Maysara Abuhamdia has died, shackled to his bed in Saroka Hospital. He was 64 years old.
This marks the second time in less than two months that a Palestinian prisoner has died in custody. Arafat Jaradat was tortured to death in Megiddo prison on 23 February.
Information on Abuhamdia’s life and resistance to the Israeli occupation, and details on how the Israeli prison authorities delayed treatment for his cancer for many months can be found in my article for The Electronic Intifada, published yesterday. Today, I woke up to an email message from Tariq Abuhamdia, Maysara’s oldest son currently studying in Virginia, who thanked me for highlighting his father’s cause.
When I reached my office this morning, I received the news that Maysara had passed away. It wasn’t altogether shocking, but it still was a kick in the stomach for me.
An article in the Ayyam newspaper today quoted the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Prisoner Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, as saying that there are 25 other prisoners who have cancer. Ziad Abu-Ein, the deputy minister of prisoners, was quoted in a press conference today as saying, “Israel no longer is entrusted with the safety of the prisoners.”
Two sides of the same coin
As one friend commented, “The very thought of even having a ministry for prisoners is such a dirty idea.”
Twenty-one prisoners began a hunger strike on 31 March in Eshel prison, in support of Maysara Abuhamdia, according to Ayyam. They were attacked with batons and tear gas, and dragged off to solitary confinement by the prison authorities as a means of pressuring them to quit.
Another friend sarcastically tweeted, “Did the third intifada start yet?”
We’ve witnessed the protests fuelled by anger over Muhammad al-Salaymeh’s death in Hebron last year; he was killed on his 17th birthday (12 December) by an Israeli border official. We’ve seen the protests as they rippled mostly from Hebron when Arafat Jaradat was killed. These waves of anger — with protests closely monitored by Palestinian Authority security forces and intelligence officers — subside almost as quickly as they begin. And we find ourselves — those who are outside of the prison cells and “free” — shackled and mute. We utilize social media as a platform to furiously denounce the collaborative role the PA plays in ensuring Israel’s security at the expense of our people. Yet we remain silent on the ground, helpless and drowning in a sea of PA complicity.
Meanwhile the prisoners — who spend their youths locked up behind bars, banned from their loved ones, who use every weapon they have from hunger striking to disobedience to resist against their occupiers — seem more and more like the liberated ones.
There is no question that the road to liberation passes through the PA compound of the muqataa. The PA and the Israeli occupation are two sides to the same coin. They both must be annihilated.
On 15 March, Tariq Abuhamdia recorded a message directed at the Palestinian leadership. It was one of the most eloquent and hard-hitting verbal attacks delivered to the PA. I have translated his message, with the help of Yasmine Hamayel:
Don’t you dare think that Maysara’s case is a humanitarian issue. Maysara is a national issue. Maysara is a national issue just like the Palestine cause. You will not feel that it will be solved unless the leadership is dissolved. Maysara is not an issue of a prisoner or a sick person. Maysara is the issue of a government and an authority that day and night say “we are helpless” — an authority helpless in front of every national topic. Every topic has a value. It is helpless in front of settlements. It is helpless in front of Jerusalem. It is helpless in front of refugees. It is helpless in front of the occupation. It is helpless in front of corruption.
Suddenly this leadership stops being helpless, when it comes to beating up people. Our state is incapable of liberating one prisoner, but it was not helpless to beat me up for being in one demonstration for Gaza. It is not helpless to send two security patrol cars to prevent people from getting angry at the occupation every time the occupation commits a crime. It is not helpless when it comes to uncovering weapon warehouses and tunnels and resistance cells. It is not helpless when it comes to getting permits for “his highness” or “his eminence” or “his excellency” (this governor or that security commander).
Maysara is the cause of a leadership which has sunk in humiliation. It is the leadership that has continued to bathe in corrupting wealth, and drowned in humiliation for so long to the point that it implements the Oslo accords from cover to cover in all of its details through the hanbali [strict] way. At the same time this leadership did not bother to intervene to free one officer of the many officers who have served this country. The issue of Maysara is thus very clear on one thing: all the talk on reconciliation is nothing but lies and fraudulence.
The PA security forces that Maysara served in left him in prison without even bringing him a lawyer because there was one word on his file: Hamas.
Maysara will die. And whether he dies on his prison bed, or during the bosta [a windowless vehicle with a metal corrugated interior used to transfer prisoners], or during the counting and standing of prisoners that take place five times a day in Israeli prison, he always knew from the start where his destiny would be. And he will die an honorable and dignified death. But his death shames those who call themselves the leadership; his death shames us all.
It is shameful to the point where you want to throw the books about the history of Islam in the sewers. It is a disgrace to the point where “Abdullah” [slave of God] has become “AbdelRateb” [slave of the salary] and is afraid to speak or show his face. He will listen to what I’m saying and swallow uneasily and turn away, afraid to speak out against them lest the government frowns on him.
It’s sickening. The official suits, the escorts and entourage, the convoys. The sycophantic prose…it is just sickening. The prisoners and especially the sons of Fatah are nothing more than propaganda for elections. And when the elections are over, you return back to your air-conditioned offices while the prisoner remains in his cell.
You have turned the prisoners detained by the security forces into doormats in an attempt to convince people that you are respectable beings after you arrest a patriotic youth or when you find yourselves in the middle of a scandal.
You will never face corruption charges, precisely because you represent the corrupt. You will never confront the occupation, because you have become part of the occupation. You will never be able to liberate not one prisoner, because you yourselves are not free.
Thank you. It is because of you that our dreams have shrunk from liberation and a homeland to giving a medicine pill to a sick prisoner in his cell. Thank you. Thank you for transforming Fatah into a mechanism merely for exploitative elections, festivals, and social gatherings. God is watching everything and knows what you do.