Palestinian starving for his freedom may die any moment

A waif-looking man lies on a hospital bed

Hisham Abu Hawash, a 40-year-old father of five, could die at any moment after 140 days on hunger strike. (PHRI / Twitter)

A Palestinian man who has been refusing food from his Israeli jailers for 140 days could die at any moment, doctors are warning.

Hisham Abu Hawash faces sudden death due to potassium deficiency and heart arrhythmia, according to Dr. Lina Qassem, a volunteer with Physicians for Human Rights Israel.

Meanwhile on Monday, Israeli authorities raided the hospital where Abu Hawash is being held and forced reporters and supporters to leave.

The 40-year-old father of five from the village of Dura, near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, is on hunger strike to protest his prolonged detention without charge or trial.

He is losing consciousness, and his family is having trouble getting him to drink water.

Israeli occupation authorities are committing a crime against Abu Hawash by refusing to respond to his call to end his arbitrary detention, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.

Israeli authorities have subjected Abu Hawash to abusive and retaliatory measures, the group added.

They stalled his transfer to a civilian hospital in recent months and kept him in the grossly inadequate Ramle prison clinic, nicknamed “the slaughterhouse” by detained Palestinians.


Prison authorities only moved him to the Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv when his detention was “suspended” on 26 December.

But Abu Hawash refused to end his strike because such “suspensions” change nothing.

Israel’s high court has approved such suspensions at least since 2015. They merely transfer custody from Israel’s prison authorities to the hospital’s security apparatus.

“The use of administrative detention and hospitals as detention facilities must be stopped,” Physicians for Human Rights Israel said.

Even in hospital, Abu Hawash remains a prisoner – he cannot leave the hospital and return home. He cannot even go to a different hospital without Israeli permission.

The only difference is that family members can visit their detained relatives.

Israeli judges use such suspensions to divert attention from Israel’s direct responsibility for the lives of hunger strikers, while also maintaining the appearance that it has not acceded to the demands of the strikers.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem previously described this strategy as “an interpretive solution invented by the high court in order to avoid reaching a decision on – and taking responsibility for – administrative detainees on the verge of death.”

Abu Hawash has refused to suspend his hunger strike until his administrative detention order is fully revoked.

Israel detained Abu Hawash in October 2020 and placed him in administrative detention – indefinitely renewable imprisonment without charge or trial.

Israel’s domestic spying and torture agency Shin Bet accuses him of being a member of the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad, but has shown no explicit evidence to back up this claim, according to Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

If Abu Hawash were to die in detention, Islamic Jihad said on Saturday that it would treat it as an “assassination by the enemy,” and that it would respond accordingly.


As pressure mounts on the Palestinian Authority to help free Abu Hawash, a delegation from its health ministry visited him in the hospital on 30 December.

But apart from symbolic gestures and photo opportunities, there appears to be little that the Palestinian Authority is doing.

On the contrary, as Abu Hawash’s health was deteriorating last week, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas visited Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz in his home to discuss strengthening ties, including so-called security coordination between Israeli occupation forces and the PA.

The Biden administration, Israel’s chief international arms supplier and funder, praised the meeting.

Gantz reportedly agreed to transfer $32 million to the PA as an advance on tax revenues that Israel collects from Palestinians on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

As part of the Oslo accords signed in the 1990s, Israel is supposed to collect the money and transfer it regularly to the PA.

But Israel routinely withholds millions of dollars to punish and pressure the PA when it is insufficiently pliant to Israel’s demands.

Gantz also agreed to issue hundreds of permits for Palestinian businessmen to travel between the occupied West Bank and Israel, along with VIP passes for Palestinian Authority elites.

The privileges Gantz granted to PA leaders come amid claims in Israeli media that Abbas ordered a major crackdown in Jenin on behalf of Israel.

Army chief Aviv Kochavi revealed in a recent closed door meeting that Israel was about to launch an attack on the northern West Bank city but the Palestinian Authority launched the crackdown instead, confiscating weapons and arresting Palestinians.

In November, there were armed confrontations between PA forces and Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp after Abbas ordered raids there.

Israel had been threatening for months to attack Jenin, which it fears as a potential stronghold of armed resistance to its occupation.

Palestinian political factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad criticized the meeting between Abbas and Gantz. Islamic Jihad said it reinforces the Palestinian Authority’s role as a subcontractor of the occupation.

As 2022 begins, Israel is holding 500 Palestinians in administrative detention – without charge or trial. Of the 4550 Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons, 160 are children.

Ali Abunimah contributed analysis.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.