Dying to Live Free
by Stephen Lendman
Israel's prison gulag is one of the world's most hellish. Palestinians held suffer horrifically. Inflicting pain and suffering is official Israeli policy. Rule of law principles are spurned.
Virtually all Palestinians held are political prisoners. Refusing food is their only resistance weapon. The Addameer Prisoner Support group estimates about 2,000 now engage in open-ended hunger strikes. Most began on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners Day.
Israel responded as expected. More pain and suffering was inflicted. Detainees are attacked and beaten. Personal possessions were confiscated. Electricity was cut off. Salt for water is prohibited.
Transfers are made harsher locations. Solitary confinement is imposed. Visits by family members and lawyers are denied. Addameer said its attorneys can't get access.
Israel hopes tough tactics will undermine the will to resist. Instead it's hardened.
Eight or more prisoners remain on extended strikes. On April 27, Thaer Halaheh and Bilal Diab reached day 59. Despite deteriorating health, an Israeli judge rejected their appeals against lawless administrative detention without charge. More on them below.
Hassan Safadi's High Court petition was rejected. He's refused food for 54 days. Omar Abu Shalal reached day 50. Jaffar Azzedine's on day 35.
In Ramleh Prison hospital, Mohammad Taj continues hunger striking after 41 days. He demands prisoner of war status and Third Geneva rights.
Mahmoud Sarsak reached day 36. He's imprisoned under Israel's draconian Unlawful Combatants Law (UCL). Without evidence, it's imposed based on "a reasonable basis" to believe Palestinians belong to a hostile group belligerently confronting Israel.
Israel calls wanting to live free belligerent and confrontational. UCL is similar to George Bush's "unlawful enemy combatant" designation.
Under America's 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA), terminology was switched to "unprivileged enemy belligerent." Language changed, but not intent. Detainees charged lose all rights, including due process and judicial fairness.
Bush's UEC designation resurrected a defunct WW II provision. Four Geneva conventions superseded it. Under its new name, it's still enforced. Boyle once called it a:
"quasi-category universe of legal nihilism where human beings can be disappeared, detained incommunicado, denied access to attorneys and regular courts, tried in kangaroo courts, executed, tortured, assassinated and subjected to numerous other manifestations of State Terrorism."
Israel enforces the same harshness. Like America, it gets away with murder with impunity. Prolonged arbitrary detention is imposed. Hundreds face it uncharged because no evidence proves wrongdoing or intent to commit it.
Detaining someone long-term constitutes a serious international law breach. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law."
"Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him."
"Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful."
Although some wiggle room permits use "in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation," Israel consistently violates Fourth Geneva's Article 78, stating:
"If the Occupying Power considers it necessary, for imperative reasons of security, to take measures concerning protected persons, it may, at the most, subject them to assigned residence or to internment."
"Decisions regarding such assigned residence or internment shall be made according to a regular procedure to be prescribed by the Occupying Power in accordance with the provisions of the present Convention. This procedure shall include the right of appeal (decided on) with the least possible delay. (If it's upheld), it shall be subject to periodical review...."
Extended uncharged detentions should never substitute for criminal proceedings. Nor should anyone face imprisonment for political reasons. Israel flaunts international law and its own. Palestinians suffer horrifically in gulag hell.
Despite extreme prison harshness, hunger strikers resolve to resist. Their numbers grow. Expect more to join them. Their will defies Israeli lawlessness. They're dying to live free.
On August 17, 2011, Israeli soldiers arrested him. Around 40 masked men in civilian clothes surrounded his home at 12:30 AM. Sound bombs and tear gas were used. Family members were treated belligerently. Bilal's brother, Issam, was violently thrown to the ground. Hands shackled behind his back, he was beaten.
Bilal was shackled, blindfolded, and mistreated. He was dragged violently to a jeep about 250 meters away. First taken to Megiddo prison, he was transferred to Salem Detention Center for interrogation.
On August 25, he was ordered detained uncharged for six months. Secret evidence was alleged. If any existed, it would be revealed. Prisoners, family members, and counsel can only speculate why he's held. Lawyers know doing so violates international law. Israeli military courts and civil ones go along.
On February 14, Bilal was ordered held another six months. Administrative detentions have no limit. Prisoners can be held indefinitely uncharged.
On February 29, he began hunger striking in protest. At the time, he was at Al-Maqab Prison. On March 31, he was transferred to Ramleh Prison hospital and isolated.
After losing consciousness several times, he was sent to Harofeh Hospital, then returned to Ramleh. Addameer lawyers were denied permission to see him.
The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) claims he's being properly cared for. In fact, he's punished in isolation hell.
Earlier, he spent seven years in Israeli prisons. On February 17, 2010, he was released. Israeli authorities targeted him and family members. They said over 18 raids were made since September 2000. Each time, an arrest followed.
Bilal's brother Bassam spent seven months in prison. His brother Issam was detained uncharged for 10 months, then sentenced to another 16 months. His brother Allam was held six months, and Azzam got a life sentence. On March 29, he began hunger striking with Bilal.
Bilal had no family contacts since arrested. Their appeals were denied. Now they know he may die. Israel doesn't care either way.
On June 26, 2010, about 50 soldiers arrested him at home past midnight. Belligerently, they broke in and seized him. Soldiers told his father he was a "threat to the public." No other reason was given.
On July 5, 2010, he was administratively detained without charge. Alleged secret evidence was again claimed. Every three months, his detention was extended. On February 29, he began hunger striking in protest.
He's also now at Ramleh Prison hospital in isolation. Addameer can't see him. Reportedly, he's in serious condition like Bilal. In vain, both men appealed for release. Their failing health was disregarded.
Eight previous times, Thaer was arrested. He spent six and half years in prison uncharged. Since beginning his hunger strike, his mother, wife and daughter saw him once. His father and five brothers were denied.
No further family visits are allowed. His father and brothers earlier were arrested. His brother Shaher's serving a 17 year sentence in Rimon Prison.
On April 26, the International Middle East Media Center reported Thaer's immune system and organs may be failing. Mandela Institute lawyer, Anwar Abu Lafy, saw him. He said a recent liver and kidney CT Scan showed "his body is unable to function and his life is in grave danger."
He can't walk or stand. He suffers sharp chest and stomach pain. He's losing vision in his right eye. He lost over 52 pounds. His blood pressure and sugar levels are dangerously low.
He also suffers from "escalating heart beats, hair loss, bleeding from his mouth and gums, and weakening muscles." He's dying but won't stop hunger striking for justice. Neither will Bilal and others.
A Final Comment
Resisting courageously gets world attention. Israeli harshness hasn't gone unnoticed. Behind bars or free, all Palestinians suffer. Many resist. Their rights matter. They deserve justice like everyone. Hopefully one day they'll get it. It's decades overdue.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.