The Electronic Intifada / October 16, 2020
Israel is refusing to release a Palestinian whose life is at grave risk after more than 80 days without food.
Maher al-Akhras is on hunger strike against his detention by Israel without charge or trial.
“He is in immediate, fatal danger,” Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said.
“People who begin hunger strikes and drink nothing but water for days on end begin to die around the 75th day.”
Al-Akhras, 49, is from the occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Dahr, near Jenin. He is married and has six children.
Israel has jailed him repeatedly and he has spent a total of five years in its prisons.
Israeli forces arrested al-Akhras again on 27 July and handed him a four-month administrative detention order which can be renewed indefinitely.
Al-Akhras began refusing food immediately.
Israel has brought no charges against him and he has been given no trial, even in Israel’s military courts, where there is a nearly 100 percent conviction rate against Palestinians.
Ahlam Haddad, his lawyer, repeatedly petitioned Israel’s highest court to order his release, but it rejected the petitions.
The court said Israel’s administrative order against al-Akhras was “justified,” but admitted that he does not pose any threat due to his medical condition.
Despite that, Israel still refuses to release him.
The only concession Israel has offered is not to renew the administrative detention order, which ends on 26 November, “unless new information came to light,” according to Times of Israel.
Al-Akhras has rejected the offer.
“My only conditions are freedom or death,” he said in a video from his hospital bed at the Kaplan Medical Center in central Israel earlier this month.
Taghrid al-Akhras, his wife, said her husband’s health condition “is very critical” and he is in “a lot of pain.”
“We are very worried and scared for him,” she said.
“My husband’s decision is only freedom and release. He always repeats, ‘I will only suspend my strike with my freedom and release. I will not give up.’”
In response to one of his petitions, Israel’s highest court last month supposedly put a “freeze” on al-Akhras’ administrative detention order.
But such “suspensions” change nothing for the prisoner: Al-Akhras is still not free to leave the hospital and return home. He remains imprisoned.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called the “suspension” of the detention order “an interpretive solution invented by the high court to avoid reaching a decision on – and taking responsibility for – administrative detainees on the verge of death from a hunger strike whom the state refuses to release.”
“This is not the first time a Palestinian on hunger strike against administrative detention has reached death’s door, while the state refuses to release him and the high court cooperates with this appalling conduct,” B’Tselem added.
In previous cases, Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have accepted the state’s offer not to renew their administrative detention.
Maher al-Akhras is persisting in his hunger strike, however. This “does not allow the state and the court to continue avoiding a decision,” B’Tselem said.
“My death would be a murder by the occupation,” al-Akhras said in the video.
Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet is accusing al-Akhras of being a member of Palestinian resistance and political organization Islamic Jihad.
In a closed session with Israel’s high court, the state reportedly claimed that al-Akhras “had been recorded boasting” of being a member of the group from his hospital bed and urging others to “continue the struggle until not one Jew is left,” according to Israeli media, which viewed the video and its transcript.
Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported that the transcript the state presented did “not contain any reference” by al-Akhras to Islamic Jihad.
Times of Israel also confirmed that the video and transcript did not contain reference to Islamic Jihad or “any message which directly incited the murder or expulsion of Jews.”
The Shin Bet said the transcript was “unrelated” and that al-Akhras’ “administrative file is not based on a single video taken after he was arrested,” Times of Israel reported.
Israel considers virtually all Palestinian parties to be “terrorist” organizations, meaning that any politically active person could be targeted for arrest.
Palestinian resistance factions across the political spectrum are demanding al-Akhras’ release.
Islamic Jihad assigned Israel “full responsibility” for his life.
Hamas, the political and military resistance organization running Gaza’s internal affairs, said Israel’s “neglect” of al-Akhras’ life “is a grave crime that the occupation authorities will pay for.”
The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organized a protest near the Red Cross office in Gaza City in solidarity with al-Akhras, as well as another Palestinian prisoner in solitary confinement, Wael al-Jaghoub:
Palestinian Authority crackdown
Mohammad Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, also held Israel responsible for al-Akhras’ condition and called for his release.
But while Palestinian Authority figures have for years made such statements, they simultaneously maintained “security coordination” with Israel’s military occupation and the Shin Bet.
Activists said PA forces raided the Red Cross office where they and former prisoners were holding a sit-in in the occupied West Bank town of Tulkarem and forced them out of the building on Tuesday.
One of the protesters told Quds News Network that PA security forces in civilian clothing took part in the raid.
The protester said the PA’s actions “disrespect the sacrifices of our prisoners and disrespect the strike of our prisoners.”
He added that al-Akhras is “defending all Palestinians, defending Palestinian dignity.”
Human rights group Euro-Med Monitor expressed “extreme concern” for al-Akhras.
The group said “each person has the right to know why they are being detained” under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Israel ratified in 1991.
Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, visited al-Akhras in the hospital in recent weeks, including Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List bloc.
“If al-Akhras dies, it will be an execution without a trial,” said Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Joint List.
Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada