An Israeli prison guard escorts Samer Issawi, a Palestinian political prisoner, out of his court hearing in Jerusalem’s civil court, January 16, 2013. (Photo: Photo by: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Most Recent Update: The detainee’s minister in the PA, Issa Qaraqe’, says that the Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi is living his last hours inside the Israeli prison hospitals after 195 days on hunger strike for freedom. Being illegally detained without charges or given a fair trial since July 7th 2012, Samer Issawi is still placed in solitary confinement with plastic doors so that no one can hear his calls for help. Issawi is on his 195th day of an open-ended hunger strike demanding justice and his freedom. There have been many more Palestinian hunger strikers before Issawi. Khader Adnan, Hana’ Shalabi, and Mahmoud Sarsak are among the few. Hunger strikes have proven to be an effective means for Palestinian Political prisoners’ voices to be heard. These prisoners are protesting the inhumane conditions they live in. These non-violent hunger strikers had a rippling effect on all Palestinian prisoners. Their movement has commenced many mass hunger strikes inside Israeli jails leading to many detainees passing away and others gaining their freedom. Samer lost many family members who were murdered by the Israeli Occupation through out the years. Fadi Issawi, Samer’s brother, was shot dead by the Israeli killing machines. In 1989 his grandmother, Fatima, was also shot by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Osama Issawi, Samer’s uncle, was not the last family member murdered by the Israeli Occupation Forces.
His Latest Release
In October 2011, Issawi was released as part of the Shalit prisoners exchange deal. Per Shireen Issawi, Samer’s sister, the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv visited the prisoners who were included in the exchange and informed them that there will be no restriction on their movement. Nonetheless, breaching the agreement, eight months after his release, Issawi was re-arrested in Hizma. Israel claims that he broke the terms of his release by leaving Jerusalem; nevertheless Israel’s own maps show that Hizma is within the borders of the municipality of Jerusalem. This proves Israel never abides by any agreement or treaty and ignores all international laws. Samer is not the only one that this happened to, Israel has re-arrested a countless number of the Palestinians released under the prisoner exchange agreements.
Samer Issawi is dying for freedom and the world’s leaders’ silence is deafening. As a guarantor of the prisoners exchange deal, why has Egypt not interfered until now? What has been done to protect the Deal? Knowing that Israel is breaching the agreement and violating international law, the UN, the United States, European countries, and human rights organizations are silent as well. These countries and organizations are very well aware that if they pressure Israel, innocent mens’ lives can be saved. Yet, there silence echoes loudly. Samer Issawi, whose life is threatened and is in a real danger, is not seeking death, nor does he want it, but he defends his freedom and his humanity in every way possible and he is ready to pay his life as a price.
Samer’s family has seen him only once during a court appearance on Thursday December 13th, 2012. His family saw him turning into a skeleton covered with a human wrap after losing more than 80 lbs, all that remains is a skin covering bones. Per his advocate, Samer suffers from increasing pain all over his body including his head, kidney, eyes, nerves, abdomen, hands, arthritis, and muscles. His life is in eminent risk as he has a slow and erratic heartbeat and cannot stand or move on his own. Also, Samer’s vision is worsening; he loses consciousness several times during the day; and his body is covered with bruises. Moreover, the pain in his head is like an electrical shock. Furthermore, he has continuous diarrhea due to the fluids they give him in prisons’ hospitals, and he has blood in his urine and still has an acute vitamin B12 deficiency. In addition, Issawi has gradual damages in his nervous system. Besides, his body continues to eat his muscles and nerves. What’s more, he has lost control of his limbs due to the malfunction of his nerves, and he is vomiting blood and can hardly breathe. On January 18th, 2012 due to his deteriorating health, Samer was transferred to Asaf Harofeh hospital from Ramleh prison. While being transferred, the Israeli Prison Services handcuffed Samer’s hands and feet.
Bab Al Shams and More Challenges
The house of Issawi is near the village of Bab Al Shams “Gate of the Sun” in which hundreds of young Palestinians set up tents in a civilized manner to non-violently fight against the Israeli settlements that threaten the peace process in the region as a whole. When solidarity campaigns are held to support Samer and the other hunger strikers, Israeli authorities pressure and attack his family and the people of his village. In addition, Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) have been denied access to Samer.
The life of the other Palestinian prisoners require an urgent call for emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to force Israel to preserve the lives of prisoners in its custody. There are over 4500 prisoners in Israeli jails including women, kids, and patients. Israel has to cancel its unjust procedures of keeping detainees without trial and charge under administrative detention i.e. a procedure allowing the Israeli Military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Haim Shapira, the former Israeli Minister of Justice, described it when he was arrested by the British Mandate forces, “It only represents the law of jungle”.
G4S & Samer
In a message from Issawi’s family to the people who have demonstrated and called for Samer’s release on the last Friday in London, at G4S HQ, “Love and respect to all of you, brother and sister, who are fighting for Samer whose battle of the empty stomach [hunger strike] is now for 193 consecutive days. You tell the whole world that Samer is not alone. Samer’s fight is of every free man rejecting injustice. Samer is suffering greatly in the so-called hospital, Asaf Harofeh; he is suffering from medical neglect and is left shackled to his bed day and night without any regard for his critical condition and the importance of treating humanely.. We greet the demonstrators against G4S that provides equipment for the prison administration. G4S realizes that they are used in non-humanitarian ways against Palestinian prisoners. Deliver the voice of the oppressed prisoners and hold this company G4S accountable for its responsibility towards these prisoners and its partnership to the occupation in its inhumane practices. It must stop providing these supplies to the occupation…”
Other Hunger Strikers
Samer is not the only prisoner on hunger strike. Ayman Sharawna, has been on hunger strike for more than 180 days. He has been released in the Prisoner’s Deal. Jafar Azzidine, Tarek Qa’adan, and Yousef Yassin have been striking for around 98 days now, in protest of their administrative detention orders.
Samer is like an olive tree; his head reaches the sky and nobody can uproot him. Samer teaches us what it means to be Palestinians; he gives us lessons in how to love and live. When looking into his eyes, I see The Sun shines; I notice hope rises; and I know pessimism scatters. Samer, you are not alone; you are our brother. It is a message to the people of consciousness who have hearts, to those who belong to humanity, to the free people – rescue Samer. If you take action, we can save his life; he can return to Jerusalem a free man, and hopefully alive, God willing. He has the right to live. Why to die without a charge?