Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Samer Issawi hunger strike: Israel targets his family

By Jessica Purkiss - January 07, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Hunger Strike] [Israeli law] [Addameer]

As people all over the world participate in today’s global hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, Samer Issawi has become an international figure of determination in his fight against the violations of the occupation.

As he nears the end of his 164th day of hunger strike it is clear to Israel that Samer’s strength will continue to outweigh their brute force.

As part of the 2011 prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, Sameer was released after serving ten years of a thirty year sentence.

Seven months later he was re-arrested in violation of the prisoner swap terms, with the Israeli Military Court suggesting a twenty year sentence to complete the original thirty year sentence.

Samer was re-arrested following an apparent breach of the conditions of his release forbidding him from leaving Jerusalem. He was captured in an area of land that does not belong to the Jerusalem governate according to the Israeli military, but the West Bank.

“We do not know what Jerusalem is for us. Whenever the Israeli regime wants to change its boundaries, it does it by deceit and under the false cover of security,” said Samer’s father to Mondoweiss.

Revenge against the family

The Issawi family are well acquainted with dealing with the Israeli military, with all but one of the seven siblings having spent time inside of an Israeli prison. Their brother Fadi Issawi was killed after being shot by Israeli soldiers in 1994 a week after his 16th birthday.

As Samer’s strike continues and his health deteriorates, the Israeli authorities are desperate to break his resolve. As a result the Issawi family have become increasingly better acquainted with being targeted and getting arrested themselves.

We do not know what Jerusalem is for us. Whenever the Israeli regime wants to change its boundaries, it does it by deceit and under the false cover of security

On 18th December Samer was publically beaten in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court after he tried to greet his family. He was dragged from his wheelchair and carried away, repeatedly crying out as he was hit on his chest by the guards around him. As a result the family were barred from the trial and his sister Shireen Issawi was later during the same day arrested by the Israeli army. She was held for 24 hours before being released to house arrest for ten days. They also confiscated her license to practice her profession as a lawyer for six months.

When asked why the authorities were targeting the Issawi family Shireen replied, “When they realised that they will never break Samer’s hunger strike, when they realised everyday he is stronger, and everyday more people are supporting him, the Israeli authorities started going crazy. In the end Samer will have his victory.”

“Over 160 days is a long time, and he has become a symbol, not just for Palestinian people. All around the world people have an international view about him and his struggle, but Israel doesn’t want anyone to know. When we go to protest to support Samer, it’s not just the family; there are Palestinians and people from all over the world taking part, and he has gathered everyone who has a conscious, as a human being.”

From her front room Shireen explains how even the house she resides in has been targeted. Two days ago the Israeli military came and cut off the water line from the house. The family now rely on neighbours who bring them a bucket of water every day. The Israeli authorities claim they must pay around 50, 000 US dollars for water they apparently have not paid for, despite paying a monthly bill.

They are currently gathering the papers in the hope of disproving this.

This comes after Samer’s brother, Ra’fat Issawi, had his house demolished on 1st January. According to his family there was no court decision on this; the Israeli army simply came and destroyed the home of Ra’fat, his wife and their three children.

“This is revenge against the family as a whole,” said Shireen.

During Samer’s plight two of his brothers have been arrested. In May 2012, Midhat missed the birth of his first child whilst in an Israeli prison after he was arrested when soldiers arrived at his house at 4 am for attending prisoner solidarity protests. During this time they prevented his wife and new-born baby from visiting him. The second brother was released after 24 hours, but banned from attending any demonstrations in support of his brother’s struggle for 90 days.

Approximately 40% of the total male population in the Palestine have been detained by the Israeli military at some point in their lives, according to prisoner rights group Addameer. Often they are held without charges.

“I want the world to see Israel’s policies and witness the Palestinians’ humanity. That is our only hope,” said Samer’s father Tariq Issawi to Mondoweiss.

Local and international support

Samer’s plight has gained international recognition. Today a global hunger strike is taking place to show solidarity with Samer Issawi as he enters his 164th day without food. In places such as the US and the UK, where the governments have continued to support the occupation people are coming together to demonstrate where their support lies.

The organisers of the event wrote on the Facebook page of todays solidarity strike “Together we stand with Samer Issawi. Together we show the world that he is not a forgotten case. That he is only one of many detainees in the Israeli prisons who are slowly dying.”

The Issawi family are also surrounded by the support of their villagers, which has seen their neighbourhood of Issawiya in East Jerusalem targeted. According to Shireen for the last 22 days Israeli soldiers have closed the entrance of the village, restricting movements into and and out of it.

Together we stand with Samer Issawi. Together we show the world that he is not a forgotten case

In the last 20 days, Shireen Issawi claims that 108 people have been arrested from the village. 30 of them are still in prison. Every evening at midnight the villagers come together to count the day’s arrests.

“There are no men and young boys left in the village to protest,” said Shireen. Apparently around 90% of the village have received orders banning them from participating in any support demonstrations, including women and children.

A tent has been constructed in the village to house activities to support Samer. The Israeli military has now demolished it a total of seven times.

Two days ago they arrested the family’s neighbour, and while arresting him, the soldiers shouted, “Let Samer’s family support you now.”

The courage to stand up

Samer is now extremely weak after over 160 days of hunger strike. With the recent abuse he faced in court and an incident in which a Red Cross medic claimed that doctors in the hospital he is currently in had left him unconscious on the floor, his condition is rapidly deteriorating.

Nine days before the incident in court, Israeli NGO 'Physicians for Human Rights Israel’ lost an appeal to allow an independent physician to gain access to the hunger striker.

“We are worried about him, we are worried about his life, but we support him, we are very proud of him, he is doing something no one else can do. He has the courage to stand up,” said Shireen.

“My mother is praying all the time, asking God to protect him and she cries a lot, but she is very proud.”

“It started because of his freedom. Of course now he wants to make a case, an international case, to make sure everyone knows what Israel is doing to Palestinian prisoners,” she continued.

The more that Israel tries to crush support for Samer, the more it grows. The man who has used his sheer determination to outweigh the might of Israel has become a figure of resistance. Whatever the Israeli authorities do, they only risk strengthening his plight nationally and internationally, to their own detriment, because the world stands next to Samer Issawi and his family.

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