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International Women's Day: Hana Shalabi's hunger strike enters 4th week

Palestinian administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is now on the 22nd day of her hunger strike, protesting her treatment during her arrest and over the course of her detention. Three court rulings from recent days may mark a shift in the system’s attitude towards her, following the Khader Adnan case.

Demonstrator carrying Hana Shalabi's picture in Nabi Saleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Demonstrator carrying Hana Shalabi's picture in Nabi Saleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Lawyers from the Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer report that Shalabi’s physical condition is deteriorating. After more than three weeks of no food and very little water, Shalabi is beginning to experience pain in her chest and waist, suffers from nausea and dizziness, and is having a hard time talking without gasping for air.

Shalabi, who was released as part of the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap, was re-arrested by the army on February 16, and has since been held in administrative detention with military authorities claiming she presents a threat to regional security. Much like Khader Adnan before her, Shalabi too has declared an open hunger strike until her release. Shalabi is also protesting having been strip-searched by a male soldier and abused by other soldiers after her arrest. The IDF has announced that the military police will investigate Shalabi’s claims of maltreatment.

Earlier in the week, the Military Court in Ofer decided to shorten Shalabi’s detention from six to four months, a decision that Shalabi has decided to challenge at the Military Court of Appeals, where her case was heard yesterday (Wednesday). According to her attorneys, the appeals’ judge asked the military prosecution to learn from the Adnan precedent and reach a deal with the defense.

After more than sixty days of hunger strike, Adnan was guaranteed he would be released at the end of his current period of administrative detention, that it would not be extended further. Adnan then ended his hunger strike, and has been undergoing intensive medical treatment to help his body recuperate from the trauma caused by the long strike. As for whether a deal will be struck in Shalabi’s case – the judge promised to give his ruling on the appeal by Monday.

A second appeal made in Shalabi’s name was also heard yesterday at the Petah Tikva District Court, dealing with questions of medical attention for prisoners. Shalabi is refusing to see IPS doctors, and insists on being treated solely by Physicians for Human Rights. According to both PHR and Addameer, “The request was denied on the grounds that granting visiting access to an external doctor is based on the right to a second medical opinion, and since Hana (Shalabi) refuses to be examined by doctors from the IPS, she does not qualify as a case where such a visit is granted.” However, the court rejected this argument, and ordered the IPS allow PHR representatives into Shalabi’s isolation-ward cell within 48 hours.

Solidarity in the West Bank

“The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before her, is in my opinion a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely non-violent towards one’s surroundings,” says PHR spokesperson Yael Maron. “It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.” Addameer activists stressed yesterday that in spite of some promising news from the court, Shalabi’s condition is still deteriorating, and said they call upon the international community to intervene and promote the immediate release of Shalabi and all other 300 administrative detainees.

Nabi Saleh demonstration in solidarity with Haba Shalabi (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Nabi Saleh demonstration in solidarity with Haba Shalabi (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Like in the case of Adnan, Shalabi’s growing hunger strike days is causing a surge in acts of protest in the Palestinian street. Last Friday’s weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh was devoted to Shalabi, and reports are coming in that more and more Palestinian prisoners will also strike in solidarity.

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    1. Bill Pearlman

      So, the premise is that this woman was sitting home knitting and raising flowers. And they just picked her name out of hat. Intersting.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Haggai Matar

      No. The premise is that people are to be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Lawmakers throughout the world offer their legal systems the option of leaving a person in detention before his or her trial, but only to a limited amount of time, and preferably after charges have been brought against that individual.
      What we have here, however, like in any other administrative detention, is a case where the prosecution can find no admissible proof of a crime having been committed by Shalabi, yet she is held in prison for an unlimited amount of time with the claim that she might perform an offence sometime in the future. And that, dear Bill, is wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Anonymous

      It’s INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day, but some people still make it all about the Palestinians. As if the world revolves around them. As usual.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Shlomo Krol

      Was she really strip searched by a male soldier? I always thought that at least the army never harasses Palestinian women sexually. I just never heard about such cases. Is this woman telling the truth at all? If it took place indeed, it’s an obvious war crime, I think there would be no problem to prosecute this soldier.

      Reply to Comment
    5. David

      +972 lost authority as a result of its coverage of the Khader Adnan case.

      It would have been entirely possible to have pointed out that Khader Adnan was a senior member of a genocidal terrorist group, and had urged others to become suicide bombers, BUT to argue that the rule of law was what mattered. It would have been possible to go on to point out that the commitment of a country to rule of law standards can only be judged by such “hard cases”.

      But instead, Khader Adnan was presented as a poet, a loving father, a baker.

      Now, are you going to make the same mistake again. Or are you going to give us full and proper background on this woman?

      I think you must believe that if you don’t tell us about the politics of these hunger strikers, it will help to concentrate attention on the “rule of law” issue. But you should realise: it makes you look as if you don’t care about genocidal racist groups who are trying to kill you and your relatives.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Haggai Matar

      Anonymous – part of being international is looking at what’s going on the national level everywhere. A single report about a Palestinian woman is not meant to cloud the significance of this day on the global level. Quite the opposite.

      David – You speak as if the question of the rule of law and that of Adnan/Shalabi’s actions are not interlinked.
      I think that is your mistake. To the best of my memory – most +972 bloggers reported that Adnan was convicted in the past of membership in Islamic Jihad, and might still be a spokesperson for that party.
      However, both Adnan and Shalabi were and are NOT accused of any crime (including having “urged others to become suicide bombers” as you say), and have most surely not been convicted upon such accusations. To say that they are responsible for such crimes would be to assume guilt without trial – and this is exactly the problem with administrative detention. This is also why you cannot separate the question of a person’s actions and that of due procedure.

      Reply to Comment
    7. David

      “However, both Adnan and Shalabi were and are NOT accused of any crime ”
      Sure, make the point about the rule of law. It is a strong argument.
      But please – it is not correct to conclude that the only question that matters is: has a person committed a crime or not? That question is relevant to the lawfulness of their detention. But it is irrelevant to the broader question:
      i.e. is this man scum?
      For example, in the United Kingdom, we have a neo Nazi party called the British National Party. Periodically, its officers get tried for criminal offences. There was a trial of its leader, a few years back, for incitement to racial hatred. Nick Griffin was acquitted:
      Now, I’m a supporter of freedom of expression. I’m therefore not in favour of prosecuting people for speech crimes. I said so.
      But – importantly – I didn’t feel a need to pretend that Nick Griffin was anything other than a neo Nazi. I didn’t need to paint him as some sort of courageous freedom fighter, oppressed by an unjust system.
      So here’s my question to you. Why do you guys need to paper over the nature of the politics of the people you support? It gives the impression that you think we’re idiots who won’t find out who these people are. Or, alternatively, that you’re sympathetic to their politics.
      After all, if I had written articles declaring Nick Griffin a “Free Speech Martyr” and never mentioning that he’s a rabble rouser who wants to expel black people, Muslims and other minorities from Britain, you could fairly conclude that I was also a Nazi.

      Reply to Comment
    8. David, the poem 972 published wasn’t by Khader Adnan. It was by Yuval Ben-Ami, and it doesn’t portray Adnan as innocent. It is a questioning poem that finds violence everywhere, and the tension between that discovery and the narrator’s demand for justice stayed with me for a while after I’d finished reading it.
      I’ve just clicked through the 972 archive on Adnan. In almost all of the posts, he was described as being affiliated with Islamic Jihad. His political affiliations were not hidden. His family were mentioned too, and so was his profession, but these things are also part of full and proper background – they show how administrative detention impacts on people’s lives.
      I think some people object to the inclusion of this information because it raises the image of a man who supports a fundamentally violent group, yet who loves his children – and what are you supposed to make of a contradiction like that? This is where things start getting too uncomfortable to think about.

      Reply to Comment
    9. David

      “and what are you supposed to make of a contradiction like that? ”
      That he loves his children, but wants to kill yours? That’s not a contradiction.
      Notably, it is very rare for leaders of terrorist groups to send their own children on suicide bombing missions.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jazzy

      Haggai: one state or two?

      Reply to Comment
    11. Haggai Matar

      David – as Vicky said, we HAVE mentioned that these people are said to be in Islamic Jihad. With regard to Adnan – that is also probably true. I personally have never heard of Shalabi before this second arrest of hers, and therefore cannot offer you anything other than the claims made by Israeli security forces. I can tell you, however, that I personally have two dear friends who spent years in administrative detention (one of them six years, the other a year and a half), were said to be a members of IJ (a claim they both denied), and were and still are two of the most peaceful and peace-seeking people I ever met, committed to ending the occupation in joint struggle with Israelis – not in suicide attacks on civilians.

      But that’s just one part of the story. The other is that administrative detention is yet another horrible tool used by Israel to oppress Palestinians, and in many cases – mainly political activists, as opposed to combatants. As such, you cannot compare an occupying force fighting a resistance with a free western country fighting fascists.

      And one last thing: administrative detention is a worthy news story in its own right. Prisoners risking their lives in hunger strikes are an ever bigger story. That’s why I write about them.

      (and Jazzy – I don’t care too much personally, andwould prefer one state in the future, but as most Palestinian parties and my Palestinian friends and partners on both sides of the green line are fighting for two states, and as it seems more likely for Israelis to accept – I support that)

      Reply to Comment
    12. David

      ” I can tell you, however, that I personally have two dear friends who spent years in administrative detention (one of them six years, the other a year and a half), were said to be a members of IJ (a claim they both denied), and were and still are two of the most peaceful and peace-seeking people I ever met, committed to ending the occupation in joint struggle with Israelis – not in suicide attacks on civilians.”
      In that case pick them as your poster boys.
      Favour one state if you want. There are, for example, Serbs who favour one state called “Yugoslavia” incorporating the whole of Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia and so on. I’m sure there are some Bosniaks and Croats who agree with them, and there are some Serbs who believe that Yugoslavia should be recreated peacefully. .
      However, if a Bosniak or Croat joined a campaign with Milosevic supporters, then I think that they could fairly be accused of ignoring self-determination and wanting to see a return to the genocidal Balkan wars of the 1980s and 90s.
      So, in summary – if you’re in favour of one state, then build your alliances and do your campaigning with people who genuinely believe in equality between persons and human rights. If you start campaigning for people whose politics involves genocide and religious discrimination, then you need to make it very clear that you regard them as on par with the Kahanists – but that you’re interested simply in ensuring constitutionalism and the rule of law, and that you’re not supporting their politics.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Haggai Matar

      David – when they were in prison, I did.

      As to one/two states: perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I support a two state solution. Not becuase it’s ideal, not becuase it would be my private first choice, but becuase I think that politically it’s the right thing to do. So it wouldn’t be correct to say that I “favour the one state solution”.

      Reply to Comment
    14. David

      Well, you know, that’s a bit like a Croat saying that they supported Milosevic’s vision of a united Yugoslavia.
      I’m sure if you looked a bit harder, you’d find plenty of Palestinian political movements which are in favour of your ideal outcome.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      David: “+972 lost authority as a result of its coverage of the Khader Adnan case.”

      I am not sure if David may comprehend the case for 972 and Khader Adnan. In his universe, there are good people, who are right, and bad people, who are wrong. The name “human rights” is slightly misleading: those are the rights of the good people.

      To see if human rights were violated in the case of Adnan we have to first check if he was a good person. On the strength of solemn statements of officials speaking on the condition of anonymity and a video that was allegedly 6 (or 5?) years old and suddenly surfaced in the last days of his hunger strike we learned that Adnan was bad, very bad.

      To people who write in 972 and most of the readers, human rights is (a) a good idea (b) they apply to all people. If there is a complaint that human rights of Adnan are violated, it is immaterial to investigate his goodness. Instead, the salient questions are — what did he do and what did authorities do (in their case, it is immaterial if they consist of good people or not).

      By the way, David’s memory is faulty. There was nothing about “Adnan may be still their [Islamic Jihad] spokesman”. The crime of spokesmanship (if it is a crime) by its very nature cannot be committed in secrecy. The alleged public crimes of Adnan were committed roughly 5-6 arrests ago. In David’s moral universe, once you determine that someone is bad, then there is no limit on the number of times you can detain and beat up that individual.

      But those of us who follow “narrowly legalistic thinking” do not agree: a crime should have a single sentence, at that only if proven.

      Bill: “So, the premise is that this woman was sitting home knitting and raising flowers. And they just picked her name out of hat. Intersting.”

      Very convincing. “This woman” was detained by the good people, and since good people would not detain a good person, she is bad. QED But to us, Bill, what you try to prove is immaterial. By the way, your argument is a bit risky. Years ago a Black man was shot by NYC police in very questionable circumstances and Guliani, who was city mayor at that time said “He was not an altar boy.” While in actuality he was. I think it is highly possible that Shalabi did her share of home crafts and chores, and then you, Bill, will be found guilty of making utterly pointless posts.

      Reply to Comment