Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Palestinian prisoners take reins from faltering leaders; Hana Shalabi

The Palestinian Authority is losing its relevance as hunger strikers galvanise support across party lines.

It began with Khader Adnan's sudden and bold declaration: "My dignity is more important than my life."
And with that he refused food for the next 66 days. With each day he persisted, more and more people around the world were riveted to this man's brave confrontation of Israel's draconian policy of administrative detention. But perhaps more significantly, Palestinians from all political parties - as well as no political party - united and rallied together in support of this man and against Israel's unfair treatment of Palestinian prisoners.
Now, Hana al-Shalabi approaches the completion of her third week on hunger strike. Like Adnan, Shalabi, 29, is protesting administrative detention, torture and humiliation at the hands of Israeli soldiers.

These individuals represent not just the 300 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, or the over 5,000 Palestinians still in Israeli prisons. They exemplify and speak for all Palestinians in a way that no politician or political party has been able to do for a long time.
The authorities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been simultaneously vying for power while nominally trying to "reconcile" the occupied land's divisions. Meanwhile, Adnan and Shalabi have galvanised Palestinian support across party lines.
"She really makes me want to join the revolution again," said one young man, a former fighter in the Al-Aqsa Brigade, who is now working for the Palestinian Authority's security forces.
Shalabi began her strike as soon as she was detained by Israeli forces on February 16. She was already well-acquainted with the cruelty of administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold Palestinians indefinitely without charge or evidence. Shalabi had recently spent over two years under that status and was released last October in the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel#

Over the past six months, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government have had their moments of glory. President Abbas generated short-lived exhilaration when he took his bid for statehood to the United Nations last September and Hamas was highly praised when it secured the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Israeli corporal-turned-sergeant Gilad Shalit.
But these political manoeuvres are intended and only serve to defend politicians' positions and spheres of power in the midst of an internecine conflict over control, rather than mobilise a national resistance movement.
In the meantime, Israel has quietly escalated its colonisation and tightened its control over occupied Palestinian territories. In February alone, 380 Palestinians were arrested, 158 individuals were displaced and 825 olive trees were uprooted by Israeli forces. Those numbers do not even speak to the significant uptick in vandalism and attacks by settlers and the deaths and injuries suffered by Gazans from continued aerial bombardments.

Khader Adnan and Hana al Shalabi have reinvigorated resistance and raised the long-flagging morale of people on the streets. This is a dramatic testament to the adage that change can only come from below - so maybe it's time we stop looking to the top, to those who seem to think they have all power. There as narrow - minded as the average zionist. This world is changing, the people are taking a stand, although we've been doing this for years. We've gained a voice, and this voice is growing, fast.
Its only a matter of time.

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