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Israel releases former Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi

Thousands gather in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya to welcome the now-iconic hunger striker home.

Text by Michael Omer-Man
Photos by Oren Ziv and Tali Mayer / Activestills.org

Former Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi arrives home in his East Jerusalem village of Issawiya, December 23, 2013. Issawi secured his freedom after staging an intermittent hunger strike for nearly nine months. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Former hunger striking Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi was released to his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya Monday night, exactly eight months after he agreed to resume eating as part of a deal with Israeli authorities.

Issawi staged an intermittent hunger strike for nearly nine months until April 23, 2013.

Over 2,000 people awaited his release on the main road leading into Issawiya. Revelers carried him on their shoulders to the Issawi family home, where a tent was erected in the morning. Earlier in the day the family hosted guests who came to celebrate.

Israeli security forces visited the Issawi family twice in the past few days, warning them not to hold any celebrations.

Issawi was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October, 2011, having served 10 years of a 30-year sentence. He began his hunger strike nine months later, shortly after the IDF re-arrested him.

Issawi began his hunger strike to protest the legal mechanism that put him in prison without access to due process. He was re-sentenced by a military tribunal using secret evidence that neither he nor his lawyers were allowed to see, and therefore was unable to mount any defense in court.

Ultimately, he was convicted by a Jerusalem court for violating the terms of his release and a deal was reached that he would be released eight months later.

Last week, Israel released Mahmud Issa Abed al-Hamid Masalma after holding him in administrative detention for over 30 months.

On Sunday, two Palestinian brothers agreed to end a 38-day hunger strike in protest of their administrative detention, Ma’an reported. The pair reportedly reached a deal with Israeli authorities in which they will reportedly be brought to trial.

As of October, Israel was holding 140 Palestinians without charge in administrative detention, according to B’Tselem.

Former hunger-striking prisoner Samer Issawi arrives home in Issawiya, East Jerusalem, December 23, 2013. Some 2,000 people came out to welcome Issawi upon his release from Israeli prison. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Former hunger-striking prisoner Samer Issawi arrives home in Issawiya, East Jerusalem, December 23, 2013. Some 2,000 people came out to welcome Issawi upon his release from Israeli prison. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Former hunger-striking prisoner Samer Issawi arrives home in Issawiya, East Jerusalem, December 23, 2013. Some 2,000 people came out to welcome Issawi upon his release from Israeli prison. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Members of Samer Issawi’s family hear news that he has been released from prison and is on his way home, where some 2,000 people were gathered to receive him., Issawiya, East Jerusalem, December 23, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Members of Samer Issawi’s family rejoice after hearing news that he has been released from prison and is on his way home, where some 2,000 people were gathered to receive him., Issawiya, East Jerusalem, December 23, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians in Nablus celebrate the anticipated release of Samer Issawi, December 23, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Related:
Samer Issawi is another statistic in an unjust legal system
As Palestinian hunger strikes come to a head, world begins to take notice

Correction:
This article has been amended to reflect over 2,000 people welcomed Issawi, not 200. We regret the typo. 

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  • COMMENTS

    1. BOOZ

      Would anyone care to remind me for which charges Issawi has originally been convicted ?
      Here they are :
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samer_Tariq_Issawi

      Well,showing populace celebrating such a character does not bode well for the establishment of a single, democratic state.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        I mean, we can probably charge half of Israel for similar actions (making/selling weapons, indiscriminately shooting at civilians, and being part of an organization dedicated to violence).

        Reply to Comment
      • Walid

        Booz, the Israelis have all but sainted Baruch Goldstein, the Ibrahimi mosque murderer … so what’s your point?

        Reply to Comment
      • Walid

        Booz, the Israelis have all but sainted Baruch Goldstein, the Ibrahimi mosque murderer … so what’s your point? and Booz, the charges allege, they were never proven except through “secret” unpublished evidence …

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Walid, I don’t know where you get your information from.

          Baruch Goldstein may be considered a positive figure in some marginal circles, but he is most definitely seen as a murderer by the vast majority of Israelis. It’s also important to note that murderers are NOT seen as positive figures in Israel, doesn’t make much difference who they kill.

          Regarding the charges – they were proven to the court. The evidence may not have been published, but the court did see it fit to put him in jail.

          Haifawi – I know that what you say is crap. The thing is, I think you do as well.

          Regardless – this is such a joyful day. Such a beautiful soul was released from the clutches of Zionism. Now he can return to his former peaceful activities with his masked friends. The world has surely become better today.

          Reply to Comment
          • JG

            “…murderers are NOT seen as positive figures in Israel”

            So when exactly did Israel stop loving his IDF?

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            “Much Anti-Zionist. Very truth. Such Liberal. Wow.” – Doge.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            It’s also important to note that murderers are NOT seen as positive figures in Israel

            I can’t read enough Hebrew to tally every comment, but a lot of people here seem to be glad about the kid getting shot. (Some people are incensed and others are just wondering what exactly happened.)

            יש אלוהים כן

            מוות למחבלים

            מחבל אחד פחות

            כל הכבוד לצה”ל

            נער?! למה לא לכתוב מחבל?

            וטוב שזה נגמר כך אחרת הוא היה הורג
            לנו חייל

            נער גם יכול להיות מחבל

            שבוע טוב לעם ישראל

            מלחמה
            עמירם , ארץ ישראל ‏(07.12.13)
            אנחנו במלחמה על הבית , אין הבדל יפו או ראמאלה יהודים תתעוררו

            Then again, here’s a nice comment:
            צר לנו. כל חלל מעציב ומייאש אותנו עוד ועוד. מחשבותינו הולכות לקראת משפחתו של הנער הזה.

            http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4462390,00.html

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            I started writing about the comments in Ynet, but never mind.

            The bottom line is this – this soldier will not be praised for shooting the kid. He did his job or he made a mistake while doing it. It will not be something he will be proud of for the rest of his life, he will not be treated a hero in public events and so on because of this.

            This is what I meant. The killing done by soldiers is seen as a necessary evil, as us or them, as kill before being killed. Not as something inherently good.

            Reply to Comment
    2. He is embedded in a world I think we too easily say we understand, positively or negatively. It is up to him to use the release he won, and one option has to be to do nothing at all; for nor do most of us understand the resolve of such a hunger strike.

      Reply to Comment
    3. BOOZ

      Walid, Haifawi :

      According to you, feeling uneasy about Issawi’s release is condoning Goldstein’s crimes ? (You I take BD’s deed for what they are : crimes)

      What a pitiful way of thinking.

      You see, with such remarks,90% of the Israeli & Jewish peace camp is being lost to you ( with the exception of the little bunch of post-Zionists).

      Reply to Comment

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