I have tried many times to write about my experience at the closed Rafah border crossing with Egypt that has left thousands of people in Gaza stranded. Every time I start, a deep sigh comes over me. Shortly after I feel paralyzed, and finish by tearing apart my draft. I have never found it this difficult to write about a personal experience. No words can capture all the suffering and pain our people in Gaza deal with collectively under this suffocating, inhumane Israeli-Egyptian siege.
As I write, I am supposed to be somewhere in the sky, among the clouds, flying to Istanbul to begin my graduate studies. But I could not catch my flight, as I am still trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, sitting in darkness during the power cuts caused by fuel crisis, trying to squeeze out my thoughts during what is left of my laptop’s charge.
As much as I am attached to Gaza City, where I was born and spent all 22 years of my life, each day I spend trapped in it makes me despise living here. Each day that passes makes me more desperate to set myself free outside this big, open-air prison. Each day makes me unable to stand the mounting injustice, torment, brutality and humiliation.
Hardships and happiness
I have never experienced as many extreme ups and downs as I did this month. Despite the hardships throughout September, I also had some immensely happy moments. I think will remember them the rest of my life. This is life in Gaza: highs amid lows, everything in the balance, nothing secure from day to day, no plans, no guarantees.
At the beginning of September, I started the process to secure my visa for Italy. I am supposed to be there on 10 October to celebrate the publication of my first book, the fruits of my work over more than three years of writing. It is the Italian version of my blog, Palestine from My Eyes, which I started in May 2010. My book launched on 22 September. It was impossible for me to attend its release in Italy.
My blog was never about me as an individual. It is rather about a young Palestinian woman who grew up in the alleys of a densely inhabited refugee camp with an imprisoned father. It is about a woman whose awareness of her Palestinian identity was shaped in a besieged city under the brutal Israeli occupation. My blog is about our people, who are routinely dehumanized and whose stories are marginalized and unknown to the majority outside. It was about our Palestinian political prisoners and their families, whose lost and missing loved ones have become statistics, numbers which fail to communicate all the injustices they face under the Israeli Prison Service, which denies them their most basic rights.
The book, inspired by the harsh and complex reality we are forced to endure, makes me feel that my responsibility as a voice for our Palestinian people has doubled. Some amazingly dedicated Italian friends are fixing a busy schedule of events, book fairs, conferences and presentations in many different cities. My presence in Italy is very important, because I am sure few people there have met Palestinians. I am anxiously waiting for the Rafah border to open so I can be there for these events, to help my book spread as widely as possible.
I read on Reuters last Tuesday: “According to Abbas’s request, Egypt agrees to reopen Rafah border crossing on Wednesday and Thursday for four working hours each.”
My first reaction was laughter. Where was Abbas while the Rafah border was closed to thousands of patients seeking medical care abroad which they cannot access in Gaza, or students whose dreams to pursue their education overseas were crushed?
We are not only paying the price for the unsettled situation in Egypt. We have even become the victims of our own divided Palestinian leadership. It makes me furious to think that the opening of Rafah crossing, a lifeline for our people in Gaza, has come under the influence of the internal division between political parties competing to seek favors from our colonizers. The ruling factions seem to have become participants in the collective punishment we suffer.
The headline infuriated rather than relieved me. Opening the Rafah border for eight hours over two days was not a solution to the crisis caused by the complete closure of Rafah for more than a week.
The same day, in the taxi heading home, I received a call telling me I finally got a visa to Italy. I was so happy I forgot the conservative nature of my society and started screaming out of happiness in the car. The visa process took shorter than I thought. I called my friend Amjad Abu Asab, who lives in Jerusalem and received my passport for me, since Israel prevents Palestinians in Gaza from visiting the city, urging him to find someone coming into Gaza via the northern Erez checkpoint on Wednesday.
This can be my chance to leave Wednesday or Thursday, I thought. My happiness didn’t last. “Erez checkpoint will be completely closed from Wednesday until Sunday, 22 September, because of the Jewish holidays,” Amjad said. “No express mail, and no person, can cross Erez to Gaza during this period.”
“What an absurdity!” I screamed. “When the Rafah border crossing finally reopens, Erez checkpoint closes. We have to deal with Israel from one side and Egypt from the other. How long will we live at the mercy of others? There must be some emergency exit.”
Life of uncertainty
“The definition of uncertainty in the dictionary is Gaza,” my fellow Electronic Intifada writer Ali Abunimah once told me. That describes in short my life at the moment, and the lives of our people generally: a life of uncertainty.
I had no choice but to wait for the Jewish holidays to end for Erez to reopen and to get my passport. But on Wednesday, I insisted on going to Rafah. I refused to sit at home, powerless, unable to do anything but wait. At Rafah border crossing, I saw a gate of humiliation. People crowded on top of each other, roamed the waiting hall, waited impatiently for some news to revive their hopes, and ran after policemen, asking for help and explaining their urgent need to travel.
I met many of my fellow students who were stuck as well. They came with their luggage, hoping they could leave, but ended up dragging it back home.
I stayed until 2:00pm, hoping that I could at least register. I did, I think. I explained my situation to a policeman at the gate. He took my scanned copy of my passport and returned after about five minutes, saying, “Your name is registered.” I am not sure what he meant, but he did not say anything else. I asked him if there was a certain date I could leave. His reply was, “Only God knows.” I wish someone could tell me when I will be able to leave so I can have a break from worrying. But no one knows anything, “only God knows.”
While doing an interview with the Real News Network that morning at the border, an elegant elderly man in a formal black suit and holding a black bag interrupted. “I would like to make an interview,” he said. “I speak English, and if you like, I can do Hebrew.” The old man looked very serious as we awaited his poignant words. “This border, all this area, was mine. They came and stole it.” As he continued, the Real News crew and I realized the interview was descending into farce. “I have bombs in this bag and I can explode the whole place in a second!” the man said. We started laughing and said jokingly, “Go explode, then. We’re standing by you.” Yes, this Rafah gate of humiliation must be wiped away so we, Palestinian people in Gaza, can have some breath of freedom.
The Rafah border crossing closed again after 800 persons left to Egypt on Wednesday and Thursday. I am sure this closure would be easier to understand if it was a natural disaster. But knowing that other human beings are doing this to me and 1.7 million other civilians living in Gaza, while the rest of the world looks on, is too difficult to believe. It is more painful and shocking to realize that our neighboring Arab country, Egypt, is joining our Zionist jailers and collaborating with them to tighten the siege.
This experience made me believe that human dignity has become a joke. International law is nothing but empty, powerless words printed in books. We are denied our right to freedom of movement, our right to pursue our education, our right to good medical care, and our right to be free or to live in peace and security. But no one in power bothers to act.
I spent September worrying about the border and my dreams which may fade away if Rafah remains closed. This takes a lot of my energy and makes me suffer from lack of focus and sleep, and makes it hard for me to sit and express myself in writing or with a drawing. Our people’s tragedy caused by the ongoing closure of Rafah border continues, and the crisis is deepening. Living in Gaza under these circumstances is like being sentenced to a slow death. Act and set us free. It is time for these injustices we face on a daily basis to end.
Feeling proud! Feeling high! Our defiant people in Jerusalem lifted my spirit which had been bruised through these last few weeks by the continuous entrapment in the besieged Gaza Strip, unable to leave for my graduation studies. I cannot put into words how proud I feel of our people in Jerusalem.
On Wednesday night, I had a long and exciting chat with my friend Amjad Abu Asab in Jerusalem who makes me feel very connected to Jerusalem, as if I am there amidst the bustle and lights of the old city’s streets. He described to me what happened and didn’t miss a single detail. Thanks to him, I could picture my dear city Jerusalem, Al-Amoud gate, the clashes and the demonstrations that happened there, the atmosphere, the anger, the smell, everything.
Amjad was one of the demonstrators who gathered at Al-Amoud gate in the old city. When I called him to ask about the situation in Jerusalem, I expected his voice to be filled with frustration and anger. His positive reply inspired me. “We managed to send a powerful message of rejection and defiance to the Israeli Occupation and the radical Jewish settlers who repeatedly break into Al-Aqsa mosque. The message that Jerusalem is Arab and Palestinian and we won’t be easily defeated.”
It does make me angry to know that our people go through such brutality on a daily basis, and that we can only support them behind the fences and walls as our physical presence is impossible under the Israeli apartheid regime. But it makes me very proud because our people are still determined and defiant. They pay a huge price for living in Jerusalem which is subjected to systematic ethnic cleansing policies but they pay the price happily because they know that “to love a land is to live and die for it.”
Amjad was one the people who was attacked by the Israeli soldiers. But that couldn’t depress him and he still told me the story with a positive tone. “I was beaten up with batons today,” he said with laughter.
I asked him how all these clashes started. “Many people gathered at Al-Amoud gate to rebel against the repetitive provocative raids of Al-Aqsa. Some radical settlers broke into the demonstration with two Israeli flags and kept waiving them amongst the angry protesters,” he replied. “There was a Palestinian salesman who sells shoes on a little table at Al-Amoud gate. One woman grabbed a shoe and threw it at that radical settler in response to his insulting provocations, and then all of a sudden all the protesters started showering shoes collectively at the soldiers.” The excitement and pride that I could feel in his voice as he narrated the story to me made me burst into laughter.
When our Palestinian people in Jerusalem threw shoes at the faces of the Israeli soldiers and radical settlers, they were attacked with tear gas bombs and batons. You cannot compare our people’s harmless shoes to the murderous weapons the Israeli forces used to suppress our people. But our people’s faith in our just cause empowers them with strength, poise and determination to stand firm in the face of Israel’s brutality and to keep resisting.
“A tear gas cannister hit my friend’s head and he was sent to hospital. He was rescued miraculously because the bomb hit the wall before it hit his head. Otherwise he could have been martyred,” Amjad said. Amjad’s friend was sent to hospital, but was thankfully released after a few hours. His situation is stable.
About 40 other Palestinians were injured in these clashes including three women, some paramedics and journalists. 15 people were jailed including three children, Ahmad Khanfar 14, Omar Al-Sheilk Ahmad 15 and Omar Abu Sarriya 14. Our Palestinian brethren in Jerusalem were terrorized, wounded and detained in the name of maintaining security and protection for the Zionist colonial settlers.
The Israeli Occupation Forces were savage and aggressive but they failed to make our people surrender. Israel’s brutality inspires our determination to keep up the fight. Every time they tried violently to disperse the crowd, they gathered again in different locations. The Israeli soldiers kept chasing them wherever they went.
Keep an eye on Jerusalem. Our people in Jerusalem face such challenges and risks on a daily basis. These vicious practices by the Israeli Occupation Forces have only one goal: to continue the systematic ethnic cleansing of our people.
At this very moment, passing through Rafah border crossing and travelling abroad for my MA studies in Turkey is no longer what I wish I could do. I don’t wish for anything more than for me to be in Jerusalem! This post is dedicated to my friends and strong people in Jerusalem. I would like them to know that we feel for you. Even if Israel builds a thousand more checkpoints to divide our people, we will stay united and feel for each other’s suffering. Keep your chins up you fighters of Jerusalem! They will not manage to Judaise our Arab Palestinian Jerusalem or our holy Palestinian soil. Free Palestine from the river to the sea!
I left very early in the morning with my youngest sister Tamam, heading to the Rafah border crossing with her to give her as much moral support as I could. Having experienced what can only be described as the torture of waiting at the border previously, I know very well how much of a nightmare going there is.
Tamam returned home from Turkey after 9 months of studying Turkish Language there. About a year ago, she earned a scholarship to study for her BA in journalism in Ankara. After enjoying three weeks of her presence at home, the time had finally come for her to return to Ankara, as her summer vacation is about to end and she has to go through many procedures in order to register for the first semester of her undergraduate studies.
In fact, she was scheduled to leave through Rafah border yesterday. Hearing of the crowds who have been trying to cross in vain for days- if not for weeks, and the restrictions that Egypt imposed on Rafah border, led us to decide to stay at home. A few more hours of sleeping would be worth more to us than the hours we would have wasted if we had gone to the border. Yesterday the Palestinian side allowed five buses in but Egypt allowed only one.
Today we decided to go, hoping that she would be fortunate enough to cross the border. As we were pulling her luggage into the car, we started laughing while mocking the dark situation we have to go through, while knowing deep inside that we will eventually have to return back home. But we insisted to go and see the situation with our own eyes. It was hard to imagine to what extent the border situation and the travelers’ crisis is getting worse, especially during the difficult times that Egypt is going through.
My sister didn’t realize that a normal decision like returning home for a visit may threaten her to lose her scholarship and keep her locked inside Gaza. She didn’t know that she should have considered such a thought a thousand times before making up her mind. Such a decision is supposed to be normal in a normal situation, but not in our case, which is very far from being normal.
As we arrived at the hall where travelers gather in hope to hear their names called out so they can ride the bus that drives them inside the border, we were shocked to see the numerous people waiting already there. Some people had been waiting since sunrise and had been trying to cross for over a week. Most of them were students traveling for educational purposes or patients leaving for medical reasons.
The scenes of the children who were lying down and sleeping on chairs and those of elderly people who could barely stand on their feet were the most heartbreaking. Elderly people were shouting at the police which was forming a fence in front of the travel coordination offices. They were powerless and had nothing to say or do, but were trying their best to keep people’s anger and frustration in control and to maintain some semblance of discipline.
We were ashamed of complaining about anything, just sitting and watching people huffing and puffing. We met people who have been trying to cross for about two weeks.
At about 1 pm, the police said via speakers, “We ask everyone to return back home. We received a notice that Rafah border is completely closed and not even a single Palestinian will be able to cross due to the killing of 22 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai. We don’t know when the border will re-open. Keep following the Internal Ministry Website for more information.”
I expected people to rebel and break the police fence and turn the hall into chaos. But they just turned their backs, dragged their luggage and went home. I heard many saying, “at least they finally said something. At least we didn’t have to wait until sunset.” For many people this scenario has been happening for many days, so they expected the same to be repeated again and again.
My sister has expressed her experience in few moving words she wrote on her Facebook page. The following is my translation of her words.
“I dragged my luggage very early in the morning to Gaza’s only exit to the outside world, though I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to cross. Dad stood watching me from a distance and finally he stepped closer and uttered one sentence, “May Allah ease your way my dear”. I cried a lot. More accurately, we both cried. I wondered why I cried despite having a strong desire to leave this city after a 3-week visit which was more tiring than joyful, while worrying about Rafah border’s situation. This complicated city is becoming more choking. It makes us weep out of happiness and sorrow. It restricts our freedom. It forces us to learn to adapt to the inadaptable. At this point of frustration and thinking negatively, I can’t think of any reason why we’re so attached to this mysterious city. Nevertheless, one can’t but be always longing to return to Gaza.”
My sister’s flight is scheduled to leave from Cairo to Istanbul on Thursday. It is very likely that she will miss her flight, like many other Palestinians living in Gaza.
Why should Tamam or any other traveler living in Gaza pay the price for anything happening in the neighboring countries? How many dreams are going to be crashed or how many more patients are going to die before we have a permanent and a secure way to travel? Will we ever live a normal life? This situation is utterly insane and inhumane. Collective punishment policies must end.
“It doesn’t matter if he goes to Gaza,” said Zahra Sharawna, Ayman Sharawna’s mother. “To be freed is the most important thing.” I understand how these words could come from a mother who fears for her son’s life. She, driven by her motherly emotions, simply wants him to live, even if many Israeli apartheid checkpoints separate her from him. But I must question was that actually the victory that Ayman Sharawna’s hunger strike aimed to accomplish, to get out of prison alive regardless of release conditions? I don’t think so.
A Palestinian’s fight has never been about oneself. It has always been a collective resistance of different forms, for the sake of collective justice for all Palestinian people. Some national principles identify our struggle for freedom. Every Palestinian revolutionary should be armed with them. One is embracing our right to return as the most sacred and ultimate goal.
“One whose hands are in water isn’t like one whose hands are in fire.” This traditional saying always comes to mind when I encounter a complicated situation many people would find it easy to judge superficially. I am not in a position to imagine the kind of inhumane pressure to which Ayman Shrawna was subjected. However, being a daughter of a former prisoner who served 15 years, and having intensively read and heard many ex-detainees’ prison experiences, makes me better able to guess.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemned Israel’s expulsion of Sharawna to Gaza calling it a “forcible deportation” which is a violation of international law. As such Israel alone is responsible, and we must consider that Sharawna is not acting of his own will.
But still, I was shocked to hear that the man who remained steadfast for nearly eight months of hunger strike, who tolerated all the pain and pressure attached to it, succumbed to such blackmail, to be expelled to Gaza for at least ten years in exchange for his release. This wasn’t the victory of which I personally expected to hear. I reacted to the news with a shocked face and stony eyes, unable to shed a single tear.
Emotionally, I could celebrate and agree with Ayman that “both are my people, whether in Gaza or Hebron.” But I can’t help listening to my inner worries. I believe that our emotional reactions and stances will only serve the Israeli occupation’s long-term goals: turning the Gaza Strip into a ghetto isolated from Palestine, and expelling as many people as possible from the occupied territories in the West Bank and ‘48 Palestine. My fears that this will open the gate for Israel to intensify its systematic policy of ethnic cleansing against more Palestinian political prisoners left me unable to taste the victory in Ayman Sharawna’s release.
These worries flooded my mind, but Samer Issawi’s statement on deportation lessened my stress and cultivated hope instead. His opinion was just what I expected, wonderful and strong from a stubborn man of dignity and poise, who continues his hunger strike of nearly seven months and doesn’t give up his principles for the sake of his own physical relief. He is aware of the long-term aims behind the inhumane practices of the Israeli occupation. He believes that his detention, a violation itself, cannot be fixed with a further violation.
According to him, this hunger strike isn’t a personal battle; rather, it’s a collective one. He refuses to be released with the condition of deportation, even within our historic Palestine.
Fawwaz Shloudi, a Palestinian lawyer, managed to visit Samer Issawi after many attempts and asked him whether he will ever agree to be deported to Gaza in exchange for his freedom. Samer answered:
Regarding the Israeli occupation’s offer to deport me to Gaza, I affirm that Gaza is undeniably part of my homeland and its people are my people. However, I will visit Gaza whenever I want or feel like it, as it is within my homeland, Palestine, which I have the right to wander whenever I like, from the very north to the very south. I strongly refuse to be deported to Gaza as this practice will just bring back bitter flashbacks from the expulsion process to which our Palestinian people were subjected during 1948 and 1967.
We are fighting for the sake of the freedom of our land and the return of our refugees in Palestine and the diaspora, not to add more deportees to them. This systematic practice by Israel that aims to empty Palestine of Palestinians and bring strangers in their place is a crime. Therefore, I refuse being deported and I will only agree to be released to Jerusalem, as I know that the Israeli occupation aims to empty Jerusalem of its people and turn Arabs into a minority group of its population. The issue of deportation is no longer a personal decision, it is rather a national principle. If every detainee agrees to be deported outside Jerusalem under pressure, Jerusalem will eventually be emptied of its people.
I would prefer dying on my hospital bed to being deported from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is my soul and my life. If I was uprooted from there, my soul would be uprooted from my body. My life is meaningless away from Jerusalem. No land on earth will be able to embrace me other than Jerusalem. Therefore, my return will be only to Jerusalem and nowhere else. I advice all Palestinians to embrace their land and villages and never succumb to the Israeli occupation’s wishes. I don’t see this issue as a personal cause that is related to Samer Issawi. It is a national issue, a conviction and a principle that every Palestinian who loves his homeland’s sacred soil should hold. Finally, I reaffirm for the thousandth time that I continue my hunger strike until either freedom and return to Jerusalem or martyrdom! (original translation by author)
International law prohibits the expulsion and transfer of people in occupied territories, be it deportation to another country or forced relocation within the occupied territory. Security Council Resolution 607 “calls upon Israel to refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilians from the occupied territories” and “strongly requests Israel, the occupying Power, to abide by its obligation arising from the Convention.” But these words, as history proves to us, are merely words. We have experienced enough empty words and conventions and “international human rights laws” that do NOT apply to us, as if our humanity is in question.
If the United Nations and the all the world’s governments keep of taking this submissive stance on Israel’s crimes and watch, reacting only with silence, we should NOT normalize their violations even if it costs us our lives. People like Samer Issawi teach us how to stand firm and not compromise our rights. Thank you, Samer, for teaching us how meaningless life is without freedom and dignity.
The Palestinian people have their own calendar in which almost every day of the year goes back to a painful and atrocious massacre that the Israeli Occupation committed against our people. Everyday we have to look back in anger and remember those who fell victim in the course of the our Palestinian history that has been recorded by our people’s blood, sacrifices and suffering under the most brutal and inhumane colonial entity of Zionism.
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron on Feruary 25, 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler and a member of the far-right Israeli Kach movement, opened his hateful fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslims while they were in Sujoud position inside killing 29 of them and wounding 150 within 48-hour time. If he wasn’t killed by survivors then, the number of victims would have continued to rise.
And guess what the Israeli Occupation did then? They just locked those victims who were left between dead and injured inside and didn’t allow ambulances access to rescue them and forced media blackout. But once the news about this massacre spread out, revolutionary Palestinian charged with anger rioted throughout Hebron and the number of martyrs about Palestinian people reached 50. In the weeks following the massacre, thousands of Israelis traveled to Goldstein’s grave to celebrate Goldstein’s actions. You learn this and then you laugh in bitterness at the absurd that all this is happening to us and then we are the ones accused of hatred and terrorism because we’re just resisting and defending our lands and people’s lives and dignity.
And the world was watching Israel mass killing us inside our worshipping place and did nothing. Israel doesn’t have respect for any place. This was proved again during the 22 successive days of Gaza massacre in 2008-09 when mosques, schools, hospitals and ambulances didn’t survive from Israel’s destructive internationally banned missiles. Will Israel be ever be held accountable? Nobody knows as the impunity of Israel by the world’s silence and their commitment to Israel’s security continues.
Today as we are commemorating the lives of those victims, we renew our loyalty to bling their souls justice so they can rest in peace. Israel will sooner or later confront justice and be punished for all their crimes against inhumanity.
Samer Issawi’s battle isn’t done yet. He is still continuing his hunger strike with great poise for the 115th day till he reaches an absolute agreement that guarantees his release. He knows very well how Israel never holds an agreement and that finding a way around to keep him in custody is always possible.
Today the Israeli Magistrate court issued a release order for Samer on the 6th of March as that court first sentenced him to 8-month imprisonment when he was first arrested. However, this doesn’t guarantee his release. So time for us to celebrate hasn’t come yet. For Samer is a Palestinian, he still has to face another Israeli military court which ordered to hold him captive on the basis of the same accusation; violating his release agreement and entering the West Bank illegally and other charges based on secretive information that no one has the legitimacy to have an access to but their judges.
Remember here that Samer Issawi had been freed after serving 10 years of his 30-year sentence as a part of Shalit’s swap deal that happened between Hamas and Israel on October 18, 2011. He was re-arrested before spending less than 8 months outside jail accusing him of violating his release agreement which is all bullshit and had nothing to do with reality!
Before Samer’s release in Shalit’s swap deal, he was forced to sign a paper that obliges him to never enter the West Bank territories or else he would be re-arrested and continue serving the rest of his 30-year sentence. This is nothing but an inhumane, brutal and humiliating order that comes as an example of the conditional freedom that Samer and all other released prisoners received.
However, even when we think of this unfair charge, no one would be found guilty here but Israel who couldn’t make their mind what the borders of Jerusalem were. Samer was arrested within the municipality of Jerusalem in an area called Kufr Aqab which everyone agrees that it is within Jerusalem. However, they manipulate facts to whatever suits them to prove him guilty.
Currently Ofer military court still insists on this detention order against Samer and that Samer should stay in prison for another two decades to continue what was left from his 30-year sentence! According to Israel’s democracy, there are two approaches in their judicial systems; one serves for the Israeli jews and the other serves for the gentiles, the Palestinian Arabs.
In Israel, if two people, one is a Palestinian and the other is an Israeli Jew, were arrested on some charge, these two go through different judicial procedures. Only in Israel, when a Palestinian convict has to face two types of courts on the same accusation: civil and military court! Does this have any thing to do with justice? This is but an emphasis on that Israel is an apartheid regime. This is injustice and racism.
Samer is done with the Israeli civil court and he still has the military court to face and for that he is still on hunger strike! Our role here is to double our efforts as injustice cannot win!! Free Samer Issawi!
Read Samer Issawi’s letter which he wrote yesterday, February 20, to his supporters whom he thinks that they are not just solidarity activists but “warriors”.
Read more about Samer Issawi’s case here.
Reading “With My Own Eyes” by the Israeli lawyer Felicia Langer brought painful scenes to my mind, but my faith in humanity grew deeper. While the Zionists might proclaim “woe to the vanquished,” there were Jewish people in Palestine, such as Langer, who, more profoundly, recognized it was “woe to the victor.” Langer was one who fought bravely against the unjust Israeli system throughout her 23-year career. She defended my father Ismael Abusalama in Israeli courts. He has always spoken about her with admiration and respect for her humanity and firmness.
My father’s story of arrest recorded by Felicia Langer
In her book, she wrote that she met my father on April 6, 1972 in Kafaryouna, an Israeli interrogation center. “Ismael Abusalama, a 19-year-old man who lives in Jabalia Refugee Camp, is a refugee originally from Beit-Jerja.” She mentioned Dad’s cousin who was killed by the Israeli occupation forces after the Six-Day War in 1967. Langer quoted my father’s words, “I saw how children were being brutally shot dead in the Camp’s streets by the Israeli border guards. I witnessed the murder of a little girl who was just leaving her school when an Israeli soldier from the border guards shot her dead. They raid the camp with their thick batons beating up every human. They break into the houses inhabited by women without knocking at their doors. They mix the flour with oil during their aggressive inspections deliberately and without any necessity.”
On page 352, she recorded a painful story of my father’s that she witnessed. While reading it, my heart ached to imagine my father in such brutal conditions. She wrote, “After his arrest in Jabalia Camp on January 1, 1972, they dragged him to the Gaza police center while beating him with batons all the way. They showered him with extremely cold water in winter while soldiers continued to attack him with batons everywhere, and punched him very violently to the extent that he lost his sense of hearing. This continued for 10 days.” She quoted my father saying, “They threatened me with being expelled to Amman and assassinating me there if I didn’t say what they wanted to hear.”
I have no doubt that she tried hard to expose the reality and prove my father and other detainees innocent, but Israel’s unjust judicial system was perhaps stronger than her then. Her dedicated investigations and defense of the truth didn’t stop Israel from sentencing my father to seven life sentences and 35 years! I appreciate her book, which exposes the injustices of the Israeli occupation and the rotten justice system in Israel. She has always repeated that the aggressor can never win. And I have faith that Israel will never win and Palestine shall be free.
Surprisingly, I only learned this story from her book and haven’t heard it from Dad. When I read that story about him losing his sense of hearing, I asked him about it and he confirmed and continued, “but I was never sent to hospital.”
“Detainees suffer intensively from medical neglect,” he said. “Small health problems can become critical with constant negligence. I thankfully survived, but many others didn’t and were left with permanent disabilities or health problems that led in some cases to their death.”
He stopped for a moment and continued, “Actually, such cases, maybe death isn’t the appropriate word. Murder sounds better.”
Medical neglect is one of the major brutal policies the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) practices intentionally against Palestinian political prisoners which Langer aimed to highlight in her book.
“IPS deliberately aims to harm Palestinian detainees’ physical and mental health in any possible way,” my father repeatedly says and many released prisoners have agreed. Because of this, access to proper medical care has been always on the top of detainees’ demands whenever they go on mass hunger strikes.
Akram Rickawi’s 102-day hunger strike in protest of medical neglect
Akram Rikhawi, whose 102-day hunger strike ended July 22, 2012 , has chosen to shoulder the responsibility for hundreds of disabled and ill political prisoners who grieve daily behind Israel’s bars and suffer its medical neglect. Since his first day of detention in 2004, he was held in Ramleh prison hospital, described by him and many prisoners as “a slaughterhouse, not a hospital, with jailers wearing doctors’ uniforms.”
Akram ended his hunger strike in exchange for an agreement by Israel for his early release. As part of the agreement, Akram was supposed to be released on January 25, 2013. But it’s been more than a week since that date passed, yet we have heard nothing regarding his release. This is more evidence that Israel never keeps any promises or agreements.
Ramleh stands as a nightmare for many detainees because of the inhumane procedures for them to receive a medical check, such as the long hours of waiting, being shackled from hands to feet, being aggressively treated during transfer from jail to hospital, and being treated as inferior by the racist doctors there. Many former detainees I interviewed repeatedly described this procedure as “torment.” One said, “Only when pain becomes intolerable will many prisoners call the IPS to allow them a visit to Ramleh Hospital Prison. They fear the humiliation and torture once their call is met after a long wait.”
As the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer recently reported, “Since 1967, over 200 prisoners have died in captivity, fifty-one of them from medical negligence. Alarmingly, there is a recent trend of prisoners who have died shortly after they are released from medical complications that went untreated during their detention.”
On January 22nd, I came home from my last exam of the semester very happy and relieved that I could finally sleep without worrying about loads of studies. I put myself in bed and decided to check my Facebook before I closed my eyes. I saw a video shared by my friend Loai Odeh that turned my happiness into sadness and my relief into distress. My desire to sleep escaped me.
The video’s Arabic title read, “The last words the martyr Ashraf Abu Dhra’ uttered before he fell in a coma.” I had no idea who Ashraf was then. A young man in weak physical shape lay on a hospital bed in the video. While struggling to make his voice as loud and clear as possible, he said, “When I got sick, they only prescribed me paradicamol and released me. When I went to the hospital the medics discovered that I have a severe inflammation. Thank God. My faith eases everything.”
A recently released prisoner fell victim to the IPS’s policy of medical neglect
Then I Googled his name and the ambiguity behind the pronouns he used became no longer ambiguous and learned that Ashraf, a 29-year-old from Hebron, was released recently after a detention of six and a half years in Ramleh prison hospital. Only then did I realize that the pronoun “they” refers to the IPS.
Ashraf was released on November 15, 2012. He spent only ten days outside Ramleh prison hospital at home, surrounded by his beloved family. But those ten days were an extension of the pain he suffered during his imprisonment. Then he fell in a coma until his death on January 21, 2013, which could have been avoided if he had access to better medical care. Israel must be held responsible for the murder of Ashraf.
As Addameer added in their report:
Ashraf had a long history of medical problems that predate his arrest; he suffered from muscular dystrophy and as a result became wheelchair bound in 2008 during his imprisonment. During his detention he contracted several illnesses including lung failure, immunodeficiency and a brain virus that eventually lead to his death.
Due to the frequent denial of medical treatment by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), Ashraf suffered a slow and painful death that was exasperated by neglect and the prison service’s refusal to provide court-ordered treatment. In 2008, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) submitted a request to the Israeli district court for Ashraf to receive physical therapy. Although the court granted Ashraf this request, the ruling was ignored by the Ramleh prison hospital, who refused treatment claiming that it was unnecessary. Ashraf was held in captivity despite his failing health for the entirety of his sentence, rarely seeing an independent doctor.
Ashraf’s lack of proper medical treatment in his six and a half years violates several international human rights laws, specifically article 56, 91 and 92 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that obliges the occupying authority to provide “adequate treatment” for each detainee and medical care “not inferior than the care provided to the general population.”
Serious actions must be taken before Samer Issawi become the next victim
Learning about the murder of Ashraf Abu Dhra’ made my worry over Samer Issawi double. Samer’s health is rapidly deteriorating due to his historic and heroic refusal of food which has continued 194 days in protest of his re-arrest for no charge or trial. His hunger is gradually taking over his body, but as he said earlier, “my determination will never weaken.”
He started his battle with a promise that he would only retreat from it as a martyr. Samer has tasted the bitterness of imprisonment for 12 years before. But once he was re-arrested in July 2012, with no charge or trial, he decided to rebel to send a message to his captors that they couldn’t decide his destiny. He doesn’t do this from love for death. He loves life, but in the form he has always longed to have, a life of freedom and dignity.
Serious actions are needed as Samer stands at the edge of death. He suffers from severe pain all over his body, especially in his abdomen and kidney. He has double vision, dizziness, and fractures in his rib cage from a brutal attack by Israeli soldiers while he was handcuffed to his wheelchair at a court hearing. This injury has caused severe and persistent pains that leave him sleepless day and night.
We shouldn’t sit idly and watch Samer slowly die. We don’t want to count more Palestinian detainee as martyrs. If Samer dies, it will be a glory for him, but a shame for us. Our silence allows Israel to cross all red lines. Save Samer from being the next victim of medical neglect after Ashraf Abu Dhra’. Act now to rescue the lives of Samer and all hunger strikers.
“His imprisonment is a scandal, a shame for France,” said the lawyer of George Abdallad who has served 28 years in French jails
The hero Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a pro-Palestinian Lebanese leftist who has spent 28 years in French prison, was supposed to be freed on Monday and expelled from France to Lebanon.
Georges joined the Popular Front for the Liberation ofPalestine in the 1960s, before joining the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions. He was jailed because he was a true human, a true revolutionary who dedicated his life fighting injustice. He had a great faith in the just cause of Palestine. He sacrificed 28 years of his prime for the sake of the Palestinian people’s justice and freedom. The Palestinian people are excitingly waiting for his release.
However, there is a kind of dissapoitment in the Palestnian and Lebanese streets regarding his release conditions. His release has been postposed and his deportation order has been canceled. A French Interior Minister Manuel Valls refused to sign an expulsion order, a necessary condition for Abdallah’s release. Georges’ supporters fear the postponement is a first step to renew his detention. “We are hopeful, but we don’t know what will happen,” George’s brother Robert Abdallah said. “This case is outside of the judicial realm and is now a political issue.”
He was arrested in 1984 on the basis that he was complicit in the killing of Charles Robert Ray, an American military attaché, and Yacov Barsimentov, an Israeli embassy advisor, in Paris in 1982. The United States and Israel pressured France over the years to prevent Abdallah’s release, under the pretext that he had never apologized or expressed regret for the murders. A former director of the French intelligence agency, Yves Bonnet, later said that Georges was the victim of “an illegal intelligence conspiracy.”
“His imprisonment is a scandal, a shame for France,” Georges’ lawyer Verges told French channel iTélé Thursday. “It is time for French justice to act, not like the whore of an American pimp, but like an independent justice.”
This photo was taken in Jerusalem in front of the French Consulte today. Palestinian people organized a sit-in and held Georges’ photos calling for his release. They aimed to express their anger at the delay of Geroges’ release and their disapproval of the fasciest French policies. Freedom for George Abdallah!
Palestinian detainee Jihad al-Obeidi will be freed on 20 January after 25 years in Israeli prisons. His family has already started decorating their house in Jerusalem with colorful lights and Palestinian flags to celebrate Jihad’s freedom. They are excited to welcome him home and fill his place, which has been empty for 25 years.
Jihad al-Obeidi was charged for affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and accused of trying to kill Israeli soldiers. He was sentenced to 25 years of detention, despite never having attended a trial. He was absent from the court that sentenced him, after he was expelled for refusing to stand for its racist judges.
Jihad wrote to his family that the first place he will visit after his release will be the grave of his nephew, Milad Ayyash. Milad was a 17-year-old boy whose life was cut short in May 2011 as he fell prey to an Israeli criminal who still walks freely somewhere, having escaped from justice by virtue of being an Israeli settler. Milad was killed when the settler’s bullet pierced his chest as Palestinians from the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem commemorated the 64th anniversary of the Nakba.
The Nakba is the gloomiest period in Palestinian history, the year of mass killing, dispossession and systematic ethnic cleansing of three quarters of a million Palestinians from 513 Palestinian villages. The Zionist entity, what is called now Israel, was built on their ruins.
Killed by settler
Silwan residents were demonstrating outside an illegal settler home in the Beit Yonatan neighborhood of East Jerusalem – the site of yet another eviction by radical settlers attempting to Judaize that part of the city – when a window suddenly opened from the settler lair and shots rang out, leaving Milad to drown in his own blood. (See the photos of Milad’s funeral, taken by Mahmoud Illean.)
Tragically, Milad was born and killed during his uncle Jihad’s imprisonment. Milad never saw his uncle Jihad, as only first-degree relatives are allowed family visits – if they aren’t banned – according to the Israeli Prison Service’s inhumane rules. But Jihad was introduced to Milad through his photographs and his mother’s stories of him, which made Milad feel close to his uncle. Milad was attached to his uncle, as well as the Palestinian prisoners in general, as he is also the son of ex-detainee Saeed Ayyash, released in a 1985 prisoner exchange. Milad’s thoughts travelled to the day when his uncle Jihad would be free. He often shared his thoughts with his mother: “We will be Uncle Jihad’s first destination when he is released, right, Mum?”
The painful news of Milad’s murder broke Jihad’s heart. Filled with sorrow at his murder, Jihad decided to make Milad’s wish true and visit him first. He will visit his grave to show that Israel doesn’t kill our children, it immortalizes them, and that, sooner or later, Israel will be held accountable for all its crimes against humanity.
Solidarity hunger strike
Loai Odeh, a detainee freed in the Shalit deal and expelled from Jerusalem to the Gaza Strip, sparked my curiosity to learn about Jihad al-Obeidi. During the open mass hunger strike launched on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in 2012, dozens of people, including detainees’ relatives and ex-detainees, went on hunger strike in solidarity inside a sit-in tent in a Gaza park.
Loai was one of the hunger strikers who took the sky as their ceiling and trees as their walls, with a surrounding tent to protect them from the sun. He decorated the tent behind his bed with pictures of detainees who he feels most attached to, including Jihad Obeidy.
That motivated me to Google his name. I found a touching video of his parents that shows the torment Palestinian detainees’ parents typically endure, especially for the sake of their 45-minute family visits. The video began with Jihad’s 75-year-old mother introducing herself, saying, “I am Um Jihad al-Obeidi. I was born in Lifta.”
Lifta is a village on the northern fringes of Jerusalem, one of hundreds of Palestinian villages seized by the newly-established Jewish state in 1948. But it is one of the few not to have been subsequently covered in the concrete and tarmac of Israeli towns and roads, or planted over with trees and shrubs to create forests, parks and picnic areas, or transformed into Israeli artists’ colonies. The ruins of Lifta were threatened many times with being bulldozed and turned into luxury housing units.
A sigh, and a moment of silence, followed that sentence, as if Umm Jihad meant to remind everyone that her village is originally Palestinian, and that for the injustice Palestinian people face, we continue to struggle and pay the price of freedom. For many Palestinians, Lifta is a symbol of the Nakba, of their longing for their land and bitterness at their continued refugee status, a physical memory of injustice and survival.
Since Jihad was arrested, his mother fell into depression, then became ill with cancer. She went through chemotherapy and four surgeries. However, her longing to see her son again served as her source of strength. Her fear of passing away before hugging her son again never left her mind. She was able to visit him only once every year because her critical health wouldn’t allow her to travel far.
“May God grant us health and patience to see you freed,” Jihad’s mother says in the video, while hugging her son’s picture and kissing it. “It’ll be the happiest moment when you are set free. God willing, I’ll live long enough to hug you, away from Israel’s bars and jailers’ inspecting eyes, and carry your kids.”
Jihad will be free in a matter of few days, but these days feel like years to his mother.
Jihad’s parents, like all detainees’ parents, suffered from the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) ill treatment, especially during family visits. In Jihad’s twenty-five years of detention, the IPS transferred him between almost every Israeli jail, so that he never enjoyed a sense of stability. They never considered the distance between his jail and his family’s house. For years, Jihad’s parents traveled long distances to reach prisons, then suffered verbal and physical harassment, humiliation, strip searches and long hours of waiting.
Promises and bitterness
“Jihad keeps promising us that he will never let us do anything at home when he is released,” his father said with a slight smile. “He said he will cook and clean and serve us with all his strength, as he could feel how much we tolerate Israel’s torture to visit him. Sometimes in the winter, during family visit, Israeli soldiers used to make us stand and wait outside prison, as the sky snowed over us.”
Despite these family visits symbolizing a lifeline to prisoners and their families, the happiness of uniting and exchanging stories is mixed with bitterness. “Our tears start streaming down whenever we see him behind Israeli bars,” his father said with tearful eyes. “Our hearts ache to observe how he is growing old there.”
Jihad’s parents’ painful story is about to have a happy ending with his release. But thousands of prisoners are still behind Israeli bars, and they and their families continue to suffer. Thinking of other detainees and their families, who share the same pain, Jihad’s mother said, “My son has served most of his sentence, but many others are serving lifetimes. I call on everyone to remember these prisoners and keep following their just cause. Support them so they regain their freedom soon and return to their families.”
My message to Jihad al-Obeidi: this post is dedicated to you, to congratulate you in advance for your physical freedom. Israel has only succeeded in imprisoning your body, but never your mind, nor your determination and everlasting hope for complete freedom.
I’ve always looked at you, and all your comrades who sacrifice their most precious years for the sake of our freedom and dignity, as heroes. You’re the most dignified and the most courageous. Be certain that your people in Gaza are as excited for your freedom as your people in Jerusalem. Israel’s apartheid walls and checkpoints will never manage to make us apart. I know your happiness will be incomplete, as more than four thousands of your comrades remain inside Israeli jails. But we will raise our voices higher and continue to fight until all jails are emptied.
I can’t kick the bad habit of biting my fingers when I’m stressed despite my constant attempts. My forefinger is swollen due to this habit and it really hurts; the cold weather makes it worse. The pain was intolerable this morning and it made me cry, but I quickly wiped my tears. I felt ashamed to think that our hero Samer Issawi suffers pains incomprehensible to the human mind.
However, he makes us all proud as he continues to fight injustice. His body has broken the limits of hunger. His hunger has broken the silence and will help defeat Israel’s injustice and oppression.
As the rain pounds continuously and the winds howl uncontrollably, Samer Issawi dominates my mind. I think back to my 24 hours of hunger strike on Monday, which caused me a terrible headache leaving me unable to focus on my studies for my final exams; I observe how very few people walk outside and how even fewer cars drive past my house. Then I think of Samer and I can’t but look to him with utter admiration and respect – proud of his shocking ability to refuse food for 168 days. My admiration for him made me give Samer’s dire situation priority over my studies and draw him a portrait.
How painful it is to imagine him now… to imagine how much he endures from Israel’s constant oppression, medical neglect, pain, hunger and cold. Personally, I can hardly leave my warm bed to go to the bathroom. I’m studying and typing away with trembling fingers while I lie under three heavy blankets. But Samer suffers in the cold. Mum takes very good care of me; she even brings me food to my bed so I don’t have to stop my studies and leave this warmth. But Samer suffers alone. Those around him aren’t there to ease his pain but to make him suffer more. He finds no one to comfort him. Instead, he is relentlessly harassed.
Nonetheless, while I’m cosy in bed, my thoughts are torn between my books and Samer Issawi. I can’t help but travel in my thoughts to Samer: lying in a cold, dirty, narrow solitary cell in Ramleh prison hospital, described often as a “slaughterhouse.” Starvation makes the hunger striker feel cold despite the weather.
Samer can barely stand on his feet and hardly turn his body on his borsh — a bed of metal that has a very thin mattress, which my father and friends who are ex-detainees often complained caused back-pains.
In winter, one of the most brutal practices that the Israeli Prison Service uses to oppress our prisoners is depriving them from their winter needs such as heavy blankets and warm clothes, often even depriving them of hot water. As a result, Samer’s sister Shireen worries about him more heavily. “The sky is snowing in Jerusalem,” Samer’s sister Shireen has said. “But unlike others, the happiness of seeing the layers of snow covering everything escapes me. When one has a little wound, its pain increases in cold weather. So imagine the situation of Samer who is hunger striking for 168 days and left without blankets or heavy clothes. Imagine him after he was physically attacked by the savage Israeli soldiers, causing him fractures in the rib cage. These are unbearable pains that one can hardly endure. But Samer lives and suffers these pains every moment, every day.”
He is shackled from his hands and feet to his bed or his wheelchair, and left with no means to defend himself. All this doesn’t deter the Israeli soldiers from repeatedly beating him up. Israel tried every inhumane way to put pressure on Samer Issawi to end his strike. He wasn’t the only target of this inhumanity: his family, his people in the village Issawiyeh, even sit-in tents installed in solidarity with him were targeted as well.
Israeli bulldozers recently demolished the house of Samer’s brother that was under construction and left it as rubble. But they couldn’t break his brother’s resilience. Instead he was thankful he didn’t meet the fate of other Palestinians who had their houses demolished while they were inside, burying them alive.
Moreover, Israeli forces get a sadistic pleasure in making the heart of Samer’s mother burn in worry over her sons and daughter. They arrested her son, Fares and her daughter Shireen several times and called them to the investigation centers on numerous occasions. Raising Samer’s voice to break the racist walls and reach beyond his cell to the hearts of humans of conscience was their only offense. The Israeli occupation forces attacked Samer’s house several times and couldn’t care less whether they raided the house at noon or after midnight. Moreover, Israel has cut the water supply to his family’s house. They enjoy making them live in panic day and night. Isn’t it painful enough for her to watch her son Samer dying every day?
Samer gets updates about his family through his lawyer. “With all the pressure that targets me and my family openly with no shame, Israel aims to force me to break my hunger strike,” Samer has said. In a message delivered through his lawyer, Samer has commented powerfully on these latest inhumane practices Israel committed against his family. “They reflect their feeling of defeat through enjoying punishing me and my family as if my arrest and my life being in danger weren’t enough,” Samer said.
“After they shamelessly fabricated a play in which Israel played the victim’s role and accused me of being the attacker while my family and I were aggressively attacked openly in the Israeli racist court despite my critical health situation about a month ago,they hurried to demolish my brother’s house. Why now?” Samer asked.
“This demolition is a threat Israel tried to convey to me. That house was practically my future home in which I was planning to marry and establish my own family after my release from the 10-year imprisonment in Israeli jails, in the swap deal for [Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit. Moreover, reacting to the failure of the Israeli intelligence in misleading public opinion and fooling them about the reasons for my re-arrest, they cut the water from my family’s house ignoring the hardships they suffer. That was another threat for me that aimed to pressure my soul to submit and surrender.
“All that wasn’t enough for the Israeli occupation which turned my family’s life into a living hell. They continue to provoke my family every now and then and call my sister Shireen and my brother Fares to interrogation centers and arrest them aiming to prevent them from delivering my message to the world and break my determination which will never weaken or shake.
“Where are the international human rights organizations when all that is happening? Israel continues to commit crimes against us and the world responds with silence. Are the Palestinian people excluded from international law? Or are we not humans, therefore these laws don’t apply to us?”
However, despite all the pains Samer Issawi suffers, he conveyed a message of gratitude for everyone who supports him, through his lawyer who has visited him and witnessed his terrible condition. Samer gained more hope and faith in humanity fromthe latest international hunger strike in solidarity with him, organized by Malaka Mohammed, in which about 3,000 people from different nationalities fasted for 24 hours. Moreover, hundreds of demonstrations were organized worldwide to call for his release. “I send my greetings to all who are fighting with me in this battle and who go out for this cause, I don’t consider them in solidarity, but they are warriors,” Samer said.
Let our voices rise higher, break through the racist walls and reach Samer to provide him with more strength to withstand the torment. Let us double our efforts to rescue his life. Let us make his words echo all over the word and chant after him, “freedom and dignity is more precious than food.” He shouldn’t be left alone in this fight against injustice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King once said. Let King’s words inspire you to join Samer’s fight against Israel’s injustices. His death would be a threat to your security, your humanity, to your values of justice and human rights. We need our Palestinian legend Samer Issawi alive as he deserves to live in dignity and freedom.
Ayman Shrawna has suspended his 178-day hunger strike for ten days, as he has been promised by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) that it would review his case and release him by the beginning of next year. He is allowing himself to have only fluids, but has threatened to continue his strike if the IPS fails to fulfill its promises. This leaves Samer Issawi alone in this battle of empty stomachs, continuing his historic hunger strike that has lasted for 183 days.
While surfing on Facebook this week, I saw a video my best friend Loai Odeh had shared of the attack on Samer Issawi in an Israeli court. It made me feel sick and angry, but not shocked.
“Your humanity and determination is always stronger than their brutality and savagery,” Loai wrote to his friend Samer, whom he grew up with in Jerusalem, and with whom he shared a cell in Israeli jails and was released in the prisoner exchange deal last year. Loai had first thought that Samer was luckier than him to be able return to Jerusalem. By contrast, Loai was expelled to the Gaza Strip from his hometown, where every corner guards his and Samer’s precious childhood memories.
“I know how stubborn he is,” Loai told me when Samer was kidnapped by Israeli forces on 7 July and declared an open hunger strike to protest his re-arrest. “He will not break this hunger strike until he is set free, even if it costs him his life.”
Loai spoke beautifully to me about Samer many times, which made me feel spiritually close to him. “Samer is stronger than all these hardships.” Loai keeps repeating these words over and over again as he counts the days of Samer’s mounting hunger strike.
I remember when Loai called me last Sunday, December 16, saying that it was Samer’s birthday. “He is celebrating his birthday in hunger, in a cold dark cell,” he said after a few seconds of silence that interrupted our call.
“Keep being free,” Loai wrote as a birthday greeting to Samer. “Keep your head held high over their barbed wires and racist walls. You shall be among us, my comrade.”
Despite the grave conditions Samer suffered on his birthday and still suffers, he and all the Palestinian people still have something to celebrate: his indestructible will. He is armed with a determination that makes physical necessities like food meaningless. This steadfastness is more harmful to the Israeli military than any weapon. It drove them to attack him and his family, and to destroy sit-in tents erected in solidarity with him in Jerusalem, especially in his home village, Issawiyeh. We are all proud of Samer, who reminds us that our cause is just.
As I read Facebook status updatesby Shireen, Samer Issawi’s sister, her simple but powerful words moved me so much that I burst into tears. She vividly narrated how Samer and her family were attacked three days ago in the Israeli court, which she described as “racist.”
“Seven Israeli occupation soldiers savagely attacked Samer, ignoring his critical health condition and the fact that he was shackled to his wheelchair,” she wrote.
His family saw this brutality against Samer, and tried to protect him and prevent soldiers from beating him, but were dragged outside the court. Shireen wrote that the judge of the court was also there, watching idly. Instead of trying to do anything to end this brutality against a sick, shackled prisoner lingering at the edge of death, he ran out of the court. This judge and the IPS should be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.
Yesterday morning, I heard Samer’s mother speaking to Palestine Today TV live by telephone. She described how she saw her dying son being beaten. “All he did was try to shake hands with me,” she said. “This might have been the last chance for us to see, touch, or say goodbye to each other.” Her shaking, sorrowful tone still echoes in my ears.
She also described how Israeli soldiers raided their house in Jerusalem the same day, broke into Shireen’s room, and kidnapped her. Shireen has done nothing but try to give a voice to her brother. She has worked very hard organizing solidarity hunger strikes and protests. She has spoken to human rights organizations and international media, calling on people around the world to support her brother. But she is a threat to Israel because she is a strong voice of truth.
One of Shireen’s status updates reflected how she felt during the day she spent in an Israeli cell. “When they pushed me into that narrow, horribly dirty and cold isolation cell, I felt more spiritually united with my brother Samer,” she said. “I can’t put into words how proud I felt that my brother Samer can endure these hardships. He is a legend, as he remains resolved to continue his hunger strike despite all the difficult and painful circumstances he has endured.”
This cold weather makes the hunger strike a lot more difficult. The colder it gets, the more food the hunger striker needs. All our Palestinian political detainees suffer as the IPS refuses to supply them with winter clothes, sheets, and shoes, in attempt to break their will. Israel will never succeed. No matter how and to what extent the IPS oppresses our heroes, they will remain strong and defiant.
In Gaza, we have set up a tent to express solidarity with Samer Issawi, Ayman Shawana and all Palestinian political prisoners. Groups of people from different generations keep coming back and forth to the tent expressing their solidarity in different ways. Yesterday, I attended a poetry reading organized by the Islamic University of Gaza, featuring the Egyptian poet Hesham El-Jakh. I could see a group of students holding Samer Issawi’s posters while waving the Palestinian flags. Observing how our heroes inside Israeli jails unite the Palestinian people everywhere makes me proud and happy.
Don’t hesitate to do anything you can in support of Palestinian hunger strikers. Your silence gives the IPS impunity to continue its cruelty against our detainees, violating international humanitarian law. Your silence can lead to the killing of our heroes. Act now to end our hunger strikers’ suffering. We want our hero Samer Issawi to stay alive.
Samer Al-Barq was promised release after his historical hunger striker three months ago but is still in custody
I wrote this entry when Samer Al-Barq was on his 110th day of hunger strike, in protest of the continuous renewal of his administrative detention order.
On his 117th day of hunger striker, the Israeli Prison Service IPS accepted to release him on condition he would be deported to Egypt which approved to welcome him on its lands. Samer Al-Barq agreed to the conditions of release because of the dire condition he reached hunger striking; especially as this strike started a week after he had ended a previous 30-day hunger strike on May 14.
However, three and a half months have since passed and he is still detained. The Israeli Prison Service is continuously procrastinating the process of deportation. Samer’s deteriorating health conditions have been critical for some time yet no concrete action has been taken by the Israeli Government to ensure his release and safety. Instead, on November 22, the IPS clearly deceived Samer and renewed his administrative detention order toan additional 3 months,although they promised him to be released after the historical hunger strike. This is a utterly absurd. No charge has been held against him. He is detained indefinitely based on secret information that neither Samer nor his lawyer can have an access to. He is not permitted to stand a trial and that leaves him with no legitimate tools to defend himself. This is simply inhumane.
According to Samer Al-Barq’s father, the latest attack on Gaza has frozen the process of Samer’s deportation to Egypt. His documents and legal papers are still with the Egyptian side but Israel tries its best to make this process take the longest time possible. Samer has been in a terrible condition and is still subjected to medical neglect. He went on a week hunger strike in October in protest of deferment of his release, though his health condition puts him at acute risk if subjected to further strikes.
Samer Al-Barq’s father is calling on every human of conscience and human rights organizations, to support Samer with every means possible to put an end for his continuous suffering. He also urges the Palestinian Authority to intervene and put pressure on the IPS to release his son soon.
These are some photos from my cousin Rawan’s traditional Henna party on Sunday, December 16. I can’t tell you how unique that was. Everything was traditional, even the decoration. Everyone came wearing Palestinian traditional dresses. As the guests’ original villages were different, their traditional dresses were different as. I had so much fun comparing their dresses and I reached one conclusion which is that the bride’s dress was certainly the most beautiful.
No modern music was played at all. Women exchanged roles: some played drums, some danced while others sang traditional songs that they orally learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Moreover, the young girls including Sarah, Roba, Amjad and I performed Dabka, the fork dancing of Palestine. We enjoyed every moment!
During the Henna party, a woman took responsibility of painting Henna on the girls’ hands one after another starting with the bride. We all have different shapes of Henna paints on our hands and everyone is proud, showing off hers to the others.
At the end of the Henna party, we served Summaqiya to the guests. Summaqiyya is a traditional kind of food that our grandparents used to serve for guests in their weddings in our original villages and it has become a basic custom in the Palestinian people’s weddings. Some relatives arrived early this morning and cooked a huge amount. It was so delicious that Sarah and I had two big dishes on our own! I think it was made with so much love for Rawan.
My grandmother used to describe to me vividly how their weddings looked like. Today, I felt emotional while recalling my grandmother’s description and glancing some of her memories from the old days as watching the women celebrating. By reviving our traditions, I could feel our grandparents alive again. I hate it when I observe how badly our Palestinian traditions and customs got influenced by TV and modern and western music and culture. Nothing is as good as our precious heritage. Thanks Rawan for bringing us back to the old days, the days that our grandparents used to live peacefully in Beit-Jerja and Deir-Sneid. We shall return and finish the olive harvest that our grandparents had to leave behind assuming that they would return in a matter of two weeks to continue it.
After the attack on Gaza ended on late November 21, within less than an hour after the truce was declared, tens of thousands of Palestinian people marched Gaza streets celebrating a victory that was painted with the people’s pains, blood, sacrifice, and determination. According to the latest update of Ministry of Health in Gaza, 191 people were killed including 48 children–16 of them were below the age of 5, 12 women, and 20 elderly people. Moreover, 1492 people were injured, including 533 children–195 of them were below the age of 5, 245 women, and 103 elderly people.Check my blog for names, ages, and circumstances in which 174 victim were killed.
The people of the Gaza Strip returned eagerly to their ordinary lives right after the attack ended. But still, their happiness was incomplete with much loss among their souls; with many dreams killed before they even blossomed. They couldn’t fully be happy with so much painful scenes from the 8-day attack; reflected in their memories and with the sense of insecurity that Israel left them with. They knew Israel would violate the agreement any moment—which is what actually happened. Four people lost their lives after the truce and many violations were reported against Israel.
However, they didn’t allow their pains and fears to stop them from celebrating, to depress their spirits. Out of their sufferings, they have found a gateway to more hope. They believe that a day shall arrive when she shall overcome all these obstacles and they keep faith in their just cause. Their pains turned into more willingness to sacrifice and determination to keep fighting for their justice and the justice of every Palestinian killed. They turned their suffering into a level of positive energy anyone can imagine. They filled out Gaza’s streets and chanted with a united voice for freedom.
Personally, it has taken me quite a while to recover. I can still feel my body unconsciously shaking and I would frequently wake up from nightmares with a scream of horror. I found it difficult to concentrate on my studies nor fully enjoy being in the presence of my friends or family’s company–I would be physically with them but mentally somewhere else.
Soon after the attack ended, I had to go through another sad event–having to say goodbye to another best friend that has been a main source of comfort and security in these times of difficulties. Very early in the morning, at 7:00 am on November 26, I left my house to greet him one last time before he traveled. It was a very sad feeling that I was going to part with another close friend without knowing when I would see him again, especially after I already experienced this with my two sisters who traveled about a month earlier.
However, on this day that was depicted to me as another black day in my life, nature opened its arms to wrap me with warmth as I saw a rainbow. I was amazed when I saw that beauty in Gaza’s sky. It felt like God wanted to convey to me through this rainbow that things will be alright. This rainbow filled my heart with peace, warmth, tranquility and happiness. Luckily I had my camera then and I had the opportunity to commemorate that exceptional natural scene that I haven’t seen for long time.
#GazaUnderAttack| Photos: A trauma in my neighborhood as IOF attack a car behind my house killing one and injuring another
Today, at around 2:30 pm, I witnessed one of the most horrifying scenes, not on TV, but with my own eyes. I will never forget the massive sound that hit the car behind my house. I still can hear it resonating in head.
I was laying down under my blanket feeling exhausted, desperate to fall asleep after almost 6 six days of continuous bombings on Gaza. I remember exactly how I heard the missile falling, like a whistle. I closed my eyes right, shut my ears hard with both hands and waited to hear the explosion. I’ve been having this moment of horror for uncountable times since Wednesday.
This time was different though. The dearest people to my heart, my family and I, were few meters away from being murdered. The rocket hit right behind my house.
As I heard the rocket hitting, I got up in panic as the house was still shaking and Mum was screaming, wandering around herself, traumatized. Dad rushed outside. I could see the fire flames from my window, the smoke filling the sky. It smelled very bad. The speakers of the mosque behind my house started shouting at people not to be crowded near the target, fearing another attack. We realized that a car was targeted and another car that was driving behind got seriously destroyed.
Within minutes, the fire service and the ambulances arrived. The people in the neighborhood were all outside, looking in silence while staring at this atrocious crime. I saw men crying as the paramedics were collecting the pieces of Hussam Abdeljawad’s body who was the victim of this attack. He was torn to pieces, spread all over the street. The street was stained with his blood. I was too traumatized while watching all this happening that I couldn’t shed even one tear. I was about to burst though.
One man, Fadel Jouda, was injured in this attack as he was driving by accident behind the attacked car. He happened to be the manager doctor of Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza. His situation is still very critical.
Within 15 minutes, fire service put on the fire and the ambulances rushed to hospital with the body of Hussam Abdeljawal and the injured Fadel Jouda, leaving two charred cars behind and a traumatized crowed of people, fearing that any one of them could be in that place.
Check this slideshow below of the photo me and my younger bother Mohammed have taken:
Israel has risen the death toll in Gaza to 104, including at least 25 children, 10 women and 10 elderly people. More than 770 people were injured since Wednesday, mostly children and women.
Check this post of the names and ages of those who fell victims in the past days of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza since Wednesday. Because we’re not just numbers, I’m going to keep updating this post as long as I’m surviving. Israel is killing souls of innocent people in Gaza. Israel escalates its inhumanity and more victims are being murdered. Act now to stop this mass killing in Gaza. Israel gets its immunity from your silence.
Because we are NOT just numbers, I compiled the names and ages of 174 people murdered during the 8-day Israeli attack on Gaza, November (14-21) and the circumstances in which they were killed. Their blood won’t go in vain. The murder of those innocents has just made us more determined and more willing to pay any price for our freedom from this inhumane Israeli occupation. Israel must be held accountable for their crimes against humanity sooner or later. RIP
1- Ahmad Al-Ja’bary, 52 years old.
2-Mohammed Al-Hams, 28 years old.
3- Rinan Arafat, 7 years old.
4- Omar Al-Mashharawi, 11 moonths old.
5-Essam Abu-Alma’za, 20 years old.
6-Mohammed Al-qaseer, 20 years old.
7- Heba Al-Mashharawi, six-month pregnant, 19 years old.
8- Mahmoud Abu Sawawin, 65 years old.
9- Habis Hassan Mismih, 29 years old.
10- Wael Haidar Al-Ghalban, 31 years old.
11- Hehsam Mohammed Al-Ghalban, 31 years old.
12- Rani Hammad, 29 years old.
13- Khaled Abi Nasser, 27 year old.
14- Marwan Abu Al-Qumsan, 52 years old.
15- Walid Al-Abalda, 2 years old.
16- Hanin Tafesh, 10 months old.
17- Oday Jammal Nasser, 16 years old.
18- Fares Al-Basyouni, 11 years old.
19- Mohammed Sa’d Allah, 4 years old.
20- Ayman Abu Warda, 22 years old.
21- Tahrir Suliman, 20 years old.
22- Ismael Qandil, 24 years old.
23- Younis Kamal Tafesh, 55 years old.
24- Mohammed Talal Suliman, 28 years old.
25- Amjad Mohammed Abu-Jalal, 32 years old.
26- Ayman Mohammed Abu Jalal, 44 years old.
27- Ziyad Farhan Abu-Jalal, 23 years old.
28- Hassan Salem Al-Heemla’, 27 years old.
29- Khaled Khalil Al-Shaer, 24 years old.
30- Ayman Rafeeq sleem, 26 years old.
31- Ahmad Ismael Abu Musamih, 32 years old.
At 8:20 am, as a result to an Israeli inhumane attack on Deel Al-Balah, central Gaza, three people were killed. The list of murdered victims goes longer>>>
32- Osama Musa Abdeljawad, 27 years old.
33- Ashraf Hassan Darwish, 22 years old.
34- Ali Abdul HakimAl-Mana’ma, 20 years old
At 8:45 am_ 9:00 am, warplanes attacked several places including Rafah, Khan-Younis, and Tal Al-Sultan, southern Gaza, leaving three killed>>
35`- Mukhlis Edwan, 30 years old.
36- Mohammed Al-Loulhy, 24 years old.
37- Ahmad Al-Atrush, 22 years old.
In a series of attacks on several places on central Gaza at noon, two more people fell victim:
38- Abderrahman Al-Masri, 31 years old.
39- Awad Hamdi Al-Nahhal, 23 years old.
40- Ali Hassan Iseed, 25 years old, killed in an attack on his motorbike in Deer Al-Balah, central Gaza, at 8:10 pm, Novebmer 17.
IOF attack another motorbike in Deer Al-Balah at 8:20 pm, leaving two more killed:
41- Mohammed Sabry Al’weedat, 25 years old.
42- Osama Yousif Al-Qadi, 26 years old.
In an attack on central Gaza, to the west of Al-Masdar area, at 9:10 pm, two more people people killed:
43- Ahmad Ben Saeed, 42 years old.
44- Hani Bre’m, 31 years old.
At 9:40 pm, Israel attacked Qdeih family’s house in west Khan-Younis, Southern Gaza and a woman got killed.
45- Samaher Qdeih, 28 years old.
46- Tamer Al-Hamry, 26 years old, died after being seriously injured in an attack on Deer Al-Balah.
On November 18, the fifth day of the Israeli ongoing aggression on Gaza:
Israeli warplanes shelled the house of Abu-Alfoul family in northern Gaza, killing two children and injuring at 13 at least, mostly children and women.
47- Gumana Salamah Abu Sufyan, 1 year old.
48- Tamer Salamah Abu Sufyan, 3 years old.
An Israeli warplanes fired missiles at a house that belongs to the family of Abu Nuqira in Rafah killing one person:
49- Muhamed Abu Nuqira
An Israeli war plane fired a missile at a house in an agricultural land east of Bureij camp, in the Central Gaza Strip, killing one child and injuring 2 other children:
50- Eyad Abu Khusa, 18 months old.
Two people were killed, one of them a child, when an Israeli missile hit a beachfront refugee camp in Gaza City:
51- Tasneem Zuheir Al-Nahhal, 13 years old.
52- Ahmad Essam Al-Nahhal, 25 years old.
Medics also reported finding the body of woman under the rubble of a house in eastern Gaza City who had been killed in a strike earlier in the morning.
53- Nawal Abdelaal, 52 years old.
At 3:10 pm, November 18, Israel rocked a house belongs to Al-Dalou family in Sheikh-Redwan area, west Gaza, killing at least 10 people, including 4 women and 4 children.
Soon after Al-Dalou massacre, 2 more were killed, a father and his son, in an attack on a car for water supply in northern Gaza.
65- Suheil Hamada, 53 years old.
66-Mo’men Suheil Hamada, 13 years old.
In an airstrike that targeted Nussairat camp after that two people were murdered and 10 at least got injured
67- Atiyya Mubarak, 55 years old.
68- Hussam Abu Shaweish, 35 years old.
69- Samy Al-Ghfeir, 22 years old, killed in an attack on Shijaiyya area, west Gaza.
70- Mohammed Bakr Al-Of, 24 years old, killed in an attack on Al-Yarmouk st. in Gaza city.
At 8:00 pm, November 18, the ministry of health in Gaza has reported that Israel has risen the death toll in Gaza to 69, including 20 children, 8 women, and 9 elderly people. Moreover, Over 660 person got injured since Wednesday, including 224 children, 113 women, and 50 elderly people.
At 10:00 pm, November 18, an Israeli warplane attacked a motorbike near the ministry of finance roundabout, west Gaza, killing a father and his son:
71- Ahmad Abu Amra, 42 years old.
72- Nabil Ahmad Abu Amra, 20 years old.
At 10:10 pm, November 18, an Israeli warplane rocked a house belong to Nasser family near Abu-Sharekh crossroad in northern Gaza, killing a child and his father.
73- Hussein Jalal Nasser, 8 years old.
74- Jalal Nasser, 35 years old.
On November 19, the sixth day of the Israeli ongoing aggression on Gaza:
At 12:10 am, an Israeli warplane attacked Mahmoud Al-Hashash house in Rafah killing one woman.
75- Sabha Al-Hashash, 60 years old.
At 1:00 am, an Israeli warplane rocked a car in Rafah killing two people:
76- Saif Al-Deen Sadeq, 27 years old.
77- Hussam Al-Zeiny, 30 years old.
78- Emad Abu Hamda, 30 years old, killed after being seriously injured in as a drone fired a rocket at Beach camp, west Gaza.
79- Mohammed Jindiyya, mentally disabled, killed in an attack on Helles roundabout in Shijaiyya, west Gaza.
At 4:10 am, Israel committed another atrocious crime shelling a house belong to Azzam family that is full of children. 3 people were killed in this attack and at least 40 injured. Medics said that more than 15 children have arrived Shifaa hospital, three of them are in a very critical condition.
80- Mohammed Iyad Abu Zour, 4 years old.
81- Nisma Abu Zour, 19 years old.
82-Sahar Abu Zour, 20 years old.
83- Ahed Al-Qattaty, 38 years old.
84- Al-Abd Mohammed Al-Attar, 51 years old, killed in an attack on Beit-Lahya, northern Gaza at 6:00 am.
85- Rama Al-Shandi, 1 YEAR OLD, killed as four F16s airstrikes hit former security compound Al-Saraya in Gaza City.
In an Israeli attack on Al-Qarara area to the south of the Gaza Strip, two farmers were killed at 8:50 am. In the same attack, a 4-year-old girl was seriously injured.
86. Ibrahim Suleiman al-Astal, 46 years old.
87. Omar Mahmoud Mohammed al-Astal, 14 years old.
As a warplane rocked a motorbike in Khan-Younis, southern the Gaza Strip, two people were killed:
88. Abdullah Harb Abu Khater, 21 years old.
89. Mahmoud Saeed Abu Khater, 34 years old.
An Apache warplane fired a rocket at a car in Al-Berka street in Deer Al-Balah, killing three people:
90. Rashid Alyan Abu Amra, 45 years old.
91. Amin Zuhdi Bashir, 40 years old.
92. Tamer Rushdi Bashir, 30 years old
93- Hussam Abdeljawad, 32 years old, killed as an F16 rocked his car in Saftawi street, northern Gaza, at 2:25 pm.
94- Ramadan Ahmad Mahmoud, 20 years old, died this morning after being seriously injured in an attack that hit Al-Maghazi camp, two days ago.
95- Mohammed Riyad Shamallakh, 23 years old, killed as IOF targeted a car in Tal Al-Hawa, southern Gaza city.
At around 4 am, two people were killed as an Israeli warplane fired a missile that hit Al-Nusseirat Camp, to the west of Gaza city.
96- A’ed Sabri Radi, 48 years old.
97- Ameen Ramadan Al-Malahi, 24 years old.
In an attack on Al-Shorouq building in Gaza City which contains several media offices, 2 were killed and 3 journalists were seriously injured.
98- Ramez Najib Harb, 29 years old.
99- Salem Boulis Sweilem, 53 years old.
100- Muhammed Ziyad Tbeil, 25 years old, killed in an attack than hit central Gaza.
At 6:55 pm, an Israeli warplane attacked Al-Bureij camp killing two people:
101- Arkan Harbi Abu Kmeil, 24 years old.
102- Ibrahim Mahmoud Al-Hawajri, 34 years old.
At around 8:00 pm, an Israeli warplane shelled Shhada family’s house in Nusairat camp killing two people from the same family– a child and an elderly.
103- Khalil Ibrahim Shhada, 53 years old.
104- Osama Walid Shhada, 17 years old.
At around 9:00 pm, Israel committed another massacre against Hjazi family killing a father and his two sons, and injuring at least 15, most of them are children and women.
106- Suhaib Fo’ad Hjazi, 2 years old.
107- Mohammed Fo’ad Hjazi, 4 years old.
108- Fo’ad khalil Hjazi, 46 years old.
On November 20, the seventh day of the Israeli ongoing aggression on Gaza:
At around midnight, an Apache rocked a house in Rafah that belongs to Nassarsa family, killing two siblings and injuring 10 others.
109- Mohammed Tawfeeq Al-Nassasra, 20 years old.
110- Ahmad Tawfeeq Al-Nassasra, 18 years old.
111- Yahya Akram Ma’roof, 38 years old, a farmer killed at 9:20 am as an Israeli warplane attacked agricultural lands in Al-Atatra area, northern Gaza. Four other farmers were injured in this attack.
In an Israeli attack on an agricultural land in Beit-Layha, northern Gaza, at 10:10 am, two people were killed:
112- Yahya Mohammed Awad, 15 years old.
113- Bilal Jihad Al-Barawi, 20 years old.
114- Mahmoud Rezq Salman Al-Zahhar, 30 years old, killed in an attack on Al-Mughraqa are in the middle of the Gaza strip.
115- Abderrahman Hamad Abu Hamza, 22 years old, killed at 12:10 pm in an Israeli attack on Mokhabarat buildings, west Gaza.
116- Mohammed Abed-Rabbo Yousef Bader, 24 years old, killed at 12:20 pm as IOF targeted Abu Tama’a family in Deer-AlBalah, in middle the Gaza Strip, at 12:20 pm.
117- Ahmad Khaled Doghmosh, died in Egypt after being transferred to a hospital in Egypt for being seriously injured in an airstrike that hit Tal Al-Hawa on November 18.
Within 1 hour and while negotiating the truce between Israel and Hamas, Israel committed another massacre killing at least 14 people.
At 4:20, an Israeli warplane rocked a car in Al-Sabra neighborhood, leaving four people from the same family killed and torn to pieces:
118- Ahmad Jameel Hamdan Doghmosh, 30 years old.
119- Sobhi Nemer Mohammed Doghmosh, 29 years old.
120- Salah Nemer Mohammed Doghmosh, 29 years old.
121- Musab Mahmoud Rushdi Doghmosh, 22 years old.
122- Ameen Mahmoud Asad Al-Dadda, 22 years old, killed in an Israeli attack on Baghdad street in Shijaeyya, west Gaza at 2:30 pm.
In an attack on Kishko street in Zaytoon street, two children were killed while playing football in front of their house:
123- Mohamoud Rezeq Ashoor, 54 years old.
124- Saqer Yousef Bulbul, 57 years old.
125- Ayman Rafiq Abu Rashid, 33 years old, killed in an Israeli attack on Jabalia camp, northern Gaza.In the same attack, a 5-year-old girl was seriously injured.
In another attack on Al-Shawwa family’s house in Shijaeyya, west Gaza, a young woman arrived at Shifa hospital as charred pieces. 20 people were injured in this attack at least, 3 cases are severe.
126- Yosra Basil Murtada Al-Shawwa, 18 years old.
At 5:55 pm, an Israeli warplane attacked a press car working for Al-Aqsa TV station in Nasser street in Gaza city killing two journalists. They were just holding their cameras, reporting on the ongoing attacks…
127- Mahmoud Ali Ahmad Al-Koomi, 19 years old.
128- Hussam Mohammed Abderrahman Salama, 30 years old.
At 6:10 pm, two more were killed in an attack on Beit-Hanoon, northern Gaza.
129- Mahmoud Mohammed Hussein Al-Zahry, 21 years old.
130- Tareq Azmy Mustafa Hjeila, 40 years old.
At 6:50 pm, an Israeli missile hit a car in Deer Al-Balah killing two people:
131- Mohammed Musa Abu Eisha, 24 years old, the manager of Al-Quds educational radio.
132- Hassan Yousef Al-Ostaz, 22 years old.
At 8:30, two brothers were killed in an Israeli attack that targeted a motorbike in Bilbeisy street in Rafah:
133- Ahmad Abed Abu Moor, 24 years old.
134- Khaled Abed Abu Moor, 19 years old.
At 9:00 am, two cousins were killed in an Israeli attack on Deer Al-Balah:
135- Mohammed Ahmad Abu Sitta, 21 years old.
136- Salem ‘Ayish Abu Sitta, 32 years old.
137- Shawqi Abu Sneima, 24 years old, killed as Israeli warplane targeted his motorbike in Rafah.
At 11:45 pm, two children were found as pieces in Al-Shouka area, western Rafah.
138- Ibrahim Ahmad Mahmoud Hamad, 16 years old.
139- Mahmoud Kahlil Al-Arja, 16 years old.
On November 21, the eighth day of the Israeli ongoing aggression on Gaza:
At 9:25 am: an Israeli warplane hit two places in Northern Gaza:
140- Fadi Mousa Al-Qatnani, killed in as attack on Beir Al-Na’ja area, northern Gaza.
141- Mustafa Awad Abu Hamidan, 23 years old, killed in an attack on Al-Shafi’y mosque compound in Jabalia, northern Gaza.
At 11:20 am, an Israeli warplane attacked a group of people in Khan-Younis, killing a child:
142- Ahmad Awad Abu’liyyan, 15 years old.
143- Fares Sbeita, 25 years old, died at noon after being seriously injured in an attack on Shijaeyya, west Gaza.
A young girl and her elderly father were killed at 1:30 pm in an Israeli attack on a group of civilians in Abasan area, west Khan-Younis.
144- Ameera Abu Nasser, 15 years old.
145- Ibrahim Abu Nasser, 80 years old.
146- Mohammed Adnan Al-Ashqar, 22 years old, killed in an attack on Al-Khuzundar gaz station in Al-Twam area, northern area, at 2:00 pm
147- Mahmoud Abu Khusa, 4 years old, killed in an attack on Al-Nafaq street in Gaza City.
At 2:40 pm, an Israeli missile hit a house belongs to Al-Assaly family killing a man and his son and daughter:
148- Talal Al-Assaly, 47 years old.
149- Ayman Talal Al-Assaly, 17 years old.
150- Abir Talal Al-Assaly, 10 years old.
151- Abderrahman Majdi Na’eem, 6 years old, killed in an Israeli attack on Ne’ma building in Gaza City. In the same attack, 3 children from Neim family also got injured.
152- Riham Al-Nabaheen, 13 years old, killed in an Israeli attack on house in Nussairat camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip
153- Mubarak Ibrahim Abu Ghalwa, 24 years old, killed in an attack on the middle of the Gaza Strip
154- Mohammed Mohammed Baker, 27 years old, died after being seriously injured in an attack on Al-Sabra neighborhood on Monday.
155- Ibrahim Mheisin Shhada, 20 years old, killed In an attack on Al-Na’ga street, to the west of Jabalia camp, northern Gaza.
In an attack on a house that belongs to Abu Kmeil family in Al-Mughraqa area in the middle of the Gaza Strip, 5 people were killed:
156- Ramy Abed-Rabbo Abeid, 30 years old.
157- Mohammed Salama Abu Eteiwy, 33 years old.
158- Nidal Hassan Abu Riyad
159- Sa’dy Mohammed Abu Kmeil, 26 years old.
160- Ahmad Abu Kmeil
As negotiations about ceasefire is going, more bombs fall over several places in the Gaza Strip killing a child and injuring at least 7 people.
161- Nader Yousef Abu Mghaseeb, 14 years old.
162- Abderrahman Amer Ayish, 32 years old, killed in an Israeli attack on Sheikh-Redwan bridge in Gaza City at 8:50 pm.
163- Mohammed Abu Edwan, 18 years old, killed in an attack on Raffah.
164- Odeh Arafat Al-Shandi, 17 years old.
A man and his daughter from Al-Dalou family were found buried beneath the rubble on Thursday, November 22, after three days of their death. Israel committed a massacre against Al-Dalou family on Monday. The paramedics managed to pull out ten dead bodies in that attack (Check the list from 54 to 64) The death toll in this single massacre rises to 12 people.
165- Mohammed Al-Dalou, 35 years old.
166- Yara Mohammed Al-Dalou, 15 years old.
On Friday, November 23, 3 people died due to their wounds sustained during the 8-day attack on Gaza:
167- Ahmad Samih Ja’roor, 24 years old.
168- Zaki Saeed Qadadah, 42 years old.
169- Jouda Sulaiman Amran Shamallakh, 30 years old.
170- Ramadan Abu Hasanein, succumbed to serious wounds suffered during the 8-day Israeli aggression on the Strip and died at dawn Saturday, November 24 .
Other people killed during the attacks on Gaza.
171- Kamal Mohammed Morad Miqtat, 23 years old, suffered a heart attack that killed him on November 18 due to the Israeli bombings.
172- Ahmad Sulaiman Abu Nqeira, 61 years old killed in an Israeli attack that targeted his house in Rafah or November 18.
After the truce was endorsed at 9:00 pm on late Wednesday, December 21, Israel has violated the truce continuously.
173- Anwar Abdelhadi Qdeih, 21 years old, killed as the Israeli Occupation Forces started shooting at the farmers in the southern Gaza village of Khuzaa, close to the buffer-Zone. In the same attack, 19 other Palestinian were injured.
174- Mahmoud Jaroun, 21 years old, died late Friday, December 23, of wounds he sustained hours earlier by Israeli gunfire east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
On November 29, the Israeli navy has also detained dozens of Gaza fishermen, although Israel agreed to allow Gaza fishermen to go six nautical miles off the coast instead of three.
Today, I look back in anger to a gloomy day in the Palestinian history. It happened 95 years ago, long before I could have witnessed it, but I still live its impact daily. Without even a shred of legitimacy, on 2 November 1917, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, promised the leaders of the Zionist movement they could establish their national homeland in Palestine, violating my people’s right to self-determination.
Balfour laid the groundwork for the conspiracy launched against the people of Palestine which led to our Nakba, the mass killing, dispossession, and systematic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people at the hands of Zionists gangs.
Great Britain is responsible for this atrocity against my people that the Balfour Declaration triggered, for the expulsion of three quarters of a million Palestinians, who with their descendants now number many millions more. It is also responsible for the Palestinians who survived the violence and mass expulsion, and were forced into ghettos within occupied Palestine under a military regime for decades.
An everlasting hope that has no remedy
Last night, I was reading Revolutionaries Never Die, the biography of George Habash, one of the Palestinian leaders who founded the Arab Nationalists Movement, and in 1967, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In his book, he vividly describes the terror he saw inflicted on the people of his town, Lydda in 1948.
He wrote, “June 11, 1948 was the darkest day I ever witnessed in my life. Zionists arrived and ordered us to evacuate our homes … We were forced out of our homes, leaving everything behind under the threat of their weapons. I saw the neighbors fleeing their houses while being watched and threatened with violence. We didn’t know the reason for our mass expulsion. We thought that they planned to gather us in one of the fields to search our houses without having any witness, and then let us go back home. We never imagined that they were actually uprooting us, and that we would never return. Indeed, everything was organized to lead us outside Lydda as soon as possible.”
Not only George Habash thought that the Nakba was the darkest period in Palestine’s history. All the victims of the ethnic cleansing of more than 500 cities, towns and villages shared the same sentiments. I heard my grandparents repeatedly say them. They were expelled from Beit Jerja to the Gaza Strip, and they grasped the dream of return until their last breaths.
I recall my grandmother’s affectionate words when my siblings and I surrounded her once. “I lost my father amidst the panic of that gloomy day,” she said. “I never saw him again, so I realized that he was buried at home. But at the same day I lost him, I gave birth to your uncle Khader. This incident, with all its harshness, symbolized for me the Palestinian struggle, which will end only when we return.”
My illiterate grandmother couldn’t have been more right. The Palestinian struggle will only end when justice prevails, and no one will ever manage to distort this glorious struggle for justice. According to Mahmoud Darwish, “To be a Palestinian means suffering an everlasting hope that has no remedy.” After more than six decades of the Nakba, refugees have never given up hope to return, and they never will. There are those who thought that the elderly will die and the young will forget. We haven’t forgotten. We are still here, the young and the old, suffering the Israeli occupation’s terror and continuing our struggle for justice.
Whoever surrenders their right to return is no longer a Palestinian. To be a Palestinian is to be a revolutionary, born to struggle for all our grandparents possessed, their keys and their faith in our just cause. To be a Palestinian is to love and constantly feel attached to a homeland you never saw.
To be a Palestinian is to live maturely at a very young age, to grow up breathing politics, and to observe how others trade with your life and your rights. To be a Palestinian is to keep cultivating the national principles in your children and grandchildren, and to warn them never to digress or lead the cause in a different direction. To be a Palestinian is to never stop raising revolutionaries who will get what you couldn’t live long enough to accomplish. This is the cycle of the Palestinian life and struggle.
Abbas’ Balfour Declaration
On the anniversary of Balfour Declaration, Mahmoud Abbas came with another declaration competing with Balfour’s.
I felt sick when I first read an article about it. I could imagine Abbas saying this. At the same time, I wished that it could be fabricated news that he had renounced his — and our — right to return to our homes and villages. Then I saw the interview when he uttered those shameful statements, and I couldn’t believe what I heard. I am sure that the majority of Palestinian people and people of conscience worldwide were as frustrated as me.
“As far as I am here in this office, there will be no armed third intifada,” Abbas promised, stressing “never.”
Abbas, you are foolish if you think you can prevent the dignified Palestinian people from expressing their anger at ongoing attacks and violations of their most basic rights, and the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements? You can’t stop them from practicing their legitimate struggle, through all legitimate means, to attain their justice, freedom, and independence.
Did Abbas forget that the first intifada was a nonviolent struggle, and that Israel is the party that turned to brutal violence, especially against children, to crush it? Did he forget that when the second intifada began, Israel fired a million bullets in the first days and weeks to try to crush it and dozens of unarmed civilians were killed in those first days?
The right to resist is legitimate
Abbas said, “We don’t want to use terror. We don’t want to use force. We don’t want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That’s it.”
With such a statement, Abbas is ignoring all the sacrifices Palestinians made in their legitimate struggle. Thousands of our people who never carried a weapon were cruelly shot dead or injured, tortured or imprisoned by the occupier. Who then are the “terrorists”?
And of course nobody supports “terrorism” or harming innocent people regardless of who they are. But with such a statement, does Abbas really mean to suggest that all those who used arm struggle to fight for the dignity and freedom of the land and people, are “terrorists,” as the Israelis claim? Was Dad a terrorist? Is this the “president” of Palestine talking, or an agent of Israel? Mr. Collaborator, we will never allow you to defile the names of our martyrs, who paid with their lives as the price for freedom.
I have always been proud to be the daughter of a freedom fighter. I believed Naji Al-Ali when he said, “The road to Palestine is neither far or near. It’s the distance of revolution.” Kanafani was one of the most accomplished young Palestinian patriots and intellectuals. At the same time as his pen commemorated the glories of martyrs, awakening people to their national rights, he joined the PFLP’s armed resistance. Kanafani was murdered by Israel’s Mossad.
Couldn’t Abbas grasp how insulting it was to Palestinians for him to use “terror” to describe their struggle? Or did the United States dictate to him to say so? Being ‘nice’ while addressing the ‘democratic regimes’ doesn’t mean giving up your people’s most basic rights guaranteed by UN resolutions.
I feel bad when forced to use UN resolutions and international agreements to justify our right to return and legitimate right to resist occupation and ethnic cleansing and to defend ourselves. Why should Palestinians, as oppressed people, have to use these resolutions to prove the legitimacy of our rights? They were issued only to absorb our anger, as evidence of supposed objectivity, not to be implemented. We, the Palestinian people, don’t want resolutions, we want actions! We want real justice, not just words tossed into the air!
Regardless, UN resolutions guarantee the right to use force in the struggle for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination.” General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978:
Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle.
It is up to Palestinians to decide if they use that right, or pursue their struggle by other means, but how strange that Palestinians must defend their right to defend themselves, while, Israel, the invader, occupier and colonizer is always granted the right to “self-defense” against its victims! What Abbas seems to be saying is that Palestinians neverhave the right to resist or defend themselves as Israel continues to violently steal what is left of their land. That can never be true.
Giving up the right of return
Abbas crossed another red line, the right to return, also guaranteed by a UN resolution (194). “I am from Safed,” he said. “I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there. Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am [a] refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that [the] West Bank and Gaza is Palestine, and the other parts (are) Israel.”
He didn’t only surrender his people’s right to return, he also surrendered his people. He couldn’t have had in mind Palestinians who steadfastly remained in their lands, torn between their Palestinian identity and their cursed Israeli passports, enduring daily harassment and discrimination. He also forgot the millions of Palestinian refugees outside Palestine, many still enduring horrible conditions in their refugee camps in the diaspora.
After hearing Abbas, I allow myself to speak on their behalf to reaffirm that Abbas doesn’t represent us. His declaration ignores the majority of Palestinian people, who still embrace their right to return. It is an individual and collective sacred right, which no one can surrender. Abbas also ignored the historical fact that Israel was established on the ruins of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians villages.
Abbas, I hang the map of historic Palestine around my neck, like it hangs on every wall of many Palestinian houses. Not a day passes without me pointing at my original village, Beit Jerja, while uttering the title of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “I came from there,” with a slight smile. It’s the last thought I enjoy every night as I close my eyes, recalling my grandmother’s vivid description of the green fields of grapevines and olive and citrus trees. We’ll never stop dreaming of a dawn when the Israeli apartheid regime no longer exists, and we return to both see and live there, walking freely through Haifa, Yaffa, Al-Lod, Nablus, Jerusalem, Gaza, Bethlehem, and every inch of historic Palestine.
“We’re counting on you”: In video, Palestinian students in Gaza call on peers around the world to intensify BDS
We, Palestinian students and youth, have created this boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) video call for students around the world, believing in the power of youth to make a change. We specifically want to support and encourage students to attend the UK Student Palestine Conference 2012 on 23 September at the University of Manchester.
We want people around the world to move beyond just feeling solidarity with Palestine and to actually stand up for justice.
Don’t sit behind your TV screen and watch us getting killed, injured and detained in numbers, and feel sorry. Nothing will get better and Israel will, with impunity, escalate its inhumane practices and violations of Palestinians; human rights. When you watch our people dying while waiting for permits to cross the Israeli apartheid check points and react with feeling depressed, the situation will not change. Silence contributes to making our situation worse.
Silence tortures our hunger strikers inside Israeli jails and makes them go through a process of slow death. Silence contributes to the rising number of ill Palestinian prisoners who die at the Israeli apartheid checkpoints. Silence motivates Israel to terrorize us, massacre our people with their “world’s most moral army.” It allows Israel to attack our fishermen and shoot at our farmers while they work for a living in their lands located close to the “buffer-zone” —the ever-expanding area that separates Gaza from Israel. Farmers are banned from working on 35% of our total agricultural land, severely weakening the potential for economic and agricultural development in the Gaza Strip.
Silence is the reason behind the ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip for the sixth year. Silence contributes to the Israeli occupation and supports it to continue, as I say in the video, “While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” Silence encourages Israel to act as a state above law.
Many governments prefers to just watch Israel violating our rights and committing striking crimes against humanity and stay silent, and even continue their ties with Israel, and thereby contribute to their economy. However, you, “civil society, must hold them to account, since governments do not. As we, Palestinians, deserve the same rights as anybody else.”
UK students organize for action
A brave group of UK student Palestine activists decided to move and speak up loudly against Israel’s apartheid regime. They organized the UK Student Palestine Conference 2012 on 23 September at the University of Manchester. It aims to encourage students to put boycott, divestment and sanctions at the heart of their solidarity actions.
Organizers are aiming higher than ever:
Together we will form the steps necessary to guarantee that this year our commitment to justice in Palestine exceeds all previous years; our activism brings achievement and that our campaigns bring results. With the rising Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the threat it poses to the Israeli Apartheid system, it is now time that we as students go beyond just being members of our Palestinian solidarity group and become change-makers – on campus and across the UK.
The conference’s goals include:
To Give students the ideas and tools they need to build effective campaigns, particularly Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions efforts.
To Link Palestine Societies with other national and international organizations, so that they have better access to outreach, speakers and resources.
To Develop effective and safe methods of communication between UK student activists.
These goals mean building creative and engaging campus campaigns which seek freedom, justice and equality for all Palestinians; involving new people on the issues; challenging academic discourses; and with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, creating real political and economic pressures while narrating Palestinian identity.
Those passionate activists who organized this conference are taking big strides towards justice for Palestine and they inspired us to send this video message to support their call for students to come to the conference and get involved.
BDS gives Palestinians hope
We want say to all the activists that we want you to double your efforts because every success that the BDS activists accomplish brings us, the Palestinian people, more hope that justice isn’t far away. Every BDS success makes us feel like we made a stride forward towards freedom, justice, equality and return.
The Palestinian call for BDS was inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid and the responsibility that the international community shouldered to fight injustice and inequality, which helped abolish the apartheid regime. “South Africa is leading the way because they know what racism means. With hard work the same can happen at your university.” That’s why we started our video saying, “We, the students in Palestine, believe in you. But we demand more from you this year. This year we hope for results.”
It’s time to push even further to boycott Israel and isolate it until Palestinians enjoy their full human rights. I believe in the power of BDS to help Palestinians regain their rights and exercise self-determination. Without justice and equal rights for everybody, there can never be a just and sustainable peace in the entire region.
The video includes music by Marcel Khalife, who dedicated his life to singing for justice and freedom for Palestine and immortalized our great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, by singing his lyrics that take one’s breath away.
Please share this video and spread it worldwide. Make our voice heard and act. “Make this year, not only about solidarity but change, too. Palestine needs political action from you. This year, we’re counting on you.”
It is ironic that justice has come for Vittorio Arrigoni and his family as we commemorate the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed against us, against anyone. Thirty years have passed since it happened in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon by a Lebanese Phalangist militia trained, supported, and secured by Israel. The blood spilled in less than three days, the elderly and the babies killed and tossed into rubbish heaps, women raped and brutally killed: the horrors unleashed on a vulnerable village knew no bounds. The memories of this atrocity are too painful to forget and the wounds it left in the Palestinian people’s hearts are just too deep to heal.
Justice was done for Vittorio — Vik, we called him — by Hamas, an organization that almost the whole world branded as a ‘terrorist’ organization and opposed when they were democratically elected in 2006. But justice for the thousands of victims of Sabra and Shatilla, a slaughter in which Israel was entirely complicit, has not yet been achieved.
And neither has justice for Rachel Corrie, killed in 2003 by a soldier of “the world’s most moral army.” He ran over her body with his Caterpillar bulldozer while demolishing a Palestinian home in Rafah that she gave her life trying to save. Less than a month ago, almost a decade after Rachel’s murder, an Israeli court in Haifa ruled that it was merely an “accident” for which the State should not take responsibility.
I decided not to attend the final court hearing for those suspected of killing Vittorio on Monday. I tried it once last April, but it was just too painful to watch the endless procedures mask the horror of the truth people were trying to find. I remember how I sat and shook, bit my nails, bowed my head, and looked at my tears falling on the floor. I remember how intolerably annoying it was to hear the murderers’ voices speaking of morals and respect while they had no shred of morals, respect, or humanity. I remember how I couldn’t bear to remain until the end and escaped the court to express my anger and sorrow at his murder outside.
At the time of the verdict, I sat in a cafe hall named after Vittorio Arrigoni, waiting for Adie Mormech, a British activist who was one of Vik’s best friends, to tell me what the court had ruled. He said that Mahmoud Salfiti, 23, and Tamer Hasasna, 25, were sentenced to life imprisonment, plus 10 years of hard labor, for kidnapping and murder, while Khader Ajram, 26, was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for assisting. The fourth, Amer Abu Ghula, fled Gaza after the killing and was sentenced in absentia to a year of imprisonment for harboring fugitives.
I didn’t know how to describe my feelings about the criminals’ sentences. I don’t suspect them to be unjust. But something tells me that this trial only punished the hands behind this crime, not the minds that plotted it. I also believe that with the killing of the Jordanian Abderrahman Breizit and the Salafi Bilal Al-Omary during their shootout with Hamas forces, many facts were buried as well. This trial didn’t answer all our questions and left us still wondering, who benefited? Who had the most to gain from the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni and Juliano Mer Khamis who was killed in Jenin shortly before?
Even after the convictions of Vik’s murderers, they can never absorb the grief that his family and friends felt and still feel over his loss. Since his killers sentenced us to live the remainder of our lives without him around, Vittorio’s physical absence has been difficult. I still find it hard to imagine that we will have to continue without his laughs filling the room, without his voice singing, “Unadikum, ashod Ala Ayadikum,” “I call to you all. I take your hands and hold them tightly.” I know it’s been more than a year since he had his last Friday dinner with my family, but no Friday has ever passed without his memories flooding into our minds. His spiritual presence is very strong almost every place I go, especially in our house.
I see him in every corner of our home, on the sofas sitting and smoking his pipe while drinking coffee, on the dining table using his unique sense of humor to make us laugh and distract us from eating, even in the street in front where he frequently had football matches with my youngest brother Mohammed and other internationals activists such as Adie and Max Ajl. He also used to chat in the garden with my father about his immense pride in his grandparents who resisted fascism in Italy, a legacy that inspired him to fight the fascist policies of Israel against the Palestinians.
I will never forget you, dear Vik, and I’ll always cherish your memories dearly. We still laugh very hard when we hear any of my family or our friends imitating you, speaking your countable Arabic words that you used to repeat over and over again, “Zaki, Mushkili, Mish Mushkili, Mumkin, shway.”
You will live immortally in every heart of every Palestinian, every farmer, every fisherman, and every child in the Samouni family to whom you gave your strength and sympathy. In the massacre, you were there for them like for so many others, right from the moment Israel forced a hundred of them into one house, before dropping a missile on them all. You were one of those trying to reach them, as the dead and injured lay together under the rubble for four days. 29 of them were killed, yet three years later Israel’s military prosecution absolved the Israeli army of wrong-doing, arguing that the massacre had not been carried out “in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility.”
I hope you’re resting in peace, looking upon us from heaven, and smiling. Be sure that those murderers didn’t kill you, but made you immortal. You have become a symbol of humanity, an icon of Muqawama, the tattoo you chose for your right arm out of your faith in our cause and as a promise to the oppressed Palestinian people to never end the struggle for real justice. We will carry on the fight, and we will achieve the aim you sacrificed your life for: “Freedom, justice, and equality for Palestine.”
“Dignity and freedom are more precious than food.” This is the belief that arms our Palestinian political prisoners and strengthens their determination against Israeli jailers.
The revolution of hunger strikes inside Israeli jails continues. Palestinian icon Khader Adnan’s hunger strike against administrative detention lasted for 66 days and ended with victory. This awakened our heroes’ pride to continue what Khader Adnan started and put an end to indefinite internment without charge or trial.
Waves of individual hunger strikers have joined the battle since then, including Hana Shalabi, Thaer Halahlah, Bilal Diab, and Mahmoud Sarsak. The victories these former administrative detainees won freed them from Israel’s hands and inspired more to carry on the fight.
Currently, four other administrative detainees are on hunger strike: Hassan Safadi, Samer Al-Barq, Ayman Sharawna, and Samer Al-Eisawy. Each has his own story of bitterness and poise.
The other evening, I went with a group of friends and relatives to the beach to escape the power cuts at our houses. I planned to enjoy the sunset and breathe fresh air while chatting about my sister’s wedding in a month. Instead, I found myself saying how ashamed I felt for getting preoccupied with studies during my exams and not blogging about the hunger strikers. That started an endless, emotional conversation about them. It was very late when we realized that we had been so absorbed by the conversation that we missed the sunset.
“Why haven’t Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi reached any victories yet, even after their hunger strikes broke records?” we wondered.
Who should we blame for the critical condition they face? Should we blame Palestinian leaders, for whom the issue seems unimportant? Or those politicians who trade with Palestinians’ lives? Or divided factions who care for their own gains more than the public interest? Or the popular movement inside Palestine that is not doing enough? Or the deteriorating economic situation that chokes people in Palestine and pushes them to burn themselves like Ehab Abu Nada? Or the international community and human rights organizations who stay silent while watching these crimes against humanity in Palestine, either in Israel’s jails, in the Gaza Strip’s open-air prison, or in the occupied West Bank?
I feel confused. I can excuse my oppressed people, for their priorities have reversed. They also face slow death under Israel’s stifling apartheid regime. All they care about is surviving each day. They don’t dare to have future plans because they don’t want to be wishful in a place unsettled politically, economically, and socially.
But what about free people around the world? Our hunger strikers are freedom fighters, struggling for justice, for humanity. Why turn your backs on them?
When I returned home from the beach, I phoned Samer’s family in Jayyous, a small village near Qalqilya. My hands shook when I spoke to his father. I thought he would appreciate a call from Gaza. He did, but in my heart, I felt useless and ashamed that my call came late, as he is expecting to hear the news of his son’s death any moment. I knew, though, that my words would be useless. I tried to pull myself together and not to cry as I told him, “I pray you strength, and that you will hug your son alive and victorious soon, inshAllah,” but I wasn’t strong enough to control my shaking voice.
Every minute, if not second, can make a difference in Samer’s life now. He began a hunger strike two days before the mass strike started on Prisoners’ Day, April 17, to protest his administrative detention. An end to administrative detention was one of the mass hunger strike’s demands. In exchange for its end, an agreement was reached on May 14 between the Israeli Prison Service and the higher committee of the hunger strike, with Egyptian mediation, to meet our detainees’ demands.
Addameer reported, “The agreement included a provision that would limit the use of administrative detention to exceptional circumstances and that those held under administrative detention at the time of the agreement would not have their orders renewed.”
Accordingly, Samer ended his strike. But a week after the 28-day mass hunger strike ended, he discovered that his administrative detention order had been renewed. That pushed him to resume his hunger strike to protest this violation of the agreement. His renewed hunger strike has lasted 110 days.
“Since Samer started his hunger strike, we have been banned from seeing him,” his father told me on the phone. “To pressure him to end his hunger strike, the IPS denied his right to family visitations. We have heard nothing from him since then, only from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).”
I asked his father if I could speak to Samer’s mother. “His mother barely speaks at the moment,” he replied. “She is traumatized and depressed by what her son is enduring. She weeps over Samer all day. She stops only when she falls asleep. She was hospitalized a few times. Pray her strength!”
I stayed silent for seconds, unable to say anything. I couldn’t imagine how painful it is for a mother to witness her son’s slow death. But he resumed angrily, “It drives me mad to see my son detained until now for no reason.”
“Nothing at all was found against him?” I interrupted.
“Not at all, except him being a religious man with a beard who lived in Pakistan, earned his master’s degree in science analysis, and taught science in its universities,” he continued. “He married there to a Pakistani woman, but barely lived a year in peace with her for unknown and mysterious reasons.”
“He was kidnapped from Pakistan by Jordanian intelligence and detained in Jordan for about five years without charges. Then Jordanian intelligence delivered him to Israel in July 2011, to hold him indefinitely, again without charges. Since then, his administrative detention order has been renewed seven times. The last was on August 22, after over three months of his hunger strike. His rapidly deteriorating medical condition didn’t stop the merciless IPS from extending his detention.”
Samer’s time in detention was very tough. He spent three years of isolation in Jordanian jails. When he was arrested by Israel, he endured even more brutality, especially during his hunger strike. Trying to pressure him to end his strike, the IPS transferred him to Ramla Hospital Prison, or the “slaughterhouse,” as many ex-detainees describe it when recalling the medical neglect, humiliation and discrimination they endured there.
Akram Rikhawi, who suffers several medical problems, and who went on a 102-day hunger strike against the medical neglect he and his disabled and ill comrades endured inside Israeli jails, described the Ramla Hospital Prison as “a slaughterhouse, not a hospital, with jailers wearing doctors’ uniforms.”
The IPS pressured Samer and his comrade Hassan Safadi to end their hunger strike using various methods. They were put in a narrow isolation cell, with barely any space for their shared wheelchair, and shackled them to their hospital beds, even though they could barely move. Even worse, they were physically attacked by jailers whenever they protested against their terrible conditions in Ramla. On August 13, Hassan’s head was slammed against the iron door of his cell twice, causing him to fall to the ground, unconscious. Prison guards then dragged him through the hall, past all the other prisoners.
Samer’s father told me, “A delegation from the ICRC and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel visited us recently and said that Samer’s death is imminent, unless a miracle happens to rescue him. He has lost more than 20 kilograms so far.”
To convince Samer to end his hunger strike, Israel agreed to deport him, but not within the Palestinian territories, because he poses ‘a threat’ to Israeli security. Remember that the deportation of Palestinians, within or outside the Palestinian territories, is a war crime under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But while Israel searched to see if any country will receive him, he is welcome nowhere! No country wants him because he is a “global threat.”
Yesterday, Samer’s father protested at the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah to ask it to receive Samer in Egypt.
At the end of the call, I asked his father to tell me what he wished to tell the world. He replied, passionately and quickly, “His hearing is on Sunday, September 9, and no one knows if the court will decide in Samer’s favor or against him. Besides, I don’t even think that Samer can wait for days. He’s motionless on his hospital bed suffering gravely,” he said.
“Every minute matters in his life now. I want them to know that my son isn’t on hunger strike in search of death. He is simply desperate for a real life with freedom, dignity, and justice. I urge them to take action, or if he dies, the responsibility for his death will be on our shoulders.”
(@ShahdAbusalama) August 23, 2012
This is my favorite birthday wish. My friend Maath from Jerusalem started it and then all my tweeps started quoting it. Words can’t describe how pleasant this thought is and how much I enjoy daydreaming about it. But as much as I like daydreaming about it, as much as it hurts me when I get struck when I wake up and I have to face the reality, the fact that it can’t happen in matter of a year, or another 21 years, or even a century! It made my eyes, that are always longing to see Jerusalem and feel Jaffa beach’s refreshing breeze again, cry, because I never know how far this dream is from coming true.
But as I was trying to wipe my tears away, I decided to keep thinking positively of the blessings I have. I didn’t stop crying, but the tears I had were happier and filled with hope. While sitting alone, with one eye on my incomplete drawing and another on my blog, I could manage to preserve my positivity. I realized that even the horrible situation we endure in Palestine, under the apartheid regime of Israel, deprived of freedom, security and dignity, is somehow a blessing. It’s true. Palestine has always been my inspiration and my motive in my path toward striving for justice. Palestine, my people’s daily life, and my unique life under constant terror and insecurity have contributed a lot to making me the person I am now. My Palestinian identity and the Palestinian cause have been the main theme of my drawings and writing. I’m very blessed that I was born on this holy lands, even though I have hardly lived even a single day in peace. I’m thankful I was born on this land, which has been always the home carried in my heart wherever I went. I’m thankful and proud because I was born with a Palestinian spirit, unbreakable, dignified, and challenging.
I will not stop dreaming. I will not lose faith that freedom and justice are near. And if I don’t live long enough to witness the freedom of Palestine, my children will. My passion for a just peace will keep pushing me forward, if not for me, for the generations after me. Hopefully, a day will come when we look back at this painful present as an ugly past. There must be a light at the end of the tunnel. No one knows how long it will take to reach the very end of Palestine’s tunnel, but we will stay steadfast until we reach the light, the bright future of justice, freedom, and equality.
My drawing of my birthday is complete now… I’m going to give it a title of “Next Time in A Free Palestine”.
Good news I receive as I’m turning 21:
(@muiz) August 23, 2012
A special Happy Birthday to a wonderful and talented young Palestinian; our latest (and possibly youngest) author @ShahdAbusalama !—
Jareer Kassis (@JareerKassis) August 24, 2012
I’ll take this opportunity to first thank Twitter for introducing many amazing and encouraging people to me, including Jareer and Muiz. These two tweets above are my other my favorite birthday greetings. I wanted share these tweets with you as an introduction to the coming news.
My sis @ShahdAbusalama 's wordpress gonna be translated to Italian in a book called ' Palestine from my eyes'.. PROUD OF YOU!—
ILoveJerusalem القدس (@TamamAbusalama) August 22, 2012
Recently, I got an offer from an Italian writer and published named Luigi Lorusso to translate my blog into Italian and publish it as a book with the name of my blog ,“Palestine from My Eyes.” When I received this news, I left my laptop open and started jumping and screaming with joy. My smile was so big, it left my cheeks hurting for hours! I am mostly happy because the stories I write from a human dimension about Palestinian political prisoners and their families, and my personal writings on what it means to be a Palestinian, will be heard by a wider audience. I’m very grateful for this appreciation of my work. I can’t wait to hold the hard copy of the book! It’s a success that I’ll be always proud of and thankful for.
Something I feel very humble and thankful for is my family and my close friends, who overwhelm me with their love and care. I thank you for being such an inspiration in my life. I hope you always remember that I would have never achieved what I have without your support and love. You were always there to raise my confidence in myself when it was shaking. You were always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. You were always the first to share my happiness and sadness with me. I’ll be in awe of all of you forever.