Maher al-Akhras “prevails over jailer,” ends 103-day hunger strike

Maher al-Akhras suspended his hunger strike on Friday after refusing food for 103 days to protest his detention without charge or trial by Israel.

Al-Akhras took the decision after Israel agreed to release him on 26 November, when his current administrative detention order ends. Such orders can be renewed indefinitely but Israel has agreed not to renew his.

He will spend the remainder of his detention hospitalized, as he recovers from a fast that brought him to the brink of death.

“The prisoner’s will prevailed over the jailer’s oppression,” the Palestinian Prisoners Club stated in an announcement of his decision.

The 49-year-old father of six hails from the occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Dahr, near Jenin, where he owns a dairy farm.

“I don’t want to die. I love life. I do not choose death,” he told Tel Aviv daily Haaretz this week.

“But I am standing steadfast until all of us, as human beings, will be free.”

Al-Akhras rejected Israeli claims that he presents a danger.

“I’m not a danger for anyone. Not Israeli citizens and not any other citizen in the world. I want us to live in peace, Jews and Arabs,” he said. “I long for that. I don’t want us to raise weapons and fight one another.”

Threatened

Al-Akhras previously spent a total of five years in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli military arrested him again on 27 July.

He told Haaretz that shortly after his arrest, he was handed a phone and spoke to a commander from Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet.

The officer threatened to “wreck my life” and that “even if I were released, I would regret it,” al-Akhras recalled.

Al-Akhras began refusing food immediately after the phone call.

The Shin Bet did not interrogate him, al-Akhras said.

An Israeli military judge then ruled that a secret file against al-Akhras did not warrant an extension of his detention and attempted to release him, he said.

But the Shin Bet asked for more time to interrogate him.

Al-Akhras said he wasn’t interrogated then either, but he was questioned briefly by a police officer.

“He said the suspicion is that I am connected to some organization with other people,” al-Akhras recalled.

The judge again intended to order his release but delayed it as the Shin Bet said it was considering placing al-Akhras in administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial.

He then received a four-month administrative detention order.

“Freedom or death”

Throughout his hunger strike, al-Akhras maintained that his only conditions were “freedom or death.”

He stood by his assertion that it was entirely within Israel’s hands to release him, but they chose to continue detaining him without charging him.

“The state’s intention is to execute me and to liquidate me,” he told Haaretz. “The decision is not in my hands, it is up to the Israeli legal system.”

Al-Akhras, who is currently hospitalized at the Kaplan Medical Center in the Israeli city of Rehovot, told Haaretz that the director of one of the hospital wards tried to force-feed him by pumping nutrition through his veins on day 42 of his strike.

“They tried to tie me to the bed. But I was strong and didn’t let them do it,” he said, adding that he wasn’t able to get out of bed again after the incident.

A spokesperson for the hospital said doctors did not provide treatment against al-Akhras’ will or physically restrain him.

Even if Israel brought charges against al-Akhras, its military kangaroo courts have a near-100 percent conviction rate for Palestinians.

Israel’s high court rejected multiple petitions by al-Akhras’ lawyer Ahlam Haddad to release him, despite the court’s admission that he posed no possible threat due to his medical condition.

Instead, the court said it had “suspended” his administrative detention order.

The supposed freeze does not allow for the prisoner’s release but merely places obstacles to appealing his detention.

Palestinians are hailing al-Akhras’ steadfastness and courage and crediting him with rallying national and global support for Palestinian political prisoners.

Israel is currently holding 4,400 Palestinians in its prisons, including 350 in administrative detention.

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Hunger strikes and passive resistance worked for Gandhi as he counted on the compassion of humanity in the face of no resistance to violence. Unfortunately passive resistance in all its forms does not seem to have any effect when it comes to Israelis who are indoctrinated thoroughly with the belief in their exceptional superiority to the rest of humanity by which they seem to be able to justify the worst atrocities to Palestinians imaginable. While the world closes its eyes to the horrors under which Palestinians prevail, Israel continues its systematic genocide of Palestinians and the wholesale theft and destruction of Palestine.

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We don't have to be Palestinians or Jews to rid the face of the earth of this unspeakable cruelty. "Israel" is able to be the criminal it is ONLY because the UN Security Council permits it to be. And it permits it to be, presumably, because its permanent, veto-empowered members benefit from this situation. So we can ALL help bring it to an end, with whatever pressure we can bring to bear on the governments of the UK, USA, France, Russia and China.

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We benefit from Israel’s existence?.. Tell that to the crew of the USS Liberty.

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Our government unconditionally supports Israel - a nation which murders unarmed civilians in cold blood; destroys Palestinian lands and their infrastructure: deliberately targets the legs of children to render them permanently disabled; the eyes to blind; imprisons and tortures more children than any other country; blocks Palestinians’ access to desperately needed medical care and engages in systematic genocide of Palestinians - while claiming any criticism of these heinous acts are anti-semitic. That Trudeau has opposed the ICC investigation of Israel’s war crimes is a disgrace to our country.
Israel and the Israel lobby claim that any criticism of Israel amounts to antisemitism. This means that criticism of murder and deliberate maiming of unarmed protesters, the destruction and takeover Palestinian lands, the deliberate blinding, torture and imprisonment of men, women and children is considered antisemitic. The logical conclusion of this argument is that murder and torture are Jewish values which is obviously absurd.

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