The tangled Palestinian-Israeli situation is largely due to political agendas meshed with religious overtones. However the Palestiniansí humanitarian crisis is the most misconstrued and underreported issue. Two major components that will be discussed here are: Palestinian farmers and prisoners.
Israeli forces razed 1,300 olive trees this past week in Hebron alone, aside from additional villages. Palestinian farmland is an intentional target because of its tremendous economic value and its significance to Israelís expansionist goals. Its destruction intends to force Palestinians to relocate in order to expand Jewish-only colonies. According to Joint Advocacy Initiative, JAI, agriculture experts have recorded an estimated 548,000 olive trees have been uprooted since September 2000. In response to Israelís systematic annihilation, JAI has launched an Olive Tree Campaign, replanting the exact fields that Israel destroys, simultaneously using the olive tree as a defense mechanism for the Palestinian cause.
Israelís other primary target is the people, with prisoners being the most direct and accessible objects. Fundamental rights are denied to Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. Procedures such as administrative detention and forcible transfers are imposed amongst Palestinian civilians, although prohibited under international law. Israeli forces raid Palestinian villages, arresting youth and adults, without any formal charges or trial for extended periods of time. Lawyers are denied access to clients being held under administrative detention, forbidden under Article 72 of the Convention Against Torture. Additionally, the orders for administrative detention are given by Israeli military commanders (rather than a judge) and can be renewed an indefinite amount of times, ultimately solidifying an arbitrary routine and leaving Palestinians without the opportunity for legal recourse or justice. Subsequently, an incessant cycle of detaining Palestinians civilians without committing crimes becomes a norm. The Israeli armyís unethical means of arrest and the injustice of Israelís judicial system when it comes to Palestinians, highlights the severity of Israelís occupation, which in is dire need of international intervention.
Consequently, Palestinian prisoners have often waged hunger strikes in the hopes of attracting international attention to Israeli human right abuses. For example, prisoner Samer Issawi is now known as the person who waged the longest hunger strike in history in protest of his illegal administrative detention. Israeli officials first attempted to end his hunger strike with an agreement contingent upon exile from his native town in Jerusalem, breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention. Accordingly, Samer refused to accept Israelís conditional release, legitimizing their illegal practices. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated that ďchoosing between staying in detention or being released to a place other than the detainee's habitual place of residence cannot be considered as a genuine expression of free will".
Finally, this week, after concluding 266 days without food, Samer signed an agreement with Israel, guaranteeing his release without expulsion. An honorable triumph, Samerís resilience and courage in defying Israelís oppressive measures is symbolic for all Palestinian prisoners. Despite being forced to sacrifice his physical health in order to achieve the most basic human rights, he has spoken to the world that Palestinians are determined to resist Israelís occupation and live a life of freedom and dignity.
Nejwa Ali is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.