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Doctors fear Palestinian hunger striker's life in immediate danger

Physicians are extremely worried by the deteriorating medical condition of Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi, who has not put food in his mouth for more than half a year.

Activists demonstrate solidarity with Samer Issawi, on hunger strike in Israeli prison for more than 200 days, and other Palestinian political prisoners, Damascus Gate, East Jerusalem, March 12, 2013 (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Doctors are concerned by the state of Issawi’s heart, which is weakening and losing rhythm, and are assessing that he might also be suffering from brain damage due to severe lack of minerals, in addition to partial failures of his lungs and kidneys. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club attorney, Jawad Boulus, who visited Issawi in the Kaplan Hospital in Petah Tikva this morning, told +972 that there is a growing risk of sudden death.

Issawi, who was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and then re-arrested based on covert intelligence which the army prosecution continues to withhold from him and his lawyers, has been on hunger strike since July 29th. He has only been taking water with sugar along with intravenous food supplements. Recently, he has stopped accepting the latter in protest of the Israeli Prison Service policy of handcuffing him to his bed for 12 hours a day, which he says causes him much pain and prevents him from sleeping. Following a drastic deterioration in his condition, Issawi returned to talking mineral supplements on Tuesday morning.

Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi taken to his court hearing in the Magistrate Court in Jerusalem, February 19, 2013 (Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

On Monday, the Hebron-based Youth against Settlements group published a “Hunger Speech by Samer Issawi”, addressed to Israelis. In the message, Issawi calls upon Israelis to break free from the “military camps of the mind” and to come visit him and see “a skeleton tied to his hospital bed, and around him three exhausted jailers.”

I’m looking for an intellectual who is through shadowboxing, or talking to his face in mirrors. I want him to stare into my face and observe my coma, to wipe the gunpowder off his pen, and from his mind the sound of bullets, he will then see my features carved deep in his eyes, I’ll see him and he’ll sees me, I’ll see him nervous about the questions of the future, and he’ll see me, a ghost that stays with him and doesn’t leave…

I will die satisfied and having satisfied. I do not accept to be deported out of my homeland. I do not accept your courts and your arbitrary rule… Listen to my voice, the voice of our time and yours! Liberate yourselves of the excess of greedy power! Do not remain prisoners of military camps and the iron doors that have shut your minds! I am not waiting for a jailer to release me, I’m waiting for you to be released from my memory.

Issawi and the three other prisoners on hunger strike have been at the heart of protests and clashes in the West Bank and Jaffa. In the past couple of weeks, two Israeli women have repeatedly tried to visit Issawi at the hospital. Yesterday, after several visitations in which they could only make it to the door and say a few words before IPS guards sent them away, a curtain was placed between the door and the bed to prevent them from seeing Issawi. Following the publication of the “Hunger Speech,” several more Israeli have been trying to gain access to Issawi but have been denied by authorities. A request by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to send an independent doctor to examine his medical condition has been denied by IPS.

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners still on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, especially Samer Issawi (more than 245 days). Nablus, West Bank, March 23, 2013 (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

In the last couple of months, two Palestinian prisoners have died in prison. The first, Arafat Jaradat, was a young man who died during or after his interrogation. The second, Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, died of cancer. In the latter case, PHR claims that the prisoner’s complaints to the prison doctors were not taken seriously, and criticism was also leveled at the IPS for not allowing the man an early release from prison, which would have at least made it possible for him to pass quietly athome. Both deaths sparked demonstrations throughout theWest Bank.

Watch: Social TV report on Samer Issawi, using his stomach as a weapon

Hunger-striker Samer Issawi is another statistic in an unjust legal system

As Palestinian hunger strikes come to a head, world begins to take notice 

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    1. rsgengland

      Israel can not win in this situation.
      Israel should just let things unfold, and be prepared for the consequences.
      If Israel succumbs to political blackmail, and releases hunger strikers, these issues will just keep on repeating themselves.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        A convicted terrorist who starves himself to death is nothing but a perfect example for future generations of terrorists.

        Reply to Comment
        • He is being held for reasons that neither he nor his lawyers have been told about. In this situation, how can he be tried or present a defence? ‘These issues will keep on repeating themselves’ so long as it’s possible to hold prisoners under these terms.

          As for ‘political blackmail’, this is a man without access to political representation. In the absence of those handy things known as civil rights, he has found a way to make himself heard. Whether Samer Issawi lives or dies, he will galvanise resistance, and this suggests that you’re right on at least one count – Israel can’t win. The best victory the state can hope for is a Pyrrhic one, as the Thatcher government found in the face of the Anti-H block movement.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            1 – This man is a convicted terrorist
            2 – He was released on probation 16 years before his time.
            3 – He had violated probation terms and was rearrested.
            4 – He had his trial held and was convicted again “Issawi, 33, was convicted for violating his parole by the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Thursday. The court said that he violated the terms of his early release in October 2011 by taking his car to be fixed at a garage in the West Bank, his lawyer Andre Rosenthal told AFP news agency.”

            1 – The State of Israel have a perfect legal right to hold terrorists behind bars
            2 – Palestinian society yet again proves who is who by supporting (convicted) terrorists

            Reply to Comment
      • Refusing solid food for over 1/2 a year is harding done on a whim; view can do it. Israel is not looking at a stream of similar resolve. The way to face this remarkable pivot of life is to pivot oneself. By refusing all compromise (including, incredibly, disalowing a PHR doctor), the security apparatus has harmed itself on the ground. And that is the point of a fast unto death: see not only what I become, but what you become. He is your mirror.

        Reply to Comment
        • Er, “hardly,” not “harding”; “few,” not “view.” Have no idea how I didn’t see that.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      If he lives and wins his freedom, Israel loses.

      If he dies and becomes an international martyr for the Palestinian cause, Israel loses.

      What will Israel do?

      Reply to Comment
    3. “Listen to my voice, the voice of our time and yours! Liberate yourselves of the excess of greedy power! Do not remain prisoners of military camps and the iron doors that have shut your minds! I am not waiting for a jailer to release me, I’m waiting for you to be released from my memory.”

      Whatever you thought Issawi was, he is something other now. You could be completely right in your initial assessment; yet he is not that now. That is the pivot: something else now–for us all. What he has done is a gift; he has transformed anger, perhaps pure hatred. But you have to find a way to take the gift.

      Reply to Comment