Compromise Sought to Save Palestinian Hunger-striker's Life

On 82nd day of Mohammed al-Qiq's hunger strike, Israeli High Court proposes transferring him from Israeli hospital to Palestinian one in East Jerusalem; Qiq insists on being treated in Ramallah.

Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Qiq, on hunger strike in Emek Medical Center in Afula.
Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Qiq, on hunger strike in Emek Medical Center in Afula. Credit: AP

The High Court of Justice on Monday proposed that administrative detainee Mohammed al-Qiq, on hunger strike for 82 days to protest being held without trial, be transferred to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein denied the request by Qiq’s lawyer to transfer him to a hospital in Ramallah, from Ha’emek Hospital in Afula, where he is hospitalized.

Qiq’s attorney, Jawad Boulous, who is also the legal adviser to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, left for Afula after the hearing to present Qiq with this proposal. The parties are scheduled to convene this afternoon to make a decision.

Qiq’s family issued a call to human rights groups on Friday to press immediately for him to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah because of his deteriorating medical condition. Qiq said he would agree to accept medical care in Ramallah, where he lives.

The prisoners’ society expressed concern that after more than 80 days of hunger striking, Qiq could suffer a total systemic collapse and die. The family said Qiq is suffering from pain all over his body and over the weekend had felt pressure and pain in his chest. They said he at risk of stroke or heart attack.

Qiq, 33, is a journalist and commentator who 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.

Palestinian demonstrators near Ramallah demand release of hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al-Qiq (portrait) from Israeli jail, January 22, 2016. Credit: AFP

He was arrested by Israeli security forces on November 21 in connection with alleged involvement in terror activities. But his family is convinced he is being detained because of his writing. “He is accused of incitement and making contact with people in Gaza and elsewhere,” his wife said recently. “Mohammed believes he didn’t commit any violations, which is why he started a hunger strike.”

Qiq’s hunger strike is considered relatively extreme; he will not allow anything into his body except tap water and is refusing infusions of vital minerals. Hospital sources say his mind is clear although his body is weakening.

Israeli doctor: 'He doesn't want to die'

Last Wednesday he was visited by representatives of the ethics bureau of the Israel Medical Association, who reported he was being properly treated. Doctors will intervene only if there is a sudden, critical deterioration in his condition. Qiq “is aware of this and accepts this, because he doesn’t want to die,” a member of the ethics bureau said.

Ha’emek has experience treating hunger strikers, having treated 13 of them during a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in 2014.

Sixteen senior Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails say they are launching a hunger strike this coming Sunday in support of Qiq. According to an announcement made by the prisoners, their own hunger strike will include no intake of fluids or water. The plan is to increase the number of participants daily, encompassing all prisons in Israel.

Two Israeli activists also said over the weekend they would join the hunger strike. Anat Lev and Dr. Anat Rimon demonstrated in front of the President’s Residence and called for President Reuven Rivlin to intervene in the matter. The two had previously been protesting outside Ha’emek Hospital.

On Friday, a prayer session was held in an open space outside the hospital. The prayer was led by Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, who called for Qiq’s immediate release. He said, “In this campaign, using his empty stomach, Qiq is fighting for his liberty, in face of the arbitrariness and oppression of the Israeli authorities.”

The prayer session was part of a public campaign and one of many gatherings outside the Afula hospital in recent days. The aim is to intensify public action, in the absence of any response from the Israeli authorities.

There are demonstrations in support of Qiq in Palestinian towns across the West Bank on an almost daily basis.

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