Israeli Arab Leaders Detained After Visiting Palestinian Hunger Striker

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah and former MK Mohammed Barakeh briefly held after refusing police's request to leave hospital housing hunger striker Mohammed al-Qiq.

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah at Haemek Hospital in Afula in northern Israel after a visit to Palestinian hunger-striker Mohammed al-Qiq. Feb. 18, 2016
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Sheikh Ra'ad Salah and former lawmaker Mohammed Barakeh were briefly arrested on Thursday after visiting Palestinian hunger-striker Mohammed al-Qiq, currently hospitalized in the Haemek Hospital in Afula in northern Israel. The two recently announced that they and 20 other activits are joining Qiq's hunger strike in solidarity.

According to the police, Barakeh, who is currently the chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, and Salah, the former leader of the northern branch of the Islamic movement and now deputy chair for prisoner affairs in the monitoring organization, refused to leave the hospital after being asked to do so. They were held for 3 hours before being released. The two have been barred from visting the hospital for 14 days.

Head of the Joint Arab List Ayman Odeh blasted the incident as trying to silence political dissent among Israeli Arabs. "This is an attempt by the regime's institutions, from the prime minister down, to silence any form of criticism at the occupation and appropriation," he said. "The police's attempts to bully us will not stop us from fighting to help the administrative detention of al-Qiq, now on strike for 83 days and we still don't know why he's being held."

Former lawmaker Mohammed Barakeh at Haemek Hospital in Afula in northern Israel after a visit to Palestinian hunger-striker Mohammed al-Qiq. Feb. 18, 2016
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Barakeh echoed the claim. Speaking to Haaretz, he said he objects to the ban placed on him and Salah from visiting the hospital. He claimed they were not crowding the hospital and were standing the waiting area, but said they would appeal the decision. He added that their presence at the hospital was not just an act of solidarity but also an attempt to resolve the crisis surrounding the Palestinian journalist's hunger strike.

The High Court of Justice turned down Mohammed al-Qiq's petition to be moved from Haemek Hospital in Afula to a hospital in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Qiq, a journalist and commentator who Israel claims has ties to Hamas, has been on a hunger strike for 83 days in protest of his detention without trial. His petition argued that because the authorities had suspended his administrative detention, he should be allowed to freely move wherever he wants. He is demanding to be moved to a hospital under the juristiction of the Palestinian Authority given that his condition requires hospitalization.

Qiq, 33, is often interviewed by media outlets affiliated with Hamas, and is considered very critical of the Palestinian Authority. During the period before his arrest, he wrote articles criticizing the PA and its security services for the arrest of political activists in the West Bank. In an article that appeared in a London-based Arabic newspaper in October, he called those claiming that the Palestinian people were weary of violence and bloodshed “liars” who were trying to undermine the intifada.

He was arrested by Israeli security forces on November 21 in connection with alleged involvement in terror activities.