[Ppnews] Palestinian detainees’ empty stomachs are stronger than their jailers

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 23 10:45:06 EDT 2012

Palestinian detainees’ empty stomachs are stronger than their jailers

Submitted by Shahd Abusalama on Sun, 04/22/2012 - 00:03

Khader Adnan took the heavy weight of 320 
prisoners held in Israeli administrative 
detention — without charge or trial — on his 
shoulders. He went on hunger strike for a record 
66 days to protest this unjust policy.

His battle of an empty stomach wasn’t only a 
reminder to free souls around the world that we 
are real people who deserve free and dignified 
lives, but also a message to those who share his 
suffering and injustice that they have a weapon 
stronger than the jailers’ arms: determination. 
Hana al-Shalabi followed in his steps and starved 
herself for 44 days. After confronting Israel’s 
inhumane policies, Khader and Hana have become 
symbols of defiance and sources of inspiration 
and strength for our political prisoners to continue resisting injustice.

More heroes have arisen behind bars. Bilal Diab, 
a 27-year-old man from Jenin, is one of them. In 
2003, he was imprisoned for 80 months.

After completing his sentence, he was re-arrested 
aggressively after midnight less than a year 
after his release, causing panic among neighbors. 
Then he received an administrative detention 
order for six months on 25 August 2011, based on 
“secret information” which neither Bilal nor his 
lawyer were permitted to see, leaving him no 
other lawful means to defend himself.

According to his detention order, he was supposed 
to be released on 25 February. But it was 
renewed, leading Bilal to rebel and defend 
himself by launching an open-ended hunger strike. 
Azzam Diab, Bilal’s brother who was sentenced to 
life, is on the 23rd day of his hunger strike in 
solidarity with his brother Bilal. It is hard to 
imagine how their mother manages to remain strong 
while two of her sons are inside Israel’s prisons. Both are dying to live.

Thaer Halahla, 34-years-old, from Hrsan, near 
Hebron, is another hunger striker who joined 
Bilal on the same day, 29 February, to protest 
the renewal of an administrative detention order 
against him. Thaer was re-arrested after two 
weeks of his marriage. He had previously been 
held under administrative detention four times. 
His imprisonment forced him to leave his pregnant 
wife and baby girl behind. His 22-month-old 
daughter was born while he was in prison, and she 
has never had a chance to meet her father. At the 
beginning of January 2012, his administrative 
detention order was extended a third consecutive 
time for an additional six months. Desperate to 
be free, re-unite with his family, and hug his 
daughter for the first time, he has been on hunger strike 55 days so far.

Addameer, the prisoners’ rights organization, 
reported that on 21 March, Bilal and Thaer were 
transferred to the medical center in Ramle prison 
after their health began to deteriorate. Both are 
currently being held in isolated cells, suffer 
from medical neglect under difficult 
conditions.  Thaer’s lawyer stated that he saw 
him vomiting blood from his nose and mouth and 
that he has difficulty speaking. As for Bilal, 
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) 
noted that “after losing consciousness a number 
of times, Mr Diab was hospitalized twice at Assaf 
Harofeh Hospital, but was subsequently returned 
to [Ramle prison medical center].”

Eight other prisoners have reached dangerous 
stages of their hunger strikes, including Haddan 
Safadi (49 days), Omar Abu Shalal (47 days), 
Jaafar Azzedine (32 days), and Ahmad Saqer, the 
longest-held administrative detainee (36 days). 
Resistance against the administrative detention 
policy inside prisons has also taken other forms. 
Mohammed Suleiman, a thalassemia patient, is 
refusing medical treatment to protest an 
administrative detention order that has been 
renewed three times. He also refuses to take blood tests.

Three other administrative detainees have also 
been moved to Ramle prison medical center: Hassan 
Safadi, Omar Abu Shalal and Jaafar Azzedine, on 
their 45th, 43rd, and 28th days of hunger strike 
respectively. Ahmad Saqer, the longest-held 
current administrative detainee, is on the 32nd day of his hunger strike.

On Prisoners’ Day (17 April) Palestinian 
political prisoners in Israeli prisons launched a 
mass hunger strike after a wave of individual 
hunger strikes over the past few months. This 
collective hunger strike follows the 22-day 
campaign of disobedience and mass hunger strike, 
launched at the end of September 2011 to protest 
cruel conditions and an escalating series of 
punitive measures against Palestinian prisoners 
such as solitary confinement, a ban on visits 
from family and lawyers, and confiscations of 
prisoners’ possessions. The Israeli Prison 
Service promised to meet prisoners’ demands 
within three months if they ended their hunger 
strike. Six months have passed without any 
change. So prisoners have re-launched their 
hunger strikes to demand their most basic rights.

A striker’s diary

Loai Odeh, a former prisoner and my best friend, 
whom I am very proud to have met after his 
release, joined that campaign of disobedience 
until the prisoner swap deal between Israel and 
Hamas on 18 October. Then he was released, and 
expelled from Jerusalem to Gaza after 10 years of 
imprisonment. Since his release, the prisoners he 
left behind have been his main concern. He always 
attends events in solidarity with them. He has 
been my main resource every time I had a question 
or needed to enrich my knowledge about prisoners’ conditions.

While following his posts on Facebook, I noticed 
that he had written new ”status” updates taking 
the form of a striker’s diaries while recalling 
his experience. This surprised me, as it has 
seldom happened since he opened his account. The 
diary of the fourth day was the most touching and 
important for everyone to read, so I want to 
share it in the hope that it will encourage readers to act.

“Today is the fourth day of challenge and 
championship,” Loai wrote. “Today, silence begins 
to spread all over. By now, the striker tends to 
be silent and stop talking. All the voices around 
him seem loud. He becomes unable to join their 
discussions. As days pass, his ability to hear 
voices shrinks, expect for these which lift the 
spirit up and strengthens souls and 
hearts.  These voices are mainly the ones that 
bring news about popular support for their 
battle. This news becomes the source of energy, 
the strongest motivation for them to remain steadfast.”

Israel’s attempts to demoralize prisoners and break their strikes

Discussing the typical response to hunger strikes 
from the Israeli Prison Service, he stated, “Our 
enemy is fully aware of that. Israel spells its 
fascist generosity against our heroes. They set 
up speakers and raise the volume to its loudest, 
constantly playing Hebrew music and news that 
will depress their spirits. They also distribute 
special news about them, like claims about the 
declining number of hunger strikers and names of 
those who have broken their fasts. They also do 
their best to give hunger strikers the impression 
that life outside is moving on normally and no one there cares about them.

“However, all these inhumane attempts fail once a 
prisoner returns from a visit with his lawyer to 
tell them about popular events held locally and 
internationally to support them and their just 
cause, ” he said. “So don’t ever underestimate 
any activity you do, as they have small, smuggled 
radios with which they follow the news. Even 
children’s protests increase their inner 
determination to achieve their goals, as they 
feel that their responsibilities have broadened 
to include children, the future generation, who 
have spiritually joined their battle.”

He ended by saying, “We have faith in your 
ability to win and we are with you until victory!”

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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