The Strike has Ended

The good news: The Karameh Hunger Strike has been ended by the Strike Leadership Committee after an agreement was reached with the Israeli Prison Services. Domenica and I intend to continue fasting on Fridays in solidarity with the Palestinians, and will update you in the next few days. The strike is over, but the underlying issues remain and we both feel strongly about our commitment to bring awareness and attention to those. We hope that some of you will join us in that.

Love,

Elizabeth

Commemorating al-Nakba

We offer these heartrending poems from Mahmoud Darwish, the foremost Palestinian poet, in commemoration of the 64th anniversary of Nakba, the Catastrophe of 1948 that began the ethnic cleansing accompanying the creation of the state of Israel—policies of brutality and eventually apartheid that continue to this day.

With these poems we wish to acknowledge and honor the simple humanity that every Palestinian has been denied in some manner for the past 64 years of unrelenting destruction and oppression by the only so-called democracy in the Middle East, made ever more painful by the unconscionable silence of the international community at large.

We who have the presumption of freedom and basic human rights can only imagine how the Karameh hunger strikers profoundly capture and express the essence of the overarching experience of every Palestinian, no matter where they live.

I COME FROM THERE

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland…

I AM THERE

I come from there and remember,
I was born like everyone is born, I have a mother
and a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends and a prison.
I have a wave that sea-gulls snatched away.
I have a view of my own and an extra blade of grass.
I have a moon past the peak of words.
I have the godsent food of birds and an olive tree beyond the kent of time.
I have traversed the land before swords turned bodies into banquets.
I come from there, I return the sky to its mother when for its mother
the sky cries, and I weep for a returning cloud to know me.
I have learned the words of blood-stained courts in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the words to construct a single one:
Home.

—Mahmoud Darwish
Translated by Anton Shammas from “The Bed of the Stranger,”
Riad El-Rayyes Books, Beirut, 1999.

In another poem, Darwish asks, “Where should we go after the last frontiers, where should the birds fly after the last sky?” These words became the title of Edward Said’s book, After the Last Sky, in which he wrote:

“…The love of Palestine…gets perhaps its first major statement in al-Muqadasi, the tenth-century Arab-Palestinian geographer. Palestine, he says, ‘unites the joys of this world and of the other; whoever is of this world and aspires to the other, will in Palestine be able to feel the appeal of that other world; and whoever is of the other world will find in Palestine all the good of which this world is capable.'”

We pray that the words of this centuries-old geographer/poet may one day be a living reality, reflected in the ordinary lives of all Palestinians everywhere.

DOMENICA AND ELIZABETH

Letter from Thaer Halahleh to his daughter Lamar

Letter from Thaer Halahleh to his daughter Lamar on 75th day of hunger strike

A letter from Thaer Halahleh, on day 75 of hunger strike against his detention without charge, to his two-year-old daughter Lamar, who he has never seen. Translated by Jalal Najjar.

“My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my first born child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault, this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be apart from each other and to have a miserable life, nothing is complete in our lives because of this unjust occupation that is lurking on every corner of our lives turning it into eeriness, a continuous pursuit and torture. Despite that I was deprived from holding you and hearing your voice, from watching you grow up and move around in the house and in your be, and that I was deprived of my rule as a human and a father with my daughter your existence has given me all the power and hope, and when I saw your picture with your mother in the sit-in tent, you were so calm staring in wonder at people, as if you were looking for your father, looking at my pictures that are hung inside the tent asking in silence why is my father not coming back, I felt that you are with me, in my sentiment and inside my mind, as if you are a part of my heartbeats, steadfast and the blood that flows in my veins, opening all doors for me spreading clear skies around me, and unleashing your free childish voice after this long silence”.

“Lamar my love: I know that you are not to be blamed and that you don’t yet understand why your father is going through this battle of the hunger strike for the 75th day, but when you grow up you will understand that the battle of freedom is the battle of going back to you, so that I can never be taken away from you again or to be deprived of your smile or seeing you, so that the occupier will never kidnap me again from you”.

“When you grow up you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no guilt but their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence, you will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission, that he will never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity”.

“My beloved Lamar keep your head up always and be proud of your father, and thank everyone who supported me, who supported the prisoners in their struggle, and don’t be afraid god is with us always, and god never lets people who have faith and patience, we are righteous, and right will always prevail against injustice and wrong doers”.

“Lamar my love: that day will come, and I will make it up to you for everything, and tell you the whole story, and your days that will follow will be more beautiful, so let your days pass now and wear your prettiest clothes, run and then run again in the gardens of your long life, go forward and forward nothing is behind you but the past, and this is your voice I hear all the time as a melody of freedom”.

Friday May 11, 2012

It turned out that eight of us (up from the original five) fasted yesterday, on our first Friday. Thank you to all who joined in. Again, Domenica and I would have hoped–we all would have hoped–for more, for more visibility. But it was a great start, especially considering that the notion occurred only late on Monday to a couple of extremely unworldly and technologically challenged women. (This is a good place to offer deep thanks to Kathy Zant–a technologically gifted woman– who very generously, beautifully and expeditiously put together this site.) And thanks as well to a number of people who wrote to say that they would be sending love and prayers today or signing letters. It is often hard to know what to do when you are aware of injustice, but sometimes doing something, no matter what, is better than wringing your hands. We are so grateful to be doing something in concert with all of you.

This morning, I started my day by sending love and good wishes eastward. I was surprised by what happened, and wanted to share it here. My attention went (sensibly) first to the declining hunger strikers themselves, and then moved to their families, friends and other supporters in the Occupied Territories. This went reasonably well, but I have to admit that I was trying. Suddenly, I found myself, with no thought or intent at all, focused intensely and profoundly on members of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS)–the ones who have cruelly denied Thaer Halahleh a last minute (and probably final) visit from his family, along with many, many other  illegal and inhumane abuses of their position.  The energy that came through me was not mine at all and certainly not anything I could have consciously imagined or looked for: a powerful rush of something like pure love sent to them that lasted ten minutes or so, and that I can only hope helped to open their hearts–even a little– those who are in positions of such great power and responsibility.  May it be so.

There are apparently a couple of one-day fasts being planned for next week by others, which is a joyful thing.  I am so thankful to see more voices being raised, a little more press coverage (although it is still incredibly sparse in the US), and some actions organized. I have heard that there will be a hunger in strike in solidarity with the Palestinians on Tuesday, May 15th, in observance of the 64th anniversary of the Nabka, or ‘Catastrophe’:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Palestinian_exodus (sorry I cannot succeed in getting this to appear as a working link, but if you are interested, you can of course copy and paste in your browser), but I do not yet have any specifics on that.  As well, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is sponsoring a number of demonstrations and a day-long fast on Thursday, May 17th, to mark the one-month point for many of the hunger strikers in Israeli prisons.  You can check out their plans (along with an easy and very important petition to the State Department to sign) here: http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=3208

For some reason, I feel moved to list here the names that I could discover of some of the longest-striking prisoners, those whose are seriously compromised in terms of their physical well-being at this point, those who started their strike an amazingly long time ago.  I invite you to read through their names and allow the resonance of who they are and have been to fill you, to honor them and their sacrifice by knowing their names.

Thaer Halahleh

Bilal Diab

Hassan Shafadi

Omar Abu Shalal

Mohammad Taj

Jaafar Azzedine

Nidal Shehadeh

Mahmoud Sarsak

Abdullah Barghouti

Thank you.

Please do leave us your comments, thoughts, experiences, ideas and suggestions.

As We Prepare To Embark Upon Our First Friday Fast…

…there is news from Israel, via Addameer, an organization dedicated to Palestinian prisoners’ human rights:

Update: Situation of Long-Term Hunger Strikers Becomes Increasingly Urgent

Ramallah, 10 May 2012 – Addameer lawyer Mona Neddaf visited four hunger strikers in Ramleh prison medical clinic today, including Thaer Halahleh, now on his 73rd day of hunger strike.

According to Ms. Neddaf, Thaer’s condition continues to deteriorate. The prison doctor has said to Thaer that he could die at any moment.  Thaer has lost significant weight, and now weighs 55 kg. He has exceedingly low blood pressure and his temperature is fluctuating at dangerous levels. In addition to vomiting blood, Thaer is also bleeding from his gums and lips. The prison doctor also told him that he now has an infection in part of his body. Thaer is drinking water, but not taking any vitamins or minerals. Though he is very weak, Ms. Neddaf reported that mentally he is still strong. Thaer was supposed to receive a visit from his family today, but the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) cancelled the visit yesterday.
 
The health of Mohammad Taj, now on his 54th day of hunger strike, is also at a dangerous level. In addition, Jaafar Azzedine, on his 50th day of hunger strike, reported that he had stopped drinking water for a short period but has started to drink again, with minerals and vitamins. Nidal Shehadeh, who began his hunger strike on 17 April as part of the mass hunger strike, was moved back from a public hospital to Ramleh prison two days prior. He is on hunger strike in protest of receiving inadequate medical treatment while in prison.
 
Ms. Neddaf noted that all the prisoners on hunger strike in Ramleh prison are in isolated rooms. She further reported that they continue to be threatened by the IPS. Even at this stage of hunger strike, they have been told that if they do not stand for the “daily count”, they will not be permitted lawyer visits.
 
Addameer fears for the lives of Thaer, Bilal Diab, also on his 73rd day of hunger strike, Hassan Safadi, who is now on his 67th day of hunger strike, Omar Abu Shalal, who is now on his 65th day of hunger strike, and all the other prisoners on hunger strike whose critical conditions are being blatantly disregarded by Israel and the prison authorities. Addameer reiterates its call for immediate action on behalf of the hunger strikers.

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We want to thank you all who join us in this fast.  It is such a small thing, and yet it is a great thing, one that so few in this well-fed country will ever do for any reason.   Your willingness to suffer just a little is seen and appreciated and honored.  Just as you see and appreciate and honor those whose suffering in this regard is much greater and is accompanied by risk of the highest level.

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On the eve of this first fast, there are five of us: one in Massachusetts, one in New York, and three in California.  This sounds minimal, and we had certainly hoped for more, but the level of ignorance and denial about this situation is high; people have no news of it in this country and thus have not cultivated the feelings that lead one to this small sacrifice.  Spread the word about what you are doing and have done, and next Friday we will be a stronger, larger group.

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On a more mundane note, we will be curious to hear what each of you decided to do, in terms of the length of your fast, what you chose to drink or not, and any strategies you tried to help you get through the day.   One of our fasters is going to drink water enhanced with lemon juice and maple syrup to avoid low blood sugar problems. Please send us news of how it went for you, what you learned and how you will do it differently, if at all, next Friday.

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Again, our sincere gratitude and appreciation to you who will forgo food tomorrow.

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Domenica and Elizabeth