At 2:30am on Wednesday, 24 January, the Israeli military attacked a home in the West Bank village of Saffa. Along with stealing computers, mobile phones and personal documents, Israeli soldiers beat, handcuffed and blindfolded our friend and comrade Hassan Karajah.
The youth coordinator of Stop the Wall and a well-liked, well-respected activist and human rights defender, Hassan was taken into the night, without being told why, without the medications he relies on because of a previous injury, and without charge.
My first meeting with Hassan, in May of last year, took place under a cloud of justified suspicion about who I was and why I was standing in the Ramallah office of Stop the Wall. Several hours before the start of my first day as a volunteer, the Israeli army raided the office and stole several computers and other property. Thankfully, on that occasion, no one was taken away to face interrogation and an uncertain fate in Zionist dungeons.
Baptism of fire
Nevertheless, I remember that first encounter with Hassan, and the way in which he looked me over with thinly veiled suspicion, and, turning to others in the office, inquired about my identity. Although I was vouched for, the coincidence of an Israeli raid and my first appearance at the office all happening within a few hours of each other was bad timing, and I was left with no time for a gradual introduction to the work of the campaign. Instead, I had a baptism of fire and set about trying to ensure that the world heard of this flagrant attack on human rights activists in the heart of the Area A — part of the West Bank where Palestinians had supposedly been granted “autonomy” under the Oslo accords.
The following days, weeks and months were marked by the names of heroic hunger strikers in Israeli jails — Hana al-Shalabi, Khader Adnan, Thaer Halahleh, Bilal Diab — but also punctuated with the sound of Hassan’s constant singing in the office, and the sight of his spontaneous dabke (Palestinian traditional dance).
In an interview I did with him shortly after the raid on our offices, published by The Electronic Intifada, Hassan predicted further repression against Stop the Wall and Palestinian activists in general.
“If we are able to keep the current momentum of popular mobilization and international attention created for our struggle and are able to successfully build on it, then they will be even more scared of us; and in Stop the Wall we predict more repression to follow the last office raid,” he said.
Indeed one act of Israeli repression follows the last, as night follows day. However, as each act of repression irrevocably alters the lives of Palestinians, so too do Palestinians resist their displacement and strain to challenge the colonial prison warders and soldiers.
The recent protest camps of Bab al-Shams and Bab al-Karama, which sought to reassert Palestinian ownership of the land, are examples of the inventiveness of Palestinian resistance in the face of a relentless onslaught of ethnic cleansing.
The Israeli government’s commitment to the E-1 plan, which will extend the construction of illegal settlements to completely cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank is but one example of the Zionist plan to ensure complete domination and theft of all of Palestine.
It is in the context of the E-1 plan, the intensification of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley and other parts of Area C — a zone covering 60 percent of the West Bank, under full Israeli military control — and the continuous Palestinian resistance to these crimes, that we can view Hassan’s arrest and other acts of repression and violence this month, during which the Israeli military murdered six unarmed Palestinians.
Hassan has many friends, in Palestine and outside, and countless comrades who have never met him and may never have heard his name until now. We owe it to him, and to every Palestinian in Israeli jails and ghettoes, to isolate Israel however we can, particularly through boycott, divestment and sanctions.
G4S is one obvious target: the British-Danish security firm is guilty of providing key infrastructure for the Israeli occupation. It provides subcontracted services at checkpoints and during the transportation of prisoners, as well as prison facilities.
I think it was while I was taking a photograph of Hassan for the interview I mentioned earlier, or at some point shortly afterwards, that he joked about how he needed a good photograph for the poster that we would make when he was eventually arrested by Israel. We laughed at the time, me uncomfortably. It was one of those moments that now seems so poetic and prescient. It is depressingly predictable that words that so easily could have been forgotten have come to pass.
But though there are now posters with his face on them, this is no eulogy for a martyr. Hassan is alive, and though isolation, interrogation and beatings in the cells of the Moscobiyyeh detention center in Jerusalem (also known as the Russian Compound) and al-Jalameh will test him, they will not break him.
Hassan has been imprisoned just like Samer Issawi, who has been refusing food in protest against his administrative detention for more than 190 days. As my friend Mohammad al-Azraq writes, Palestinian prisoners are “torches of freedom in the darkness of apartheid” (“Communiqué Palestine #12,” 23 January 2013).
Every day they demonstrate sumoud — that Palestinian quality usually translated as steadfastness — in the deepest recesses of the Zionist jails.
When confronted with the bravery of those who struggle against the suffocating weight of injustice, the Irish struggle against British colonialism and occupation offers a rich repertoire of battle cries and words of defiance. To borrow from the words of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands, writing in the H-Block cells of Long Kesh prison near Belfast, Israel has nothing in its whole colonial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Palestinian who does not want to be broken.
An earlier version of this article stated that the article by Mohammed al-Azraq was published by the International Socialist Group. The article has been corrected to state that it was published by Communiqué Palestine.
Eoin O’Ceallaigh is an independent writer and activist in the We Are All Hana Shalabi network in Scotland, and a volunteer with Stop the Wall. He writes in a personal capacity.