Freedom or Death

Written by Subject: Israel - Palestine
Freedom or Death

by Stephen Lendman

On March 22, Hana Shalabi's 36th hunger strike day began. After examining her, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said she's in imminent danger of death.

Israel wants her to die. She requires immediate hospitalization. At PHR-I's request, she was sent to Meir Hospital on March 19 but not admitted. The same night, she was transferred back to Ramleh Prison Hospital. Healthcare there and in all Israeli prison facilities is an oxymoron. There's none worthy of the name.

Her doctor wasn't told she's back in prison until the next day. He and others deplore the appalling care she'll get in terms of quality, efficacy, and timeliness. Israel condemned Hana to death unless effective intervention prevents it.

A joint PHR-I, Addameer, Al Haq statement quoted Hana saying:

"To all the free and loyal Palestinian people, I direct my words to you—while I and all my brothers and sisters in the occupier's prisons are on hunger strike, we call on you to continue your solidarity and for the issue of prisoners to be on the highest priority list....I call on foreign states to continue action in applying pressure (on Israel) towards the release of all our courageous prisoners."

The joint statement "expressed grave concern" for her health. Without proper care, she risks imminent death because of significant physical deterioration.

PHR-I's chairman asked the Israel Prison Service (IPS) chief medical officer, Dini Orkin, why Hana's hospitalization was denied. She responded saying the IPS commissioner wants another medical opinion, despite the urgency given her health.

Especially troubling is what Hana told her doctor. During March 19 transfers, she was grossly mistreated, including being "dragged across the floor." Doing so aggravated her weak condition.

Hana's also being pressured to begin eating. Force-feeding is threatened despite clear medical ethics issues and international treaties prohibiting the practice. Attempts have also been made "to undermine her confidence and trust in her PHR-I doctor."

She's been lied to, including spurious claims that he doesn't care about her. In fact, he's her best hope to survive.

At the same time, a military court of appeals judge again postponed ruling on her case. No announced date was given.

"The judge requested a detailed medical report on Ms. Shalabi's health condition, which has been prepared by the PHR-Israel doctor and submitted to the court."

Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan said:

"(T)he Israeli military prosecution's concern is to get Hana to end her hunger strike as opposed to seriously considering the reasons underlying Hana's protest, including the infringement on her right to fair trial and right to an effective defense."

Like thousands of other wrongfully imprisoned Palestinians, Hana's denied all rights, including due process and judicial fairness. They're also subjected to torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment. It's official Israeli policy. Fundamental international law is routinely spurned.

In Hana's case, she denied her right to live. She wants freedom or death. Her lawyer, Jawad Boulos, quoted her saying:

"It's true our lives are very precious, but our freedom is even more precious and more powerful than their cells."

PHR-I member Yael Maron said:

"The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is, in my opinion, a remarkable example of a struggle that's completely nonviolent towards one's surroundings. It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring."

Except for UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine Richard Falk, UN officials ignore her. In response, Union of Palestinian Women's Committees chairwoman Khitam Saafin said:

"The UN must be responsible for the whole of violations that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights."

Falk said her courage "should move even the hard-hearted." She's "young, tender," nonviolent, and dedicated to what deserves universal praise, not lawless imprisonment and brutality.

Hunger striking reflects her struggle against injustice. It's not about her alone. It's for thousands of other wrongfully incarcerated and mistreated Palestinian prisoners. Israel persecutes them mercilessly.

Hana's resisting her only way. Doing so shows extraordinary courage. She's willing to die for justice. What greater sacrifice than that!

Despite appalling mistreatment, her spirit's indomitable. She inspires others to resist injustice their way and support her and others like her.

Hana explained it best, saying:

"This is for all the prisoners and not for me alone."

It's also about wanting global attention paid to intolerable abuses vital to condemn and end. Hana's willing to die so others can live free.

What greater sacrifice than that! Her struggle is ours. We're all Hana Shalabi!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also 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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