By Samer Issawi, Sunday 3 March 2013 12.00 EST
My story is no different from that of many other Palestinian young people who were born and have lived their whole lives under Israeli occupation. At 17, I was arrested for the first time, and jailed for two years. I was arrested again in my early 20s, at the height of the second intifada in Ramallah, during an Israeli invasion of numerous cities in the West Bank – what Israel called Operation Defensive Shield. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges relating to my resistance to the occupation.
I am not the first member of my family to be jailed on my people’s long march towards freedom. My grandfather, a founding member of the PLO, was sentenced to death by the British Mandate authorities, whose laws are used by Israel to this day to oppress my people; he escaped hours before he was due to be executed. My brother, Fadi, was killed in 1994, aged just 16, by Israeli forces during a demonstration in the West Bank following the Ibrahimi mosque massacre in Hebron. Medhat, another brother, has served 19 years in prison. My other brothers, Firas, Ra’afat and Shadi were each imprisoned for five to 11 years. My sister, Shireen, has been arrested numerous times and has served a year in prison. My brother’s home has been destroyed. My mother’s water and electricity have been cut off. My family, along with the people of my beloved city Jerusalem, are continuously harassed and attacked, but they continue to defend Palestinian rights and prisoners.
After almost 10 years in prison, I was released in the Egypt-sponsored deal between Israel and Hamas to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. However, on 7 July 2012, I was arrested again near Hizma, an area within the municipality of Jerusalem, on charges of violating the terms of my release (that I should not leave Jerusalem). Others who were released as part of that deal were also arrested, some with no declared reason. Accordingly, I began a hunger strike on 1 August to protest against my illegal imprisonment and Israel’s violation of the agreement.
My health has deteriorated greatly, but I will continue my hunger strike until victory or martyrdom. This is my last remaining stone to throw at the tyrants and jailers in the face of the racist occupation that humiliates our people.
I draw my strength from all the free people in the world who want an end to the Israeli occupation. My weak heartbeat endures thanks to this solidarity and support; my weak voice gains its strength from voices that are louder, and can penetrate the prison walls.
My battle is not just for my own freedom. My fellow hunger strikers, Ayman, Tarik and Ja’afar, and I are fighting a battle for all Palestinians against the Israeli occupation and its prisons. What I endure is little compared to the sacrifice of Palestinians in Gaza, where thousands have died or been injured as a result of brutal Israeli attacks and an unprecedented and inhuman siege.
However, more support is needed. Israel could not continue its oppression without the support of western governments. These governments, particularly the British, which has a historic responsibility for the tragedy of my people, should impose sanctions on the Israeli regime until it ends the occupation, recognises Palestinian rights, and frees all Palestinian political prisoners.
Do not worry if my heart stops. I am still alive now and even after death, because Jerusalem runs through my veins. If I die, it is a victory; if we are liberated, it is a victory, because either way I have refused to surrender to the Israeli occupation, its tyranny and arrogance.
Illustration by Nidal-Omari, 2013. http://nidal-omari.deviantart.com/art/Samer-Al-Issawi-354065624