Shalabi inside an ambulance after she crossed into Gaza
By Khalid Amayreh
Frail but defiant, Hana Al-Shalabi has been deported to Gaza after sustaining a hunger strike against administrative detention for nearly 50 days, writesKhalid Amayreh in Ramallah
In a blatant effort to silence Palestinian political prisoners, particularly those who go on hunger strike to protest their open-ended detention without trial or charge, Israel has deported a young Palestinian woman from her hometown in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
Hana Al-Shalabi, who had been on hunger strike for nearly 50 days, was in visibly frail health when driven handcuffed and foot-fettered from the West Bank to the Beit Hanoun Crossing at the northern tip of the Gaza Strip.
Once in Gaza, she was rushed to hospital for medical treatment and rehabilitation. She was visited by Gaza’s political leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who called on the international community — especially Egypt — to put an end to Israeli arrogance and reckless behaviour towards Palestinian prisoners.
Haniyeh described the deportation as a sword drawn against Palestinian prisoners contemplating hunger strike to highlight their legitimate grievances.
As she was trying to overcome her extended ordeal, Al-Shalabi underlined that she was innocent of any wrongdoing. Al-Shalabi’s mother lashed out the “unjust Israeli justice system”.
“We told the Israeli authorities to try her in court, their court, if they have any evidence against her, but they wouldn’t listen to us. They simply have no legal ground to hold her. It is only a matter of arrogance and injustice. They are persecuting us because we are weak and helpless. They are oppressive, they are infidels.”
Al-Shalabi, who spoke faintly due to her frail health, was ambivalent about her unfolding ordeal. “I don’t feel defeated. Gaza is part of the homeland, and I am still among my people. But deportation has never been my desire. It was imposed on me, I had to accept it under duress,” said Al-Shalabi from her bed at Shefa Hospital in Gaza City.
“I am proud for having forced the enemy to let me go free; but the deportation is an expression of coercion, compulsion and oppression.”
According to the “agreement”, Al-Shalabi will be able to return to Jenin, her hometown, after three years. However, there are no guarantees that Israel won’t renege on the agreement.
Israel has been worried that a sustained and highly publicised Palestinian campaign against administrative detention might generate momentum that would lead to international pressure on Israel to revoke the illegal practice.
Israeli officials and spokespersons readily admit that the draconian measure “is not the ultimate exemplification of justice, legality and transparency”. However, they argue that it is quite effective in “subjugating, pacifying and deterring the Palestinian community”.
Earlier this month, former military advocate General Major General (Res) Avichai Mendelblit was quoted as saying that “administrative detention is not about the past, but about the future.” “This is not about judging a person for past activities, but avoiding some of the gravest acts from occurring.”
However, Eissa Karaki, the Palestinian Authority minister responsible for the estimated 5000 Palestinian political and resistance prisoners languishing in Israeli jails and detention camps, rejects the Israeli logic.
“This is an unacceptable logic that violates the boundaries of legitimacy and morality. Israel claims to be the only true democracy in this part of the world, but its behaviour and practices are void of any democratic value.
“And if Israeli leaders think that the end justifies the means, we remind them that this was exactly the logic that the Nazis used against European Jewry during WWII.
“Besides, since when was subjugating and pacifying the Palestinians, which is euphemism for persecuting and tormenting them, a legitimate goal? And how could any honest person justify punishing people for a crime they never committed in the first place? Do you think Israel would send a Jew into detention for 12 years for a crime that was never committed?”
Abdel-Nasser Farwaneh, who spent more than 10 years in Israeli jails, disputes Israeli claims about the pre-emptive nature of administrative detention: “These people are lying through their teeth. They try to give an impression that only problematic people are subject to administrative detention. But they are lying because thousands of doctors, university professors, teachers and other professionals have been targeted. Obviously, these people are political activists who peacefully protest oppression.”
Farwaneh said that the administrative detention policy, especially the recurrent imprisonment of community and political leaders without charge or trial, is intended to force as many Palestinians as possible to emigrate to flee oppression and persecution. He added that Palestinian leaders ought to seek adequate ways to thwart this “dangerous” Israeli policy.
Last month, a number of human rights organisations urged Israel to rethink its policy of administrative detention. This week, students, Arab as well as Jewish, at Tel Aviv University demonstrated on campus against administrative detention. The students denounced as illegal the practice that allows Israel to indefinitely hold political prisoners.
One professor who took part in the demonstration, Adi Ofir, said that administrative detention is but one of the routine crimes committed by the Israeli occupation, and that the occupation must end first before such crimes end.
Meanwhile, imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for resisting the Israeli occupation, was sent to solitary confinement this week for sending a letter from his prison cell. Barghouti is considered one of the most popular leaders in the West Bank while Israel consistently refuses to release him though called upon to do so many times.
According to the regulations of the Israeli Prison Service, the smuggling of a letter out of prison results in a week’s solitary confinement and the revocation of cafeteria and visitation rights for the duration of the week.
In the smuggled letter, Barghouti urged Palestinians to launch a new popular uprising against the Israeli occupation. He reportedly argued that experience proved that Israel didn’t want peace.
He also pointed out that only through resistance was Israel forced to dismantle settlements in the Gaza Strip. The letter was sent to Fatah supporters on the tenth anniversary of his imprisonment.