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Forum Post: Samer Issawi, Hunger Strikes, and the Palestinian Struggle

Posted 8 years ago on Dec. 29, 2013, 9:01 a.m. EST by flip (7101)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

By Richard Falk For the last three years Palestinian prisoners, mainly unlawfully detained in Israeli jails, have been engaged in a series of life threatening hunger strikes to protest administrative detention imprisonment (that is,without indictment, charges, and access to allegedly incriminating evidence), abusive arrest procedures (including nighttime arrests involving brutality in the presence of family members, detention for prolonged interrogations violating international standards, e.g. 22 hours at a time, sleep deprivation), and deplorable prison conditions (including unlawful transfer to Israeli prisons, denial of family visits, solitary confinement for prolonged periods).

No recent Palestinian prisoner has received more attention among the Palestinian than Samer Issawi, released a few days ago after reaching an extraordinary bargain with prison officials last April. He agreed then to stop his hunger strike, which had lasted an incredible 266 days, either partially or completely, in exchange for an Israeli pledge to release him in eight months at the end of 2013. Notably, Issawi had rejected Israeli earlier offers to release him provided he would agree to a ten year deportation order to either Gaza or some distant country. Issawi refused this arrangement, a form of punitive release, which Israel had imposed on other hunger strikers, including Hana Shalabi. In Issawi’s words, “I do not accept to be deported out of my homeland.”

In the background also is the apparent Israeli effort to avoid having hunger strikers die, either because of their memory of the strong impact of Bobby Sands’ death on public opinion in Northern Ireland back in 1981 or as an aspect of the Israeli brand of ‘subsistence humanitarianism’ that has been explicitly most implemented in Gaza for the past decade. It involves a grouping of policies that seeks to make life extremely difficult for Palestinians but short of the point of death or epidemic, an extreme austerity reinforced periodically by what some Israelis referred to as ‘mowing the lawn,’ that is, relying on military incursion to ensure that the average collective material circumstances of Gazans don’t rise above subsistence levels. Such an articulated cruelty, proclaimed to be the rationale for an occupation policy, is bound to sow seeds of hatred, resentment, and give rise to feelings of revenge among even the most moderate of Palestinians. I have encountered such responses to Israeli practices and policies among the gentlest of Gazans with whom I have met in recent years.

Issawi’s case stands out for several reasons aside from taking note of the length of his hunger strike. His expressed motivation was an understandable reaction to being rearrested in July 7, 2012 after having been released the prior year as part of the arrangement in which 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were given their freedom in exchange for the return of Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier. Issawi was rearrested at the Juba checkpoint, accused of violating the terms of his release that restricted him to Jerusalem, his place of residence. He was apparently still within the municipal limits of Jerusalem, but in an area treated as the West Bank by the Occupation authorities, and even so was claiming only to be seeking a shop for the repair of his car. For this possible technical violation of the release agreement, he was sentenced to eight months in prison, but then additional to this, a special committee, acting under Military Order 1651, Article 186, used its authority to rule that someone rearrested in this way could be returned, on the basis of a secret file, to prison for the completion of his original sentence, which in Issawi’s case meant twenty years. There was no right to challenge such a seemingly outrageous ruling. Even Issawi’s lawyer was denied access to the file that contained the supposedly incriminating information. It was against this background that Issawi was unwilling to accept a reversal of his release from jail. He declared that a hunger strike was the only weapon available to him to protest such treatment, implying that he would either win his freedom in that way or die in prison.

Issawi’s family history is emblematic of what it has meant to live for most Palestinians decade after decade under military occupation. Samer’s brother, Fadi, was killed in 1994 by Israeli security forces, and a second brother, Medhat has spent the last 19 years in prison, while his sister Shireen was detained during 2010. The family lives in the village of Issawiyeh, a suburb of Jerusalem, and a site of protest in recent years, especially in reaction to the confiscation of village land to create a ‘national park’ and to establish a waste dump. In other words, the context of occupation, annexation, expropriation of resources, and suppression are all part of the Issawi story. Indicatively, Israel banned any celebration of Issawi’s release in Issawiyeh, an order somewhat ignored by a warm welcoming crowd joyful about his release.

Even before his rearrest for violating the terms of his release, the Palestinian NGO that monitors Israeli prisons and policies, Addameer, indicated that Issawi was subjected to constant harassment by security forces. He was questioned at length several times a week, and was denied the opportunity to live a normal life. The daily ordeal of Palestinians living under occupation is a Kafka tale of lawless law, where those in charge decide whatever they wish, hide behind veils of secrecy, and impose their authority by relying on excessive force and a variety of humiliating obstacles to normalcy. Issawi made clear that his struggle would not end with his release from prison: “It is our obligation as freedom fighters to free all Palestinian political prisoners.” Also, that there was a link between his kind of resistance by Palestinians and the broader international solidarity movement: “I draw my strength from all the free people in the world who want an end to the Israeli occupation.” Of course, there is mutuality present as those who support the Palestinian struggle from outside are inspired by the courage and resilience of individuals such as Samer Issawi, and should know these stories of nonviolent Palestinian defiance.

The Issawi story is more than the struggle of an individual or the sad saga of a family active in resistance or a village confronting the daily realities of an occupation that is also a scenario of resource confiscation and oppressive living conditions. It represents a metaphoric summary of the Palestinian reality, epitomized by pervasive vulnerability, violent oppression, and the steady encroachment on the integrity of the Palestinian habitat, but also by the dynamics of resistance, struggle, and hope for a better, decent future. It is a reality we should all reflect upon at the turning of the year, wishing and acting for a better 2014 for Palestinians and for all of us.



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[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (23590) 8 years ago

"The Issawi story is more than the struggle of an individual or the sad saga of a family active in resistance or a village confronting the daily realities of an occupation that is also a scenario of resource confiscation and oppressive living conditions. It represents a metaphoric summary of the Palestinian reality, epitomized by pervasive vulnerability, violent oppression, and the steady encroachment on the integrity of the Palestinian habitat, but also by the dynamics of resistance, struggle, and hope for a better, decent future. It is a reality we should all reflect upon at the turning of the year, wishing and acting for a better 2014 for Palestinians and for all of us."

Those words from the last paragraph resonate with me. I think because, the Palestinian suffering and struggle is really a metaphor for struggles all over the globe. May the 1% and the ruling power elite find it in their hearts to have compassion and empathy, seek acceptance, and usher in love for all of humanity. While the Palestinians remain under occupation, we all do.

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

right on you beauty - it is a crazy world that allows suffering (and creates suffering) and tries to justify it on military or economic grounds (I am a bit surprised that too many here justify it). you remind me of this (it is longer and worth reading if you are interested) - E. V. Debs - Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act -September 18, 1918 " Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.......... that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly means…

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison…

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity…

[-] 0 points by beautifulworld (23590) 8 years ago

That is such a moving quote, flip, and all that Debs says there still applies to our world, 100 years later, even though our economy is no longer really industrial, but service driven, global and technological.

Exploitation is exploitation whether you're hammering a nail or flipping burgers for a wage that leaves you in the dregs.

Thanks so much for that. Solidarity with those who suffer and who are exploited everywhere in this world!

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

once again we agree! when I found it to send to you I thought of posting it because it applies to us today

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Following release from prison Monday, Samer al-Issawi called for kidnapping of IDF soldiers during interview with Hamas TV. http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Liberman-calls-for-re-arrest-of-released-hunger-striking-Palestinian-336136

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Samer al-Issawi, a Palestinian-Arab who was released this week from an Israeli prison after a prolonged hunger strike, received a hero’s welcome not only from the Palestinian Authority but also on the Facebook page of the Israeli Arab political party Hadash.

As reported by Israeli daily Ma’ariv on Friday, the Hadash Facebook page posted an excerpt from an interview that al-Issawi conducted with the Hamas terrorist group’s Al-Aqsa Television. During the exchange, al-Issawi called for the kidnapping of Israelis.

“We say very frankly that we want the release [of all Palestinian prisoners]…their release will only come about after the kidnapping [of Israelis] and a subsequent prisoner swap,” al-Issawi said in the interview.

Al-Issawi was sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2002 for his involvement in a series of shooting attacks targeting Israeli police cars and students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. However, in 2011, he was released from prison prematurely as part of the prisoner swap in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. He was subsequently re-arrested for violating the terms of his release.

Despite his past terrorist activities, Hadash’s Facebook page described al-Issawi as a “heroic Palestinian prisoner.” Furthermore, Hadash Knesset Member Muhammad Baraka uploaded onto his personal Facebook page a photograph of himself and fellow Knesset member Ahmed Tibi posing with the released terrorist, Ma’ariv said.

The video in question was removed at some point from Hadash’s Facebook page. According to watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, the video was only pulled after Israeli daily Makor Rishon confronted Hadash with its posting of al-Issawi’s remarks, Ma’ariv reported. http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/12/27/israeli-arab-political-partys-facebook-page-airs-released-terrorists-call-to-kidnap-idf-soldiers/

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

so let's just think about who agrees with you on the issue of Israel and the occupied territories - who else puts out a one sided picture of the situation - maybe we could call them you and yours. Obama, Clinton, George bush (both of them), Ronnie Reagan, tony blair, - then there is the ny times, fox, cnn should I go on? I think you are on the wrong site to say nothing of the wrong side of history maybe write letters to the editor at the Washington post. and now a bit from noam - "the current upsurge of violence, which began after the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25. Every published Western "timeline" takes that as the opening event. Yet the day before, Israeli forces kidnapped two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, and sent them to the Israeli prison system where they can join innumerable other Palestinians, many held without charges -- hence kidnapped. Kidnapping of civilians is a far worse crime than capture of soldiers. The Western response was quite revealing: a few casual comments, otherwise silence. The major media did not even bother reporting it. That fact alone demonstrates, with brutal clarity, that there is no moral justification for the sharp escalation of attacks in Gaza or the destruction of Lebanon, and that the Western show of outrage about kidnapping is cynical fraud.

[-] -2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

So, let's just think of all of the famous athletes that have been on the box of Wheaties http://www.ranker.com/list/athletes-who-have-appeared-on-wheaties-boxes/arthur-roderick

You have read too far in to my comments-which is quite telling-and indicates a failure to critically think of what it is that I have been saying. You were smart enough on another thread to figure out that the means must come from nonviolence but have chosen to attempt to twist it.

You wish that it was that simplistic. It isn't. I realized this when you went for a piece of a Chomsky interview but neglected to link to it and the reason that you did so is that it supported what I had been saying.

And, now, you would opt to give me Chomsky lines from an interview in 2006 w/o a link. Why is that?

What has become VERY apparent is that you are afraid. What I am reading from you is that you refuse to even acknowledge that the acts of violence are occurring and thus justifying retaliation from Israel.

The vast majority of the western media outlets cannot be relied on here or.........for anything else. Especially considering that they have reduced themselves to opining. You know this is true.

Your current uprising is here: The Lebanese government and army has not lifted “a finger to prevent this arming and these crimes. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for this development,” Netanyahu said.

He noted that Iran was a player behind the scenes in that it had armed Hezbollah, just as it assisted the Syrian government in killing its own citizens. Even as Iran continues to negotiate with the West, the prime minister said, it continues to arm terrorist organizations and to develop its nuclear weapons program.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: “We will not tolerate fire from Lebanese territory. Israel will not allow anyone to disrupt the daily routine of its citizens.”

“We see the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military as responsible for the shooting this morning and for whatever happens in their territory, and we will not permit further incidents like the one that happened this morning,” he said. “The IDF responded with massive shelling of the area from where the rockets were launched, and if need be it will act with greater force [in the future]. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try our patience and determination to protect the security of the citizens of Israel.”

The Lebanese border has been largely quiet since Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006. But tension spiked this month when a Lebanese soldier killed an Israeli soldier across the border fence, after which a UN peacekeeping force met both sides to restore calm.

Officials suggested at the time that the shooting had been the isolated action of an individual.

Last August, four rockets fired from southern Lebanon targeted northern Israel, setting off air-raid sirens in Acre, Nahariya and additional areas in the Western Galilee, and sending frightened local residents fleeing for cover. Two of the Katyushas crossed the border and landed in Israel, causing no casualties but some damage.

Sunday’s cross-border fire coincided with heightened political tension in Beirut after a bomb blast in that city killed Mohamad Chatah, a former minister and leading adviser to Sunni former prime minister Saad al-Hariri. Chatah’s funeral was held in Beirut Sunday amid heavy security on Sunday.

After observing the attack from Lebanon and Israel’s response, Maj.-Gen. Paolo Serra, the head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, immediately contacted the Lebanese Armed Fo rces and the IDF.

“This is a very serious incident in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and is clearly directed at undermining stability in the area,” said Serra. “UNIFIL’s first imperative is to ensure that there is no further escalation of the situation, and I have been assured by the parties of their full cooperation with UNIFIL in this effort and of their continued commitment to the cessation of hostilities.

“Our troops on the ground are working with the Lebanese Armed Forces to reinforce security and locate the rocket launching site,” he continued.

“UNIFIL has intensified its patrols across our area of operations to prevent any further incidents. It is of paramount importance to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this attack and we will spare no efforts to this end working in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.” http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Two-Katyusha-rockets-fired-at-Kiryat-Shmona-336438

[-] 3 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 years ago

What I am reading from you is that you refuse to even acknowledge that the acts of violence are occurring and thus justifying retaliation from Israel.

I refuse to acknowledge violent retaliation is ever justified

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

You don't have to and it's very easy for you to maintain that stance because you are not held responsible for the lives of your citizens, you don't have to pick up the pieces AND, conveniently, you don't have to engage in any problem solving whatsoever.

It's like the voting issue. Here are the problems that need to be confronted here, here and here and how do you get those involved that are bent on an ideology that refuse to participate, or get the right information into the hands of those that are unaware of the voting rights that they have.

You know that the primary issue for Israel is security. So, it stands to reason that this has to be addressed. No more war means no more war unless what you meant was no more war snicker fingers crossed behind your back.

[-] 1 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

George bush agrees with you

[-] -2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

You really aren't very bright.

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

very true but at least I am not in agreement with mr bush and the rest of the ruling elite

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Nor am I in agreement with Bush, and you know this. It's far more important for you to be a lyin' conniving douchebag that does nothing but spew shit.

But, that's ok because I think that the more you ramble with bullshit the easier it is to see you for precisely what you are.

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

for sure your one sided view of the occupation is very much in line with the ruling class of this country and Israel. the rest of the world disagrees with you and so I think does most of ows - I would hope so anyway. like matt I do not agree with retaliation - as in attacking the afghans after 9/11. this is once again boring - make you last response - call me some name and you can have the last word - very sad girl - you cannot see clearly on this.

[+] -4 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Fuck off. Your an idiot that likes to make shit up as you go along.

I'm glad. You look stupid. Again.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

Nope. ''You're an idiot'' !!! ''You look stupid'' !! ''Again'' !

Like flip - I'm sad for you too :-( & fancy another link ?

nosce te ipsum ...

[-] 3 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

how did she know we were the same person

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

Possibly by the projection of a ''schizoid embolism'' ?! But at least it gave me an opportunity to wish you and yours - peace, patience and prosperity for 2014 and beyond :-)

pax, amor et lux ...

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 8 years ago

I teach tennis for a living - I have a 13 year old student who loves all things latin -I told him about you and send along some of your phrases - he loves it. very nice by garcia

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

Well in that case flip, 'pax vobiscum' to you and your pupils. As it's really all about The Kids, I fear I am going to have to bring to your attention this link to two terrific tho' traumatising articles and I'd also draw your attention to A4C's comment & link to which I was replying :

Furthermore, in reply to your gracious and very interesting comment here :

Thanx for your kind words and palpable solidarity. Your analysis carries some real weight I think & u may have hit certain nails on the head and in the same way as I may have touched certain nerves but all's fair in love and war so long as it's for The 99%, wherever they may be. For a more comprehensive look what you allude to, I refer you back to the now infamous, 'Mandela Legislator / Apartheid' thread, which given the subject matter of your forum-post here - is also worth cross-linking to imo :

With further reference to the recent fractious nature of interchange on the forum, less by explanation but more by example & in further confirmation of what you said to me in your 'permalinked' comment on the other thread, I'll refer you here :

Keep watching these spaces and stay well, warm and aware. Always good to read your input and ''the beauty'', me and all those who try to abide with 'the spirit of OWS', hope you stick around despite how busy you are. Solidarity and best wishes for 2014 as we await 'therising' in our 'struggleforfreedom', as we work towards a 'beautifulworld' for us all ... tho' sadly it may 'flip' a few folk in the process ;-) & FYI :

consilio et animis ...

[+] -4 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

You are flip. You have to have multiple IDs. That's almost funny if it wasn't so damn sad.

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

Lithium meds on the way. Good luck in 2014. Looks like you've flipped, lol and sad sigh.

e tenebris, lux ...

[+] -4 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Lithium meds on the way.

Whew. Good thing. How long have you been off of them? It really shows.

[-] 4 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

Re. 'The Standing Record', I'm just cross-linking from here to here ...

Btw, a wee word of unsolicited advice - when u get angry & lose it, u only give 'nRg' to your opponent.

verb. sat. sap ...

[+] -5 points by GirlFriday (17435) 8 years ago

Here is a piece of advice. When you act like a dick, I intend to slap you upside your ignorant head. You don't have any power. You're just an asshole.