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Samer Issawi's Hunger Strike Shines a Spotlight on Israel's Inhumanity

February 25, 2013 ·

Israel showed bad faith in rearresting a man exchanged for Gilad Shalit -- and worse faith by holding him in administrative detention.

Israel showed bad faith in rearresting a man exchanged for Gilad Shalit -- and worse faith by holding him in administrative detention.

Administrative detention: the practice of arresting and holding persons without trial and without informing them of what crimes they are suspected of. Since the end of the British mandate of Palestine, Israel has exercised this policy on thousands of Palestinians. Israel’s refusal to relinquish it could prove deadly to hunger striker, Samer Issawi.

In October 2011 Issawi was released from Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel, but just nine months later was rearrested. Receiving no information on the basis for his re-incarceration, including the crimes he was supposedly being detained for, Issawi launched a hunger strike shortly thereafter.

The world is finally taking notice now that Issawi’s strike that has persisted over 200 days. A hearing last Thursday in an Israeli court to appeal Issawi’s sentence had similar results to past appeals. He was once again denied his right to trial leading to clashes in which IDF soldiers fired tear gas canisters at protestors outside Ofer prison in the West Bank.

These events come as President Obama plans to visit the region within in the coming month, with stops planned in both Ramallah and Tel Aviv. Senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat, has appealed to the courts, “I urge Israel to release these people. The last thing we want is for things to get out of hand before President Obama visits.”

Another unnamed PLO official said that U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro had assured him of the release of 550 Palestinian prisoners prior to Obama’s visit. But the release of Palestinian prisoners should not be contingent upon a visit from the sitting US president, and hunger strikers like Samer Issawi should not be dependent on international pressure to receive a fair trial.

Renee Lott is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.