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Commentary :: Human Rights
Palestinian Footballer Wins Release
20 Jun 2012
Palestinian Footballer Wins Release

by Stephen Lendman

On June 18, Maan News headlined "Al-Sarsak ends hunger strike in release deal," saying:

On March 19, Sarsak began hunger striking for justice. Israel lawlessly imprisoned him under its Unlawful Combatants Law (UCL).

Without evidence, it's imposed based on "a reasonable basis" to believe Palestinians belong to a hostile group belligerently confronting Israel. Israel calls wanting to live free belligerent and confrontational.

UCL is similar to America's "unlawful enemy combatant" designation. Under America's 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA), they're called "unprivileged enemy belligerents."

Sarsak threatens no one. He committed no crimes. He's a national hero. He plays for the Palestinian National Football Team.

It's unclear why he was targeted. He never faced criminal charges. He faces none now. His permits are in order. He's never been involved in politics. He belongs to no political party.

He's an athlete. He's one of Palestine's youngest ever footballers. He joined the team at age 14. He was arrested en route to a match.

His treatment may be Israel's way to discredit Palestine's team without a nation. Release depended on his celebrity, worldwide attention, and willingness to die for justice.

Israel falsely connects him with Islamic Jihad. Their members are freedom fighters, not terrorists.

Lawyer Mohammad Jaberein represents Sarsak. After 92 days without food, he announced the deal. On July 10, he'll be released.

On Monday, in the presence of Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials and Jaberein, he broke his fast by eating a piece of chocolate.

On June 14, he agreed to ingest milk for a few days until Israel's High Court reviewed his case. Palestinian Minister for Prisoners Affairs Issa Qarari confirmed it.

Throughout his fast, he received occasional intravenous drips. Hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers accepted a May 14 deal. He rejected it.

He also refused temporary exile to Norway. Once deported, he'd never be allowed back. Violating agreements is official Israeli policy. May 14 terms were spurned straightaway.

Instead of curtailing administrative detentions once current terms end, they've been renewed. Gazan families still can't visit imprisoned loved ones.

Proper medical care is denied. Isolation, torture and other abuses continue. Israeli gulag conditions rival the world's worst. They're no better now than before May 14.

Palestinian Prisoners Club spokesperson Amjad Najjar said once media attention faded, abusive policies resumed.

"Prisoners have been subjected to humiliating strip searches in the Nafha, Rimon and Naqab prisons," he said.

"There are a number of prisoners who have been taken into solitary confinement, but we are not sure of their names or numbers at the moment."

Easing the practice as promised didn't happen. Virtually nothing agreed to was fulfilled.

According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) prisoner department head Amaney Dayif:

"All Israeli policies against Palestinians are entrenched in the spirit of revenge."

"Collective punishment is the norm, and naturally with the escalation of Israeli harsh measures comes the escalation of the prisoners' means of protests."

Addameer prisoner rights director Sahar Francis added:

"Unfortunately the IPS' policies is not to respect the basic human rights of Palestinian prisoners, and tries to take away the prisoner’s dignity after incarceration."

"The IPS’ approach is to treat the Palestinian prisoners as if they are criminals and terrorists, with the suppression and violations against the prisoners being an extension of the process against Palestinian people in general."

Sarsak's detained lawlessly. He demanded POW status. On June 19, he received civilian hospital treatment. Later in the day he returned to Ramle Prison clinic. He'll remain there until released.

PHR-I said Ramle care is appalling. Prison doctors treat detainees like enemies, not patients. They don't care if they're sick or well, live or die.

They're part of Israel's repressive system. They're complicit in torture and other forms of abuse. Their job is to go along with official policy, not dispense care ethically and responsibly.

Addameer said Sarsak rejected an earlier July 1 release offer in exchange for ending his strike. He wanted the deal in writing. Israel refused.

Written or handshake, Israel violates all agreements. Sarsak has no guarantees. Even if released, he faces possible rearrest and detention. Prisoners exchanged for Gilad Shalit were again imprisoned. Others are terrorized and harassed. None freed feel safe.

No one's secure in a nation practicing state terrorism as official policy. Even Jews aren't safe. Challenging the system risks prison hell like Palestinians face.

A Final Comment

On April 17, hundreds of Palestinian detainees began hunger striking for justice. Their numbers swelled to over 2,000. On May 14, negotiations between prisoner representatives and IPS officials reached fruition.

Most prisoners broke their fast. Israel violated deal terms straightaway. Najjar explained that they threatened to resume striking, saying:

"They’ve already informed their lawyers and the IPS."

"(T)he Egyptian mediator is too busy with the Egyptian elections to take an important role in this."

Francis added:

"There is always dialogue between the prisoners and the IPS regarding the demands of their prisoners, employing legal proceedings."

"After dialogue has been exhausted, then a hunger strike is initiated as a last resort."

"Prisoners coordinate with each other as based on their transfer from one prison to another, from meeting in court rooms or prison hospitals, and through family visits who take the responsibility of disseminating information through newspapers."

Battling with empty stomachs is how prisoners resist abuses too severe to tolerate. It's their only recourse. Done long enough draws attention. In enough numbers gets worldwide support.

Ending decades Israeli injustice faces long odds. For prisoners out of sight and mind it's harder.

Stomach warfare highlights abuses no one should tolerate. Ending them is another matter entirely.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen (at)

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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