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Campaign to free Samer Issawi exposes international double standards on human rights

January 23, 2014 at 4:56 am

Samer Issawi’s hunger strike in protest against administrative detention has exposed the myth of human rights organisations and the limits of official concern from the international community. The pervading silence about Issawi’s deteriorating conditions as a result of Israel’s apartheid and discriminative policies against Palestinians has been challenged by activists worldwide, yet the silence emanating from the United Nations, governments and Amnesty International portrays a restricted concept of human rights.

The Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike has become a national cause. Although affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Issawi’s cause has elicited outrage amongst Palestinian factions, including the Islamic Jihad, who have warned of consequences should Issawi die in detention. Other prisoners on hunger strike include Islamic Jihad members Jaafar Izziddin and Tarek Qedan, as well as Ayman Sharawneh from Hamas. Instead of rectifying the abuses, the Israeli military is on alert for any form of uprising. Once again, Israel has proved its commitment to human rights violations whilst clinging to the flawed definition of itself as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

The Free Samer Issawi Campaign on Facebook and Twitter (@samerissawi1) has relentlessly struggled to alert the world to Issawi’s plight and to that of other Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike exposing the hypocritical facade of mainstream media and human rights organisations. Major news outlets have consistently adhered to silence tactics whilst Al Jazeera ran a story yesterday on its website – only hours after rumours of Issawi’s death on social media. Sensationalism seems to be a prime factor in reporting a human rights violation due to administrative detention; a concern which should have been addressed prior to the commencement of the hunger strikes.

Whilst global media reaction has been predictable, the hunger strike has served to highlight links between human rights violations and human rights organisations. Amnesty International, touted as a human rights defender, only issued a report about Issawi on February 12, belatedly urging its followers to write to Israeli authorities ‘to ensure that Samer Issawi receives appropriate medical care, or is immediately released to receive the urgent and specialised care and treatment he needs …’ The document highlights the precarious situation brought about by Issawi’s hunger strike but fails to address the human rights violation of administrative detention.

Former executive director of Amnesty International USA, Suzanne Nossel, who resigned in January 2013, is perceived as having manipulated the organisation’s independence into a vehicle for US and NATO propaganda. The defence of Israel is defined as a ‘core principle’ since, according to Nossel, ‘Israel faces a degree of isolation’. It is abhorrent to envisage a human rights organisation defending an illegal state which embarks upon colonialism and apartheid to further the Zionist agenda. Likewise, the United Nations’ ‘concern’ about Issawi and other Palestinians on hunger strike is tantamount to a unified conspiracy, since the UN has repeatedly failed to hold Israel responsible for its actions, relinquishing the application of human rights law in favour of a continuation of atrocities.

It is worth noting that activism has managed to portray Israel’s apartheid practices far more competently than any official authority. The peril of human rights and international organisations becoming corrupted and serving the interests of Israel and the US have been exposed against a common perception and personification of Palestinian self-determination embodied by Issawi and other Palestinian detainees. Perhaps the international community has surpassed itself in persisting on the protection of Israel’s interests. Indeed, Issawi and the symbolism extracted for Palestine has become a source of unification for the consolidation of internationalism.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.