Hunger striker Muhammad Allan is now on life support

Palestinians in Nablus demonstrate in solidarity with Muhammad Allan, a lawyer from the the occupied West Bank city, on 14 August.

Ahmad Talat APA images

Muhammad Allan is fighting for his life after he lost consciousness following 59 days of hunger strike in protest of his imprisonment without charge or trial, a practice known as administrative detention, since his arrest last November.

Allan was placed on life support devices on Friday morning by doctors in Barzilai medical center in the south of present-day Israel, where he has been shackled to a hospital bed and under guard since Monday.

The human rights group Addameer stated on Friday that “Doctors reported to Allan’s mother and his lawyer that he was suffering from continuous shivering and seizures and was unable to breathe before he lost consciousness.

“Doctors then intervened urgently in light of Allan’s medical condition and proceeded to resuscitate him, placed him on a life supporting respirator and administered minerals and nutrients to his body. Allan remains in an unstable and critical condition.”

When Allan’s mother exited her son’s hospital room on Friday, she told reporters that “my son is dying.”

Force-feeding

Israel’s prison administration denied a request to release Allan on Thursday, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Jawad Boulos, director of the legal unit of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said that doctors are treating Allan according to the Israeli Patient Rights Act, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Allan had been threatened with forced feeding, which the patient rights act prohibits.

The Israeli government passed a law last month which allows force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners with a court order.

Allan was transferred to Barzilai hospital on Monday from nearby Soroka medical center, where doctors refused to force-feed him.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel stated that “medical ethics requires that his doctors act in accordance to their understanding of the patient’s will and their discretion.”

“It is time for the Israeli political leadership to reach a decision to release Allan from administrative detention and enable his doctors to concentrate on fighting for his life,” the group added.

Political football

Haaretz reported on Friday, citing “a Palestinian source involved in the matter,” that Israel refuses to release Allan because the state “fears that such a move could encourage administrative detainees to follow Allan’s lead, especially after seven Palestinian detainees began their own respective hunger strikes over the past two weeks.”

The source told Haaretz that Israel opposed Allan’s release after another administrative detainee, Khader Adnan, won his release last month after a 55-day hunger strike.

In recent years, Palestinian prisoners both individually and in large groups have turned to hunger strike as a means of last resort to secure their most basic rights. The force-feeding law was enacted to repress this tactic.

Former hunger striker Khader Adnan at a protest in support of Muhammad Allan in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 14 August.

Shadi Hatem APA images

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli interior minister who pushed for the bill to be passed, stated that the measure was necessary since “hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel.”

At the beginning of July, Israel was holding 5,442 Palestinians, nearly 400 of them under administrative detention orders issued by military courts. A further 1,000 Palestinians were being held for entering Israel “illegally,” according to statistics compiled by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Protest and repression

Israel’s prison administration put sections of three detention centers on lockdown on Friday and prevented prisoners from holding collective prayer.

The military wing of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian political party and resistance group, stated on Friday that should Allan die, it will not commit to the ceasefire agreement that ended 51 days of Israeli bombardment in Gaza last summer.

Haaretz reported that “Allan is the first Palestinian hunger striking prisoner whose condition has deteriorated to the point where mechanical ventilation has been required.”

No Palestinian prisoner has yet died while on hunger strike, though Israel’s force-feeding of prisoners in the 1980s led to several deaths, according to Addameer.

Allan’s strike has reached the point where his body may shut down at any time. Several prisoners died around the 60-day mark of the 1981 Irish hunger strike.

Haaretz reported that 100 Palestinian lawyers with Israeli citizenship protested the imprisonment of Allan, who is also a lawyer, outside Barzilai hospital on Wednesday and raised Palestinian flags.

Approximately 50 Israeli counter-demonstrators “shouted ‘Muhammad is a pig’ and waved plaques saying ‘death to Arabs.’”

Tags

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.