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Dying to live: A hunger striker speaks in Gaza

by Joe Catron

14 February 2012 | Mondoweiss

Yassar Salah (Photo: Joe Catron) - Click here for more images

As hundreds of Palestinians rallied in Gaza today to demand that Israel release Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan, Yassar Salah, a 17-year veteran of Israel’s prison system, spoke about Adnan’s 60-day hunger strike and his own reasons for joining it.

“We are on hunger strike to show our sympathy and solidarity with Sheikh Khader Adnan, who is battling to overcome Israel’s system of administrative detention,” he told me in the protest tent outside Gaza’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound.

“Khader Adnan is fighting a just battle,” he said. “For that reason, he is continuing his struggle without paying attention to his own suffering. Losing his health, or even his life, doesn’t matter as much as ending injustice. Adnan is a hero. Freedom has a price, and he is paying the price of his freedom.”

Salah, who launched his hunger strike with ten other Gaza Strip residents on February 11, has taken similar actions before. “I hunger struck in prison several times, for 15, 18, and 20 days,” he said. “This is nothing new for me. I assure you that in this battle, we fight with our wills, not our bodies. By our hunger, by our pains, we are achieving our goals.”

Gaza protest in solidarity with Khader Adnan. (Photo: Joe Catron) - Click here for more images

“The Israelis humiliate their prisoners,” he told me when I asked about his years in detention. “They prevent us from continuing our education, or meeting out attorneys. Many prisoners are prevented from receiving family visits. Some are even isolated from their fellow prisoners. Prisoners are kept in cells alone for months, or even years, without any contact with the outside world. Sometimes guards entered our rooms in the middle of the night, searching for nothing, only to torment us.”

What did he and his fellow hunger strikers hope to accomplish, I asked him? “People here are showing sympathy and solidarity with Khader and his struggle,” he replied. “But the levels of sympathy and solidarity are not enough. We want more, among our people and outside.”

What kind of sympathy and solidarity? “They can organize sit-ins, maybe something athletic, or artistic, or political,” he said. “We want to see a variety of activities to express the message of Khader and the Palestinian people. The most important thing is for people to adopt his case as their own. The world must take action to stop his shameful treatment.”

(Photo: Joe Catron) - Click here for more images

Joe Catron is an international solidarity activist and Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) organizer in Gaza, Palestine. He blogs and tweets.