The Palestinian Prisoners’ Intifada

Jan 17 2013 / 6:21 pm
Samer Issawi (Activestills.org)
Samer Issawi (Activestills.org)

By Ramzy Baroud

If Palestinian leaders only knew how extraneous their endless rounds of “unity” talks have become, they might cease their enthusiastic declarations to world media about yet another scheduled meeting or another. At this point, few Palestinians have hope that their “leadership” has their best interests in mind. Factional interests reign supreme and personal agendas continue to define Palestine’s political landscape.

Fatah and Hamas are the two major Palestinian political factions. Despite Hamas’s election victory in 2006, Fatah is the chief contender. Both parties continue to play the numbers game, flexing their muscles in frivolous rallies where Palestinian flags are overshadowed with green and yellow banners, symbols of Hamas and Fatah respectively.

Historically there has been a leadership deficit in Palestine and it is not because Palestinians are incapable of producing upright men and women capable of guiding the decades-long resistance towards astounding victory against military occupation and apartheid. It is because for a Palestinian leadership to be acknowledged as such by regional and international players, it has to excel in the art of “compromise”. These carefully molded leaders often cater to the interests of their Arab and Western benefactors, at the expense of their own people. Not one single popular faction has resolutely escaped this seeming generalization.

This reality has permeated Palestinian politics for decades. However, in the last two decades the distance between the Palestinian leadership and the people has grown by a once unimaginable distance, where the Palestinian has become a jailor and a peddling politician or a security coordinator working hand in hand with Israel. The perks of the Oslo culture have sprouted over the years creating the Palestinian elite, whose interest and that of the Israeli occupation overlap beyond recognition of where the first starts and the other ends.

While Hamas remained largely immune from the Oslo disease — while Mahmoud Abbas and his men enjoyed its numerous political and economic perks — it too is becoming enthralled by the prospects of regional acceptance and international validation. Its strictly factional agenda and closeness to some corrupt Arab countries raise more than question marks, and there is the prospect of heading in the same direction as Fatah leaders did over two decades ago.

The unity charade continues. After a period of ambiguity, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas reportedly held meetings in Cairo to “expedite” the dead reconciliation. Considering that adjournment of any real progress has in fact been the status quo between the two main factions, the word “expedite” is likely to mean and change very little on the ground. But if one is to judge by rhetoric and rival claims, the chasm continues to grow, despite the supposedly sober facts that Hamas allowed Fatah to celebrate the anniversary of its birth in Gaza, while the latter did the same in the West Bank.

Supporters of both parties brazenly used their parades — which took place under the watchful eyes of Israeli drones — to exhibit their strengths. This was not in relations to the Israeli military occupation, but to their own pitiful factional propaganda. Oddly enough, if the calculations of Palestinian factions are accurate regarding the attendees of their rallies, the population of Gaza may have suddenly morphed to exceed four million, a remarkable jump from the 1.6 million of few weeks ago — the actual number of the Gaza population per United Nations statistics.

This miserable legacy of Palestinian factionalism is taking place against the backdrop of a slowly brewing movement in Israeli jails. Palestinian political prisoners continue to place their faith in their own ability to endure hunger, gaining international solidarity with their cause. Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who as of 10 January completed 168 days of a hunger strike in protest at his unlawful detention by Israel, is hardly a unique phenomenon. He is an expression of the very much present, but snubbed Palestinian collective, whose fate doesn’t fall into the political agenda of any faction.

Issawi is one of seven brothers, six of whom spent time in Israeli prisons for their political beliefs. One of the brothers, Fadi, was killed by Israeli soldiers in 1994, a few days after celebrating his 16th birthday. Even their sister, Sherine, was arrested by Israeli soldiers during a hearing concerning her brother Samer on 18 December. On that day, “Samer was publicly beaten in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court after he tried to greet his family,” reported The Palestine Monitor. “He was dragged from his wheelchair and carried away, repeatedly crying out as he was hit on his chest by the guards around him.”

In fact, the Issawi family and the entire neighborhood of Issawiya in East Jerusalem is now a target for the Israeli army and police. The hope is to break the will of a single man that presently is incapable of standing on his own feet. Maybe it is legendary, but Samer Issawi’s will of steel is not an alien notion for Palestinians. According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Adameer, over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by the Israeli military and police since its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. “Considering the fact that the majority of those detained are male, the number of Palestinians detained forms approximately 40 per cent of the total male Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territories.” Yet, Palestinian resistance is yet to be quelled.

Moreover, “it is estimated that around 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested by Israel since 1967. They include young girls and the elderly; some… were the mothers of male long-term prisoners,” wrote Nabil Sahli in the Middle East Monitor, who also called for the internationalization of the prisoners issue. In a special session on 6 January held to discuss the plight of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, the Arab League echoed similar demands. In a statement, it called for the treatment of detainees as “prisoners of war” and called for active international efforts to secure their release.

However, serious efforts are seriously lacking despite the repeated cries for attention by Palestinian prisoners. On 17 April 2012, at least 1,200 prisoners participated in a hunger strike to alert the world to their plight and maltreatment in Israeli jails. Despite the fact that the collective strike ended 14 May, Palestinian prisoners continue to stage hunger strikes of their own, breaking records of steadfastness unprecedented not just in Palestine, but the world over.

While calls for a change of tactics are warranted, if not urgent, there is another pressing change that must also be realized. There ought to be a change of Palestinian political culture away from repellent factional manipulation and coupled with a simultaneous return to the basic values of the Palestinian struggle. It is the likes of Issawi and not Abbas that must define the new era of Palestinian resistance.

An Intifada has already been joined by thousands of Palestinian prisoners some of whom are shackled to their hospital beds. It offers little perks aside from a chance at dignity and a leap of faith towards freedom. This is the dichotomy with which Palestinians must now wrangle. The path they will finally seek will define this generation and demarcate the nature of the Palestinian struggle for generations to follow.

- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

image_pdfimage_print
Posted by on Jan 17 2013 . Filed under Articles, Editorials . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Comment

Please insert the correct number.


5 + 5 =

The Free Zone | Blog

  • March 31, 2015

    Netanyahu Says US is Part of New 'Axis'!

    he pressure is increasing on Obama over his foreign policy; and it’s time for supporters of peace to line up behind him. Today in his efforts to counter the Iran deal, Netanyahu called the US part of the “Axis,” a naked reference to Nazi Germany and its allies in World War 2. Jerusalem Post: - “After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is carrying out a pincer movement from the south to take over and occupy the entire Middle East. The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen... More →
  • March 31, 2015

    Boehner: Administration Treatment of Bibi 'Reprehensible'

    House Speaker John Boehner, who is traveling to Israel during the congressional recess this week, called the Obama administration’s treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “reprehensible.” - “I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” the Ohio Republican said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” - Netanyahu won reelection this month not long after... More →
  • March 31, 2015

    When an Arab Kid is Arrested in the Heart of Tel Aviv

    A few weeks ago, just days before Israelis headed to the polls, an Arab teenager was arrested on Tel Aviv’s famed Rothschild Boulevard at around 6 p.m. I have no idea who he is, what he did before he was arrested, where he came from or where he is now. Perhaps he stole something, or perhaps he planned to steal or cause harm. He looked no older than 13, maybe 14. A teenager. - In this story, I am the local, a passerby who is walking her dog when she sees a strange... More →
  • March 30, 2015

    Joe Biden's Israel Stunner: American Jews Should Let Israel Protect Them

    In the April issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reports on a remarkable incident last fall at the residence of Vice President Joseph Biden. Speaking before guests—including leaders of Jewish organizations and Jewish officials in the Obama administration—invited to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Biden recalled meeting Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir when he was a young man in the Senate: - “I’ll never forget talking to her in her office with her... More →
  • March 28, 2015

    Abbas Aide Calls for 'Decisive Storm' against Gaza

    Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the religious advisor of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Friday for the Saudi-led alliance, which is attacking Houthi militias in Yemen, to attack the Gaza Strip, the official PA news agency Wafa has reported. - "The Arab nation has to attack any illegal side in the Arab region with an iron hand," he said during his Friday sermon in Ramallah. "It has to start from Palestine." He insisted that the protection of legitimacy... More →
Support Palestine Chronicle
Support Palestine Chronicle
"The Palestine Chronicle is a beacon. History, witness, analysis and ways forward are here, written with authority and humanity. Long may it publish." — John Pilger.
Enter your email address to subscribe to our mailing list.
Email:
Chief Complaint
Return: A Palestinian Memoir
Idea of Israel
Disclaimer RSS Feed Contact us Donation Popup
© Copyright 1999-2015 PalestineChronicle.com. All rights reserved
Powered By MediaSeniors