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Palestinian Hunger Strikes Continue

by Stephen Lendman Monday, Jun. 11, 2012 at 9:10 PM


Palestinian Hunger Strikes Continue

by Stephen Lendman

Over 2,000 Palestinian hunger strikers redefined courage. Their willingness to die for justice was unprecedented.

On May 14, an Egyptian brokered deal was reached. Strike leaders and Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials agreed on terms. They included:

Israel would make specific accusations or release administrative detainees on expiration of their terms.

Solitary confinement would end within 72 hours. All detainees were included.

Family visit bans would end. The punitive Shalit Law would be revoked.

Overall prison conditions would improve.

Deals made with Israel aren't worth the paper they're written on. This one proved no different. Violations occurred almost immediately.

Over two dozen administratively detained Palestinians got renewed sentences. Nothing warrants them. They were promised release. Israel reneged.

Hussein Abu Kweik is affected. He spent 12 years in prison. In 2002, he survived an assassination attempt. It killed his wife and three children. Israel bears full responsibility. It was cold-blooded murder. Israel's done it hundreds of times. It's official policy.

After earlier release, Kweik was again arrested on May 31, 2011. He's uncharged. He was promised freedom when his term expires. It was just extended another six months.

On June 2, 2011, Husam Khader was arrested. He's detained uncharged. He also was promised release. His term was just extended. He and other administrative detainees can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Hamas MP Mohammad Natshe is detained. No charges were made. He's imprisoned for political reasons. He was promised release. His term was extended another four months. When it expires, it'll be renewed again. Other wrongfully detained Palestinians can expect similar treatment.

Israel spurns international law and its own. Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPP) spokesman Amjad Najjar said numerous violations occur regularly. Virtually nothing gets reported.

"Prisoners have been subjected to humiliating strip searches in the Nafha, Rimon and Naqab prisons,” he said.

"The agreement was supposed to improve living conditions for the prisoners and end the punitive measures that the Israeli Prison Service carries out against them."

"There are a number of prisoners who have been taken into solitary confinement, but we are not sure of their names or numbers at the moment."

Despite promising isolation would end, Israel still uses it punitively. Dirar Abu Sisi and Kifah Khatib are affected. So are others under gulag conditions.

Many Palestinians released last October in exchange for Gilat Shalit were rearrested. Others have been hounded, monitored, and threatened.

Israel also reneged on promised family visits for Gazan detainees. Those seeking them have been stonewalled. Their loved ones were transferred to distant locations. Travel arrangements aren't possible. Permits are required. Israel won't issue them.

Human rights supporters and other activists are targeted. Israel calls them terrorists. So are nonviolent protesters. Palestinians have no rights. They're ruthlessly persecuted and exploited.

State terror defines Israeli policy. Human lives and welfare don't matter. Palestinian prisoners suffer under horrendous conditions. Israel promised change. Virtually everything remains the same.

Thousands are unjustly imprisoned. Their crime is wanting to live free on their own land in their own country. All endure extreme harshness. Addameer lawyers said Israel "consistently fail(s) to respect" its agreements.

Democratic freedoms are mocked. Pledges made are broken. Racism is policy. So is institutionalized persecution and violence against non-Jews.

Mahmoud Sarsak, Akram Rekhawi and Samer Barq continue hunger striking. At issue is abusive Israeli policies. Other incarcerated Palestinians support them. On June 11, they'll refuse food in solidarity. Without redress, they may continue longer.

Sarsak has hunger struck for 85 days. He's been detained uncharged for nearly three years. He demands release.

Rekhawi's been at Ramle Prison medical clinic since arrested in 2004. His chronic illnesses include diabetes and asthma. He refused food for 61 days.

Barq began hunger striking on April 17. He ended it with others on May 14. Israel said all administrative detainees would be released when their terms expired. On May 21, Barq's detention was renewed. In protest, he resumed striking.

On June 6, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) issued an urgent joint release. They're gravely concerned for the welfare of Palestinians still on strike.

Their lives are endangered. They face imminent death. Proper medical treatment is urgently needed. Israel denies it. Sarsak shows "extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. He lost 33 percent of his body weight...."

He also has frequent fainting spells and loss of consciousness. He suffers from memory lapses. He experiences pulse disruptions (arrhythmias). They're life threatening.

He's held lawlessly under Israel's Unlawful Combatants Law. It has no legal legitimacy. It lets Israel hold Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial for spurious national security reasons.

They're denied all legal rights and protections. They can rot forever in gulag limbo hell without redress.

Rikhawi also suffers from extreme muscle tissue and weight loss. PHR-I said a "combination of inflammation of prior chronic illnesses and the complications of hunger strike render hospitalization immediately necessary."

On April 12, he began hunger striking. At issue is denial of his legitimate request for release for medical reasons. On June 5, he was denied. He's been threatened with illegal force-feeding.

He's dying in desperate need of treatment. IPS officials said his condition doesn't warrant release.

Contrary to inviolable medical ethics and professional responsibility, IPS doctors also spurned him. They claim he's getting proper treatment. In fact, he's getting none.

Since July 11, 2010, Barq has been imprisoned without charge or trial. He's currently in Ramle's medical clinic. His legitimate rights are denied. He's been grievously abused.

Addameer and PHR-I said he, Rikhawi, and Sarsak face "imminent death" without immediate private hospitalization. By refusing, Israel condemned them to death.

According to PHR-I's Amaney Dayif, "Israeli policies against Palestinians are entrenched in the spirit of revenge." They also reflect institutionalized racism and contempt for anyone not Jewish.

Addameer's Sahar Francis said:

IPS policies don't "respect the basic human rights of Palestinian prisoners, and tries to take away the prisoner’s dignity after incarceration."

"The IPS’ approach is to treat the Palestinian prisoners as if they are criminals and terrorists, with the suppression and violations against the prisoners being an extension of the process against Palestinian people in general."

Gulag conditions remain appalling. PPP's Najjar said prisoners threatened to resume striking. It's their only recourse. They told their lawyers.

As expected, Israel violated terms agree to weeks earlier. In response, expect aggrieved prisoners to react their only way possible.

A Final Comment

After Hamas' 2006 legislative victory, Israel began implementing incremental isolation. By mid-2007, blockade conditions were imposed. It became institutionalized political, economic, and military war.

Isolation remains policy. Incursions and air attacks happen regularly. Farmers are shot working their fields. Fishermen are terrorized at sea. Young children are used for target practice.

On June 10, the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement issued a status report.

Despite modestly improved foreign access, Gaza remains isolated. Political and economic rights are denied.

Israel disingenuously renounced "economic warfare." Strict implementation remains in practice. Hamas and other resistance groups are targeted. According to Gisha:

Isolation sustains "the economic anomaly created by the closure, in which productive sectors are paralyzed while the local government’s budget and its narrow tier of beneficiaries enjoy staggering growth."

"Despite numerous official statements that Israel is committed to economic development in Gaza and despite the relative improvement in Gaza’s economy since 2009, sustainable growth is impossible in these circumstances."

Isolation never was for security. Israeli officials admitted it years ago. Nothing since changed.

As a result, Gazans can reach Egypt through Rafah crossing. Sea and airspace remain blocked. So is accessing the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hard to prove "exceptional" humanitarian cases are allowed. Select merchants get permission. All others are denied.

Similar restrictions apply to entering Israel from Jordan through Allenby Crossing.

According to Gisha Executive Director Sari Bashi:

"Palestinians in Gaza can travel to and trade with almost any place in the world – except Palestinian towns in the West Bank."

"Israel's separation policy is blocking economic recovery in Gaza and deepening what threatens to be an irreversible split between the two parts of the Palestinian territory."

Life in isolated Gaza is harsh. Slow-motion genocide remains policy. An estimated 1.7 million people live in the world's largest open-air prison.

Institutionalized harshness affects them. Sustained resistance is their only recourse. It's true as well for millions of West Bank and East Jerusalem residents. A third Intifada is long overdue.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"


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.

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