Why did the PA/PLO neglect the Palestinian hunger striking footballer?

Mosab Qasho writes: Anyone following the Palestinian struggle will have heard about Mahmoud Sarsak, the imprisoned Palestinian footballer who this week ended a hunger strike of over three months. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been publicizing their upcoming meeting with the head of the Israeli Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz, leaving a striking absence of any official comment on Sarsak’s situation.

It seems very bizarre that the PA and PLO ignored one of their national heroes, a rising star in the society’s most popular sport, who was on the brink of death. He was the easiest person to defend. He has never been involved in politics, is not a member of a political party, and had all the necessary Israel-issued permits. He was one of the youngest people to make the Palestinian National soccer team. Above all, he has not been charged or convicted by Israel of any wrongdoing, although Israel held him for three years.

Even considering the PA and the PLO more cynically, any politician could have seen a man in such a situation as a gift from the political gods. Imagine the affirmation they would have received if they negotiated his release. Imagine the photo-ops of officials visiting the soccer team Sarsak was supposed to join when he was seized by Israel. They could have even organized children’s soccer games in his honor. Yet these authorities didn’t not take advantage of this opportunity, neither for selfless nor for self-serving gains.

According to his mother, Sarsak remains in Marash clinic in the Ramle prison, refused access to a proper civilian hospital. He has been refused family visits, which was a condition that Israel had agreed to in previous deals with other hunger strikers. Instead, he was allowed a three-minute phone call with his mother. His eventual release was negotiated so late that Sarsak easily could have died before agreeing to anything.

Most importantly, if Israel decides that he incited other prisoners to go on hunger strike or does any political organizing after his release, he will be arrested again. Agreeing to these terms indicates that the lawyers who negotiated his release, who are paid by the Palestinian Authority, seem to be more interested ending the hunger strikes rather than ameliorating the prisoners’ conditions. Instead of fighting for the rights of their clients, these lawyers appeared to pressure them into accepting whatever deal Israel presents. [Continue reading…]

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