Don’t Let Palestinian Hunger Striker Maher Akhras Die

Haaretz Editorial
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Maher Akhras, an administrative detainee who is on hunger strike, Kaplan Hospital, Rehovot, September 29, 2020.
Haaretz Editorial

Administrative detainee Maher Akhras has been on a hunger strike for 100 days to protest being held in detention without being charged, without a trial, without evidence and without a right to defend himself. But he doesn’t want to die. “I love life. I am not choosing to die,” he told Haaretz writer Nir Gontarz at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, with the last of his strength.

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He knows his life is in danger, but he is choosing to stand firm, “until all of us, as human beings, will be free and live in freedom and end the wars between peoples and between countries regardless of their religion. That’s my belief, and that’s how I educate my children, relatives and neighbors.”

Michael Lynk, the special UN rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the territories, reported 10 days ago that according to doctors who have examined Akhras, “He is on the verge of suffering major organ failure, and some damage might be permanent.”

But Akhras’ condition doesn’t seem to make an impression on the country or on the High Court of Justice. The court never misses an opportunity to cooperate with the Shin Bet security service and approve the state’s crimes, and has dismissed several petitions seeking his release.

The state has in fact made Akhras an offer – stop the hunger strike, in exchange for no renewal of the administrative detention order, on condition that no new incriminating information about him is received. But Akhras fears that the authorities would quickly find grounds to arrest him again. “They want to break my hunger strike just so they can jail me again after my health improves. That’s my fear,” he said. Akhras is determined to continue his hunger strike to the death, unless the State of Israel wakes up and releases him, which conscience dictates and which the law of any properly run country should dictate as well, and forbid the detention of anyone without bringing charges or putting them on trial. Administrative detention is a despicable practice that should be used only in the most extreme cases, if at all. According to data provided by B’Tselem, as of August 2020 Israel was holding 355 Palestinian administrative detainees in Prison Services facilities, among them two minors.

Akhras has in the past been prosecuted twice for crimes connected to his membership in Islamic Jihad and has served jail terms of 11 months and 26 months. If he is as dangerous as the Shin Bet claims and if there is new evidence against him, the state should charge him and put him on trial. Otherwise it must release him immediately and unconditionally. Akhras’ condition is deteriorating. The state must take action before a disaster occurs. He must not be allowed to die.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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