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 falling...no, 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: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Khader-Adnan/236953309725144

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 http://samidoun.ca/?p=133 #Palestine #Israel

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

Tweet Now: Sign Petition to #FreeKhader hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner http://samidoun.ca/?p=116 #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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interview with Injured French Activist in Nabi Saleh

On Friday February the 3rd during the weekly popular resistance protests in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, Israeli border police fired tear gas canisters at head level directly at a group of unarmed protesters who were perhaps 25 to 30 meters away from the border police and who were merely chanting, nothing more. It should be noted that the border police are known for their vicious disproportionate and violent reactions to these kinds of protests, more so than the army itself. One tear gas canister lightly grazed the cheek of a Palestinian female protester, before hitting a French activist in the back of her head and, still propelled by its velocity, continued its course to hit a Dutch activist in his waist.

The video above, shot by local activist Nariman Tamimi, clearly captures the moment and leaves no room for doubt as to what hit the French activist, contrary to the lies emitted from the IDF spokesperson and other Israeli officials on Twitter who initially and outrageously claimed that the activist was injured from a rock thrown by a Palestinian.

Firing tear gas canisters at high velocity directly at unarmed protesters has become the staple of the Israeli army’s reaction in popular resistance protests. Two months ago, Nabi Saleh resident 28 year old Mustafa Tamimi was killed after an Israeli soldier opened the back door of the armored jeep and shot a tear gas canister at Mustafa’s face from a distance of three meters. The army has paid lip service to conducting its own investigation within the incident, which if carried out will be anything but impartial.

Today I sat down with the French activist, 20 year old Amicie P. and her Palestinian fiancé Aram S. to discuss the details of the actions that took place yesterday. The injury seemed pretty serious at first, owing to the fact that there was a large amount of blood, so it was a huge relief to see Amicie sitting next to me casually smoking cigarette after cigarette with a bandage swathed around her head.

Do you remember the moments right before the Israeli border police fired at us?

Amicie: “I was discussing with Diederik [the Dutch activist who was injured in his waist] about when we were going to leave to Ramallah. We agreed to stay for five more minutes. I wasn’t aware of when I got shot. I just felt something hit my head. It hurt me so much. I fell down and couldn’t seem to get up. People were carrying me because I wasn’t able to stand on my feet and the Israeli [border police] were still shooting at us. I wasn’t able to run. The medic Muhanad Saleem was screaming at them to stop shooting.

“I was really so afraid. I didn’t know if my injury was serious or not. I saw a lot of blood and thought of Mustafa and how he was killed in December.”

Aram: “I have asthma. I inhaled a lot of tear gas and couldn’t think clearly. I tried to help her then found myself away from her. I went mad when I heard that she was taken to one of the Israeli jeeps but it turned out that that didn’t actually happen. I was afraid they were going to deport her because she didn’t have her passport with her.”

Amicie: “The soldier asked if I were Palestinian. They wanted to take me inside one of the jeeps. They were shocked when they found out I was French. One of the soldiers panicked and took me behind from where the rest of the soldiers were standing, behind a jeep. I didn’t know if he wanted to arrest me or not but he wanted me to go inside the jeep.”

Did the soldiers try to treat you?

Amicie: “The soldiers tried to help me while I was waiting for the ambulance to come. They put some sort of liquid on my head—I think it was water—then tied a bandage on the wound. I was lying on the ground and was really scared because the soldiers were all around me looking down at me and holding their guns. They told me I was hit by a rock thrown by a Palestinian. It’s crazy because it’s so obvious that I wasn’t.

“When I was in the ambulance one soldier kept opening the door to ask for my full name, many times. The soldiers were talking about how I wasn’t a Palestinian but French. I didn’t have my passport with me, so I only gave them my first name. I wasn’t treated inside the ambulance.”

You were taken to Ramallah Hospital. What happened there?

Amicie: “I stayed at the hospital for only an hour. They took an x-ray of my head and stitched the wound up. I have to go back in another week for a check-up, and I might get the stitches removed by then.”

Amicie studies political science at the University Po Lyon back in France. As part of the program, students have to spend one year living and studying abroad in a foreign country. As her specialty is Middle East politics, Amicie came to Palestine August 1st 2011, where she enrolled in the Palestinian and Arabic Studies program at Birzeit University. Her visa expires in two weeks and she plans on going to France before coming back to Ramallah. She’s worried that in light of what happened on Friday she won’t or at the very least face a lot of trouble getting back in. When I asked her if she wanted to file a complaint against the Israeli army (or something similar) she expressed her frustration to me:

“I really want to do something but I don’t know what. It’s great for media attention because I am French, an international but at the same time I don’t want to have future troubles with my visa.”

Has any of the international media gotten in touch with you?

“Only the French ones, like Rue89, radio network Europe1, TF1, Le Nouvel Observateur.”

What was the reaction of your parents back in Lille?

Amicie: “My mother was really shocked. She said I shouldn’t go to any more protests, because my injury could have been worse. The French consulate called me yesterday evening to tell me that some newspapers would be getting in touch with me, so it would be better for me if I told my family beforehand.”

Amicie met Aram at the UN bid for statehood rally in Ramallah back in September (“The two state solution is impossible,” she slipped in.) The two have attended other demonstrations in the city, but this was their first experience in a village involved with the popular struggle.

Says Aram: “I’m so proud to know the people of Nabi Saleh. I can’t find the right words to describe the people; they’re so amazing. I didn’t feel like I was in a stranger’s home. They welcomed us and were so helpful. I felt like I was in my parent’ home. I want to go back and see them again, especially this old woman.”

Amicie: “It’s really impressive to see how the villagers live like that every day. The demonstrations are dangerous but that doesn’t stop the children from participating. The Israeli army’s response yesterday was really aggressive.”

Would you attend another Nabi Saleh protest?

Amicie: [laughs.] “Maybe not this Friday. I’d like to, but I feel frightened after what happened to me.”

Aram: “I’d go to another protest, but not with her. I don’t want to experience the feeling of almost losing her again. That feeling of 10, 12 minutes of not knowing whether she was going to be okay or not…I saw her kuffiyeh, all red from her blood. It’s crazy.”

Amicie: “It’s crazy the Israeli army shoots right at the people. Crazy that they’re still doing that after what happened to Mustafa. In demonstrations in France, the tear gas is normally shot at the ground so it’s not dangerous.”

How do you see the situation in Palestine in five years time?

Amicie: “In Nabi Saleh…I’d see the situation getting worse. I’m sorry, I know you wanted to end this on a positive note, but I’m pessimistic about these kinds of things. I feel like the majority of Palestinians don’t even care anymore [about resisting the occupation.]

Aram: “It’s because people owe the banks a lot of money. Salam Fayyad’s [state-building] policy has changed Palestinian society for worse. Everyone is now into their own selves. We weren’t like this five years ago. After the experience in Nabi Saleh…I feel like Ramallah and Nabi Saleh are two different countries, even though they’re only twenty minutes away from each other!”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Messages of Support to Mustafa Tamimi's Family

Martyrs are not numbers. It is essential for us and for supporters of the Palestinian cause to remember the stories behind the names and numbers.

For this reason, we offering this space as a platform where your voices will be heard regarding the first martyr the village of Nabi Saleh has sacrificed.

Write a message to Mustafa Tamimi's family here. We will collect, translate, and print them all into a journal which we will then present to Mustafa's family.

Let us not forget Mustafa.
On December 9th, 2011 a freedom fighter was ruthlessly murdered defending his village and the principles of freedom and justice which he fought and was previously imprisoned for by the Israeli occupation.

Mustafa Tamimi, the 28 year old resident of the tiny village of Nabi Saleh, was shot by an Israeli soldier who opened the back door of the armored jeep and fired a tear gas canister directly to his face from a distance of 3 meters.

Let us not forget Mustafa.
Villagers, locals, and other familiar activists remember Mustafa as one of the first to greet them in the village, before the popular protests started. He was the oldest of four brothers and one sister, and was engaged to be married the next month. He had the initial of his fiance tattooed on his chest, and was preparing to build another story above his parents' house to live with his future wife there, following the traditional norm.

Let us not forget Mustafa.
The Israeli army has never been held accountable to the murder of Palestinian civilians. It continues to act with impunity and demonstrates a complete disregard for Palestinian suffering. 10 days after Mustafa's murder, three Israeli jeeps surrounded his parents' house, and 25 soldiers got out with the pretense to check the license of the car outside, but with the intention to arrest Mustafa's younger twin brothers. Mustafa's father shouted at them that if any arrests were to take place it would be over his dead body. The soldiers left. Let us not forget also the army spraying skunk water, firing tear gas, arresting activists, and beating people up on the day of Mustafa's funeral.

Mustafa was killed on the 24th anniversary of the first Intifada, and the second anniversary of Nabi Saleh's popular resistance protests, which started after settlers from the neighboring illegal settlement of Halamish- built upon the village's land- further expropriated the main spring, al-Kaws.

Let us not forget Mustafa. His murder only succeeded in strengthening the resolve of the Palestinians against occupation. Israel kills one, and a 100 rise up in his or her place.

We ask you to show your support and love to Mustafa's family by writing messages of solidarity addressed to them either through this link or to this email: lifeonbirzeitcampus@gmail.com. There are no guidelines to this, other than including your name and the city or country you are from.

Let us not forget Mustafa.