling them to stand with us,” Quran said. “We have to introduce ourselves, make our plans known, what we stand for, what we were working on and towards. This much wasn’t even clear to the people within the group, so how were we supposed to let youth be part of something we still weren’t clear on?”

Media circus

The reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah was signed on 11 May, an empty gesture that changed nothing. Before that, five activists from 15 March met with PA president Mahmoud Abbas. As they entered the office, a media circus was waiting for them. The activists asserted that they would not speak in front of the cameras, thus blocking the media stunt, but which the PA still later used to create divisions by telling the protesters at Manara Square that the activists who met with Abbas saw themselves as leaders of the movement.

None of the activists expected the meeting with Abbas to change anything. They presented him with their demands: PNC elections, an end to media incitement and the release of political prisoners, which they had a list of. Abbas was flippant in his reply, blithely telling them that the PA holds no political prisoners. Needless to say, the meeting was unproductive.

The lack of strategy was telling, and that reflected in the disintegration of relations within the movement and between other groups. Mistrust, frustration, breakdown of communications, certain activists making decisions on behalf of the group without informing them beforehand were evident as a result of the absence of principles and values that were not firmly set at the beginning.

Maintaining momentum

“We were lucky that Land Day [30 March] came,” reflected Musleh. “Then we had a protest for Prisoners’ Day on 17 April, which kept the momentum going. Every Friday we’d hike through the mountains to protest in Nabi Saleh, but mobilization was nonexistent.”

The Hirak Shababi activists knew that Manara Square wouldn’t transform into Tahrir Square overnight. Palestinians are exhausted after more than six decades of suffering and sacrifice. Tensions between 15 March and Hirak Shababi accumulated, with the former accusing the latter of being politically affiliated and doubting its motives.

“Hirak Shababi has two features that explain why a year later, we’re still a movement whereas 15 March fell apart,” explained Jadallah. “Historically, Palestinian political parties derive their legitimacy and credibility from affiliation to a party or faction, and the experience of getting arrested by Israel. There was a fear on 15 March’s part of being swallowed up by Hirak Shababi, thus eliminating their qualities of leadership which were based on their English language proficiency, and their reliance on social media.”

One year later, the situation in Gaza remains dire. And freedom of expression is still repressed, according to Ebaa Rezeq: “In addition to receiving regular summons for interrogations, activists like Asmaa el Ghoul got a lot of death threats for writing critical articles about the situation. Mahmoud Abu Rahma [of the human rights group Al-Mezan] was stabbed by masked men for criticizing the resistance. It’s extremely dangerous to write while in Gaza.”

Breaking the fear barrier

Over in the West Bank, the mood is more optimistic. The number of activists has grown, and 15 March broke the fear barrier that made people think twice before protesting in the street. Jadallah stressed how the need for continued coordination gave birth to other initiatives, such as Palestinians for Dignity (against Israeli-PA negotiations).

The groundswell is not just in the West Bank. The 15 May (Nakba Day) protest commemorating the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was coordinated with Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, with some of the protesters succeeding in crossing the borders to Palestine. Later on in the year, in Haifa, a group with a large followers’ base called Hungry for Freedom originated from the September-October general prisoners’ strike.

“The right message should be directed to the appropriate place,” Jadallah said. “We need to regain the situation of directly confronting the occupation because that will cost Israel dearly, as well as uniting all Palestinians.”

“There is a collective identity we’ve developed,” Quran said. “This identity may look very disintegrated on the surface but at its core is a collective entity of youth who disagree on many things but agree on much more essential values.” The question is how to preserve that. Following his recent arrest while taking part the third annual Global Open Shuhada Street protest in Hebron, Israeli soldiers interrogated him about how the major protests were coordinated. “I know something is right when the Israelis are panicking about it,” he said.

Regardless of all the accusations of being a failure, 15 March managed to bring the cause back to the rest of the Palestinians. The past year involved an ongoing process of experimentation, always subject to adaptation and evolution. The street has become a place of expression of people’s interests, and community organizing has built awareness and injected Palestinian society with the spirit of volunteerism and resistance that Salam Fayyad’s state-building policy managed to corrode. For all of the revolution’s imperfections and trials, Palestinian youth are putting us back on the course to liberation.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Call to Action: Support Hana al-Shalabi as her health declines 4 weeks into hunger strike in Israel jail

The parents of hunger-striking political prisoner Hana al-Shalabi have issued a call to all Palestinians to protest this weekend in support of their daughter who is on her 28th continuous day without food in protest at her detention without charge or trial by Israel:

“We call upon the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian national factions, and all Palestinians to take to the streets on Saturday, March 17 and to demonstrate in support of our daughter Hana Shalabi and all administrative detainees.

Pressure on the Palestinian street is imperative in achieving Hana’s immediate release, as well as support for her open hunger strike [that began on February 16, 2012]

We as Hana’s family continue to support her hunger strike, and we want to let our daughter know that we are with her in every step of her hunger strike until she achieves her immediate release from the Israeli occupation jails.

Finally, we call upon all administrative detainees to join Hana’s hunger strike until they achieve their own release and to put an end to the unjust Israeli policy of adminstrative detention, which violates human rights and international law.”

Sharply deteriorating health

Yesterday Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) visited Hana and reported that her health had deteriorated significantly.

“The second doctor’s second examination on 12 March indicated an additional deterioration in Ms. Shalabi’s condition, shown mainly in advanced muscle atrophy and wasting, additional weight loss, a significant reduction in blood sugar, severe dizziness and severe muscle pain, especially in her chest and back.”

Hana was violently re-arrested by Israel on February 16th after her release in the first half of the Hamas-Israel prisoner deal in October. She had spent 25 months on administrative detention, without ever being informed of the reason of her detainment and with no charges brought against her. Her hunger strike is one for freedom and dignity, which began immediately as a result of being horribly mistreated during her last arrest, which included a forced strip search by a male soldier, beatings, and later solitary confinement. She is held in HaSharon prison.

Amnesty International reiterates urgent concern

Amnesty International reiterated its concern for Hana al-Shalabi’s condition following the examination by PHRI doctors. Earlier this month, Amnesty issued an urgent action alert calling on people to contact authorities to demand Israel release Hana al-Shalabi and other so-called “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial by proper international standards.

Background on Hana al-Shalabi

Background from Addameer

“On 23 February 2012 Ms. Hana Shalabi was given an administrative detention order for six months. On 29 February there was a discussion regarding her detention in Ofer military court. On 4 March the military court decided to reduce the detention period from six to four months, but without promising not to extend or renew it. As a result, Ms. Hana Shalabi announced she would continue to hunger strike until her release. On 7 March, an appeal hearing regarding the court’s decision was held at Ofer, and the military judge ordered the parties to try and reach a compromise by Sunday 11 March, but an agreement has not yet been reached.

Administrative detainees’ protests are growing. Two additional administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Thair Halahleh declared hunger strikes on 1 March, which they claim will continue until their release from administrative detention. On 3 March, two other administrative detainees declared hunger strikes until their release. Since the beginning of March, a number of administrative detainees have refused to acknowledge the military court and refused to participate in legal discussions of their cases. Due to Israel’s use of administrative detention, and the unwillingness of the military court to interfere in this practice, a hunger strike serves as a non-violent and sole tool available to administrative detainees to protest and fight for their basic human rights.

Approximately 310 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. Administrative detention allows Israel to hold detainees for indefinitely renewable six-month periods. The arrest is granted on the basis of “secret information” and without a public indictment. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Grandfather Passed Away and I was Denied the Right to See Him

As posted on Electronic Intifada

I’ll never forget the hilarious conversation we had back in the summer of 2005. The extended family went to the beach that day. As the sun went down, my father ordered an argilah, and whenever he’d break to continue a conversation, I’d take the pipe and draw a few puffs, much to the indignation of my mother. Seeing how my dad obviously didn’t object his fourteen-year-old daughter smoking an argilah, she appealed to my grandfather, who was sitting right next to me and pretended not to notice. At her request, however, he jumped into action.

“Linah, I’m not satisfied with how you look,” his voice carried over half of Gaza’s beach. “You’re nothing but skin and bones. At your age, you should be bursting with life! A long time ago, young women used to be like this —” he made curvy shapes with his large hands — “and like this!” Another curvy motion. “You don’t eat enough. You have the body of a child.” He was really getting into his stride now, as I sank lower and lower in my seat, my cheeks flaming, highly aware of the stares from other people on nearby tables. “You should eat meat! Lots of meat! And fruits! Meat and fruit! And an assorted variety of nuts!” I wondered if the pilot in the F-16 plane above could see Sido’s wild gesticulations or possibly hear his voice. “Eat! Eat meat, fruits and nuts! Eat, so your breasts can grow! But smoking? NEVER!”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry from sheer embarrassment. He just used the b-word, more common sounding in Arabic.

“But you smoke,” I said in a tiny voice, desperate to gloss over my public humiliation.

“I smoke because I’ve been doing it for years now, decades! Since I was a young man. It’s an addiction, I can’t stop it.”

“There are nicotine patches you could wear on your arm.”

“Whoever invented them is an idiot. They don’t work.”

“Well, there are special types of gum you can chew —”

He stared at me. “That’s a fine idea! An old man, chewing gum with his mouth open! Heheheh.”

My grandfather, 84 year old Ibrahim Hasan Alsaafin, was older than the Zionist state of Israel when he died on Monday in the Khan Younis refugee camp, still yearning to return to his village of al-Fallujah 64 years on, a mere 15 miles away.

On my way to Hebron last Friday for the third annual global Open Shuhada Street protest, the taxi I was in passed by a sign pointing right with the black letters of “Qiryat Gat” emblazoned on it. My heart caught in my mouth, and I craned my neck to hold that sign in my vision long after the taxi turned left.

Qiryat Gat is the Judaized name for my village of al-Fallujah. My village became a Jewish-only settlement for Russian immigrants in the 1950s, and the site for one of Intel Corporation’s biggest manufacturing plants.

Al-Fallujah was completely ethnically cleansed on March 1st, 1949 — a year after Israel’s so-called independence. Sido Ibrahim was a young man then, 19 or 20 years old, and fought with Egyptian paratroops against the terrorist Zionist guerrillas, who attacked the village with jet fighters and long range canons for six months. Most of the villagers fled, taking with them only their children, some even leaving the doors of their houses open. Sido, along with my great-grandmother Nabeeha, joined the scores of villagers in providing food and supplies to the Egyptian and local volunteers who were defending the village. Among the defenders was the Imam of the village Sheikh Hussein, who was killed when a jet fighter droped a bomb on his shelter. Five minutes before this happened, he threw the helmet he got from the Egyptians to my Sido, insisting that he has nothing to do with it, and as a young man Sido has more right to wear it becauze he represents the future.

After six months of shelling and raids, the international community decided that al-Fallujah must be evacuated and remain under international control. Sido and my great-grandmother Nabeeha exchanged hugs and tears with the Egyptian fighters who dropped them off along with other civilians in Gaza in their trucks before returning back to Egypt. Sido did not forget to bring the land deeds with him, which we still keep, and my great-grandmother took the key with her, which we also still keep.

I haven’t seen my grandparents for six and a half years, despite a distance of only sixty miles apart. In that sense, there is no difference had I been still living in England or the US. We were separated from each other by incomprehensible racist laws of an occupying military state, which sought to encircle our hearts with barbed wire. Gaza is only an hour’s drive away from Ramallah, the same distance as London is from Portsmouth, the same distance as Philadelphia is from Atlantic City.

It kills me that I haven’t been able to see Sido. We live in the same small country, but a thousand and one hindrances kept us pinned to opposite sides. I’ve missed my grandparents so much. I wanted to dye my hair with henna again, something my grandmother always does. I wanted to look into her pea-green eyes and listen to her highly inappropriate delicious fairy-tales, which made me and my cousins curl our toes with delight when we were younger.

I wanted to take pictures of them, to record Sido’s voice, complete a mini-project about oral history and to hear stories of al-Fallujah. When my mother was first pregnant with me, Sido saw her sucking on a lemon and told her she’d be having a girl. I dreamed about my visit, teasing Sido if he remembered how he was so upset I wasn’t named Nabeeha after his mother when I was born, claiming that now that my parents were in a western country they’d be naming their children infidel names. He stopped complaining after my mother explained to him that “Linah” was an Arabic name, mentioned in the Quran chapter 59 verse 5.

It was always with a sense of pride and dignity that I tell people that my grandparents are from an era before the state of Israel came into being are still alive, and that they are still refugees. They are history in itself. They have lived through so many wars. I was so eager to document that from their point of view, and to get to know them more.

Sido was a cantankerous man. His tempers were hugely fascinating and downright scary. Sometimes his rage would manifest itself by flinging meticulously prepared dishes of food. I recall helping one uncle scrape bits of food from the kitchen ceiling and window once. He had a loud gravelly voice and would strike the fear of God into someone quite easily. In the mornings he would sit cross-legged on a mattress, reading from the Quran out loud, pontificating every word. He was a strict disciplinarian, and as long as you weren’t at the receiving end of his temper or walking stick, the whole situation would become very comedic. Once he chased one of my cousins up on the roof with a hose, cursing his lineage and my cousin’s future descendants, as the rest of my cousins and uncles almost wet themselves from laughing so hard.

At the same time, Sido had so much compassion and generosity in his heart. He loved babies, never in short supply in my family. It was a mark of honor when he called you to his room, where he would give his grandchildren sweets from a hidden stash. He would take out a clear plastic bag full of shekel coins from the folds of his white dishdasheh, and one by one would distribute them to us. Back then, you could buy so much stuff at the candy store with one shekel.

I really wanted a recent memory of Sido and I. A photograph, a conversation, a touch.

Sido died. A memory flitted in my mind’s eye. One summer, years ago, the electricity was off for hours. When it came back on again it was past midnight. Sido turned on the TV and leaned forward from his mattress, chuckling as he watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Occupation has denied us of so much. The right to visit family. The right to be a family.

Sido died, and I walked home in the late afternoon, willing myself not to bawl, a dull pain in the pit of my stomach. My eyes welled up when I thought of my dad, all alone in the UAE. My mother called my uncles earlier. One of them was crying so hard she couldn’t understand him. I called them later at night, and they seemed more calm. I asked to talk to my grandmother. The phone was passed from one room to the next, and I pressed my cell phone closer to my ear, listening to a world I couldn’t be in: a baby coughing, children murmuring, hushed voices, “It’s Abdullah’s daughter, talk to her.”

The formal statement given when someone passes away. The formal reply. The tears ensued.

“The pain in my heart, ya sitti, the pain in my heart!” my grandmother cried.

“God give you strength,” I whispered.

“This is life, people are born and people die, but the pain!”

I can’t accept that the unfairness of the whole situation. I’m not talking about death, because that runs its natural course. I’m talking about the mini-diaspora within my own family. It gets so overwhelming sometimes to think that we can’t be together because of a screwball xenophobic government, a whole state that wills it so. It doesn’t make sense. The heartbreak and the anguish, the suffering and the despair is totally absurd when one considers the reason why we must experience all of this. I believe my skin color is appropriate, but my religion isn’t. I don’t speak the chosen language of Hebrew. That human beings should be the cause of the suffering of other humans based on some imperial ideology is unfathomable, when you really think about it. I can’t accept that, and I can’t do anything about it, and who cares anyway? My last name is not Levy or Goldberg or Schliemann. What are basic human rights to a Palestinian when you’ve become so dehumanized in the world’s eyes?

My family wanted to go to Gaza last summer, but things simply didn’t work out. So we postponed it to January, but that also didn’t work out. I had firmly set it in my mind that this June, no matter what I will go to Gaza, inshallah. It is too late now.

The hardest part was talking to my father, all alone without his wife or children to comfort him. It’s hard listening to your father’s sobs over the phone. He told me this:

“Just two days ago, I was thinking of the fact that you are an hour’s drive away from your family and yet you cannot see them…I felt crushed under this feeling of injustice, but comforted myself by looking forward to next June when we can all meet again and you and your sister Deema will have the chance to see Sido…but he did not wait. Not only for me…Sido, my dad, was in a hurry …as he has always been…so he left us…but will never come back..and June will come to this world..but Sido will not be there..Allah Yerhamo…he spent his youth struggling to make us happy and to make us grow up to appreciate the love for our homeland, and instilled in us love of truth, justice and rightness..he loved your Mama, he always called her his 5th daughter. He loved you, Mohammad, Ahmad and Deema…I could see the joy in his eyes when I talked about you, and he always blamed me for not settling in Gaza…next to him.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 21st General Strike in Solidarity with Khader Adnan

As posted on Electronic Intifada

Following up on a call by a Hebron-based blogger for Tuesday, February 21st to be a general strike throughout Palestine, students from Nablus’ An-Najah University have compiled the video above to assert that the strike will take place.

Translated below is most of the post:

In light of this frenzied competition [between the illegitimate Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip] the prisoner Khader Adnan has entered his 63rd day of hunger strike, and is at risk of dying as a martyr due to the severe deterioration of his health and the official Palestinian governments’ neglect of his case…

How long will silence be the master of this situation? Our silence is enough! Are we not able to announce a general strike for one day in solidarity with Khader Adnan and all the freedom fighters in Israeli jails?

I believe we are able to cause the Palestinian street to act and to make Tuesday 21st 2012 a day of general strike. All we have to do is pass on the message to biggest number of people and influential media stations outside the scope of social media. It is time to scream outside the walls of Facebook and Twitter, to pass on this message…it is the least we can do.

In addition to solidarity with Khader Adnan, the goal of the strike is to pressure both Fateh and Hamas, as well as the media, to intervene and save his life and the lives of thousands of other prisoners.

Ola Tamimi (no relation to the Tamimis in the village of Nabi Saleh) was fed up with the sporadic protests and lack of concrete actions that excluded the majority of ordinary Palestinians.

“I decided to call for a general strike because we need to do something effective, away from social media,” she told me. “Khader Adnan has been on hunger strike for 65 days now. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not undertaking more prominent actions.

Since [the youth movement] March 15th, it became clear that there is a gap between the efforts of activists on social media and the Palestinian street, which is concerned primarily with their own daily lives.

The idea behind the blog post was to break out of the Facebook and Twitter confines…for actions to translate successfully on the ground. We have to work towards making our statements, our online activities accessible to the street.

On Saturday, after I came up with the idea, I printed out flyers and gave them to the neighborhood kids to pass out. It’s a good tactic; they came back after an hour empty-handed.

I’d consider it a big achievement if the general strike takes place, even if it’s just for two hours [12-2pm]. I only care about if people are convinced with the idea behind the strike. If the store owner is convinced then what’s the point of having an official government statement? During the intifadas, people used to act as a collective whole without waiting for the government’s decision or an announcement.

The most important thing is to break the fear barrier that people have that prevents them from protesting in the streets. For example, people in Hebron are scared to protest because of the previous experiences they’ve had with the Palestinian Authority. It’s the same everywhere. People have reached a state of depression, but it’s imperative that we keep on trying.”

As Khader Adnan enters his 66th day of hunger strike, protests are expected to take place at the central squares in the cities and towns in the West Bank (and hopefully Gaza), the same day that Israeli High Court hearing for his case will be held in Jerusalem, at 3pm.

Video: Raymond McCartney, former Irish hunger striker in message of support to Khader Adnan

As posted on Electronic Intifada

Raymond McCartney, the former Irish hunger striker and current Member of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly for Sinn Féin is the latest from Ireland to send a message of solidarity to Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan, who is entering his 63rd day of hunger strike protesting administrative detention, a policy started by the British and which is illegal under international law.

McCartney, along with six other prisoners (Brendan Hughes, Tom McFeeley, John Nixon, Sean McKenna, Tommy McKearney and Leo Green) participated in what became known as the First Hunger Strike in 1980 in order to attain political status under the British occupation.

After weeks of delays by the British in implementing the promised changes, and confusion among the prisoners and their supporters, it became apparent in January 1981 that was not to be granted. The prisoners, faced with no alternative, would be forced to embark on a new fast that would have widespread repercussions in Ireland and abroad.
The Second Hunger Strike is the more famous one, with ten Irish prisoners hunger striking until death.

Oliver Hughes, the brother of Francis Hughes who died in 1981 after 59 days of hunger strike, had sent his message of support a few days earlier. Tommy McKearney, mentioned above, was the first of the former hunger strikers to record a message of solidarity.

Raymond McCartney, who was on hunger strike for 53 days, says that he “understands what [Khader] is feeling at this particular moment in time, so our thoughts are with him and his family.”

He goes on to say:

"All of us here in Ireland in particular those elected representatives should be doing all what we can to put pressure on the Israeli government to release this man. He’s been held by a form of internment, again a tactic well known and understood by people in Ireland. We need to have this man released and we need to ensure that we don’t have a death in present of this Palestinian who is struggling for his human dignity and the dignity for all Palestinians."

Khader Adnan was arrested from his home at 3:30am in front of his pregnant wife and two young daughters on December 17th. He has not been charged with anything, and as a result has embarked on a hunger strike since December 18th, using his stomach to protest the immoral administrative detention that the incongruent Israeli Prison System characterizes itself with.

Amnesty International reports:

Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months, which can be renewed repeatedly. Under administrative detention, detainees’ rights to a fair trial as guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are consistently violated.

Khader Adnan is one of 309 Palestinians currently held in administrative detention by the Israeli authorities, including one man held for over five years and 24 Palestinian Legislative Council members. Hundreds of other Palestinian detainees and prisoners have joined Khader Adnan’s hunger strike.

After 62 days of Khader Adnan hunger striking, the international community’s silence has been duly noted. Khader Adnan is a living legend, an icon of resistance and is determined to carry through with his hunger strike until he his released or charged, declaring that “My dignity is more precious than my food.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Khader Adnan

On February 8th, a worldwide hunger strike was called for on Twitter in support of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who was on his 53rd day of hunger strike. “My dignity is more precious than my food.” This was his declaration, after he was arrested in front of his pregnant wife and two young daughters at 3:30 am. After he was beaten up inside the Israeli jeep on the way to the detention center. After his gastric disc problems were ignored. After Israeli interrogators smeared dirt from their shoes on his beard. After they obscenely insulted his wife, mother, and two daughters graphically. After he was tortured and placed in painful stress positions. After he was placed in isolation.

All of this, and no charges were brought up against Khader Adnan. He was given four months of administrative detention, subject to being renewed anytime and for any period of time for no reason at all.

Tonight he is entering his 60th day of hunger strike.

I decided on Thursday, after the Twitter hashtag of #Feb9hungerstrike that I too would go on hunger strike, to really know what it feels like to be in solidarity with one who had been doing it for almost two months. My experiences are below.

2nd Day
On Friday I went to the village of Qaryout for its second protest under the popular struggle umbrella. This post here sums up the experience pretty well. The men of the village were very courteous and natural with me and my other two comrades, the only three Palestinian women to join their protest. In other words, no sexism!

Toward the end of the protest, where it became obvious that we couldn't pass through to plant trees in the stolen land as armed settlers added to the presence of the Israeli army, we began turning back to the village. A car was available, and my two comrades gratefully climbed in, but I wouldn't, out of sheer stubbornness. I didn't feel like I still had something to prove to the village men around me, but still. That wasn't the wisest decision to make. The situation in Qaryout is potentially volatile. The protesters are in the valley, with armed settlers on the hill on our left side edging closer to us. The Israeli army is in front of us. One small mistake, one tiny calculated action, and mayhem would ensue, no doubt leaving behind a bloodbath.

As it happened, that day one settler threw a rock at us. The protesters responded back with more rocks, which gave the Israeli army an excuse to tear gas the hell out of us, which in theory would provide perfect cover for the settlers to aim and shoot at us.

One of the men, Adham grabbed my arm as we fled to the other hill on our right. As we climbed the enormous hill. I vaguely realized I wasn't supposed to exert myself physically. I felt disconnected, my head and body two separate entities. I wasn't really aware of what was going on around me, and was only half listening to Adham.

"Watch out, you have to look where the canisters are, come this way quick before the gas gets to us..up, up quickly. Watch out! Don't slip!"

I looked up and was surprised at the clouds of toxic gas around us. I suddenly wanted to give up. What was the point anyway? I couldn't feel myself. All I wanted to do was just lie down on some green grass away from the mud and thorny bushes. Adham yanked my arm sharply and I began to focus again. I was so tired.

"I swear to God Linah, you're worth ten men," Adham said.
"Not 100?" I gasped as I ignored his outstretched hand and climbed over another rocky ledge.
"That too. Listen, when we get back to the village you're all having dinner at my mother's place."
"I'm fasting."
"Are you on hunger strike?"
"You're a quick one. Yes."
"You're not supposed to be on one if you're protesting. You're crazy."
"I'm exhausted."
"Just a little bit more, we've almost reached the trail."
I had a couple sips of coffee that morning. I forgot myself and also ate a few sunflower seeds one of the village boys tipped in my outstretched hand earlier that day.

After Qaryout, back to Ramallah, I went with one of my friends to the Red Cross building. We stood outside in the freezing cold holding up posters of Khader Adnan, with a fire burning in a grill someone had procured from somewhere, before ascertaining that a protest at 1pm the next day will take place in front of Ofer/Betunia prison.

3rd Day

Biochemistry lecturer at Birzeit University Munir Nasser said a build-up of acids would result in Adnan loosing his sight, and eventual kidney failure and coma.

Health expert Dr. Amr al-Hussaini said his body would be vulnerable to infection as his immune system lost protein, while Al-Azhar University nutritionist Dr. Samir Radi warned Adnan's heart muscles could hypertrophy, leading to his death.

I woke up on the third day with my head swimming. I stayed in bed for fifteen more minutes, before I finally got up and began getting ready for work. Oh Jesus, I don’t think I can last the day. My legs were shaking and I had to sit back down again because they wouldn’t support my weight. Before I left the house, I stuffed a mini Snickers bar in my bag and some pastries stuffed with white cheese and za’atar my neighbor must have sent down. Just in case. If I felt like I couldn’t last through the day, then at noon I’d break my hunger strike. I was simultaneously angry and ashamed at myself. Barely three days and already I was succumbing to the pathetic whining of a weakling. What is 3 days compared 56 days?

At work, I kept busy and was only reminded of my empty stomach whenever I got up to walk around the office. I stared at my legs, willing them to stop shaking. The hours passed without incident and I felt good again. It was past noon and I was due to meet my mother at the taxi depot so we could go to Betunia/Ofer prison.

After a few terse phone calls (Mama doesn’t like to be kept waiting) I made my way to the taxis. During the ride, Mama echoed what I was thinking: “I hope there will be a lot of people there, مش قردين و حارس"

We got out of the taxi, and watched the clouds of tear gas and smoke from a burning tire rise through the air.
“They’ve already started with their fuckery?” Mama shook her head. [She didn’t say the word ‘fuckery’-that was my own translation of her G rated version of the word.]
We walked a few steps forward. Young men and women, mostly students from Birzeit University, were clustered on the sidewalks and the street, bending over coughing and wheezing from the tear gas they had just run from.
One girl came up to us and offered strips of alcohol.
“Do you know how many injuries there are?” I asked.
“Three so far. I have to find Fadel.” She left.
Mama and I took another few steps forward. The wind blew the remnants of tear gas from the last canister fired by the Israeli Border Police, standing like buffoons a hundred meters away.
“Iffee!” Mama raised her scarf to cover her nose. I tied her shawl around her lower face.
“Keep it up,” I ordered.

There were shabab near the Border Police who were throwing rocks at them, hiding behind trash cans. Another trash can whizzed past us, with the three young men behind it shouting cheerfully at everyone to get out the way. Tear gas canisters were fired again. We watched their course as they traveled up in the air before it became clear they were falling down on where we stood. We hurried back to where stacks of wooden crates shielded us and pressed up against the wall.
It went on like that for a bit. We’d advance, then retreat. Even when we weren’t advancing, just standing where we were, shots would still ring out. Rubber bullets now joined the tear gas canisters.

After a quiet lull, a different girl looked at me and said, “Let’s start chanting.”
I shrugged. “Ok. Get other people to gather around.”
“من بير زيت اعلناها/حضر نجمة بسماها!
نعم للجوع/ لا للركوع!"

We went further down the street, Mama treading on my feet.
“They know what they’re doing,” she hissed in my ear. “They want us to get closer and closer to them before they fire tear gas at us again.”
Sure enough, the rain of toxic gas began again. And this time we had no time to run as the canisters hit the ground all around our feet. Everyone began running, their backs to the Border Police who were still shooting tear gas, but that was the biggest mistake an amateur protester could make. You had to look to see where the canisters were falling, not run away blindly.
“Where do I go!” Mama gasped, her face buried in her shawl as the tear gas engulfed us.
I grabbed her arm and looked over my shoulder. “Just keep running.”
“I can’t breathe!”
“Hold your breath and keep running!”

The dizziness was back. It wasn’t the effect of tear gas. We made it to some field, hidden from the view of the Border Police. The ground was rich and extremely muddy. I made Mama sit on a rock and shoved alcohol strips under her nose. Guys were lying on the ground choking and gasping for breath, their tears mixing with great rivulets of mucus streaming down their faces. One guy came over and gave half of his cotton swab which was doused with stronger alcohol to Mama. People were shouting from the street and across the field.
“Are you ok Hajjeh?”
“Do you need anything Auntie?”
“Aunt, do you need a medic?”

The last experience Mama had with tear gas was three years ago, during a protest one Friday in January. The Palestinian Authority security forces descended on protesters who were chanting for their terrorized and massacred brethren in Gaza, and tear gassed them in addition to beating them up. She came home that day with my older brother, shell-shocked expressions on their faces, their clothes absolutely reeking of gas.

I looked around me. Rubber bullets were still being fired. One guy close to us groaned.
“The villagers of Nabi Saleh are so damn lucky,” he half coughed half laughed. “They’re immune to this shit. They have it for breakfast, dinner, and supper. Ahh wallah I have to go there next Friday so I can get used to tear gas.”

We left the field and were back on the street again. Mama was a good distance behind me, the poor thing. She said she had a huge headache. “Don’t get too close,” she warned.

I wanted to pinch her cheeks. She really should come to Nabi Saleh.

Suddenly, more rubber bullets were fired. I crouched behind a metal pole with others as the bullets ricocheted off the pole with metallic whines. We waited it out. By God we were going to have a protest here, to hammer home the point of why we were getting shot at and why the shabab were throwing rocks. I chanted,
يا خضر يا بطل| انت رمز المعتقل!
تحيتنا بحرارة| لاسرانا النوارة

My head felt like it was going to explode. I felt like I had just ran a marathon, and my body was shaking again. After a few more rounds of tear gas, I made the first correct decision that day and quietly slinked back to the gas station where Mama was standing, and we went back to Ramallah, where oblivious people continued went about with their illusions of a proper life, made all the more exciting with the recent opening of a new KFC chain.

"I started my battle offering my soul to God almighty and adamant to go ahead until righteousness triumphs over falsehood.I am defending my dignity and my people’s dignity and not doing this in vain.

"The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey."

At home, I went straight to my bed before I could collapse on my feet. I lay down on my back and let my thoughts travel. My legs and right arm are not shackled. I haven’t been humiliated or placed in torturous stress positions. What a man Khader Adnan is. To possess even an ounce of his iron-willed resolve…I remembered the short clip on TV of him playing with his daughter, whose peals of laughter made me smile. She shouldn’t become an orphan at the age of four. My sister came in the room and raised her eyebrows.

“You’re still on hunger strike?!”
“Yeah, so bring me my laptop since I can’t move,” I said in an exaggerated weak voice.
“Get it yourself!” She obviously didn’t fall for it. Then, “Don’t you get hungry?”
“No, just dizzy.”
“That’s how I felt on Thursday. My legs were shaking.”
“Mine too, sometimes.”
“Imagine not having enough clothes to stay warm.”
“Ya haram.”
“Imagine not showering or taking a bath for 55 days.”
“I could do that. Imagine not changing your underwear for 55 days.”
“Mine would dissolve.”
We paused.
“You’re so disgusting!” I shouted as we both laughed our heads off. (I omitted the subsequent conversation on dissolving underwears for obvious reasons. And in the moment of comic relief, I should include that my sister, unlike me, still represents hope in securing marriage in the future so there’d be no use in tarnishing her reputation.)

Later that night, my mother found out I hadn't been eating for the past three days. "I don't care what you do anymore. It's not like you listen to me anyway. But you have to drink something ya habla. Even he drinks water." She sighed waspishly when I didn't reply.

I have so much respect for Khader Adnan. I have so much rage for the international community's complicit silence.

After midnight, my light-headed self drank water and had a bowl of cereal. I didn't gorge myself, but I still felt sick. It's been two days now but I still drink more liquids than food.

Khader Adnan is entering his 60th day on hunger strike. He has refused food since December 18th. He is staring death straight in the face. Tomorrow, Wednesday February 15th is a national hunger strike day for Palestinians that we will hope will spread to the wider world.

"It is time the international community and the UN support prisoners and force the State of Israel to respect international human rights and stop treating prisoners as if they were not humans.”
Khader Adnan. Palestine's living martyr. In the name of dignity, in the name of freedom, in the name of justice, you reminded us again what resistance is.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Al Jazeera English Doesn't Care About Khader Adnan

As posted on Electronic Intifada

Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan has entered his 55th day of hunger strike. He has long passed the critical stage and is in danger of organ failure any moment now. In other words, Khader Adnan is dying.

The silence from international media is deafening. Much of the publicity highlighting Adnan’s case came from social media via Twitter and blogs.

Does a young father of two arrested in the dead of night from his home, held under illegal administrative detention i.e. no charges have been brought against him, beaten and tortured during his interrogation, hunger striking since December 18th—a day after his arrest—not warrant headlines?

Does his identity as spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad cloud the editors’ judgments? Does his long beard — most of which has now fallen out due to the effects of starvation — not make for sexy media attention?

Yesterday a group of Palestinians called up Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau, demanding to know the reason for the bureau’s nonexistent coverage regarding Khader Adnan. Why Al Jazeera English? Why not the myopic BBC—who’ve recently proclaimed their censorship of the word “Palestine” from their music programmes—or The Guardian or CNN? (The last one was a joke.)

As an Arab news source with a bureau based in Jerusalem, Al Jazeera English holds the responsibility to report what is happening to Palestinians. Not only are they not covering the bombings in Gaza, but they are ignoring the ethnic cleansing happening under their noses in Jerusalem. They have also completely ignored the weekly, daily popular protests in Palestine, while at the same time attempting to present themselves as the voice of the people who are revolting against oppression in the Middle East.

The litany of crimes that Israel commits on a daily basis against Palestinians is long and ranges from land theft, ethnic cleansing, violence against men, women, and children, bi or tri-weekly bombing campaigns on the besieged people of Gaza, political arrests of dozens of Palestinians on a weekly basis including children as young as 13 years of age and institutionalized racism and discrimination that Palestinians face every day which prohibits them from living anything resembling a normal life. As a result many of us turn to blogs and twitter to find out what is happening which begs the question, what exactly is AJE correspondent Cal Perry being paid to report on in Palestine?

Furthermore, while all political prisoners are a shame to the countries imprisoning them, what was the criteria that Al Jazeera used to determine that a self professed Egyptian Zionist, Maikel Nabil, was more worthy of coverage than a Palestinian anti-Zionist?

Coverage of Maikel Nabil from Al Jazeera English:

Egptian blogger’s arrest stirs doubts
Maikel Nabil Live Blog
Egyptian blogger’s arrest stirs doubts
Ministrial declared in case of Egyptian blogger
Egyptian anti-military activist Maikel Nabil rejects pardon

Al Jazeera simply cannot state that Khader Adnan’s hunger strike is not news worthy as international human rights organizations have expressed alarm and condemnation over his detention and concern for his deteriorating health.

The following conversation took place between one caller and a woman from Al Jazeera English Jerusalem office, in response to that caller’s question about why Khader Adnan has been receiving so little exposure from Al Jazeera English.

“But there are other important stories we’re covering.”

“But Khader Adnan has been on hunger strike for 54 days in administrative detention and he’s dying.”

“But there are people dying everywhere.”

The caller was then directed to the editor, who said:

“With all due respect, it’s not up to you to tell us what to cover. I’m only accountable to my superiors in Doha.”

The editor continued to say that there will be a story on the website today so perhaps “you should wait before passing judgments.”

Did that mean that the caller should wait until Khader Adnan dies before he can get decent coverage?

The caller then asked why there had been no TV reports, features, etc. The editor replied that there were more important stories around.

Another caller had this conversation:

“Hello, I’m wondering why Al Jazeera English hasn’t given the Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan who’s been hunger striking for 54 days any coverage?”

“Who is this?”

“It doesn’t matter. I want to know-“

“WHO ARE YOU? I’ve been getting calls every five minutes from people asking about the same subject.”

“Why does that matter? I-“

“I need to know if I should make a list of people calling. I need to know if something is wrong.”

“Of course there’s something wrong. Your coverage of Khader Adnan has largely been nonexistent.”

[Speaking to someone in the room] “It’s another one of them, asking about Adnan.” [Addressing the caller] “You need to tell me who you are.”

“Consider me a viewer of your network.”

“Listen, you can’t do this. Who are you?”

“Why are you getting defensive? I’m only asking why Khader Adnan hasn’t been getting any attention-“

“Who are you? Tell me your name.”

“So you’re interested in my name but not in Khader Adnan’s? The man has been on hunger strike for 54 days and-“

A man took over the phone. “Hello, who is this?”

“I’d rather remain anonymous. I want to know-“

“Look, why should we bother to answer you if you won’t even give us your name? Ok, thank you.” [The line went dead.]

The disrespect and arrogance that Al Jazeera English has shown to Palestinians with the lack of coverage has been nothing short of shocking. If Al Jazeera cannot commit itself to doing actual reporting about the cruelty of the Israeli occupation on a daily basis against Palestinians then it would be best for them to move their office to Tel Aviv or head back home to Qatar.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Khader Adnan: 53 days on Hunger Strike

From yesterday's Addameer report:

Urgent Appeal: Khader Adnan’s Life at Risk as He Enters Day 52 of Hunger Strike

Ramallah, 7 February 2012 – Addameer expresses its utmost concern about the health of Khader Adnan, who remains steadfast on Day 52 of his hunger strike in protest of being held in administrative detention and refuses treatment until his release. Despite his rapidly deteriorating condition, an Israeli military judge issued a decision today confirming his administrative detention order for a period of four months.

In the court decision, Judge Dalya Kaufman claimed that after hearing the medical assessment of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) physician, Khader’s medical condition seems “acceptable” and provides no grounds for shortening or canceling the administrative detention order. This claim was made regardless of the questionable nature of the IPS medical assessment, given that Khader has refused to allow Israeli hospital staff to carry out his medical examinations. The last medical examination that Khader received was on 29 January, when Physicians for Human Rights doctors examined him. The doctors stated that in the event of organ failure, his condition could become life-threatening.

During the confirmation hearing, the military judge also claimed that she ruled out alternatives to administrative detention due to Khader allegedly “hiding” from Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF), even though he was arrested from his own home. She further contradicted herself when noting that the secret file on which his administrative detention is based contains information that he is a high risk to Israeli security, while also admitting that this same material is not enough to bring actual charges against him. These contradictions reveal the highly arbitrary nature of Khader’s detention in addition to Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law, which permits limited use of administrative detention only in emergency situations, but does not allow for its use as punishment when there is not sufficient evidence for criminal procedures.

On 6 February, Addameer lawyer Samer Sam’an was able to visit Khader in Zif Medical Center in Safad. Mr. Sam’an stated afterwards that Khader continues to refuse ingesting salt and vitamins. He also noted that Khader remains conscious and aware of his surroundings. Though Khader has categorically refused to allow any medical examinations by Israeli hospital staff, Israeli authorities continue to transfer him between multiple hospitals within Israel, which has made visits from his lawyers increasingly difficult.

Immediately after being arrested on 17 December 2011, Khader began his hunger strike in protest of Israel’s consistent violations of human rights, including its policy of arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment during and following his arrest and the violation of his right to be promptly informed of the charges against him. As punishment for his hunger strike, the IOF placed Khader in solitary confinement after his fourth day under interrogation and stated that they would ban him from family visits for the following three months. With no other means to protest these injustices, Khader responded by saying, “My dignity is more precious than food.” On 8 January 2012, Khader was issued a four-month administrative detention order. After being postponed several times, a court hearing took place on 1 February, during which Khader described the ill-treatment he experienced at the hands of the IOF.

A group of Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike in support of Khader on 2 February. Currently there are prisoners on hunger strike in Ofer, Megiddo and Ramon prisons. Khader is now the longest Palestinian hunger striker in history. He is one of 310 administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons and the third case in Addameer’s Prisoners at Risk campaign.

Addameer holds the Occupation accountable for Khader’s deteriorating health and urges the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to put immediate pressure on Israel to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law in regards to arrest and detention of Palestinians. Addameer further appeals to the International Committee of the Red Cross to play its role in bringing attention to the multitude of violations committed by Israeli authorities. If Khader remains in administrative detention, it is surely a major threat to his life; to ensure his release, local and international coalitions must work rapidly to build a movement in his support.

Yesterday also marked the first time Khader Adnan's pregnant wife Randa and their two young daughters were able to visit him. Randa described Khader's physical appearance as "horrifying", and their four year old daughter asked why he looked like that and why he couldn't come home.

From al-Akhbar English:

“He is incredibly small and his clothes haven’t been changed and he hasn’t showered since being arrested. His nails haven’t been cut and there were blotch marks on his face and his teeth.”

Despite the terrible state, Adnan remains conscience and is able to communicate.

“She [Randa] said his mental state is still fine. He was very aware and he was able to speak to them,” the spokesman added.
His personal lawyer is currently prevented from visiting him, contrary to international law, though a lawyer from Addameer has been permitted to visit.

A Physician for Human Rights doctor was due to inspect Adnan in jail on Wednesday to report on his conditions.

Beyond 50 days hunger strikers are in serious danger of death due to organ failure. Infamous Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands died in 1981 after 66 days of refusing food in a protest at British rule over the country.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Israel to either charge or release Adnan.

“For years Israel has been using administrative detention to lock up Palestinian activists without charge or trial, said Ann Harrison, Amnesty's Deputy Director for the Middle East.

“Military commanders can renew the detention orders repeatedly, so in effect detainees can be held indefinitely. The process violates their right to a fair trial which is guaranteed by international law Israel is obliged to uphold.”

More reaction from Randa:
The wife of the detainee, Randa Adnan, said her husband was being targeted for "assassination," but he’s in good spirits and determined to continue his strike against Israel's "illegitimate and inhumane policies."

Randa was able to visit her husband Tuesday evening at Zeif hospital in Safad.

“Adnan is being targeted for a slow process of assassination” she said. She says she was "shocked" at her husband's condition, and that he told her he feels he’s living the last moments of his life, she said.

"A lot of the hair on his face and head has fallen off. He has not been allowed to shower or wash during all his time in detention, nor is he allowed to wear warm clothes in this cold weather."

She added that "during my visit, my husband's heart swelled up and a medical crew neglected him for half an hour."

Khader Adnan's father announced his hunger strike in solidarity with his son.

Dozens of Palestinians in Ramallah and Gaza have gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with Khader Adnan.

International media has largely ignored Khader Adnan's case, but solidarity around the world is growing.


1.Call and demand the release of Khader Adnan, who has not been charged with any crime but instead is being held under Administrative Detention.
Call the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC (1.202.364.5500) OR your local Embassy (for a list, click here).

Call the office of Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (1.202.647.7209)

Demand that Jeffrey Feltman bring this issue urgently to his counterparts in Israel and raise the question of Khader Adnan’s administrative detention.

2. Organize a protest outside your local Israeli Embassy (for a list, click here).

Post your local actions to the Khader Adnan facebook page here:

Help us spread the word with social media after you take action.
Download this photo of Khader Adnan to use for your social media profile pictures and click on the suggested messages below and they will be automatically tweeted.

Tweet Now: Take Action Now for #KhaderAdnan #Palestine #Israel

Tweet Now: I just called my local #Israel Embassy to demand #KhaderAdnan’s release. Join me now! ListofEmbassies:

Tweet Now: Sign Petition to #FreeKhader hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner #palestine #KhaderAdnan

3. Other Actions

To contact the authorities within Israel, see Addameer’s appeal.
Other ideas for actions and a letter-writing template can be found on this action alert from Samidoun (The Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network).
See Amnesty International’s report and appeal to action.
Khader Adnan, the father of two daughters and with a third child on the way, is a baker, a Masters student in Economics at Birzeit University, and a political activist. Khader, was arrested on December 17, 2011 by masked soldiers who raided his home in the middle of the night (the village of Arrabe near Jenin in the occupied West Bank). Between the 18th and the 29th of January 2012, he was subjected to almost daily cruel and inhumane interrogations. During interrogations, he was shackled to a crooked chair with his hands tied behind his back in a position that caused him back pain. He said that interrogators threatened him constantly and verbally abused him and his family.

Khader was given a four-month administrative detention order on January 8, 2012. Khader’s interrogation period has ended but he refuses to accept the unjust system of administrative detention [more details], continuing his strike on the principle that such detention is a violation of his rights and identity. Administrative detention, a regular practice of the Israeli occupation, violates the internationally-recognized right to a fair trial. International standards for fair trial must be upheld for all political detainees, including those accused of violence, even under states of emergency. A military judge reviewed the administrative detention order on February 1, 2012 and is expected to inform lawyers of her decision later on this week.

Meanwhile, Khader’s health is deteriorating rapidly and doctors don’t expect him to be able to survive for much longer.