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CurrentMiddle East

The Need for Consistent Campaigning Against Israel’s Practice of Detention

115
CurrentMiddle East

The Need for Consistent Campaigning Against Israel’s Practice of Detention

Palestine has a long history of organised resistance which Israel has targeted; activism needs to be focused on continuity if it is to highlight the perpetual injustices enacted against the Palestinian population. 

115

Palestine has a long history of organised resistance which Israel has targeted; activism needs to be focused on continuity if it is to highlight the perpetual injustices enacted against the Palestinian population. 

The latest Palestinian political prisoner to garner media attention through a hunger strike was Maher al-Akhras, released from Israeli detention after 103 days of protest. This is a personal victory that can be misrepresented in so many ways, and one which requires consideration of what a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike is also protesting against. 

It takes a hunger strike for the UN to issue a statement against Israel’s policy of administrative detention. UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk stressed the fact that the Fourth Geneva Convention only allows the practice of administrative detention in circumstances related to security issues – a loophole which Israel routinely exploits through its security narrative, now accepted as truth and indeed promoted by the international community. 

As the spotlight fades from Al-Akhras’s hunger strike, it is perhaps pertinent to take a look at how Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes have been reduced to temporary struggles exploited by the media, through no fault of the prisoners themselves. Palestine has a long history of organised resistance which Israel has targeted; activism needs to be focused on continuity if it is to highlight the perpetual injustices enacted against the Palestinian population. 

Earlier this year, Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Zahran was released after 113 days on hunger strike protesting administrative detention. Other cases that caught the media spotlight include that of Muhammad Allan in 2015, who was refused medical attention by his doctor while on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

In 2016, Bilal Kayed, accused of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), also protested his administrative detention order through hunger strike, after Israel decided to rearrest him hours before his release from jail upon completing a 14-year prison sentence.

Mohammed al-Qiq’s hunger strike in 2017  was to protest his rearrest by Israel less than a year after his first release from administrative detention. Al-Qiq was arrested “on the basis of suspicions of involvement in incitement to terrorism against Israel and renewed activity with Hamas,” although as is the case with administrative detention, no evidence was given to substantiate the allegations.

Samer Issawi’s 2013 hunger strike against administrative detention was also perhaps the most prominent on account of the duration and the media attention his struggle received. 

Celebrating a Palestinian prisoner’s release is not unwarranted, but the celebration is overshadowing the violation that prompts hunger strikes as a form of protest. If Palestinian prisoners are protesting against administrative detention, activism should focus upon this transgression of international law, which can be highlighted by the hunger strikes Palestinian prisoners initiate. 

Several times, Palestinian prisoners have been rearrested after their release and placed back under administrative detention. The misplaced focus on the rhetoric of “victory” plays into Israel’s narrative, while diminishing the collective effort of Palestinian resistance. The latter is an ongoing process; victory rhetoric renders the struggle temporary and subject to oblivion. 

Additionally, mimicking the international community’s methods when it comes to highlighting the Palestinian struggle is harmful for the Palestinian people. Not all Palestinian political prisoners placed under administrative detention utilise hunger strikes as a form of protest. The absence of prominence in such cases does not highlight the widespread Israeli violation; hence focus on hunger strikes as opposed to administrative detention on the part of activism unwittingly pushes other prisoners’ plight away from international attention, only to be exploited as statistics by the UN. 

Activism needs continuity when campaigning against administrative detention. Tying the detention practice to the hunger strikes shifts attention away from Israel’s colonial violence, which needs to be persistently brought to the helm. The international community is not holding Israel responsible for its violations – it is time that activism forces the international community into accountability for tacitly supporting administrative detention. 

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