Israelis mock, abuse family of hunger striker

Graffiti of a patient on a hospital bed refusing a plate of food

Mural honoring Palestinian hunger striker Maher al-Akhras in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza, on 21 October. 

Ashraf Amra APA images

Three months into Maher al-Akhras’ hunger strike, a United Nations human rights expert is demanding his immediate release.

Al-Akhras remains gravely ill. He has been protesting his imprisonment without charge by Israel by refusing all food for more than 90 days.

A video circulated by local media this week showed Israelis harassing al-Akhras’ family inside the Kaplan Medical Center in central Israel and threatening to kill him:

The Israelis can be heard singing a Jewish nationalist song and shouting “We will defeat you.”

Al-Akhras’ wife Taghrid told Safa Palestinian Press Agency that their children and her husband’s mother were in the hall outside his room when they were “attacked” by settlers.

Safa said Israelis also chanted that al-Akhras is a “terrorist” who deserves to be killed. Israeli security personnel reportedly watched and did nothing as al-Akhras’ family were abused in the halls of the hospital.

On Friday, Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur in occupied Palestinian territory, said doctors who examined al-Akhras “indicate that he is on the verge of suffering major organ failure,” adding that “some damage might be permanent.”

Lynk called on Israel to “immediately” release al-Akhras if it has evidence “that would be acceptable in any democratic state.”

Israel accuses al-Akhras of being a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad political and resistance organization, which al-Akhras denies.

Israel considers virtually all Palestinian parties to be “terrorist” organizations, meaning that any politically active person could be targeted for arrest.

The special rapporteur also called on Israel to abolish its practice of administrative detention as it is “an anathema in any democratic society that follows the rule of law.”

Under administrative detention orders, Israel can hold individuals without charge or trial and detainees are not allowed to see any evidence against them.

As of September, Israel was holding 350 Palestinians in administrative detention, including two lawmakers.

Denied release

Al-Akhras, a 49-year-old father of six, is from the occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Dahr, near Jenin.

Israel has jailed him repeatedly and he has spent a total of five years in its prisons.

Israeli forces arrested him again on 27 July and handed him a four-month administrative detention order which can be renewed indefinitely.

Al-Akhras began refusing food immediately.

Israel has brought no charges against him and he has been given no trial, even in Israel’s military courts, where there is a nearly 100 percent conviction rate against Palestinians.

His lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, repeatedly petitioned Israel’s highest court to release al-Akhras.

The high court consistently rejected all petitions, insisting that al-Akhras remain imprisoned until the end of his administrative detention order on 26 November, despite the court’s admission that he poses no threat whatsoever due to his medical condition.

Red Cross “neutral”

In the first statement since al-Akhras launched his hunger strike, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “seriously concerned” over the “critical” health condition of al-Akhras.

It added that it “neither supports nor advocates against a hunger strike,” as a humanitarian organization.

But despite its self-declared “neutral” stance, the Red Cross placed the onus on the prisoner, his representatives and “the competent authorities” to “find a solution that will avoid any loss of life.”

Pompeo defends Israel

Meanwhile, during a press conference last week, a reporter asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to comment on al-Akhras’ strike.

“He’s on his 87th day of a hunger strike. He’s about to die,” Said Arikat of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds asked Pompeo.

Pompeo refused to respond on al-Akhras’ case or administrative detention in general but asserted that “Israel has the right to defend itself and make the appropriate decisions it needs to make for its own security, and we’ll continue to defend that.”

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Pompeo's remark evokes Flapan's observation that Israel conceives of itself in terms of the Holocaust and sees itself as the victim of unconquerable forces intent on its destruction. Collective paranoia. Who is threatening Israel? Undemocratic Arab regimes are lining up to do shabby deals. Where is the army in the Middle East which can match the IDF? It isn't even the IDF, it's the US military. Where is the threat? The Palestinians have no armed forces. Stones against nukes. Is that a threat? There is no threat, there is only the phantom threat in the twisted minds of Zionist ideologues. The threatened people in the Middle East are the Palestinians. They are threatened with genocide or forced removal or incarceration in bantustans. Yet world leaders bleat of "an insecure Israel" (Starmer's pathetic phrase). Israel imprisons people without trial, yet Starmer, who claims to stand for democracy and the rule of law says he will always stand by Israel and the Israeli people and he will put that first. First! Before the British people, before democracy, before justice. Israel's racism, its refusal of equality before the law, its arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial, threaten democracy across the world when so-called democratic leaders refuse to condemn. Al-Akhras may become the Bobby Sands of Palestine. Sands was protesting to brutal colonialism of the British State and the anti-Irish racism which underpinned it. The British bigots celebrated when Sands died. But the Good Friday Agreement mocks them, as will Irish unity in the long run. Israel has the right to defend itself spouts the ignorant and base Pompeo, but its greatest threat are its own delusions and it shows no capacity to defend itself against those. Nahum Goldmann wrote that the only chance for the survival of Israel was "to accept the rights of the Palestinian people." If al-Akhras dies it will be one step further on Israel's path to self-destruction driven by purblind illusions and self-deception.

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There is little semantic or substantive difference between today's Israeli defence forces and yesterday's Schutzstaffel. Different time. Different place. Different victims. Same genocide!

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.