Joharah Baker


While the west continues to lecture Palestinian resisters for their ready resort to violence, more hunger-strikers approach death in Israeli prisons.

Why are these courageous people going unnoticed by the rest of the world? Why isn’t their treatment sparking international outrage or at least prompting a debate?

Father Dave

Palestinians in Hebron march in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike

Palestinians in Hebron march in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike (picture courtesy of the “Palestinian Solidarity Project”)


When Lives Hang In The Balance

By Joharah Baker

“Silence is complicit”, read one of the signs raised by protesters in front of UN offices in Ramallah. The young men and women in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers were sending a message to the UN and to the world: your silence could kill them.

In a way, that is very true. The lives of four Palestinian hunger strikers are hanging in the balance, teetering between life and death. Two in particular – Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh have crossed the 200-day mark without food. The sheer number of days is staggering, difficult for any person to wrap their heads around. And still, the world is more or less disgracefully quiet.

The Palestinians have a right to be angry. The Palestinian prisoner issue has been shuffled aside, ignored and sidelined for years now. International human rights organizations have admitted that grave violations of human rights have taken place behind Israeli bars but Israel has never been held accountable.

While tens of thousands of Palestinians have suffered in Israeli prisons over the decades since the Israeli occupation of 1967, recently, a heroic few have brought this issue back to the fore. Last year, Khader Adnan waged a 66-day hunger strike to protest Israel’s administrative detention policy, which allows Israel to imprison Palestinian political prisoners without charge for an indefinite period of time. Adnan’s strike, which ended in his eventual release and an Israeli promise not to renew his detention, encouraged others silently suffering the same fate to walk in his footsteps.

Today, Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for over 200 days, is most likely dying. Medical reports and lawyer visits tell a haunting tale of a man who has lost more than half of his body weight, is suffering from excruciating muscle and joint pains and who can no longer stand on his own. Ayman Sharawneh is also in grave medical condition, having been rushed to Israel’s Soroka Hospital after days in isolation in a Beer Sheva-area prison. Tareq Qadan and Jaafar Izzedin are also on hunger strike, weak but determined.

In a letter to his people, Samer Issawi shows that despite his weak body his is still strong-willed.

“My message is that I will continue until the end, until the last drop of water in my body, until martyrdom…I say to my people: I’m stronger than the occupation army and its racist laws. I, Samer al-Issawi, son of Jerusalem, send you my last will that, in case I fell as a martyr, you will carry my soul as a cry for all the prisoners, man and women, cry for freedom, emancipation and salvation from the nightmare of prisons and their harsh darkness.”

Samer, freed in the Shalit prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel in October 2011, was re-arrested in July 2012 on a technicality. Issawi, who was ostensibly banned from entering the Jerusalem-area town of Al Ram, was ‘caught’ there and detained for violating the terms of his release. Israeli prison authorities informed him he would have to serve out the remainder of his original sentence of 20 years. And so, he stopped eating at the beginning of last August, refusing to accept the unjustness of his situation.

It has even taken Palestinians too much time to rise up in protest. Since the prisoners began their hunger strike, there have been solidarity activities, tents and confrontations with the Israeli army in their name, but it has not been until recently that the real protests have begun. Khader Adnan declared his own hunger strike in solidarity, holed up in the Red Cross office in Ramallah and Ayman Sharawneh’s family have all stopped eating in solidarity with their son.

But, with the exception of the few and far between statements of ‘concern’ for the lives of the prisoners, the international community has said nothing. And so, coupled with their genuine concern for the lives of their brothers, husbands, sons and comrades, the Palestinians are enraged that the world would sit back and watch these good men die. Even if one of them perishes, the Palestinians will surely hold the world accountable for not stepping in and saving them.

Those who have not lived through such a struggle and under such harsh and inhumane circumstances cannot fully understand the significance of this act. These brave men are not starving to death just for their own sakes. For most, that would never be enough. But for those dedicated to the cause and to Palestine, this is the price of freedom they are willing to pay.

Joharah Baker 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…


Father Roy writes:

Many of you have read Joharah’s essay which is pasted below with my highlights.  She’s right.  Israel eases restrictions on the human rights of Palestinians once in a while and milks the “gesture” for widespread publicity.  All the while expecting to be thanked.  A few hours later the restrictions return.  What a perfidious government Israel has.  One of the things we have to admire about Joharah is that she doesn’t hesitate to give her readers a piece of her mind.  And her skills in the LOD (the language of diplomacy) certainly are highly developed.  Another thing we admire about Joharah is that she’s open to suggestions  Joharah is a Muslim in whom there is no guile.  She works with Hanan Ashrawi at MIFTAH.  Hanan is a Christian, an Anglican (Episcopalian).  She’s a sometimes Lay Reader at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem.  Or at least she used to be.  There’s no guile in Hanan either.

Peers, there’s a matter of urgency to which my Allies and I have been giving a great deal of thought.  Thinking is hard work, but somebody has got to do it.  See what you think of a new idea.  If the Leaders of the Muslim World were to begin a project to explain to non-Muslims and Muslims alike what a Hudna means to Muslims … and … what a Fatwa means to Muslims … it would facilitate the peace process immeasurably.  A Hudna is a ceasefire and much, much more.  A Hudna is Islamic Jurisprudence.  If you agree that education is called for (in order prevent another world war which nobody would win), help us spread the word.  Spreading the word in this case will be seen as Christians throwing Muslims a  “touchdown pass”, as it were.

In Iran there is a Fatwa prohibiting … i.e.,forbidding … i.e., outlawing … the Islamic Republic from manufacturing nuclear weapons.  That’s a fact, and the majority of the world’s population knows nothing about it.  There’s a postscript.


P.S.   Our Islamic Brothers and Sisters have already taken the initiative.   See: a common word between us and you – AOL Search Results.   Please read on. 


Whatever You Do, Don’t Say Thank You

Date posted: 15/10/2012

By: Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Israel has announced it would mull the idea of offering additional entry permits into Jerusalem over the Eid Al Adha, the Muslim’s most major holiday. It also said its decision would be contingent upon “security considerations”, that is, if Palestinians play good and don’t bother the occupation. Two months ago, during the Eid Al Fitr holiday, Israel granted thousands of West Bankers permits to enter Jerusalem and Israel as a “good will gesture” during the holidays and an additional 5,000 permits for Palestinian workers to seek jobs inside the Green Line.

Anyone less versed in the conflict would think Israel is a “gentle occupier”, compassionate with the hardships of the people it occupies and finding ways to make their lives easier. When Israel announced it was “easing measures” at the Qalandiya checkpoint, Palestinians who forgot the bigger picture sighed a sigh of relief. And those who got the coveted permit to enter Israel smiled inside, picturing their stroll through Jerusalem, a leisure they had not enjoyed for years.

Unfortunately, if the situation plays out like the last time Israel “offered its kindness” to the Palestinians, West Bankers thirsty for a bit of normalcy or better yet, for big shopping malls, will flock to west Jerusalem and load up on Israeli goods. It will be Israel who benefits from its own “goodwill gesture” more than this being any kind of philanthropic move on its part. Last time, Israel’s Jerusalem malls and beachside restaurants in Tel Aviv made a small fortune from Palestinian vacationers who flocked to the tourist sites they thought they would never see.

The saddest part of this is to sense the gratitude some Palestinians feel when they get these permits or pass through Qalandiya without having to open the trunk of their car. This is no doubt a natural reaction in any normal circumstance: you thank those who make things easier for you. But in the case of Israel, no “thank you” is required.

Once we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, Israel’s objectives are disturbingly clear. At the Qalandiya checkpoint, the purpose of making the checkpoint a bit “easier” [which is applied haphazardly at best] is not out the kindness of Israel’s heart but a way to neutralize those who must endure it day in and day out. Most Palestinians will remember that, 15 years ago, there was no such thing as a Qalandiya checkpoint. Israel has made sure this is a new reality on the ground and a permanent fixture on the Palestinian landscape. It is a constant reminder that Jerusalem is off limits and will never be part of a Palestinian state if Israel can help it.

So, when drivers pull up to the Israeli soldier manning the checkpoint, or walk through its metal bars, the last thing that should be on their lips is “thank you. If it were not for Israel’s occupation and all of the violations and illegalities that come along with it, the checkpoint would not be there at all. It is the Palestinians’ right to go from Ramallah to Jerusalem and the occupation has deprived us of that right. So, when we are able to cross, by all means take the opportunity. But Israel deserves no thanks for giving us something that is rightfully ours in the first place.

On this Eid, if they can, Palestinians should visit Jerusalem and go to the beach. Every Palestinian has a right to smell the Mediterranean from the beautiful shores of Jaffa or to walk the alleyways of the Old City. But remember, Israel does not offer permits or ease restrictions at checkpoints because they love us. It is to ease them into accepting isolation of Jerusalem as a given and have us thank them for allowing us into their malls and their beachside restaurants.

There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of an opportunity that arises. But instead of plumping up Israel’s economy by spending loads of money in Israel’s malls, we should all take that opportunity to appreciate the Palestine that was stolen from us and which will forever be in our hearts.

Joharah Baker 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…