Palestinian footballer freed after 92-day hunger strike

Palestinian football player Mahmoud Sarsak is greeted by supporters as he arrives in an ambulance at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on 10 July 2012. (Photo: AFP – Mahmud Hams)
Published Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The longest Palestinian hunger striker in history was released from an Israeli jail on Tuesday following 92 days without food in protest at his detention.
Mahmoud Sarsak greeted family and well-wishers in Gaza after three years in Israeli custody without charges or trial.

During his hunger strike, the 25-year-old member of the Palestinian national soccer team shed nearly half his weight. He ended the fast last month as part of a deal for his release.

Sarsak is currently being treated at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, a spokesperson for the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer confirmed to Al-Akhbar.

Sarsak’s case received international attention with the world football body FIFA throwing its support behind the Palestinian player.

Three other Palestinians remain on hunger strike in Israeli jails, the most severe of whom is Akram Rikhawi, who has been refusing food since April 12

In a joint statement released last Thursday, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) warned that Rikhawi’s health was deteriorating rapidly.

The statement said a PHR-Israel doctor had discovered an “alarming deterioration of Akram’s asthma, which continues to be unstable,” adding that he believed “Akram has been given very high doses of
steroids as treatment, which can cause severe long-term and irreversible damage.”

Rikhawi is currently serving a nine-year sentence for supporting suicide bombers, a charge he allegedly confessed to after being tortured.

Addameer said during his interrogation Rikhawi had been stripped naked and put in a room with dogs to scare him into confession.

Over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails went on a mass hunger strike earlier this year to protest Israel’s draconian administrative detention policy, as well as harsh conditions imposed on them during imprisonment.

The policy, dating back to the British mandate era, allows Israel to detain Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the policy as a violation of international humanitarian law.

The mass strike ended in May when Israel agreed to stop the practice of indefinite detention without charge.

But Israel breached that agreement the following month by renewing the detention of Hassan Safadi for another six months.

Safadi had previously been on a hunger strike for 71 days before renewing his campaign 20 days ago in protest at his continued detention.
(Al-Akhbar, AP)

  • Sarsak Defeats “Israel: Three Months on Hunger Strike, Soccer Star to Freedom

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Umm Mahmoud: “We, mothers, are constantly crying over our children.”

by Roy Bard
Sunday, June 10th, 2012

An interview with the family of detained Palestinian footballer and hunger striker Mahmoud Al-Sarsak:

On July, 22, 2009, Palestinian National Team soccer player, Mahmoud Al Sarsak, bid farewell to his family as he had finally obtained an Israeli permit allowing him to cross Erez checkpoint in the north of Gaza and enter the West Bank. The 22-year-old player, at the time, was heading to Balata Refugee Camp to join the Palestinian National Soccer Team and to train there. The overwhelming happiness that overcame the young Palestinian athlete as he was issued the permit, describes his mother Khaldiya Shalabi, has turned into a curse of misery for him and his family.

Mahmoud was detained and has imprisoned without charge or trial since the. In protest Mahmoud joined the recent prisoner’s hunger strike, and has now gone over 80 days without food.
According to Ma’an:

After 80 days on hunger strike, Mahmoud al-Sarsak is at immediate risk of death and must be hospitalized immediately, an independent doctor said Wednesday.
Until Wednesday, Israel’s prison service had refused to allow independent doctors to visit al-Sarsak, who is being held at Ramle prison clinic.
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel were able to send a doctor to visit al-Sarsak on Wednesday after petitioning an Israeli court for access…..
Al-Sarsak, a professional soccer player, has experienced extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. The 25-year-old is frequently losing consciousness and suffers memory lapses, the doctor said. He is also at risk of pulse disruptions that are endangering his life.

Whilst Ramzy Baroud notes that:

Palestine’s soccer ranking at 164th in the world is testament not to any lack of passion for the game, but to the constant Israeli attempts at destroying even that national aspiration.
The examples of Israeli war on Palestinian soccer are too many to count, although most of them receive little or no media coverage whatsoever.

On June 8th a solidarity demo was held outside the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in London to try and raise Mahmoud’s profile.

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Thaer Halahleh: Making His Own Palestinian Destiny

Thaer Halahleh narrowly skirted death when Israel agreed to a deal that ended his 78-day hunger strike (photo: AFP -Gali Tibbon)
Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Thaer Halahleh narrowly skirted death when Israel agreed to a deal that ended his 78-day hunger strike, returning home on Tuesday night after languishing behind Israeli bars without charge for over two years.

“I had been in detention for 25 months, and in solitary confinement for 78 days, which is the hunger strike period,” Halahleh, his speech frail after the ordeal, told Al-Akhbar.

There was concern Israel would renege on its promise – as it has so often done in 64 years of its occupation of Palestine – and renew Halahleh’s detention once again.

“I threatened the authorities with going on a silent hunger strike in case they didn’t release me,” he said.
Israel has already renewed dozens of administrative detention sentences despite having made a deal with 2,000 Palestinian hunger strikers, pledging their release at the end of their current terms.
The Jewish state has also maintained a prohibition on family visits to a number of detainees, again in violation of the deal.

Halahleh’s hunger strike has left him weak and thin, but is on the road to recovery.
“I am at al-Khalil hospital and staying there to take the necessary tests. Although I still feel pain when I eat sometimes, I am getting better,” he said.

Thaer, whose name means “rebel”, expressed deep joy at seeing his family, including his two-year-old daughter, Lamar, whom he barely knows thanks to Israel’s stringent restrictions on family visits.
“I want to spend time with my only daughter who still doesn’t know me and refused to acknowledge my presence until now,” he said bitterly, demonstrating deep resentment at the Israeli occupiers that robbed him of two years of his daughter’s life.

But despite winning his own freedom, Halahleh could not contain the sadness at the thought of the many friends he left behind.

“I am overwhelmed with happiness and I am so glad to see my family again with their warm welcome. At the same time, I feel sad to have left my fellow detained brothers who hold the same mission,” he said.

Israel’s draconian administrative detention policy dates back to the British mandate era of historic Palestine.

The policy enables Israel to detain Palestinians indefinitely without charge, and without disclosing the evidence supposedly gathered against them.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have slammed the policy as a violation of international humanitarian law.

Hundreds of Palestinians languish in Israeli prisons under the policy, which is just one of the many injustices Palestinian people suffer from under Israeli rule.

Halahleh described the inhumane conditions of the Israeli prison.

“The conditions in the jail were extremely harsh. They aren’t fit for a human to live in. I was under the grip of the [Israeli] occupation which has all the means to provoke and pressure me.”

Halahleh has spent much of the past 15 years behind Israeli bars. The first time the 33-year-old was arrested by the Israeli occupation army was just before his senior year in high school.

Due to his frequent arrests and time spent in prison, Halahleh only managed to study for one year at Hebron University. He later managed to open a used furniture store.

He expressed hope in returning to his studies and continuing his furniture store business.

“I still haven’t graduated from university. I think I will pursue my Quran and Islamic Sharia studies which I had started before I was detained. I will also handle the management of the furniture store I own,” he said.

Halahleh wrote the following to his daughter on the final days of his hunger strike, concerned that his non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation would take his life.

”My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my firstborn child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault; this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be apart from each other and to have a miserable life.”

The letter describes the pain that Palestinian people must endure, and the misery Israel is bent on imposing upon them. But in Halahleh’s case, his strength won him his freedom.

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Toronto rally on the 64th anniversary of the Nakba

In Gaza

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SEE ALSO:

Demonstrators also rejoiced in the news of the recent victory of Palestinian political prisoners, 2000 of whom maintained a month long hunger strike, another 7 of whom maintained hunger strikes of from 54 to 77 days.
While Palestinians have long-used tactics of non-violent resistance, in tandem with legitimate armed resistance to the occupation of Palestinian land, this recent victory brought the issue of Palestinian political prisoners to the news, particularly highlighting the Zionist Israeli military’s  illegal and immoral use of  “administrative detention” to hold Palestinians for indefinite numbers of months, years, without charging them or giving them fair trial.

Particularly important among the victories gained are the restoration of families’ visitation rights–families from Gaza have been denied access to their imprisoned loved ones for over 6 years–and in theory the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention. It remains to be seen whether the Israeli military will abide by their agreement, but the Palestinian male and female prisoners nonetheless were victorious in their “empty stomachs” battle, as it has been dubbed.

More info on Palestinian political prisoners:

Addameer
Samidoun
on Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails

There are approximately 4,600 Palestinian political prisoners inside Israeli jails. Palestinians, living under occupation and oppression for nearly 64 years, have been targeted for mass imprisonment and detention by the Israeli occupation. Nearly every Palestinian family has been touched by political imprisonment – a father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother, cousin, uncle, aunt. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians from those areas have been held as political prisoners – one out of every four Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. Forty percent of Palestinian men in the West Bank and Gaza have spent some time in occupation jails.

NO CHARGE? NO TRIAL? NO JUSTICE!

320 Palestinians are currently held under administrative detention, including 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.  Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. It is renewable indefinitely for repeated periods of up to six months. Palestinians held under administrative detention are not charged with any crime, nor are they brought to trial even before the Israeli occupation’s rigged military courts.

Palestinians have been subjected to administrative detention since the beginning of the Israeli occupation and before that time, under the British Mandate. The Palestinian hunger strikers whose cases have attracted much recent attention, Khader Adnan and Hana’ Shalabi, were both held under administrative detention.

The Canadian government is complicit in Israel’s ongoing use of mass imprisonment against the Palestinian people when it vocally supports Israeli aggression in the UN and around the world.
Despite the harsh conditions of imprisonment, the frequent use of isolation, ransacking of cells, confiscation of media, and denial of access to education among Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian prisoners’ movement is central to the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation. Palestinian prisoners are not only victims of an unjust and oppressive legal/military structure – they are part of an entire people seeking their freedom and liberation, including the end of occupation, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and full rights for all Palestinians.

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Nakba anniversary message

Palestinians Demonstrate for the End of Israel

On this 64th anniversary of the Nakba we mourn the ethnic cleansing that began in 1948 and that continues today with silent transfer, home demolitions, land confiscation and more. But we also celebrate an amazing resilience and success of the Palestinian endogenous people against incredible odds:

-We just celebrated the success of a hunger strike by over 1600 political prisoners despite attempts to stifle the story in Zionist dominated Western media. They succeeded in achieving a part of their basic rights including receiving family visits and ending solitary confinement.
-We are 11.5 million people and while most of us are refugees and displaced people, we remain steadfast and hopeful and connected. Thanks to persistence and now the internet and modern communications, even the feeble attempts to isolate us from each other failed. Thousands of Palestinians still go to their main city of Jerusalem without Israeli permission. Thousands connect across the Green line to the areas occupied since 1948.
Nakba10
Palestinians protest outside Damascus gate in Jerusalem’s
Old City on May 15, 2012 marking Nakba day, which
commemorates the exodus of hundreds of thousands
 of Palestinians after the
establishment of Israel in 1948. Getty Images.
-We are still the most educated people in the Middle East with the highest per capita of postgraduates.
-We now have 12 universities inside the occupied Palestinan territories. On Saturday we held the second biomedical research symposium in Bethlehem showing scientific work rivaling that done in countries with a strong tradition of research. This is miraculous considering the conditions under occupation.
-We are still the people who helped develop the Arab world and even remind it of its unity and common destiny. But more than that, our resistance shielded fellow Arabs from the original plans of Zionists for an empire from the Nile to the Euphrates. We are still the main obstacle to the victory of the racist Zionist project.
-We have an amazing history of 130 years of struggle against the most well-financed, most-organized, most-supported (by Zionists and their Western backers) colonial project in human history.
– We have the fastest growing boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in anti-colonial struggles. In less than 7 years we accomplished far more than what was accomplished with BDS in any other place (including in 25 years in South Africa).
-Palestine is still the place where people of different religions lived together in the same neighborhod unsegregated until European Zionists came and recreated ghettos for Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) and one large ghetto for Jews called Israel coexist in harmony. Church bells and the call of the Muezzin to prayer still penetrate deep in our souls despite all the Zionist attempts to silence them (e.g. the ethnic cleansing and destruction of 530 villages and towns).
– We educate our children that racism and notions of choseness are wrong and they grow to believe that we can still have the new Palestine that will be like our old Palestine: multiethnic, multireligious, multicultural and beautiful.
– Palestinians inspired activists around the world. Polls show great sympathy for our cause among average people. Palestine is now cause celebre among those struggling against oppression. Even Nelson Mandela said that South Africa will not be fully free until Palestine is free. According to polls, a majority in Western Europe correctly view Israel and the US as the two greatest threats to world peace. Thousands of internationals joined us in the struggle locally. Israel has become so paranoid about any solidarity visits and in the process exposed its apartheid racist nature.
We are grateful to be participants in shaping a better future for all. I am 100% sure that our Nakba will end, refugees will return, freedom and equality will happen, and Israelis will also be liberated from being oppressors and colonizers and become integrated into the fabric of the new and better Palestine. We can then become a “light unto the peoples.”
—————————-
Died: Vidal Sassoon who volunteered for and fought in the Israeli army during the ethnic cleansing in 1948 (the largest since WWII). His “beauty” empire participated (and continues) in the financing of the ugly Zionist crimes against humanity.
Podcast Radio interview: Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine: a History of Hope and Empowerment. – Around 2000 Palestinian prisoners, out of desperation, are on hunger strike. Some are near death. Yet western media are silent. Many prisoners have been arrested and re-arrested, under “Administrative Detention”, i.e., no charges and no trials
http://plainsfm.org.nz/podcasts/ (then click Earthwise)
Lest we forget: Palestinian Refugees: Right to Return and Repatriation. Chapter 4 from Sharing The Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle” .

Two chapters from a new book titled “The Case For Sanctions Against Israel”
Hind Awwad: “Six Years of BDS: Success!”

See this link to an al-Jazeera documentary about the theft of books from Palestinian homes and libraries during the 1948 war. It is a very tragic story with many of the books looted from Khalil al-Sakakini’s library and others, then kept at the Israeli national library. There is an opening poem by Sakakini dedicated to his stolen books

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

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Palestinian Prisoners Mulling End to Hunger Strike under Egypt Deal

Palestinian prisoners' familiesPalestinian officials said thousands of prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails are weighing to end their hunger strike under an Egyptian mediated deal.

“A deal could be reached tonight, but it should be presented to prisoners in the Israeli jails, possibly Monday morning, for endorsement before an official announcement,” said a Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Sunday.

“The prisoners are looking at the deal that was agreed in Cairo, only the prisoners can decide,” said a Palestinian source close to the Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Israel. “It’s the leaders of the prisoners who have the key, to say yes or no.”

Some 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike, including two detainees who on Monday entered their 76th day without food demanding that the Zionist entity ends both solitary confinement and the use of administrative detention, a procedure under which suspects can be held indefinitely without charge.

Late on Sunday, a source confirmed to AFP that a deal regarding their demands had been hammered out in Cairo.

On Monday, Palestinian prisoners minister Issa Qaraqaa told Voice of Palestine radio that the Israeli occupation had reportedly accepted three key prisoner demands — not renewing existing administrative detention orders, ending solitary confinement and permitting relatives from Gaza to visit detainees.

He said he believed the hunger strike could end as early as Monday, if the concessions were formally adopted by the Israeli occupation and accepted by the prisoner leadership.

Source: AFP
14-05-2012 – 15:06 Last updated 14-05-2012 – 15:06

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Prisoner Hassan Salama’s first letter from Al Ramlah Isolation (Ayalon)

Prisoner Hassan Salama’s first letter from Al Ramlah Isolation (Ayalon)

Center for Political and Development Studies
Dear beloved,
O! You dwell in the great world that we heard of without seeing —
My place: a small world where I live the bitterness of isolation and detention — In this narrow place which grows narrower and narrower, how much we’d like to remember that past time, which might be the most beautiful image that we still hold in our hearts and minds.
How much do I wish to return to that time, the moment we were all innocent and did not know hatred, the moment our respect to old people was a sacred thing, sacred like a verse of the Qur’an. I still remember the time when we were coming back from school and when the campaign to check the neatness of books and notebooks starts as I used to be the neatest — how much I do wish to go back to my home, my neighborhood, and my city. We miss everything. Not only am I isolated, but I am also deprived of living with any friend of my region to talk to about Gaza or Khan Younis or about memories of childhood.
I am getting older, my beard has turned to gray, but I live as if I am a child, yearning and missing everything.
Dear beloved, they want to segregate my memory, remove me from the human world and put me in the world of the dead, to drive us after years to a new memory that is unrelated to human beings. My letter is my only means to sustain myself. The moments of happiness in this isolation are when I write or receive a letter from the outside. I sit on my bed like a little child and cram myself in the corner to read a letter that came from the world of living things, the world of humans. The way I got it does not matter, whatsoever. The important thing is that I received it.
Once I receive it, I feel that I still belong to you, I\’m still alive. I read every word, every letter, as if I take the elixir of life that brings me back to life and removes me from among the dead. So are your letters and hearing your voices. I am looking for ways to survive, to stay alive and to breathe. I swear to you, you are the oxygen I breathe. If I find it I breathe and survive, and if not, I turn into a dead body between the dead people as a man in the horror movies. A body with no soul that walks — nine continuous years in which I move from one tomb to another, I stay in the tomb 23 hours and get out for an hour to a wider one, but I am still strong, thanks to God, and I still have a strong will and all the suffering I go through is aimed at breaking my will by using modern methods from psychology. There are friends of mine next to me who were the most wonderful, but they lost their reason and their condition became lamentable. And believe me, what I am, my strength and steadfastness, is from the grace of God. Never do I play any role; God is the only one who stands with me. Even you whom I loved, your concerns and problems prevent you to stay in touch with me even for moments that take few minutes from your time every week, but it means life, the whole world, oxygen and the challenge to me. When one of you gets bored, he or she goes to visit a childhood friend to talk to him or her; what about those who are forced to talk to themselves and to live with memories leaving them homesick? I grabbed my pen to talk to you and I found myself like a hungry or thirsty man who wants to talk about what wanders in his heart, my problem is that I do not cry and I hold my tears to bleed blood in my heart. I have begun to enjoy the bleeding of my heart and I feel that my heart’s tears have sterilized my wounds and yet they increase my pain at the same time. Because I do not want to forget what pain does mean, I don’t want to forget my pain. I want it to boil like a volcano every day, so I do not forget who I am, to whom I belong, who they are; I am still a human being and I am still alive.
How much time would it take you to talk for a few minutes every one or two weeks, or to write a letter to me and send it with my lawyer or by mail making sure that by doing so, you will strengthen and help an isolated prisoner? I wish I could buy your support for me and the other prisoners.
These words come from my pain in this period of time.
To the people of the other world we’ve heard of, but do not live in:
I wish you success from the bottom of my heart and I\’ll keep loving you even if you forget me and my only comfort will be that I have God whose name is Al-Kareem (The Generous) who will not forget me. Allah is very beautiful and I live according to this beauty in every walk of my life, in my isolation, despite my concerns, my victimization and the difficulties of my life.
Your brother
Hasan Salamah
Al Ramlah Isolation (Ayalon).
_____________________________________________________

“Palestine is the heart of Arab countries”– Hiyam Naour

 

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessa
rily reflect those of this Blog!

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