Thursday 14 February 2013

Free All Palestinian Detainees - Save the Hunger Strikers

Supporters holding posters of Samer Issawi on his 205th day of hunger strike in an Israeli jail

A letter delivered to the United Nations today at the UNDP office in Gaza City:

We request an immediate end to Israel's policies of detention of Palestinians in Israeli jails. Endless United Nations resolutions describe Israel's occupation of Palestine, the longest-running military occupation in modern history, as a violation of international law. The General Assembly has also affirmed and re-affirmed "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" in Palestine.

Yet the same United Nations continues to allow Israel's colonial domination and occupation of Palestinian land, as well as Israel's incarceration of anyone resisting against it. For many Palestinians forced from homes taken by Jewish Israeli families, merely existing as Palestinian Arabs in their native land was deemed a crime by Israeli forces. In reality, the crime would be to not resist such acts of ethnic cleansing, clearly defined in past precedents where the United Nations has intervened.

Most recently the United Nations Human Rights Council called for sanctions, detailing Israel's denial of the Palestinian right to "self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom to access places of worship, education, water, housing, adequate standard of living, property, access to natural resources and effective remedy," as well as its continued "dispossession, evictions, demolitions and displacement" of Palestinians.

Samer Issawi, Jafar Azzidine, Tariq Qa’adan and Yousef Yassin are four Palestinians detained by Israel whose only option to win dignity and justice is to refuse food. Arrested and held without charges, they have hunger struck for as many as 205 days and are reportedly "close to death." 4,700 more political prisoners abducted from the West Bank and Gaza Strip face a harsh and discriminatory Israeli military judicial system, which frequently jails people for years for throwing rocks at tanks of an occupying military force. The laws of an illegal occupier are themselves illegal.

ADDAMEER, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented Palestinian detainees' routine subjection to torture and ill-treatment, isolation, denial of family visits, and medical negligence, among other violations of international norms.

Samer Issawi is on his 205th day of hunger strike. His family in Issawiyeh has been attacked by the Israeli army for his resistance to unjust imprisonment. Doctors have said his condition is now critical. He represents the struggle of all Palestinian prisoners, incarcerated for resisting an illegal occupation, the colonial conquest of the land of an entire people.

Our meetings with families of detainees from the Gaza Strip inform us of ordeals too hard and heart-breaking for words to describe. No children have been allowed to visit their incarcerated relatives for nearly six years, while a blanket five-year ban on visits by spouses and parents only recently ended. Akram Rikhawi, released on 7 February after a 102-day hunger strike, couldn't recognize his ten-year-old son, whom he had not seen in nine years. He was allowed only two visits during his incarceration, and learned of his mother's death on the radio a month after it happened.

We demand the immediate release of Samer Issawi, Jafar Azzidine, Tariq Qa'adan and Yousef Yassin. We demand that the United Nations pressure Israel to release all Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and call for an immediate end to the abominable treatment of Palestinian detainees. Resistance to a brutal military occupation is not a crime, but a duty.

Akram Al-Rikhawy, former political prisoner and hunger striker addressing a press conference in front of the UNDP building in Gaza City

A poetry recital in support of the Palestinian detainees

All photos courtesy of Desde Palestina

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