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The ongoing humiliation of Palestinian prisoners

January 23, 2014 at 4:31 am

While international outrage over the plight of Samer Issawi has abated considerably, after the agreement between Israeli and Palestinian officials which terminated his hunger strike, the deterioration of other Palestinian prisoners’ health has received scant attention in the mainstream media. A recent United Nations report highlights Israel’s human rights violations in this regard, prompting the organisation to voice repetitive and ineffective “concern” over its dehumanising practices.

The mild expression of “concern” escalating to “alarming” in reference to the detention of Palestinian prisoners, fails to hold Israel accountable for neglecting its obligations as the occupying power. Instead, the report focuses on the well known violations which have diverted attention away from the repercussions of such abuses, while attempting to portray obscene routine torture as a novelty.

As administrative detention continues to pose a major issue for Palestinian prisoners, the hunger strikes and medical neglect have been relegated to the sidelines in the media. Human rights activists have continued to shed light upon the precarious health conditions and ongoing hunger strikes, but acknowledgement has failed to reach the epic proportions generated by Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna. Issawi has continued to feature in regular updates, the latest affirming Israel’s refusal to conduct appropriate medical tests; a sign of intentional medical negligence.

It is perhaps time to shift attention to other Palestinian political prisoners whose resistance tactics have caused severe retaliation by the Israelis. Hussam Matar, a life sentence prisoner on hunger strike, has been prohibited from receiving family visits. Fawaz Abdeen has been refused medication since 2003. Shadi Fouad al-Qar’an has been given painkillers for severe abdominal pain, most likely caused by a tumour. Ayham Kamamji, sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006, has been refused health tests despite a disorder which is causing his body to fade away. Nour Jabir, from Hebron, has also been refused medical treatment and given painkillers as an alternative, despite severe pain in his bowels and chest. Adel Shanyour is in need of eye surgery, which the prison administration continues to deny. Journalist Osama Hussein Shahin had an appeal against administrative detention rejected and suffers from various health problems. Mohammed Mahmoud Saeed is denied family visits and medical treatment for neurological problems. The list, compiled from the Free Samer Issawi Campaign, is by no means definitive but serves to give an indication of the precarious lives led by Palestinian prisoners, which the UN deems to be solely a cause of “concern”.

The UN report also warns that “popular discontent could result in another round of violence”. Despite the truth in this statement, the UN continues to appease Israel by shifting the focus onto a possible violent reaction to the abuse (and thus shifting the blame onto its victims) instead of holding Israel accountable for violating international law. Such systematic abuse should be creating a furore within the corridors of the supposed international guardian of human rights, instead of issuing complacent reports portraying nothing other than routine duty and observations. The UN fails in its humanitarian mission each time it aligns itself to an oppressive occupying power, transforming its duty into a grotesque parody of unaccountability.


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