(Photo: Ayman Nobani/APA images)
Political prisoner Hana Shalabi, now in her 33rd day of hunger strike, is spreading dissent across Israeli prisons, including a boycott of the military courts system. Shalabi is protesting Israel’s practice of administrative detention, or arrest without charge. As a result of her prolonged protest, she is now “in danger of immanent death,” according to Physicians for Human Rights, who visited with the hunger striker today. Despite Shalabi’s physical deterioration, her strike continues to bring new direction to the protest movement against Israeli administrative detention.
Since March, Palestinian political prisoners are boycotting the Israeli judicial arm of administrative detention: military courts. As of the beginning of this month, 70 Palestinian detainees in Ofer prison have refused to attend their military hearings. These trials have a staggering 99.7 percent conviction rate. Often judges order convictions based on “secret evidence.” And military courts also have the ability to extend imprisonment without charge for a maximum of two years. As a result, military courts provide Israel with judicial cover, through there is an institutional practice of imprisoning people who will never be charged with a crime. Groups like Amnesty International cite this as illegal under international law. And the prisoners are expected to expand their court boycott on April first, with detainees from Magido prison.
In addition to boycotting courts, prisoners incarcerated under administrative are joining Shalabi in solidarity hunger strikes. 972 Magazine reported a few days ago that over 20 prisoners are on a solidarity strike:
Over the past two weeks, 23 more administrative detainees, out of 309 currently in Israeli prisons, have joined the hunger strike, all protesting against Israel’s extensive use of this draconic legal tool of administrative detention.
And Ma’an News reported more prisoners are to join Shalabi’s protest over the next few days. An “open hunger strike” is set to begin on April first, where prisoners will hunger strike without a firm end date. And on April 17th, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, there are plans for all of the approximately 300 Palestinian administrative detainees, to participate in a hunger strike.
In the meantime, Shalabi’s heath is waning; she periodically losses consciousness and is experiencing muscular atrophy. Aside from refusing food, Shalabi is not regularly consuming life-extending salts, minerals, and medications, causing her physical condition to deteriorate rapidly. At times, hunger strikers, including Khader Adnan who recently ended a 66-day protest against his administrative detention, take salts and minerals to aid their health.
This morning (March 19th) an independent physician visited Hana Shalabi on behalf of PHR-Israel, and she states that there has been a significant deterioration in her condition, and that she risks death. The deterioration is expressed in a process of muscle breakdown, with a weight loss of 14 kg (31 lb.) since the onset of the hunger strike, a very slow pulse, and a drop in blood sodium levels. These symptoms could indicate grave damage to the heart and the beginning of the breakdown of the heart muscle, which could lead to heart failure at any moment.
Additionally, her body temperature is low (hypothermia), recorded at 35.05°C (95.09°F), with Shalabi reporting that she feels cold. This finding indicates that the energy production in her body is mostly directed at the essential organs, which also indicates possible damage to the heart, which could be expressed in arrhythmia, systemic deterioration, or sudden death. The attending physician adds that Shalabi is not taking medications, has gone from ambulatory independence to being dependent on others for locomotion, and suffers from significant weakness, low blood pressure, serious pain throughout her body, significant sensitivity in her upper abdominal region, and serious dizziness.
Though Shalabi’s strike is viewed in connection to military court system boycott, she will attend her hearing tomorrow morning at Ofer prison. Shalabi’s trial comes a few days after a failed attempt to by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to negotiate her. In the negotiations, the PA rejected an offer to deport Shalabi—who is from the West Bank—to Gaza. Shalabi’s attorney, Jawad Boulos said tomorrow’s military trial will be “useless.”