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Without international pressure, and now, Al-Qiq will die, says former hunger striker

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“When I saw the last video of Al-Qeq, I teared up, because I saw myself, I was in his shoes, I experienced his struggle, and I felt his pain.” This was ex-hunger striker Ayman Sharawna’s response when I interviewed him for We Are Not Numbers about how he felt about Muhammed Al-Qeq’s hunger strike. [Al-Qeq’s name is transliterated as al-Qiq and al-Qeeq, including in posts on this site]

Today, the Palestinian journalist is in the 86th day of his hunger strike. Israeli forces arrested Al-Qeq from his home on November 21 and put him under the notorious “administrative detention.” The father of two and journalist for Almajd TV started his hunger strike four days later, protesting his imprisonment without charge or trial, as well as the psychological and physical torture he faced during interrogation.

Following the Irish footsteps

While Sharawna engaged in the same battle, he noted that Al-Qeq’s situation is more perilous. Unlike Sharawna, Samir Issawi and Khader Adnan (other well-publicized Palestinian prisoners who resorted to a hunger strike), Al-Qeq refuses to take any vitamins or even drink water with salt—the dramatic strategy adopted by the Irish in 1981.

This is why, despite Sharawna’s hunger strike of more than 200 days, Al-Qeq’s health was at a critical point at “just” 85 days. “Al-Qeq is at the point of no return,” Sharawna said. “Even if he is freed, he will no longer function as a normal human being.” Last week, Al-Qeq, weighing only 30 kg (66 pounds), lost his ability to speak and his sight and hearing are damaged.

Torturous uncertainty   

Why, then, do Palestinian prisoners engage in such a risky battle, using their own bodies to protest?

Ayman Sharawna was imprisoned for 10 years and was released as part of the deal negotiated in 2011 to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. A year later, he was arrested again and put under administrative detention. He said that his time in administrative detention was worse than being imprisoned for 10 years. “At the end of the 10-year sentence, you know you will be freed. But under administrative detention, when you finish the six-month sentence, you don’t know if you’re going home or if your detention will be extended. And it is likely to be extended,” he said. “You don’t even know why you are in prison!”

This mental torture leaves prisoners with no options but to protest with the only thing that they can control: their bodies.

“You have to understand something,” Sharawna emphasized. “A prisoner does not engage in a hunger strike unless he has lost all hope in any other method…hunger striking is the last resort of a prisoner.”

Jonathan Hafetz, an associate professor of law at Seton Hall University, whose work is mainly on the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, agrees. In an article he wrote two years ago, he said, “The reality is that hunger strikes… have an unparalleled ability to focus the world’s attention on the ongoing plight of men whose situation is so desperate they would rather starve themselves than go on living in legal limbo.”

Although Israel passed a controversial new law allowing the force-feeding of hunger strikers if their health critically deteriorated, Al-Qeq has not been force-fed. However, 972 Magazine reported that, earlier this month, the Israeli medical team put enormous pressure on Al-Qeq to take in liquid food intravenously, until his attorney demanded they stop.

As I was conducting the interview, Sharawna’s phone rang. Someone on the other end communicated the news that the Israeli Supreme Court had rejected Al-Qeq’s appeal to move to a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, out of the Israeli institution where he is being held. Sharawna shook his head in dismay. “The court decision is a death sentence. Israel wants to execute Al-Qeq,” he said. “They’d rather have him dead than free.”

Hungry for freedom

Earlier this month, Fayha Shalash, Al-Qeq’s wife, spoke with Al Jazeera. She said Al-Qeq’s struggle is not a personal one, but rather a battle for Palestine and for freedom. “He sent a message to Palestinian journalists from prison, saying that freedom is not something given to you by your position or authority. It comes from your stance. His refusal of administrative detention is how he is taking a stance.”

In the past, Israel has negotiated in cases of Palestinian hunger strikers out of fear that a prisoner’s death could spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territories. However, upheaval is already widespread in the territories and has been for months. So, is Israel in a position in which it has nothing to lose if, God forbid, Al-Qeq dies?

Sharawna said yes; he argues that Israel knows that, right now, Gaza cannot handle another confrontation with Israel. In the West Bank, the uprising might intensify if the journalist dies; protests are likely to increase and confrontation with the Israeli occupation forces would be inevitable, resulting in the injury and death of a number of Palestinians. Still, such confrontations would not last long, and nothing dramatic would occur. Nevertheless, “the critical response, I believe, will be inside the Israeli prisons. Palestinian prisoners will not stand still, and certainly something dramatic will happen there.” Sharawna warned. “Many Palestinian prisoners are there for life, they have nothing to lose. I would not be surprised if some of them tried to kill Israeli officers in retaliation.”

International solidary, a key to liberty

Why won’t Israel release Al-Qeq? Sharawna believes that Al-Qeq does not enjoy the international solidarity that Khader Adnan received, in particular social-media solidarity. There are more immediate matters on the international agenda, like ISIS and the Syrian refugees’ crisis, which marginalized Al-Qeq case. Should the international solidarity increase, should Israel feel the pressure, Al-Qeq would be freed.

“My message to the international community, to the people reading your article, is to watch the last video released of Al-Qeq. Watch it, then have your conscience, have your humanity decide how you feel and what you want to do about this,” Shawarna ended.

According to Addameer, the prisoner support and human rights association, Israel currently holds 650 Palestinians under administrative detention, without charge or trial. Israel increased its use of administrative detention in the last few months as part of its effort to crack down on the ongoing uprising.


We Are Not Numbers

We Are Not Numbers pairs Palestinian youth in the occupied territories or refugee camps with published authors around the globe to help them build international bonds, hone their storytelling skills and share their narratives with the world. It is a project of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Follow them on Twitter @WeAreNotNumbers

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41 Responses

  1. Pam on February 18, 2016, 4:59 pm

    Hey all.. Note that I posted this piece, but Mohammed Alhammami, Gaza project manager for We Are Not Numbers, which I founded, wrote it! Just want to make sure the credit is clear.

    • annie on February 18, 2016, 5:52 pm

      thanks pam. in the future we can just make contributors their own user data. i just tried to do that but it’s telling me “we are already using that name”. i will try something else. back in the old days (years ago) every time i drafted something for a contributor my name would always appear at the base. no worries! it’s a great article btw. but you have to go through staff to make a user data. ;) i switched it to ‘we are not numbers’ for the bio.

      btw, it’s an amazing project you founded!

  2. JLewisDickerson on February 18, 2016, 5:31 pm

    RE: “Without international pressure, and now, Al-Qiq will die, says former hunger striker”

    ■ PETITION [3,112 signers. Let’s reach 5,000]
    European Parliament : Release al-Qiq! The EU Must end support of Israel’s administrative detention –

    • Pam on February 18, 2016, 9:48 pm

      Annie, thanks so much!!! Actually, we’d love to Keep the bio “We Are Not Numbers” for all of our stories, and then list the individual writer at the top. That’s fantastic. And YES.. it is a great project. And what makes it that great is our writers and our mentors. about you becoming one???? And anyone else reading this, if you’re interested, contact me.

      • annie on February 19, 2016, 12:27 pm

        i’d love to pam! i will email you.

  3. jon s on February 19, 2016, 5:07 am

    The Anti-Semitic illustration reminds me of Carlos Latuff’s “Palestinian Pieta”.

    • eljay on February 19, 2016, 7:28 am

      || jon s: The Anti-Semitic illustration … ||

      Please explain exactly what is anti-Semitic about the illustration. Thanks.

      || … reminds me of Carlos Latuff’s “Palestinian Pieta”. ||

      Mother Palestine Pieta

      OK, I get it now: “Anti-Semitic” means “succinctly depicting the consequences of Israeli evil”.

      By the way, why do you Zio-supremacists insist on anti-Semitically conflating Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Israel? Why do you hate Jews – and the non-Jewish 20% of your population – so much?

    • talknic on February 19, 2016, 7:49 am


      @ jon s February 19, 2016, 5:07 am makes a completely false accusation, in contravention of the most basic tenets of Judaism, thereby showing just how devoid he is of any conscience

      “The Anti-Semitic illustration …”

      HELP jon s, for the life of me I cannot find any reference what so ever in the illustration to Jews

      I guess you prove a point tho, moronic Zionist scum will say absolutely anything, clearly demonstrating they have no moral fibre what so ever

      You must be so proud. Keep up the good work

      • RoHa on February 19, 2016, 8:10 am

        Talknic, the illustration shows a crucifixion. This hints at Christianity. Christianity is (as everyone knows, of course) ultimately anti-Semitic.

      • Mooser on February 19, 2016, 12:21 pm

        “The Anti-Semitic illustration …”

        Remember, this is an authoritative judgement which only “Jon s” can render, from which there is no appeal! “Anti-Semitic illustration”! (Get a rope!)

        Ummm, “jon s” would you like to review the reasons why you are completely qualified to render a disinterested, dispassionate, and objective judgement of “Anti-Semitic”? Cause you got no skin in the game, no dog in the fight?

      • Mooser on February 19, 2016, 1:09 pm

        “@ jon s February 19, 2016, 5:07 am makes a completely false accusation, in contravention of the most basic tenets of Judaism, thereby showing just how devoid he is of any conscience”

        “Talknic”, my friend, you are being much, much too hard on poor old Judaism.
        Fer Gawd’s sake, Judaism never had to deal with defending and developing “Jewish State” by dispossession of the Palestinian residents before! You gotta cut us some slack here! I mean, c’mon, who is paying organized Judaism’s upkeep and rent these days?

        Hey, but don’t get any funny ideas about “political speech” and its freedoms, “talknic”. When we criticize Israel or Zionism, we are attacking Jews as individuals, not a State!

    • Marnie on February 19, 2016, 9:38 am

      Of course it does. Everything on MW reminds you of something antisemitic. This has absolutely nothing to do with you, nothing at all. Why do ziotards insist on making every thing under the sun about them? Neglected in childhood? Emah cut off the Bamba too soon?

      • RoHa on February 19, 2016, 1:38 pm

        Ziotards? Are these tight-fitting garments worn by Israelis when exercising hasbara?

      • Marnie on February 20, 2016, 4:44 am

        Exactly RoHa. This greatly diminishes oxygen from reaching the brain, often resulting in the type of posts by Herschel, Yonah, Hophmi, DaBakr, MaxxNarr, JonS, etc., etc, seizures and ultimately the soul’s death.

        The fact they choose to post here is an obvious cry for help.

    • diasp0ra on February 19, 2016, 11:35 am


      I would be VERY interested in learning how this drawing is anti-semitic.

      Please, enlighten us.

    • Kris on February 19, 2016, 8:20 pm

      @jon s: “The Anti-Semitic illustration reminds me of Carlos Latuff’s “Palestinian Pieta”.”

      I’d like you to know how much I appreciate your comments, jon s. My weakness is that I tend to like everyone, and without the self-referential, vicious comments of Zionists like you, I might forget for a moment to hate Israel. Thanks for keeping me on track.

      This poor young father is dying in intense pain, handcuffed to a bed, reminiscent of Christ on the cross. Yet what you see is (gasp!) “anti-semitism.”

      The crucifiction of this innocent man by Israeli Jews will be shared on facebook all over the world, and will not be forgotten.

      • Kris on February 19, 2016, 10:26 pm

        I can’t stop thinking about Muhammed Al-Qeq’, dying in such agony, handcuffed to the siderails of his bed as if on a cross, not allowed even to see his young wife and children. The same age as one of my sons, and the same age that Jesus was when the Jewish leaders demanded that the Romans crucify Him.

        Israeli Jews and their supporters are proud of their exceptional aptitude for cruelty and injustice, but even so, why would they stage a crucifixion during Lent, when Christians are reflecting on the book of Matthew and trying to gloss over the role of the Jewish leaders in killing Christ?

        Obviously they know how fast these videos will spread on the internet.

        My guess is that Israeli Jews are hoping to provoke attacks on Jews, so they can claim “anti-semitism.”

      • jon s on February 21, 2016, 3:35 pm

        Annie, Until now I had never heard of ” european institute against racism” or of “canary mission”. Thanks for pointing them out.

      • Mooser on February 21, 2016, 6:31 pm

        “Annie, Until now I had never heard of ” european institute against racism” or of “canary mission”.”

        Sorry to disturb your bliss, “Jon s”

      • Marnie on February 22, 2016, 12:47 am

        @Kris “My guess is that Israeli Jews are hoping to provoke attacks on Jews, so they can claim “anti-semitism.”

        I agree. I would also say that has been the purpose of any and all outposts, great and small. What sick government would knowingly put their own in danger if it wasn’t to capitalize on their ‘ultimate sacrifice’. Who knows, maybe the government believes there may be a red heifer among those settlers so it would be a 2 for 1 kinda deal.

        Minus the red heifer deal, I’m pretty sure the same sick logic drove the settlers west into ‘hostile’ territory in north america. The US army retaliated heavy handedly to any settler death, but mostly killed women, children and the aged. And attacked not the group responsible for the settler’s death, but the nearest tribe suited them just fine; don’t have to ride as long, more convenient. The divide and conquer thing worked really well for them. Bastards all.

  4. Pam on February 19, 2016, 10:25 am

    Update: If you recall from the article, Shawarna predicted revolution in the prisons if Al-Qiq dies. This was published today: In Israel’s Eshel prison, Palestinian prisoners reportedly held in Section 10 of the jail in a “day of disobedience,” banging on jail doors and screaming in solidarity with al-Qiq, who has been on an open-ended hunger strike for 86 days. Israeli forces in response put prisoners in Section 10 on lockdown. Prisoners of the section have reportedly said they would retaliate with an escalation in disobedience if al-Qiq dies before being released.

    • jon s on February 21, 2016, 3:50 pm

      Do I really have to spell it out?
      The illustration depicts a crucifixion.
      Remember who was crucufied? And who were accused of being” Christ-killers”?
      The illustration creates an allusion that echos the oldest anti-semitic theme of all, nothing particularly original.
      In case there was any doubt , commenter Kris comes along and proves my point.

      • diasp0ra on February 21, 2016, 4:30 pm

        @Jon s

        That is grasping at straws if I’ve ever seen it. With this logic any image showing or alluding to a crucifixion is antisemitic.

      • talknic on February 21, 2016, 5:26 pm

        @ jon s February 21, 2016, 3:50 pm

        Uh huh. The cross is antisemitic. I understand your need..

        So it’s true, Zionism eats peoples brains, turning them into rabid, paranoid idiots who’ll say anything no matter how stupid it makes them look

      • eljay on February 21, 2016, 6:55 pm

        || jon s: … Remember who was crucufied? And who were accused of being” Christ-killers”? … ||

        The past: A Jew was crucified by the Romans, and Jews were accused of being “Christ-killers”.

        The present: An “Arab” is being crucified by Israelis, so Arabs are accused of being “Al-Qeq killers”.

        Yup, that’s anti-Semitic alright!

      • Mooser on February 21, 2016, 6:57 pm

        “The illustration creates an allusion that echos the oldest anti-semitic theme of all,”

        I apologize for “Jon s”. He’s like a kid who doesn’t know what he is saying.

      • Marnie on February 22, 2016, 12:23 am

        There is antisemitism but you see it EVERYWHERE, ALL.THE.TIME. A lot of groups of people in the world have suffered and continue to suffer just for who they are. Jews don’t ‘own’ suffering or persecution Jonboy. Try being a woman for a day.

      • Mooser on February 22, 2016, 10:57 am

        “With this logic any image showing or alluding to a crucifixion is antisemitic.”

        Can somebody enlighten me? I’ve been a Jew all my life, and I still, after 60-something (NOYB) years I still don’t know what they expect to gain, what they expect to be accomplished, by accusations of “antisemitism”. What the hell is it supposed to accomplish?
        And how an American Jew like “Jon s” can throw around accusations of antisemitism is beyond me.

      • RoHa on February 22, 2016, 11:18 am

        “Remember who was crucufied?”


  5. Ossinev on February 20, 2016, 6:53 am

    “My guess is that Israeli Jews are hoping to provoke attacks on Jews, so they can claim “anti-semitism.”

    Apparently there is no need for this as anti-semitic incidents are rife throughout Western civilisation and alarmingly are on the increase .Why only the other day I heard a report about a Gentile dog walker allowing his Gentile dog to sniff and pee on the railing outside a synagogue in North London. It was allegedly reported to the police by the resident Rabbi but no action was taken. Still the incident was documented,catalogued and added to the UK Media Watch record of thousands upon thousands of blatant and vicious Anti-Semitic attacks which take place in the UK each year.

  6. jon s on February 22, 2016, 3:48 am

    Just see Kris’ comment, above, shamelessly repeating the “christ-killers” accusation, and you see what I mean.

    Nothing particularly original or remarkable, just garden-variety Anti-Semitism.

    • Sibiriak on February 22, 2016, 4:06 am

      @JonS: The “Christ-killers” accusation was an accusation against “the Jews ” in general . But the accusation here, in contrast, is only against specific Zionist Jews (and indirectly, their non-Jewish support team as well.)

      Having said that, I think utilizing long-established anti-Jewish themes to attack Zionists should be avoided.

    • Mooser on February 22, 2016, 11:42 am

      “Nothing particularly original or remarkable, just garden-variety Anti-Semitism.”

      (ROTFLMSJAO) So why the hell are you continuously supplying “hits” and “UPVs” to a website which indulges in “garden-variety” (not the heirloom strains?) “Anti-Semitism”?

      Must be because the power of your words and evidence more than makes up for that!

      Oh, yeah, the good ol’ ship of Zionism is in good hands, steering a steady course.

  7. Ossinev on February 22, 2016, 7:17 am

    @Jon s
    Any thoughts on garden variety Israeli administrative detention?

    • jon s on February 22, 2016, 4:37 pm

      I oppose the use of administrative detention.

  8. amigo on February 22, 2016, 8:22 am

    “Just see Kris’ comment, above, shamelessly repeating the “christ-killers” accusation, and you see what I mean.”.jon,s.

    Here is Kris,s statement.

    “he same age as one of my sons, and the same age that Jesus was when the Jewish leaders demanded that the Romans crucify Him.”.

    Where does Kris mention all Jews. She refers to Jewish Leaders. In any case , it,t all a work of fiction.Never was a Jesus .He is a character made up by a 1st century version of JK Rowling.

    Do you teach your children this fictitious nonsense.Hopefully , when they grow up , they will jettison this nonsense and get on with their fellow human (and equal) beings.

    For your homework jon ,s write the following 1000 times.

    The statement ,”some Jews” does not mean all Jews.

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