Samer Issawi’s Liberating Struggle
by Stephen Lendman
Thousands of political prisoners languish in Israel’s gulag. It’s one of the world’s harshest. Detainees face torture, intimidation, humiliation, and other abuses.
Administrative ones are held indefinitely without charges or trials. Children are treated like adults.
Horrific conditions include severe overcrowding. Poor ventilation and sanitation makes things worse. Inadequate clothing is policy.
Wooden planks with thin mattresses are supplied for beds. So are filthy blankets.
Food is inadequate in terms of quality, quantity, and conformity to Islamic dietary requirements. Medical care is appalling. Access to family members and counsel is limited.
Prison rules for Palestinians reflect cruel and unusual punishment. Some prisoners don’t survive. They succumb to torture, abuse or willfully withheld medical care.
Fundamental human rights are violated. It’s longstanding Israeli practice.
Geneva’s Common Article 3 requires “humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s).”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 56 states:
“To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.”
Article 91 affirms that “Every place of internment shall have an adequate infirmary, under the direction of a qualified doctor, where internees may have the attention they require, as well as an appropriate diet. Isolation wards shall be set aside for cases of contagious or mental diseases.
Article 92 states “Medical inspections of internees shall be made at least once a month. Their purpose shall be, in particular, to supervise the general state of health, nutrition and cleanliness of internees, and to detect contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis, malaria, and venereal diseases. Such inspections shall include, in particular, the checking of weight of each internee and, at least once a year, radioscopic examination.”
Israel violates virtually all international humanitarian laws. It does so with impunity. It torments Palestinians ruthlessly.
Samer Issawi is one of many Israeli political prisoners. He was so until December 23. More on this below. A previous article discussed him. He committed no crimes. It didn’t matter.
He’s a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist. In April 2004, he was wrongfully arrested. In October 2011, he was released.
He was part of Israel’s prisoner swap. It was in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Israeli security forces gave him no peace. They harassed him ruthlessly.
They repeatedly detained him. His sister Shireen said it was three or more times monthly. She and Samer’s brothers, Ashraf and Shadi, were detained. They were treated harshly. His other brothers were brutalized.
So was Samer. Months later he was rearrested. He saw it coming. He hunger struck in protest. It was perhaps for a record period.
He abstained for 266 days. He managed largely on fluids. A determined will helped him survive. He told supporters:
“Your solidarity gives me the power to continue my hunger strike until I achieve my demand of freedom.”
“It strengthens my steadfastness because it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the battle for freedom and dignity.”
Ra’fat is Samer’s eldest brother. In January, Israel demolished his home. It maliciously claimed he had no building permit.
In February, 30 masked Israeli soldiers terrorized Samer’s family. His father, Tareq, was threatened. He was ordered to take all family members outside.
Israeli soldiers ransacked their home. His son, Mid’hat, was imprisoned in May 2012. His son Firas was harassed.
Israel terrorized all Assawi family members. Their ordeal continues. On December 22, Maan News headlined “Israeli forces raid prisoner Samer Issawi’s house day before release.”
Israel agreed to do so as “part of an agreement (to end his) 266-day hunger strike (last) April…”
At the time, he became “an international cause celebre.” He and other longterm strikers focused attention on Israeli incarceration brutality.
On December 22, Israeli forces gave Samer’s father and brother “notifications.” They’re ordered to report to Israeli intelligence for interrogations.
Samer’s father was threatened. He was warned about causing “problems.” He was prohibited from organizing celebrations once Samer was released.
His sister, Shireen, posted a Facebook comment, saying:
“I swear to God we will rejoice in the freedom of the hero Samer Issawi.” Despite multiple Israeli threats, she added: “(W)e have the (side of what’s) right. The world will stay with us, and we will rejoice.”
Prior to agreeing to Samer’s release, Israeli authorities offered him various options. They included deportation to Gaza or Europe and a reduced prison term.
Samer rejected them. He held firm. He insisted on his right to go home. He’s subject to rearrest anytime. Israeli agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
Last March, Samer said “I am not the first member of my family to be jailed on my people’s long march toward freedom.”
His grandfather was a founding PLO member. British Mandate authorities sentenced him to death. In 1994, Israeli forces murdered his brother, Fadi.
He was aged 16 at the time. It was during a peaceful demonstration. His brother Medhat served 19 years in prison.
His other brothers Firas, Ra’afat and Shadi were imprisoned for five to 11 years. His sister Shireen was arrested numerous times. She served a year in prison.
Ra’fat’s home was lawlessly demolished. Samer’s family home water and electricity were cut off. He hunger struck “until victory or martyrdom,” he said.
It was his “last stone to throw.” He aimed at racist tyrants and jailers. His struggle wasn’t for himself alone, he said.
He continued it for thousands of others like him. He called Gazans much worse off than himself. “If I die, it is a victory,” he said. “If we are liberated, it is a victory.”
Either way he refused to surrender. He challenged Israeli ruthlessness courageously. He did it because it matters. US media scoundrels ignored his ordeal.
They support Israel’s worst crimes. Thousands of Samers suffer in Israeli prisons. They’re brutally treated.
Occupation harshness is merciless. It continues with no end in sight.
A Final Comment
Palestinians consider Samer an iconic prisoner hunger striker. He risked death struggling for what’s right.
On December 23, he was released from Shatta Prison. He’s home with family members. For how long remains uncertain.
Israel may rearrest him any time. It may fabricate a reason to do so. He’ll be closely monitored. He’ll be harassed.
It’s longstanding Israeli policy. Police states operate this way. Israel is one of the worst.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.