Rana Hamadeh | Mar 9, 2012
Today Hana al Shalabi has been on hunger strike for 23 days.
Hana had been held for two years under administrative detention (no evidence, no conviction) but was released in the prisoner exchange last October. Many of the over 1000 prisoners that were released in this deal were shortly after given the reminder that release did not mean freedom.
Life under occupation does not include the word freedom. A Palestinian’s home can be raided at any moment, whether it be as a mother is putting her children to bed, or at 3am, waking the family. There is no warrant necessary. While walking to school or simply to the corner store, a Palestinian can be ordered to submit to search by Israeli soldiers. Military road blocks and checkpoints can be erected on highways and all following cars forced to wait hours as soldiers search or simply waste time. A Palestinian can be arrested at any moment, again no warrant is needed, even for a minor. Once under arrest they are at the mercy of Israeli soldiers most often between 18-20 years old who have grown accustomed, through practice, to not being held accountable for their actions. They can be held under ‘administrative detention’ on ‘secret evidence’ without even knowing what their charge is or when they will be released. This can continue indefinitely.
Hana al-Shalabi knows this, and has probably known it her entire life. Just a few months after being released in the exchange, soldiers raided her home and re-arrested her. Again, the evidence against her is undisclosed. She began hunger striking as soon as she was arrested on February 17th, as did her parents in solidarity, and they continue to today.
On day 19 of her strike, an Israeli military court decided to shorten her administrative detention sentence from 6 months to 4 months. Hana did not accept these conditions and so she continues to hunger strike.
She did not accept this because she sees the bigger picture. Not only could she be re-arrested on more ‘secret evidence’ at anytime after her release, but so could any Palestinian. The even bigger picture is that the Palestinians in the occupied territories are living under military rule that controls all aspects of their lives. Bigger still, is that there are over 5 million exiled Palestinians who do not have the right to return. That there are 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who live as second class citizens, treated as enemies in their own home. That the 1.5 million Gazans are living in an open-air prison, slowly suffocating and still subject to massacres, bombings, white phosphorous, and horrendous violence.
No one cannot expect to carry all these burdens on their back. The Palestinian struggle progresses step-by-step. Hana admirably decided to take one step further than the shortening of her sentence. She is now on day 23, and her will remains strong. For international woman’s day, women and men across the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets honoring the many Palestinian women such as Hana for their steadfastness and strength.
The sacrifice that Hana al-Shalabi is making is monumental. Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes as a means to demand their basic human rights (though they are still fighting an immense battle) to the extent of people dying in demands for mattresses to be thicker or the presence of books in prisons. The international community should be ashamed that they are allowing Palestinian prisoners to have to sacrifice their lives for these basic rights, for lack of other tools to fight Israeli oppression. As long as the international community stands idly by in the face of obvious human rights violations by Israel, the blood of Palestinians is on both parties’ hands.