Ramzy Baroud writes: Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud al-Sarsak completed 81 days of a grueling hunger-strike. He has sustained the strike despite the fact that nearly 2,000 Palestinian inmates had called off their own 28-day hunger strike weeks ago.
Although the story of Palestinian prisoners in Israel speaks to a common reality of unlawful detentions and widespread mistreatment, al-Sarsak’s fate can also be viewed within its own unique context. The soccer player, who once sought to take the name and flag of his nation to international arenas, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in July 2009 while en route to join the national team in the West Bank.
Al-Sarsak was branded an ‘illegal combatant’ by Israel’s military judicial system, and was since imprisoned without any charges or trial.
Al-Sarsak is not alone in the continued hunger strike. Akram al-Rekhawi, a diabetic prisoner demanding proper medical care, has refused food for 57 days.
Both men are in dire medical condition. Al-Sarsak, once of unmatched athletic build, is now gaunt beyond recognition. The already ill al-Rekhawi is dying.
According to rights groups, an Israeli court on May 30 granted prison doctors 12 days to allow independent doctors to visit the prisoners, further prolonging their suffering and isolation.
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, which has done a remarkable job battling the draconian rules of Israeli military courts, petitioned the court to meet with both al-Sarsak and al-Rekhawi.
Sadly, the story here becomes typical. PHRI, along with other prisoners’ rights groups, are doing all that civil society organizations can do within such an oppressive legal and political situation.
Families are praying. Social media activists are sending constant updates and declaring solidarity. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is merely looking on — not due to any lack of concern for human rights, but due to the selective sympathy of Western governments and media.
Think of the uproar made by US media over the fate of blind Chinese political activist Chen Guangcheng. When he took shelter in the US embassy in Beijing, a near-diplomatic crisis ensued.
Guangcheng was finally flown to the US on May 19, and he recently delivered a talk in New York before an astounded audience.
“The 40-year-old, blind activist said that his lengthy detention (of seven years) demonstrates that lawlessness is still the norm in China,” reported the New York Post.
“Is there any justice? Is there any rationale in any of this?” Chen asked. Few in the US media would contend with the statement. But somehow the logic becomes entirely irrelevant when the perpetrator of injustice is Israel, and the victim is a Palestinian. [Continue reading…]