Monday, April 15, 2013

If Samer Issawi Dies ...

Samer Issawi is the Palestinian prisoner, arrested in Ramallah in April, 2002 during the height of the Second Intifada. He was convicted of a variety of serious charges - belonging to a banned political organization, firing at Israeli military vehicles - and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Mr. Issawi was released in October, 2011, as part of the exchange for the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and rearrested in July, 2012, for "violating the terms of his release". With other political prisoners, Samer Issawi began a hunger strike in August, 2012. He has continued his strike for 8 months and is now being held at the Israeli Kaplan Medical Center, his life in obvious jeopardy.

Numerous demonstrations have been held here and in the U.S., protesting his continued imprisonment; Israeli peace activists recently attempted to visit him; Amos Oz and other prominent pro peace Israeli literary figures pleaded with him to end his strike, preserve his life. Israel has offered to deport him to another country. Mr. Assawi has refused and continues his strike.

The question is repeatedly asked here, "What will happen if/when Assawi dies?"

My first evening here I had dinner with Estephan Salameh, recently resigned from an important position with the Palestinian Authority, and Paul Parker, on a 6 month sabbatical from Elmhurst College, volunteering at Sabeel. Paul asked, "could the Palestinians muster a demonstration of 20 - 30,000 persons?" Estephan's answer was, "No, the PA security forces would prevent them from getting even close to the IDF. The PA does the work of the Israelis."

I sat with Mo this morning, drinking coffee, when his old teacher friend who taught him English, came in for coffee and conversation. I asked, "What will happen ...?" The answer was quick and sad. "Nothing. A big funeral; lots o f people. 2-3 days of unrest, demonstrations. Then everything back to 'normal'. People are poor; they are suffering."

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