For previous coverage of Samer Issawi’s hunger strike, by Ramzy Baroud, see The Palestinian Prisoners’ Intifada.
In this posting, UPDATED, 1) Message from Samer el Issawi, 2) report from Al Jazeera, 3) statement from Amnesty, 4) appeal from CJPME.
By Eva Bartlett, In Gaza
February 17, 2013
**Via Rona Merrill, Neta Golan
“I turn with admiration to the masses of our heroic Palestinian people, to our Palestinian leadership, to all forces, parties and national institutions. I salute them for standing by our fight to defend our right to freedom and dignity.
I draw my strength from my people, from all the free people in the world, from friends and the families of the prisoners who continue day and night chanting for freedom and an end to the occupation.
My health has deteriorated dramatically and I’m hung between life and death. My weak body is collapsing but still able to be patient and continue the confrontation. My message is that I will continue until the end, until the last drop of water in my body, until martyrdom. Martyrdom is an honor for me in this battle. My martyrdom is my remaining bomb in the confrontation with the tyrants and the jailers, in the face of the racist policy of the occupation that humiliates our people and exercises against us all means of oppression and repression.
I say to my people: I’m stronger than the occupation army and its racist laws. I, Samer al-Issawi, son of Jerusalem, send you my last will that, in case I fell as a martyr, you will carry my soul as a cry for all the prisoners, man and women, cry for freedom, emancipation and salvation from the nightmare of prisons and their harsh darkness.
My battle is not only for individual freedom. The battle waged by me and by my heroic colleagues, Tariq, Ayman and Ja’affar, is everyone’s battle, the battle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and its prisons. Our goal is to be free and sovereign in our liberated state and in our blessed Jerusalem.
The weak and strained beats of my heart derive their steadfastness from you, the great people. My eyes, which started to lose their sight, draws light from your solidarity and your support of me. My weak voice takes its strength from your voice that is louder than the warden’s voice and higher than the walls.
I’m one of your sons, among thousands of your sons who are prisoners, still languishing steadfasting in the prisons, waiting for an end to be brought to their plight, their pains and the suffering of their families.
The doctors told me I became exposed to stroke because of the disorder of my heartbeats, the shortage of sugar and the drop in blood pressure. My body is full of cold and I can’t sleep because of the continued pain. But despite the extreme fatigue and chronic headaches, as I move on my chair, I’m trying to summon all my resources to continue on the road till its end. There is no going back, only in my victory, because I’m the owner of Right and my detention is invalid and illegal.
Do not be afraid for my heart if it will stop, don’t be afraid for my hands if they will be paralyzed. I am still alive now and tomorrow and after death, because Jerusalem is moving in my blood, in my devotion and my faith.”
Family and friends of Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for more than 200 days in Israeli jail, say he may die any moment.
Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera
February 13, 2013
“He is chasing death,” Samer Issawi’s sister, Shireen, says. “My brother is in serious danger.”
Issawi, 33, has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli jail for more than 203 days. Initially released by Israeli authorities in an October 2011 prisoner swap, Issawi was re-arrested in July 2012 and told he would have to serve the remaining 20-years of his original sentence for allegedly violating the conditions of his release.
It is not officially known how prison authorities have kept him alive during months of not eating. Some of Issawi’s supporters said he was being force fed through an intravenous tube, but the latest reports from prison indicate that he has begun refusing all nutrients and water and that he faces imminent death.
His sister said that Palestinian Prisoner Society lawyer Jawad Boulos, who represents Issawi, recounted that on a recent hospital visit that the hunger-striker told him: “I’m reaching the end of the tunnel. I’m either going to see the light of freedom or the light of martyrdom.”
Issawi’s supporters say he has been held since July in administrative detention – which means he has not been formally charged with a crime. He either wants to be formally charged and given a fair trial, or released, and will continue his hunger strike until one of these things happens.
The Israeli army did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment on the case, which has drawn significant international attention.
A spokesman for the Israeli army, however, told the Jerusalem Post newspaper that Issawi’s arrest was due to a violation of his release conditions. “The release of Samer Issawi stipulated that he would not commit any offense punishable by three months’ imprisonment or more, among other release conditions,” an official told the newspaper. “During 2012, he was convicted, according to his confession, of violating a legal order… The court has not yet reached a verdict in his case.” He was first arrested more than ten years ago for allegedly planning attacks against Israelis.
His sister said he was re-arrested in July while visiting a location near Hizma which is in the Jerusalem municipality, where he was allowed to be, and that he did not violate the terms of his release.
Rights groups said Issawi is one of several Palestinians to be re-arrested under dubious circumstances after they were released in the July 2011 prisoner swap, when 1,027 Palestinians were traded in phases of about 400 at a time for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Daleen Elshaer, a Palestinian-American who organised the “Free Samer Issawi Campaign” told Al Jazeera that he “was not the only prisoner released in the swap who was re-arrested soon after”.
Addameer, a Ramallah-based prisoners’ rights group, says eight others were also re-arrested shortly after their release. “The wave of arrests reveals that the exchange deal has not deterred Israel’s policy of detention,” the group said. Hundreds of other Palestinians who were not involved with the swap were arrested in the months during the phased release, campaigners said.
In total, Addameer believes the number of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons as of January 2013 is 4,743, including the 178 who are in administrative detention and are being held without charge or trial.
Issawi’s sister said she last saw her brother during a court appearance in December. “He weighed only 47kg… he was just skin and bones, he could barely even speak.”
Because of the length of his hunger strike, Issawi suffers from a loss of vision, dizziness and loss of consciousness. He has lost control over his limbs and suffers severe pain all over his body – especially in his abdomen and kidneys, his sister said.
Issawi also suffers from fractured ribs that Shireen said were caused by an attack perpetrated by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed to his wheelchair at a December 2012 court hearing. “They beat him and they beat us. Then we were not allowed to see him at all,” his sister said.
Issawi’s family say they have been subjected to collective punishment at the hands of Israeli authorities for drawing attention to the plight of their brother.
Shireen and another one of her brothers have been arrested, and Israeli soldiers regularly raid their neighbourhood in what their family believes is an attempt to intimidate them.
Elshaer told Al Jazeera that the day Samer Issawi was beaten in court in front of his family, his sister was detained for 24 hours: “She was put on house arrest after that and her license to practice law was confiscated.”
“The Israelis cut off the water to his parent’s house, claiming they hadn’t paid the bill,” Elshaer said, adding that Israeli security forces demolished the home of Samer’s brother Raafat in early January.
Danny Danon, a right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset, told the Jerusalem Post that officials should not listen to protests about the treatment of hunger strikers. He said:
We do not need to listen to these efforts because they are terrorists.
Palestinian activists, unsurprisingly, disagree. “The Israelis must charge him with a crime or set him free,” Elshaer said.
“If he dies, there will be a big reaction… just the other day someone started a rumour online that Samer had died and Facebook and Twitter were going crazy. The reaction was quick. I think the public all over the world, not just Palestinians, will react to his death.”
Malaka Mohammed, the Gaza Strip coordinator for the “Free Samer Issawi” campaign said she is being told that Samer could die at any moment, and that Israeli forces are on standby.
Israel/OPT: Hunger Striker Gravely Ill, Life at Risk
By Amnesty International
February 12, 2013
Samer Issawi, 34, has been on hunger strike in Israeli detention since August 2012. His life is in grave danger. Samer Issawi has been held by the Israeli authorities since 7 July 2012 who allege – without specifying how – that he broke the conditions on which he was released, as part of a prisoner exchange, in October 2011. He has been on hunger strike since 1 August 2012 in protest at an Israeli military committee’s refusal to explain to him or his lawyer the reasons for being detained.
Samer Issawi has spent most of his time while on hunger strike at the Ramleh prison clinic. Although he has been taken to a civilian hospital in Israel numerous times for emergency tests, most recently on 22 and 27 January, he was brought back within hours to the Ramleh prison clinic.
On 31 January 2013, Samer Issawi reportedly stopped taking vitamins and threatened to stop drinking water. He also threatened to reject any further medical examinations provided by the Israeli Prison Service if he was not released.
His lawyer told Amnesty International that Samer Issawi’s health has deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks due to his six-month hunger strike. When his lawyer visited him on 31 January, Samer Issawi weighed only 47 kilograms (almost half his original body weight) and medical staff at Ramleh prison clinic warned that he may soon die.
Amnesty International is concerned that, having been in hunger strike for over six months, Samer Issawi will not receive the required urgent and specialized medical care he needs at Ramleh prison clinic, which lacks the facilities or specialist staff that are required to provide appropriate care for hunger strikers at an advanced stage.
Please write immediately in Hebrew, English or your own language: ? Urging the Israeli authorities to ensure that Samer Issawi receives appropriate medical care, or is immediately released to enable him to receive the urgent and specialized care and treatment he needs; ? Urging them to ensure that he is treated humanely at all times and not punished in any way for his hunger strike.
Samer Issawi was arrested on 7 July 2012 when he was crossing an Israeli military checkpoint leading to his home in Jerusalem. He was initially held at the Moscobiyya Detention Centre where he was interrogated for 28 days. He was denied access to his lawyer for the first 23 days of his detention. He was then moved to Nafha prison in the Negev desert, southern Israel.
He began his hunger strike on 1 August 2012, in protest at the refusal of an Israeli military committee to explain to him or his lawyer the detailed allegations that form the basis for his current detention. The committee – composed of three military judges – is apparently seeking to reinvoke the 30-year sentence Samer Issawi was serving before being released in the prisoner- exchange deal. The case brought forward by the military committee is based on secret information related to how he “breached” the conditions of his release. This information is not available to Samer Issawi or his lawyer, ensuring they are unable to mount a defence.
In parallel proceedings, Samer Issawi has also been charged by a civilian court with breaking the conditions of his release by entering the occupied West Bank. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court held a session on 18 December 2012 to consider the charges brought against Samer Issawi by the civilian General Prosecutor. Samer Issawi entered the courtroom bound to a wheelchair and escorted by special police forces. When he tried to greet his mother and sister in the courtroom he was attacked by the police officers who hit him on his neck, chest and stomach. While he was being removed from the court, he fell out of his wheelchair. At noon that same day the Israeli army raided the Issawi family home and arrested Samer Issawi’s sister. She was released 24 hours later on a 3,000 shekel bails (US$800) and placed under house arrest for ten days. She was banned from visiting her brother for six months.
Samer Issawi had previously spent approximately 12 years in prison after conviction of possession of weapons and forming military groups in Jerusalem. He was released on 18 October 2011 in the prisoner-exchange deal between Hamas and Israel, which saw the phased release of 1,027 Palestinians in return for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
By Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Global Research
February 14, 2013
Montreal, February 13, 2013 – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is extremely concerned that Samer Issawi — a 34-year-old Palestinian on a hunger strike — is near death. Issawi has been on a hunger strike for over 200 days to protest his detention by Israeli authorities without charge or trial. Issawi was released in December 2011, one of several hundred Palestinian prisoners freed as part of a prisoner exchange. He had been imprisoned since 2002. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), he was arrested again on July 7, 2012 on the basis of an Israeli military order revoking his release. He was initially held at the Moscobiyya Detention Centre where he was interrogated for 28 days, and was denied access to his lawyer for the first 23 days. HRW has urged Israel to either release the prisoners or charge them and try them in processes that meet international human rights standards.
“Must this young man die before Canadian politicians raise their voices against Israel’s practice of detention without charge or trial?,” asks CJPME President Thomas Woodley. He notes that Issawi has lost half his body weight, his internal organs are starting to shut down, he is losing his vision and vomiting blood, and is losing the ability to speak. These are all signs that he is nearing death. CJPME notes that Issawi is one of 178 Palestinians currently held in Israeli “administrative detention” — that is to say, detention without charge or trial. Several others are also currently on hunger strikes. According to Issawi’s father, as of August 2012, his son was one of nine Palestinians rearrested after the December 2011 prisoner swap.
According to Amnesty International, a committee of three Israeli military judges is seeking to reinvoke the 30-year sentence imposed on Issawi in 2002. They have refused to indicate to Issawi or his lawyer the allegations on which he is currently detained, saying it is based on secret information related to how he “breached” the conditions of his release. In the absence of this information, Issawi and his lawyer are unable to mount a defence. Parallel to this, Issawi, a Jersualemite, has been charged in an Israeli civilian court with breaking the conditions of his release by entering the West Bank.
CJPME notes that detention without charge or trial violates the most elementary international human rights norms. CJPME urges Canadian MPs of all political stripes to speak out against Israel’s use of administrative detention and to call for Issawi’s immediate release and transfer to an appropriate hospital. CJPME also urges Canadian media outlets to cover this case and the broader issue of Israel’s frequent detention of Palestinians without charge or trial.
Did you know?
In May 2012, 1000 Palestinian security detainees and other prisoners initiated a hunger strike to protest Israel’s use of detention without charge and trial, and the conditions of their detentions.
Find out more
Palestinian Samer Issawi has been on a hunger strike since August 1 to protest his detention without charge or trial by the Israeli military and is now near death.