Samer Issawi is a Palestinian hunger striker who is on a fast to the death. He is currently being treated at Kaplan Hospital and floats in and out of consciousness. Yesterday, Israeli peace activists smuggled from his hospital room, where he is chained like a dog, a letter from his death bed. It is a deeply moving document that must be read. Thank you to Gideon Levy for translating it from Arabic and publishing it.
Among the profound observations he makes is:
Israelis, I’ll die satisfied. I won’t be driven off my land and homeland … you won’t enter my spirit that refuses to give in … maybe now you’ll understand that a sense of freedom is stronger than a sense of death. Don’t listen to your generals and to the dusty myths. The defeated will not remain defeated and the victor will not remain victorious. History is not measured only in battles, massacres and prisons, but in stretching out a hand in peace, to yourselves and to the other.
These are words lost on Israel, I’m afraid, which seems prepared to let him die and absorb the repercussions that will result from yet another Palestinian prisoner death due to Israeli callousness.
But even more callous and inexcusable is a letter published by a bunch of Israeli literary cowardly lions, the liberal Zionist Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua. They don’t call for Issawi’s release. They don’t note the injustice of Israel releasing him as part of the Shalit exchange only to rearrest him for some unspecified violation of the terms of his release. They don’t address at all any of the issues of the conflict.
Instead, these moral pygmies and hypocrites beg Issawi to give up because there is very real progress (of some unspecified character) that would be spoiled by his death:
…There are “new encouraging signs that the negotiations between the sides will resume,” adding that these measures may secure Issawi’s release alongside other Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
“We urge you to stop your hunger strike and choose life, because we are committed to tirelessly striving toward peace between the two peoples, who will live side by side forever in this country,” the authors concluded.
How heartless of Issawi to go and die when these doyens of Tel Aviv cafe high society have the whole conflict figured out and are on the cusp of settling it. Or at least they trust their visionary leaders to do so on their behalf. How can Issawi or any cynic among us doubt their sincerity!!
How dare they infer that negotiations resuming between the PA and Israel’s settler government will offer hope for the Palestinian prisoner’s release? This is less than hope they offer. It’s a cruel hoax of hope. They say nothing about the overall conflict. They merely mean to say that there is some rumor that Israel may be willing to exile him to a foreign country.
That is supposed to satisfy a man who’s given his life for the Palestinian cause. A man mistreated by an Israel, which released him from years in prison only to take him back for another indeterminate sentence in violation of the Shalit deal.
This man, who is ready to face death, should be happy with the scraps offered to him by the Israeli liberal Zionist elite, who offer him the crumbs of exile. One of the signatories of the letter had the chutzpah to deny that the effort was patronizing! Of course it is the height of noblesse oblige. Why didn’t they merely go to his hotel room with a piece of cake as Marie Antoinette would’ve done?
If Samer Issawi dies, then these moral charlatans will have played their role in making Israel’s tender-hearted elite look fine and reasonable when they are merely part of the Occupation machinery of death.
I suspect these cowards don’t like having to face what Israel has become. If Samer Issawi dies there is no way to back down from having to confront what Israel has become.
Israel is a liar and cheater that never keeps its word, whether it is concerning prisoner release deals or cease fires.
The letter to Issawi is absolutely disgusting — almost incredible. Is there no depth to which these people will not sink? This is a milestone in the history of indecency.
The arrogance is beyond the pale. If he dies, Israel will look bad. That is all that matters to them.
Deïr Yassin says
The State of Israel already offered to liberate Samer Issawi a while back on the condition that he accepted to be deported to Gaza. Here’s part of his answer (via his lawyer, Fawwaz Shloudi):
“Regarding the Israeli occupation’s offer to deport me to Gaza. I affirm that Gaza is undeniably part of my homeland and its people are my people. However I will visit Gaza whenever I want to or feel like it as it is within my homeland, Palestine which I have the right to wander whenever I like, from the north to the south.
I strongly refuse to be deported to Gaza as this practice will just bring back bitter flashbacks from the expulsion process to which our Palestinian people were subjected during 1948 and 1967 (…..)
I would prefer dying on my hospital bed to being deported from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is my soul and my life. If I was uprooted from there, my soul would be uprooted from my body.”
On Shahd Abusalama’s blog/ElectronicIntifada/Exile in Gaza is not the Victory we want for our heroic Prisoners.
Miko Peled reads Samer Issawis message at Bobby Sand’s grave on Friday 12th:
Deïr Yassin says
Great article from the Alternative Information Center:
“Israeli intellectuals offering pizza to Samer Issawi” (referring to Sarah Bibi@Yahou who offered pizza to hunger-striking students)
“No, they did not wake up when Samer Issawi was arrested without any cause, as they didn’t protest at the imprisonments without trial of thousands of other Palestinians, including political activists, journalists and intellectuals (….)
They did not rush to defend Samer Issawi, to demand his freedom, to save his life. They cried out to expel his living ghost which knock on their door, breaking the peace of the occupation and satiety”
Look at the picture his sister is holding: such a beautiful man.
Howard Cort says
I agree that Samer Issawi is courageous and very justified. However, I didn’t notice a great concern that he stay alive.
Why not implore the Amos Oz and the others to forcefully0 petition the government to allow him to return to the West Bank, if he so wishes; and simultaneously encourage Samer to take at least some nourishment, so as to stay alive longer, and – God Willing– then help lead Palestinians to justice, during a long life. Are we positive that the Israeli government would not compromise and let him return to the West Bank?
Raimo Kangasniemi says
I think the main positive point is that the authors have at least helped to bring some visibility for Samer Issawi. Certainly their position is in my opinion wrong, but now that they have made a public stance, that opens a possibility of engaging them in arguments and perhaps helping them to see situation from Samer’s point of view.
The thing is, even if Samer would accept a deal to be deported to Gaza or Europe etc, Israel could very well break the deal. It has happened three times this year, with Samer al-Barq for example. First Israel makes a deal, prisoners stop the hunger strike waiting to be released, their situation vanishes from view and then Israel refuses to release them.
That said, even if Samer would be released to East Jerusalem like he demands, it’s very likely that after a few months Israel would re-arrest him like it has done for other hunger strikers.
In the end, in the political prisoners situation there is only one solution that can be trusted to bring lasting freedom: The end of the occupation overall.
But, in the short term, Samer and other hunger strikers need help to survive and be released. Personally I don’t understand the silence about them in the world media nor the attitude of governments. If they die, there will be protests in the occupied areas and Israel will use force to break them, it’s more than likely that others will die when Israel does so, there will be rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel will bombard Gaza and there will be yet another Gaza conflict and perhaps even a third intifada. A lot of people who will at least pretend to be upset if there will be a new surge of violence as a result of the deaths of political prisoners are at the moment doing nothing to avert the looming scenarioo above.
It should be in the interest of Israel, in the interest of Egypt, of United States and European Union that Samer Issawi and the other hunger strikers survive (same goes for otherwise ill political prisoners), yet all of those seem largely once more under the misguided belief that nothing major will happen if Samer Issawi and the others die. It’s just not the lives of the hunger strikers at risk, as much as they matter themselves as human beings in need of help, but the lives of many other people will be endangered if they die.
Deïr Yassin says
“That said, even if Samer would be released to East Jerusalem like he demands, it’s very likely that after a few months Israel would re-arrest him like it has done for other hunger strikers”
Hmmm…. that already happened. Samer Issawi was released in october 2011 during the Shalit-exchange, and rearrested in July 2012 for ‘entering the West Bank’, and thus violating the conditions of his release. The Israeli propaganda even claims that he was trying to establish a Hamas-cell in the West Bank.
Sounds credible, doesn’t it ? Issawi was sentenced in the first place for being a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a far-left marxist-leninist organization (whose founder is a Christian Palestinian, Nayef Hawatmeh). I don’t understand why they didn’t claim an al-Qaida-cell…..:-)
“But, in the short term, Samer and other hunger strikers need help to survive and be released. Personally I don’t understand the silence about them in the world media nor the attitude of governments”
You should; it’s the general pro-Israel bias of the western media at work, protecting Israel’s public image.
I would like to add some details about Issawi activities he has been sentenced for by Israeli military court.
Issawi was convicted of severe crimes, which including five attempts of intentional death. This included four shootings, between July 2001 and February 2002, in which Isawi and his partners fired on police cars and buses travelling between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. In one attack, a policeman was injured and required surgery. On October 30, 2001, Isawi, together with an accomplice, fired at two students walking from the Hebrew University campus to their car in a nearby parking lot. In another case, Isawi provided guns and explosive devices to a squad, who fired on a bus. Finally, in December 2001, Isawi ordered an attack on security personnel at Hebrew University, providing a squad with a pistol and a pipebomb. Two of the squad members tracked security personnel but opted not to execute the attack.
Raimo Kangasniemi says
First of all, if there is going to a peace agreement then on Israel’s part it will have to be supported and negotiated by people who have taken part in violence in leading roles and have the deaths of many people on their conscience. Not just Palestinian lives, but also Israeli lives through their support in upkeeping the occupation and the ensued violence as a result.
So, complaining about Samer Issawi’s previous activity is rather hollow. If one demands only perfect saints to be involved until one is ready to support non-violent protests, then that moment of support will never arrive. Even Gandhi had his faults. Instead one should support what is at hand now, as through support non-violent protests can succeed and show that they can work as an alternative to armed resistance and open a path out of violence and in the end, from the occupation itself.
But for non-violent protests to succeed, they need strong outside support.
As if Israel has never committed acts of terrorism against Palestinians? Samer Issawi is a member of the resistance to the occupation of his homeland. His tactics, if he intended to, or did, harm Israeli civilians, were wrong. But according to international law, he and the Palestinian people do have the right to armed resistance against the occupation. This includes military and police targets.
Perhaps the best thing Israel can do to protect itself against Palestinian violence is to not provoke it in the first place.
The end of the Troubles and the present state of peace in Northern Ireland was, and remains, possible only with and through the active political participation of people once judged by their opponents as “murderers” and “terrorists”.
Martin McGuinness, now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, was once convicted as a member of a “terrorist” organization, the Provisional IRA; he was found to have possessed large amounts of explosives and ammunition; he was also found to have used a weapon that was involved in the murder of two policemen.
Yet he went from violent to political resistance, and has for years risked his life to advance the peace process — not without significant success. And today Belfast is no longer a war zone.
There are a number of similar examples from both sides.
So let us not pretend that one man’s terrorist is not another man’s freedom fighter — the late Margaret Thatcher infamously considered Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, along with the ANC as a whole; while Ronald Reagan considered the Contras “the moral equivalent of our [American] Founding Fathers.” Go figure.