Last week Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al Qiq ended a record 94-day hunger strike protesting the so-called administrative detention in Israeli jail.
Administrative detention is a misnomer procedure used to hold Palestinian activists in military confinement without charges or due-process. The six-month administrative order can be extended indefinitely without informing the detainee of the charges or affording them or their counsel the right to examine the evidence against them.
It is just one Israeli oppressive occupation instrument that drives the civil movement underground and transforms it to violent resistance. Under international law, administrative detention could be permissible under exceptional circumstances. It comes, however, with rigid restrictions on its application. In the case of Israel, the exception is the norm.
The latest political prisoner Al Qiq was on the verge of death when Israel finally agreed not to extend his detention beyond the current six months order.
According to the Israeli organisation Physicians for Human Rights, Al Qiq’s hunger strike lasted longer than the 1981 hunger strikes by members of the Irish Republican Army who were held by Britain in Northern Ireland. Al Qiq’s lawyer Jawad Boulus’ earlier appeal to Israel’s supreme court to release his client was rejected.
The court ruled that the military judge’s order to detain him was legal. According to Boulus, the supreme court was “briefed on classified material” that he was neither allowed to review nor challenge.
About eight years ago, Al Qiq served 16 months in Israeli jails for political activities on the elected student council at Birzeit University. At the time of his detention, the 33-year-old father of two worked as a TV correspondent for Saudi’s Almajd television.
Al Qiq was arrested during an Israeli military raid in the middle of the night at his home in the city of Ramallah. The city, according to agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) is located in Area A, ostensibly under the PA’s full civil and security control.
On November 25, 2015, four days following his arrest, Al Qiq started a hunger strike to protest ill-treatment and his detention without due process. Henceforward, a battle of will ensued between the captive and his jailers. In early January, he was strapped to his bed for four days and was forcibly fed intravenously. On February 1, Al Qiq’s wife, Fayha Shalash told reporters that her husband had requested not to receive any medical treatment, even if he loses consciousness. “His decision is very clear: either free or dead, not in between.”
Israeli jailers continued to monitor his deteriorating health hoping the “self-torture” pain would eventually force him to end his strike. Driven by pure devilish schadenfreude, Israeli authorities watched him on closed circuit TV screaming in agony as his internal organs started to fail. Gravely ill but not total collapse, the Israeli supreme court rejected Al Qiq’s petition on February 16 to transfer him to a Palestinian hospital. The court sided with the military’s secret evidence that he would represent a threat if he was released from Israeli custody.
In the last week of February, Al Qiq lost the ability to speak and was at risk of death. Realising he would never surrender, his jailers ultimately agreed not to extend his six-month administrative detention order. Unfortunately, it took Al Qiq 94 days of extreme agony to show the world that Israel had no imperative cause to detain him in the first place.
While there were very few instances when Israeli Jews were held in administrative detention, the law was applied disproportionally to Palestinian activists. Israel compares only to apartheid South Africa who used administrative detention widely in an effort to crush the opposition to apartheid.
Israel has failed to break the will of another prisoner. And like apartheid South Africa, it will not succeed in subjugating the will of a people longing for justice and freedom from an imported ethnocentric occupation.