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Lesson from Samer Issawi – The collective fight against oppression is really about the essential, personal fight for human dignity

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Annie reported the happy news that Samer Al-Issawi succeeded in his fight against his unjust incarceration. His eight-month fast ended after he secured an agreement that he would be released later this year. The deal reportedly includes a presidential pardon (issued by Shimon Peres? By his office? What were those conversations like?) that offers Al-Issawi further protection from the Shin Bet. 

The Ma’an News story that conveyed the news carried a striking photograph; I was moved by its potency. In it, the emaciated and wheelchair-bound prisoner is guarded by a thick, forbidding prison guard.

The image communicates easy allegory: Refugees versus an over-gorged nuclear-armed state. Justice versus injustice. Good versus bad. 

SamerAl Issawi
SamerAl Issawi

But it also carries a better, subtler message: The collective fight against oppression is really about the essential, personal fight for human dignity – for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s a fight that compels through its own self-contained logic. The Israeli guard fades away – he’s low-density despite his heft. The wheelchair is immaterial and the bland details evaporate. Al-Issawi’s fierceness, the rawness of his spirit remain. He doesn’t fill the vacuum so much as he overwhelms the space.

The scene isn’t oppositional. It’s not about good and bad, right and wrong, justice and injustice; there’s no possible equivalency here. What’s on view is the blistered, trial-worn and tempered spirit of a man leavened by the force of his convictions. It’s a universal image. Something powerfully human. 

Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of Twitter: @ahmedmoor

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3 Responses

  1. ritzl on April 29, 2013, 8:50 pm

    I’m so glad he’s going to live. And live to tell his story to the world. I hope he writes a book and comes to the US to talk about it. I’d like to meet him and shake his hand. What courage. What tremendous courage. I mean it, deeply and sincerely.


    He likely won’t be allowed out of the WB or Gaza (if “deported” there). He is likely to be re-arrested. He certainly won’t be allowed back into the WB or Gaza should he write the book and get the opportunity to tell his, and the story of his people abroad (i.e. he likely won’t leave to do so).

    Israel inflicts this pain on people seemingly without cost. But then the incremental awareness is valuable. I hope the trade (and future trades) is worth it from Issawi’s POV. A hero. Unquestionably, but at great cost.

    • annie on April 30, 2013, 2:48 am

      i would love to meet him someday also ritzl. he’s beautiful to me. a living hero and moral giant.

  2. Citizen on April 30, 2013, 3:01 am

    “He is likely to be re-arrested.” More than likely since we are talking about Israeli oppression, tactics regarding PR. Rinse, repeat as needed. S.O.P.

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