More than twenty Palestinian administrative detainees have joined Hana Shalabi’s hunger strike. Beginning a fifth week with no food, doctors gravely fear Shalabi’s health.
Today is the 29th day of Hana Shalabi’s hunger strike, and her physical condition is worsening. Shalabi, a 29 year old woman from the West Bank village of Burqin, was formally held for 25 months in administrative detention, was released last October in the Schalit prisoner swap, and re-arrested within four months of her release. Since her second arrest Shalabi is refusing to eat in protest against of her continued detention without charges or trial. The IDF claims it has intelligence indicating Shalabi might endanger regional security.
Shalabi, who only drinks a little water with some salt, is refusing not only to eat but also to be treated by Israel Prison Service (IPS) doctors. Following a Petah Tikva district court ruling, ordering IPS to allow Physicians for Human Rights to examine her, a doctor from the NGO met with her twice in the recent week and is reporting her condition is deteriorating. A joint report by PHR and Addmeer states:
The doctor’s first examination of Ms. Shalabi on March 8th revealed that she is undergoing muscle atrophy and wasting, which occurs after the body has used up the fat reserves at its disposal as an alternative source of energy. This process may also affect the heart muscle. Ms. Shalabi feels weak and suffers from dizziness and periodic losses of consciousness… The doctor’s second examination on March 12th indicated an additional deterioration in Ms. Shalabi’s condition…
Following her visit the doctor emphasized: “One cannot predict the body’s response to long-term fasting. Many scenarios are possible. Among the dangers are acute heart failure, liver failure, muscle breakdown accompanied by multisystem failure, and acute life-endangering infection due to a weakened immune system”.
Yesterday (Wednesday) an IPS committee discussed the option of force-feeding Shalabi, and eventually rejected the use of this extreme measure. Meanwhile Shalabi is still waiting for a ruling on the appeal she filed against her detention order to the military court of appeals. Last week the court suggested that an agreement be reached between the military prosecution and Shalabi’s attorney’s, like in the case of Khader Adnan. However, no such agreement has been struck so far.
Spotlighting administrative detention
Over the past two weeks, 23 more administrative detainees, out of 309 currently in Israeli prisons, have joined the hunger strike, all protesting against Israel’s extensive use of this draconic legal tool of administrative detention.
As the hunger strike grows longer more and more voices of dissent join the choir against administrative detentions. A clip released by Palestinian human’s rights NGO Al-Haq shows the solidarity tent set up in Burqin, and has Shalabi’s mother (whose name is not mentioned) talking about her daughter’s experiences in the past two and a half years. The mother tells of the tension and expectation she and her daughter had whenever an administrative warrant expired, and how they kept being extended. She also speaks of the four months of freedom Hana Shalabi enjoyed, and how long it took her to get re-accustomed to life on the outside, and how she hardly dared to leave the house or the village. As she speaks, the camera surveys the detainee’s room, filled with drawings of hearts and with several dolls.
This short clip is being disseminated as part of a growing international campaign for the release of Shalabi and all administrative prisoners. Earlier this morning Palestinians demonstrated outside Ofer prison demanding the release of the detainees, and were dispersed by the army with tear gas. A Facebook page started in Edinburgh is calling people across the world to join a one-day solidarity hunger strike on Friday, and hundreds have already joined the cause, including Israelis and Palestinians. It seems that very soon Israel will have to decide – just as it did with Khader Adnan – what to do with Shalabi, before she reaches the point of no return in her hunger strike, and perhaps also – to reassess its use of administrative detention.