Palestinian's Hunger Strike Has Already Caused Irreversible Damage - to Israel

A state in whose prisons hundreds of people are confined without trial is not a democracy, and all the excuses about 'security' will not help.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Protesters demonstrate in support of hunger-striking prisoner Mohammed Allaan, outside Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Credit: Eliyahu Hershovitz
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Mohammed Allaan’s blood is on our hands, on the hands of the State of Israel. The state will bear full and sole responsibility for his death if, perish the thought, he dies. No excuses will cover the shame, no propaganda will atone for the offense. While these lines are being written, Saturday afternoon, he tottered between life and death, in an induced coma and on a respirator. The death of this 31-year-old lawyer from the village of Einabus is liable to not only cause “damage to Israel’s image” and lead to a conflagration in the West Bank and Gaza – first and foremost, Allaan is the victim of one of the basest acts of the Israeli occupation: administrative detention. That, they do not see here.

Allaan is a freedom fighter. There is no one who suits this definition more, no other way to describe him. Allaan is striking until death for his freedom, to which he is entitled according to any constitutional, democratic or moral criterion. Even if thugs of Ashkelon and its violent nationalists scream until the end of time “terrorist,” and even if inciting television reports talk about “blood on the hands,” Allaan will remain a freedom fighter, innocent.

As we recall, he was never indicted nor tried. The security establishment has not a shred of evidence against him or against hundreds of his friends, not even evidence that could lead a military court astray – which is the easiest thing to do in a system that has no connection whatsoever with justice.

Not by chance were almost all the longtime hunger-strikers administrative detainees. They did not fight against the settlements or against the occupation. They fought for their personal liberty, which is their absolute right. They are not prisoners, they are detainees of arbitrariness. Their administrative detention has become a terrifying normality, obvious, like a checkpoint, senseless killing and nighttime abductions. Over the past 15 years the number of such detainees has ranged from 150 to 1,000 at any given moment. Even in the most promising of quiet times their number does not decline. Right now there are about 400. In other words, there are hundreds of people being held without trial in Israeli prisons.

If there is a reason to turn to the International Criminal Court – that is the reason, perhaps even before the killing, expulsions and the settlements. If there is evidence that can put the lie to “the only democracy in the Middle East” – that is the clear evidence. A state in whose prisons hundreds of people are confined without trial is not a democracy, and all the excuses about “security” will not help. There is not, never has been and never will be such a thing – a democracy with mass arrests without trial.

Allaan knows all this. He and his friends have called upon their private, non-violent, doomsday weapon – the hunger strike, because justice is on their side. Because there is no other justice that can excuse their detention, except the justice of the Ashkelon thugs and their ilk: freedom or death, and Israel should have bowed its head in admiration for their determination, their justness and their courage.

Allaan is dying, and with him, Israel’s pretense of democracy. Israel fears the damage it will incur. Most of its legal experts are silent and most of its journalists cover for it. Israel should not have arrested Allaan last November and sent him to six months’ detention without trial. Israel should not have subsequently extended his detention by another six months. It should not have done this to tens of thousands of people over the years. It should not have acted this way. But it is not too late. The debate now should not be dealing with ways to extend Allaan’s live. The only way to save him is to release him immediately, unconditionally, and with him the hundreds of other administrative detainees. That will be not only the great victory of these freedom fighters, it will also be Israel’s victory.