Victory for hunger striker after 141 days

People celebrate with flags in the street

Palestinians celebrate after Hisham Abu Hawash suspended his 141-day hunger strike, outside his house in Dura, a village near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, on 4 January.

Mamoun Wazwaz APA images

Hisham Abu Hawash ended his hunger strike on Tuesday after Israel agreed to release him next month.

For 141 days, the 40-year-old refused food from his Israeli jailers to protest being held under so-called administrative detention – prolonged imprisonment without charge or trial.

After negotiations that involved Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian Authority officials, including PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj, the Israeli military agreed to release Abu Hawash on 26 February and not renew his detention order.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Prisoners Club announced that Abu Hawash’s lawyer Jawad Boulus would deliver news of the agreement to Abu Hawash.

Palestinians celebrated his victory in his hometown, the village of Dura, near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, on Tuesday:

Abu Hawash, a father of five, was detained by Israel in October 2020. His administrative detention order has been renewed multiple times.

His lawyer said he would remain in the hospital until he recovers his health after an arduous strike that brought him to the brink of death.

Family members requested he be moved to a Palestinian hospital in the occupied West Bank, but his medical condition reportedly requires that he remain at the Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv for now.

Abu Hawash’s health has been gravely deteriorating in recent weeks.

European officials remained silent until late in Abu Hawash’s strike, when reports of his imminent death began to emerge and negotiations were already in progress.

Even then, the language European diplomats used to describe his dire condition was tepid and obscured that his Israeli captors were directly responsible for it.

Boycotting the courts

Israel’s use of indefinitely renewable administrative detention is a direct continuation of British colonial practice. It may constitute a war crime, according to human rights organizations.

In 2021, Israel issued almost 1,600 administrative detention orders against Palestinians – most of whom had previously spent years in Israeli prisons – in some cases up to 15 years.

Currently, Israel is holding 500 Palestinians in administrative detention.

As a collective act of resistance, administrative detainees launched a boycott of Israel’s military court system earlier this week and are refusing to participate in what B’Tselem has described as a “Kafkaesque legal reality.”

Under administrative detention orders, Palestinians are held based on “secret evidence” that neither they nor their attorneys have access to.

Many administrative detainees resort to hunger strikes because it is the only way to flip the power dynamic and force Israel into action.

Arrest of lawyer

Meanwhile, Israel is holding a Palestinian attorney and activist who was born before the Israeli state was established in Palestine.

Israeli occupation forces detained Bashir El-Khairy on 29 October from his home in the Ein Munjid neighborhood of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah and taken to the Ofer military base.

El-Khairy’s detention was renewed multiple times before “arbitrary and dated charges” were filed against him in mid-November, according to the prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

This included his alleged association with an organization Israel deems “unlawful.”

But with insufficient evidence to convict El-Khairy even in its own courts, the Israeli army in early December issued an administrative detention order.

Israel claims it has secret evidence that the 79-year-old poses an imminent “security threat.”

His detention was subsequently confirmed to be for six months.

Addameer said Israel has been “persistent” in its efforts jail El-Khairy “without any legal basis or guarantees of fair trial standards.”

The retired lawyer announced on 7 December that he would boycott Israel’s military courts and requested that his attorney not appear there on his behalf.

El-Khairy was born in 1943 in Ramle, a Palestinian town most of whose inhabitants were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in 1948. It is now within Israel.

Formerly jailed by Israel for more than 15 years, El-Khairy lived a life of resistance before he was exiled to Lebanon in 1988. He lived in several Arab cities before returning to Palestine in 1993.

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