Palestinian hunger striker Ayman Sharawneh’s acceptance of Israel’s “conditional release” has prompted various reactions from observers and activists. The deal, approved by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, involves Sharawneh’s immediate forced exile to Gaza for a period of ten years, after which he would be considered eligible for entry to the West Bank “if it is concluded that he has not gone back to terror activity”. A few hours after the conditional release was effected Sharawneh’s brother, Jihad, was arrested by Israeli soldiers.
Social media has been replete with comments ranging from expressions of happiness for Sharawneh’s release, to outright scepticism. Many cannot reconcile the image of Sharawneh as an epitome of resistance together with Samer Issawi, now having agreed to a parody of freedom. Evoking the metaphor of Gaza as an open air prison, certain commentators have argued that Sharawneh has substituted one form of imprisonment for another.
The Israeli media has been portraying the hypocritical and illegal intimation as one of benevolence. While never failing to address the Palestinian hunger strikers as terrorists, the media fails to mention administrative detention as the prime reason for the hunger strikes, preferring to rely upon this expression of non-violent resistance as a “tactic aimed at forcing Israel to release them out of fear for their lives”. There is no mention of the deteriorating conditions of prisoners on hunger strike, much less a discussion of the illegality of administrative detention. If anything, the hunger strike is portrayed as an indulgence of “Palestinian terrorists” seeking to obtain the sympathy of a supposedly humane state.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has condemned the conditional release, describing it as a forced deportation prohibited under international law. The organisation also took into account the forced deportation of Palestinian prisoners in recent history and described the deal as a form of collective punishment.
As much as Israel would appreciate this gesture being interpreted by the international community as a sign of goodwill, it is only governments and international organisations whose interest in diplomacy surpasses human rights and freedom which will cling to Israel’s gesture as a sign of reconciliation between both nations. The leaders allegedly committed to protecting human rights have absolute impunity when it comes to neglecting what the Fourth Geneva Convention states about deportation and forced transfer. Article 49(1) clearly states, “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
The international community is no longer embroiled within the unity of conspiracy. Although Israel, and its allies within influential positions may seek to address Sharawneh’s deportation as a deal, the wider part of the international community social movements and activists insist upon deviating from this blatant insolence. It must be noted that the emphasis of this recent development is aimed at putting Israel in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, while seeking to elicit blame and rash judgment about Sharawneh’s decision to accept this forced deportation. Attention needs to focus on how Israel once again has managed to garner the silence of imperial powers while shifting the dynamics of illegality and its consequences upon the oppressed. It is indeed a rogue state.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.