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Palestinian Footballer Near Death

by Stephen Lendman Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2012 at 4:11 AM


Palestinian Footballer Near Death

by Stephen Lendman

Several Palestinian prisoners continue hunger striking for justice.

Footballer Mahmoud Sarsak declined food for 90 days and counting. He's been detained uncharged for nearly three years. He demands release. Israel refuses.

Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials don't care if he lives or dies.

Israel shows contempt for non-Jews. Institutionalized racism is policy. So is cold-blooded persecution.

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners rot unjustly in gulag conditions. Hundreds are uncharged. They can be held indefinitely with no possibility of justice.

Sarsak and others resist their only way possible.

On July 22, 2009, he was arrested at Gaza's Erez checkpoint. He headed for a West Bank Balata refugee camp football match. He was taken to Ashkelon Prison for weeks of interrogation.

On August 23, he was lawlessly detained under Israel's Unlawful Combatant Law (UCL). Using it results in long-term indefinite detentions. Sarsak was never charged or tried.

On March 19, he stopped eating in protest. His fundamental rights are denied. He spent punishing time in solitary confinement. Supporters worldwide demand his release.

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, criticized his lawless detention. On June 12, headlined "Alleged illegal detainment of Palestinian football players," saying:

Blatter "today expressed....grave concern and worry about" lawless Israeli detentions.

"The reports FIFA received state that in apparent violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of a due process (trial), several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally detained by Israeli authorities."

"In particular, the mentioned reports refer to the Palestine player Mahmoud Sarsak, whose health is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention."

FIFA "urgently calls on IFA (Israel Football Association) to draw the attention of the Israeli competent authorities to the present matter, with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process."

Sarsak plays for the Palestinian National Football Team. He's from southern Gaza's Rafah refugee camp. He faces imminent death. He's gotten appalling medical treatment. IPS officials won't transfer him to a civilian hospital for proper care. He desperately needs it.

Palestinian Center for Human Rights Director Raji Sourani addressed FIFA President Sepp Blatter, saying:

"We urge you to use all available means, including approaching the relevant Israeli authorities, to save the life of Mr. Al-Sersek and help him return again to the football pitch."

"Your voice will constitute a message of hope for the thousands around the world who believe that sport, and football in particular, can contribute to enhancing human dignity."

Amnesty International's Philip Luther said:

"After almost three years in detention, the Israeli authorities have had ample opportunity to charge al-Sarsak with a recognizable criminal offence and bring him to trial."

"They have failed to do so, and instead repeatedly affirmed his detention order on the basis of secret information withheld from him and his lawyer."

"The specialized medical care al-Sarsak urgently needs is only available in a civilian hospital and he must be admitted to one or released so that he can receive it."

"Israel should repeal the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which lacks minimal safeguards for detainees' rights."

Top European footballer Seville Frederic Kanoute and other players expressed solidarity with Sarsak, saying:

"In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial."

"In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak."

Other supporters include Nicolas Anelka, Eric Cantona, FIFA's Sepp Blatter, and FIFPro, the worldwide professional football players organization.

UK MP John Austin urged UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) to "reconsider its decision to hold its under-21 championship in Israel in 2013."

On June 14, Sarsak agreed to ingest milk for a few days until Israel's High Court reviewed his case. IPS policies are killing him.

On June 17, Haaretz contributor Amira Hass headlined "Israeli reservist goes on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner," saying:

"Yaniv Mazor, a 31-year-old Jerusalem resident, was sentenced last week to 20 days in jail over his refusal to fill any position, be it combat or otherwise, in what he said was the occupying army."

"He was transferred to the IDF’s Tzrifin prison on Monday, launching his hunger strike the following day."

"In a phone conversation with his attorney Michael Sfard on Friday, Mazor said that he had 'become appalled over the last few months by the hunger strike initiated by Palestinian administrative prisoners, but I couldn’t do much about it.' "

He "decided to start a hunger strike in solidarity (with the Palestinians), and in order to raise awareness on the issue of administrative detention, and not to prompt (his) own release."

Numerous Israeli male and female current and former soldiers belong to "Breaking the Silence."

They provide compelling testimonies about appalling IDF abuses. They demand accountability not forthcoming.

Mazor is an IDF reservist. He's cut out of the same mold. Despite personal risks, including prison time, he's more concerned about justice than his own safety and well-being.

He also said he "regret(ted) not having been aware of what the army does when (he) enlisted, because the more (he learned) the clearer (his) understanding that" he no longer could support what he now rejects.

His decision left him "at peace with himself." What he saw explained that he "no longer (could) be part of the army." He hoped he'd inspire others facing active or reserve duty to resist and say no.

Mazor's friends learned of his prison isolation. As issue was refusing to wear proper attire and address IPS commanders by their official ranks.

His automatic sentence shortening was cancelled. Reasons weren't given. Mazor served in the IDF armor corps from 1999 - 2002. He was mostly assigned to the Jordan Valley and West Bank.

He also performed reservist duty. He told journalist Hagar Matar that Israel's occupation harshness weighed on him, saying:

"I arrived in the army as a typical product of the system." He thought of himself as "a nice boy, serving in the territories, doing what he's told. Without thinking. Mostly without thinking."

He also tried "grey insubordination." It means objecting privately. After going abroad and returning, he no longer could "resume the facade anymore."

At first, he received a 15-day suspended sentence. After refusing to serve, he was told "to go home and think."

He spent time with Breaking the Silence activists. His views hardened. He refused orders in protest.

He was told to return to his base for sentencing and would continue receiving military service orders.

IDF officials confirmed his trial and sentencing without further comment.

A May Haaretz editorial headlined "Submit to the strikers," saying:

No one know for sure how long anyone can survive without food. On average they manage for two months or longer before expiring.

Haaretz called Palestinian strikers "the latest rock in the avalanche of largely nonviolent flotillas, 'fly-ins,' and marches that Palestinians and their supporters have organized, to great success, in the last several years."

Hunger strikes and other nonviolent initiatives "achieved a lot for the Palestinian national struggle...."

They expose Israel's moral illegitimacy. They attract worldwide support. They weaken and ultimately may contribute to Israel's eventual isolation.

They confirm what Breaking the Silence members say in describing "the depth of corruption which is spreading in" Israel's military and society.

They demand accountability not forthcoming. They're tired of "feel(ing) like an infantile kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants (and) burning them."

They deplore innocent civilians being persecuted for not being Jewish. They refuse any longer to participate in human slaughter, wanton destruction, dispossessing homeowners, and shooting to kill anyone who moves if ordered.

Israeli conscientious objectors, Refusniks, students and others feel the same way. They won't be part of they call vile, corrupt and lawless. They believe Israeli militarism and persecution must stop.

Mazor and growing numbers of others are cut out of the same mold. Their courage deserves global support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

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

Visit his blog site at 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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