Muhammad Al-Qiq is now on the 80th day of his hunger strike.
His health is deteriorating fast. The doctors that checked him are not sure he will survive this weekend.
Protest and Frustration
On Wednesday, February 10, the activists announced that they will come to transfer Muhammad to a Ramallah hospital, after he declared that he will refuse any treatment until back in the West Bank. They brought an ambulance in order to make the point clear. The police didn’t even wait for the activists to come to the hospital. They picked some names from Facebook and called people to warn them not to come to Afula and declared that what they were doing is an illegal demonstration.
Police units that specialize in oppressing demonstration were present in big numbers. The
protesters, about a hundred of them, gathered near the entrance to the hospital, standing on the side of the street not to block the traffic. The ambulance that came to take Al-Qiq was not allowed in. When the Palestinian flag was raised the police thugs tried to attack and take it down.
The day before there was a bigger demonstration, called by the “Follow-Up Committee of the Arab Masses”, with most of the leadership and some 300 demonstrators from all the Palestinian political parties inside the 48 occupied territories. It was the biggest protest yet in front of the hospital. In Haaretz, the only Israeli newspaper that is supposed to notice, there was a two line item saying “tens in front of the Afula hospital”.
Yesterday some youth were calling on Facebook for another protest in front of the hospital. This time the police wasn’t satisfied with threatening telephone calls, but came to the house of the activist that raised the event to take him for interrogation. Big repressive forces were waiting in front of the hospital and the youth just went in to visit Muhammad in his room.
There are two Jewish women that demonstrate daily in the entrance to the hospital. They are sometimes harassed by Zionist passers-by. When Arab activists tried to defend them against harassment, two of the activists were arrested and later released on condition that they will not enter Afula.
Near Muhammad Al-Qiq’s bed
Since the “suspension” of the administrative detention a week ago, we can visit Muhammad in his small room in the hospital, but there are always armed policemen at the room’s door.
Being able to meet Muhammad was an unusual experience for the constant stream of visitors. If they were lucky to find him awake, they were amazed by his sympathetic and modest personality. He made a big effort to smile to everybody, to encourage and praise them instead of being praised and encouraged. He received everybody with good sense of humor. Entering the room for the second time I was astonished that he remembered me and greeted me like an old friend.
A close ring of guardians was formed around Muhammad Al-Qiq in the hospital. Some are old time activists and some are ordinary people that come and stay for whole days, changing shifts near his bed or hanging around near the entrance to the department.
Afula is a Jewish town – just recently there were angry demonstrations there against Arabs that bought a piece of land to build houses in a new project. But Afula is surrounded by Arab townships. It seems that most of the patients in the hospital and most of the visitors are Arab. Many families that come to visit their seek relatives stay for some time to express their solidarity with the constant
gathering near the department where Al-Qiq is imprisoned.
But in the last days the occasions when you can speak with Al-Qiq and enjoy his charming personality are becoming short and far-between.
The sympathetic crowd is becoming despaired and helpless. They try to call the lawyers to learn whether there is anything new in the negotiations – but it is becoming hard to find the lawyers either. They suspect that the lawyers are as helpless as them as they don’t have any real partner on the Israeli side to talk to.
It seems the Israeli occupation regime simply want Muhammad Al-Qiq to die – to teach Palestinians another lesson in the long list, all with the same conclusion: That their Human Rights and their Lives have no value.
Only International Pressure Can Help
Muhammad Al-Qiq’s strike comes at a very hard time for the Palestinians.
Since the “individuals’ intifada” started last October, Palestinians are killed daily in demonstrations and on the army checkpoints. Many times it is 13 year old girls or boys that are shot again and again to verify their death as heavily armed soldiers claim to “feel threatened”.
The demolition of Arab houses and the expansion of Jewish settlements on Arab land continue on a daily basis on both sides of the green line.
All Israeli parties are competing for the favors of an overtly racist public opinion. While Al-Qiq’s hunger strike is almost totally ignored by the Israeli media, it was all full of “horror” at the news that some Arab members of the Knesset met with relatives of Palestinian Shuhada (martyrs), to try to negotiate the return of the bodies that Israel holds as another way to torture the poor innocent families. This is another extreme distortion
where Israel tries to present itself as a “victim of Palestinian aggression”. The Arab MKs were duly suspended from the Knesset, which will now rush in a law to enable their expulsion. Al-Qiq’s case, of a Palestinian journalist that is held without charge or trial just for speaking up his mind, and his wholly un-violent struggle, doesn’t fit into this framework – so it is totally ignored.
Al-Qiq’s struggle already had a big effect on Palestinian society. After the first waves of mass struggle last October, the shootings, arrests and trials caused ebb in overt political activity. Now, with the call of conscience of the hunger strike people are gathering and demonstrating again. But Palestinian public opinion is not regarded in any way by Israel racist “democracy”.
To let Muhammad Al-Qiq free is not a big concession for Israel. He is on a six month Administrative Detention order. Even as this detention can be extended for unlimited number of additional terms, he was likely to be set free anyway sometime… His struggle is not for his personal liberty but about the principle, the unjust procedure of Administrative Detention that allows the occupation to arrest any Palestinian without any legal procedure and to hold them for unlimited time.
The only point where Israel is still subject to democratic pressure is international public opinion. Israel sees itself as a bulwark for the Western “culture” against the Arab “barbarism”. Its weapons, money, political support and impunity from international law come from her imperialist western backers. Now international public opinion is starting to ask questions about the justification of support to an openly racist state that constantly practice Ethnic Cleansing, occupation, denial of Human Rights, extreme oppression and bloody wars. When the whole Middle East is yearning for Democracy and the living together of people of different ethnicities and faiths, the support for Zionism has ever more disastrous consequences. The BDS movement is gaining ground and start to change the mainstream public opinion.
The case of Muhammad Al-Qiq is one place where we can put a stop on the cruelty of the occupation. If we can save his life it will be a big victory to the principle of Human Rights and Dignity.
Please do whatever you can to put pressure on Israel to let Muhammad Al-Qiq free!
(You can sign a petition for Muhammad Al-Qiq HERE).