Muslim Peace Fellowship

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New Muslim Peace Fellowship phone conference Sunday!

Allah never changes the condition of a people until they change it themselves”

Coming! Reserve a space now!

Evening of November 4, 2012

MPF Phone Conference with Abdelnasser Rashid

Program Director, New Americans Democracy Project

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Member of Fellowship of Reconciliation National Council for MPF

“Elections as a Tool of Nonviolent Resistance”

Why vote? Find out!

Q & A moderated by MPF Program Coordinator Sahar Alsahlani

info at sahar_alsahlani@hotmail.com

Introducing Sahar Alsahlani

Salams my Brothers and`Sisters of the Muslim Ummah,

I am honored and humbled to join the Muslim Peace Fellowship Family.

I look forward to this blessing and opportunity to help continue the mission of  peace, reconciliation, and multi-religious solidarity for social justice, insha’allah.

Looking forward to posting more soon.

Sahar Alsahlani

NEW FUTURES FOR ISRAEL AND PALESTINE PRESENTS:

ABOUT EVENT:

My Life as an Israeli Soldier: The Realities of Israeli Occupation

With Yoav Litvin

Sunday July 22 at 3 PM
at The Fellowship of Reconciliation 521 N Broadway, Nyack NY

Yoav Litvin is a doctor of Psychology/ Behavioral Neuroscience, currently conducting his postdoctoral research at The Rockefeller University, NYC. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Yoav moved with his family to the United States where he spent his elementary school years. Yoav moved back to Israel for his high school years and subsequent military service in the Israel Defense Force where he served as a paratrooper and medic for three years. During those years he spent long months in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in South Lebanon. Yoav will speak of his personal experiences and the realities of the Occupation.

For more info contact: rabbilynn@earthlink.net

SAVING SYRIA: Sign up for call-in information!

Hudaybiya: Islam’s Victory by Nonviolent Resistance

By Adnan Majid

Which one event does the Qur’an describe as the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ (peace be upon him) “manifest victory”?

A. The Muslim conquest of the entire Arabian Peninsula, Jerusalem, and beyond

B.The Prophet’s ﷺ re-entry into Mecca and the destruction of the pagan idols in the temple of Abraham1`alayhi assalaam (peace be upon him)

C. A nonviolent Muslim movement resulting in a peace treaty and compromise with long-time enemies

It may come as a surprise, but the answer is C. True, the Arab Spring showed the world that Muslims can embrace nonviolent resistance to successfully affect change, but this commitment to nonviolence has rarely been described as a religious expression grounded in Islam. Many in the West have thus raised the fear that Islamic-minded movements in the post-revolutionary Arab world—Tunisia’s Ennahda or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, for instance—simply used nonviolence as a convenient way to assume power, after which they will turn to force and repression. This fear is overblown, for Muslims can indeed use Islamic religious tradition to firmly ground the principles of nonviolent resistance and faithful compromise with secularists and non-Muslims for the common good. And nothing can do that better, in my opinion, than reviving the legacy of an event in the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ life that occurred at a barren camp named Hudaybiya—an event Islamic tradition calls a “manifest victory”2 .

Before discussing this event, it is worth remembering the legacy of the first thirteen years of Muhammad’s ﷺ prophetic mission in Mecca (610-622 AD)—a period that so powerfully inspired Gandhi’s Afghan counterpart in the independence struggle, Khan Abdul-Ghaffar Khan, and his Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) towards a deeply devout Muslim commitment to nonviolence. “There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or Pathan [Afghan] like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence…” said Khan, “It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet [ﷺ] all the time he was in Mecca.”3

No one can dispute Khan’s assessment. Mecca’s wealthy elite vehemently opposed the Prophet’s ﷺ monotheistic message and unleashed a heavy toll of physical and economic persecution upon Islam’s weakest followers. Nevertheless, Muhammad ﷺ unconditionally forbade retaliation and enjoined a complete and patient commitment to nonviolence. When persecution became intolerable, he and the early Muslims migrated to Medina, where he established a sovereign state in 622 AD. Only then did Islam permit military action. The young Medinan state saw a series of battles with its Meccan enemies—Badr in 624, Uhud in 625, and the unsuccessful siege of Medina in 6274 —resulting in increasing Muslim regional influence. Though war brought its political gains, the Prophet ﷺ would soon show that he had never abandoned nonviolent resistance—it would bring forth his greatest victory.

Each year, the far-flung Arabian tribes would converge in Mecca for pilgrimage to the temple of their patriarch Abraham5 (peace be upon him). In the spring of 628, seeking to underscore his claim that Abraham was indeed not a polytheist, the Prophet ﷺ did what many would describe as daringly foolish and led 1400 followers into enemy territory, intent on peacefully performing pilgrimage. Bound by an ancient code of nonviolence, the Muslim pilgrims could carry no more than travelers’ swords for self-defense and would have been no match for the Meccan cavalry sent to rout them. Evading the cavalry and encamping within the sacred vicinity of Mecca, the Prophet ﷺ had essentially led his followers into a lion’s den.

Like all nonviolent resistance movements, the Muslims at Hudaybiya were at once incredibly weak and incredibly powerful—“weak” in being unable to match any abject brutality unleashed upon them, but “powerful” in that the public outrage elicited by such brutality would be far too socially costly to the powers in control. Neither the British Raj nor Jim Crow could afford to crack down on nonviolent protesters without earning the world’s condemnation. Likewise, in the sacred context of pilgrimage, the Meccans could not afford to massacre peaceful pilgrims without earning the condemnation of the entire Arabian Peninsula. After a prolonged stalemate, the Prophet ﷺ called the two parties towards a peace treaty.

Peace often requires seemingly difficult compromises. The treaty dictated that Muslims would return to Medina unable to perform pilgrimage until the following year, that anyone would be free to apostate from Islam, and that all male, Muslim refugees were to be returned to their Meccan captors. The Prophet’s ﷺ acceptance of these terms led to considerable dissension among his own followers until a new Qur’anic revelation described the events as a “manifest victory” (48:1)6 . Suppressing their personal emotions, the Muslims would have to trust that nonviolent engagement and political compromise were in themselves a victory.

Historians now recount how more people became Muslim in the following years of peace than in all the previous years of Muhammad’s ﷺ prophetic mission. When Mecca’s allies later broke the peace to resume hostilities, the Muslims conquered the city without fighting and completely forgave their former enemies. Although this military accomplishment was a “victory,” the Prophet ﷺ  made sure to remind everyone that Islam’s “manifest victory” had already occurred at Hudaybiya long before7) . It was nonviolence, not war, and political compromise, not rigid adherence to dogma, that brought that victory.

But in an age of conflict between “Muslims” and “the West,” it is certain that both Muslim extremists and anti-Islamic polemicists will dispute any Islamic justification for nonviolent resistance. I will just briefly address a few objections from both these groups, who, though nominally opposed to one another, remarkably speak with a single voice.

1) “Hudaybiya was not a true commitment to nonviolence—the Muslims had pledged to defend themselves physically if the Meccans attacked ((Known as the Pledge of the Tree, or Bay’at ash-Shajara.)) .” If the Meccans saw fit to break the sacred code and spill blood, the Muslim pilgrims certainly could not expect Meccan brutality to stop at a beating and a prison sentence. Rather, they expected being massacred. In that context, the Prophet ﷺ and his followers clearly saw fighting back with the little means they had as far more honorable than fleeing from their cause, even if it meant certain death. This commitment, an inspiration to all Muslims engaged in civil disobedience, by no means made their movement any less nonviolent—the Meccans themselves acknowledged such.

2) “Any Islamic justification for nonviolence has been abrogated. From the time hostilities with Mecca resumed, Muslims were bound to perpetual warfare with disbelievers until the end of time.” The Qur’an’s ninth chapter8 did enjoin Muslims to fight the Meccans after the treaty of Hudaybiya was broken, but it would be ridiculous to suggest that this would eternally prohibit Muslims from ever again turning to nonviolence or compromise. This very chapter itself calls for continued commitment to peace with polytheists who “neither failed you anywhere nor supported anyone against you” (Qur’an 9:4). And the Prophet ﷺ himself would never forget Hudaybiya’s legacy, for he reminded everyone of this “manifest victory” on his return to Mecca.

3) “Hudaybiya’s true legacy is one of deception; Muhammad [ﷺ] made a treaty when weak only to break it when stronger.” This charge simply does not stand up to historical record. Though the Prophet ﷺ took a dangerous risk in leaving behind Medina’s security, determined nonviolent resistance is never truly “weak.” And while Muslim strength did increase in the following years of peace, history recounts the Prophet’s ﷺ faithful compliance to the treaty, broken by Mecca’s allies. Hindsight is 20/20, but Hudaybiya was declared a “manifest victory” long before the eventual outcomes were known—when all that were apparent were nonviolent action, a failed pilgrimage attempt, and a difficult compromise for the sake of peace.

So what victory should Islamic-minded parties in today’s post-revolutionary Arab world work towards? Some in the Muslim world may aspire to establish societies devoted to God’s “sharia” or well-trodden path, but in focusing on this “end,” they may unfortunately turn to whatever means deemed necessary, however violent or duplicitous. By contrast, Hudaybiya’s legacy should remind all devout Muslims that real victory is achievable through constructive, lawful means. In this particular case, true and lasting victory was achieved through firm adherence to nonviolent resistance and non-dogmatic compromise with opposition. A resulting civil society arising from these principles—one at least able to ensure individual liberties and minority rights—may surprise some people but may be closer in line to the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ powerful precedent at Hudaybiya—Islam’s one and only “manifest victory.”

 

1. The Ka`bah []

2. Arabic: Fath Mubeen []

3. Easwaran, Eknath. Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, a Man to Match His Mountains. Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press, 1999. []

4. Known as the Battle of the Trench, or Khandaq []

5. The Hajj []

6. The first verse of Sura al-Fath reads Inná fatahná laka fatham mubeená – “We have indeed opened for you a manifest victory.” []

7. Abdullah ibn Mughaffal narrates, “I saw the God’s Messenger ﷺ reciting Sura al-Fath (melodiously) on his she-camel on the day of Mecca’s conquest.” (Bukhari []

8. The Chapter of Repentance, or Sura at-Tawba []

Which Muslim Leader Is the Real Champion of Peace?

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

People say this all the time when I teach courses about Islam and peace at colleges, universities and places of worship.

With the Muslim world erupting in chaos from the Libyan shores of Bin Ghazi to the tribal areas of Pakistan, this yearning for peace is becoming a global phenomenon. But name a Muslim leader today, spiritual or political, who has the vision, global presence, personal integrity and a track record of establishing peace.

Well, the wait is over.

Meet His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad.

He is the fifth elected spiritual leader — or khalifa – of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and is currently visiting the United States. I always tell my students that my peaceful understanding of Islam comes precisely from His Holiness’s leadership. From the day he was sworn into office (April 22, 2003), he has committed himself to extending a message of peace to the world.” Hush. Can you hear millions around the globe, whispering, “We’ve been waiting for you”?

Let’s go back to the challenge of finding a Muslim leader with vision, global presence, personal integrity and a track record.

Unless you were sleeping under a rock for the past decade, you know exactly how many Muslim leaders have a vision problem. Despite the Quran’s commitment to protecting all houses of worship, the Saudi grand Mufti called for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula. Despite the Quran’s prohibition of religious compulsion, the mesmerizing Pakistani cleric Maudoodi preached death for the apostates. Despite the Quran’s flexible position on governance, the newly elected Egyptian leader, Morsi, isanxious to implement his brand of the Shariah Law. People, can’t you see a trend?

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, however, exhorts Muslims worldwide to strengthen interfaith relationships, champion religious freedom and embrace the separation of church and state.

Yes, His Holiness is not the only Muslim leader rallying for peace. But he is the only leader who has an international following of millions of Muslims. In 2009, His Holiness launched a peace campaign in U.K.with the Community’s motto: “Love for all, Hatred for none.” Bearing this message, the ads decorated London’s red buses and thousands of flyers were distributed in neighborhoods. Following his lead, Ahmadiyya communities launched similar peace campaigns in GermanyAustraliaCanada and other countries. In America, all hands were on the deck when a “Muslims for Peace” campaign was launched in 2010. Young volunteers distributed more than half a million flyers, the elders sponsored hundreds of bus ads, and the scholars held dozens of interfaith symposia.

Talk of integrity. His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad is not someone who gives inflammatory statements to his internal audiences and plays peaceful in front of the cameras. His Friday sermons, privately watched by millions of his global followers, are a spiritual institution of peacemaking. Whether it’s violent reaction over Danish cartoons or the anger over Quran burnings, the Ahmadi Muslim khalifa has never instigated his members to create disorder. In 2004, His Holiness launched the annual National Peace Symposium in U.K. where government officials gather to exchange ideas on the promotion of peace. In 2009, he launched the annual Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace for individuals or organizations that have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the cause of peace. Watching the escalating tensions with Iran, His Holiness, has written personal letters to the Presidents of Iran, Israel, Canada and America in 2012, warning them about the threat of a nuclear third world war.

None of this is conceptually new to Ahmadi Muslim leaders though. Despite facing constitutionally backed persecution for over half a century in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, the Ahmadi Muslim leaders have advocated for peace and compassion under threats and oppression. As a result, not even a single member of this community has ever been charged with an extremist act.

Last week, I was among the thousands to meet the Khalifa, His Holiness, during his visit to the United States. This week he will be meeting congressional leaders at the Capitol Hill. Many are waiting in line.

But many don’t like to lie in wait. For them I have good news. Just look at the teachings, practices, track record and the character of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and their spiritual leaders over the past century, objectively. Once done, your likely response is going to be, “We’ve been waiting for you.”

EXCERPT: Peace Primer II

Speak out clearly, pay up personally

The purpose, promise and peril of interfaith  engagement.

by Lynn Gottlieb, Rabia Terri Harris, Ken Sehested

In the early weeks of 2011, during the Arab Spring uprising, Egyptian blogger Nevine Zaki posted a photograph from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It showed a group of people bowing in the traditional style of Muslim prayer, surrounded by other people standing hand-in-hand, facing outward, as a wall of protection against hostile pro-government forces. Zaki affixed this caption: “A picture I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers.”

Similar scenes—some ancient, some as recent as yesterday’s newspaper—have been arranged in a host of ways with a variety of religious identities. No religious tradition can claim a monopoly on compassionate courage. And yet such snapshots remain rare.

A recent magazine ad for a large U.S. stock brokerage firm features a stunning photograph of the Earth taken from space. Superimposed over that image is the phrase “WORLD PEACE IS GOOD.” And then the ad continues: “But finding a stock at 5 that goes to 200 is better.” This glimpse of cynicism gives us some idea of the economic and emotional forces we’re up against when we try to work for genuine peace.

If the effort to foster understanding and relationships across religious lines is to be more than a cosmopolitan hobby, if it is to become a substantial and sustainable movement, expanding the base is essential. New and renewed strategies and resources are important, as is provoking the kind of imagination that will support costly action. Both these goals require clarifying the purpose and promise, as well as the peril, of interfaith engagement.

This revised and expanded version of Peace Primer is being offered in the conviction that interfaith dialogue and collaboration are both possible and urgent. Much has already occurred, and we celebrate, remember and support those inspired individuals and organizations that have led the way. Solidarity in human dignity across apparent boundaries of separation has long been practiced by many people of conscience, in many times and places, though the phenomenon has rarely been afforded the public attention we believe it deserves. Still, plenty of documentation exists.

The purpose of interfaith conversation is not to have exotic friends or engage in literate conversation at dinner parties. The purpose of crossing these boundaries is to affirm the God of Creation, the God of Humanity, in the face of rampant efforts to debase both creation and humanity—efforts that are generally defended with reference to some divinized “greater good.” Far too often, such efforts seek to bolster themselves with religious legitimacy of some kind. Coalitions of religious adherents of every sort are therefore needed to mount resistance to the “myth of redemptive violence,” as theologian Walter Wink called it—that most enduring of human miscalculations.

The French novelist and journalist Albert Camus was speaking to a group of Christians when he said it, but the audience contains us all: “What the world expects” is that “you should speak out loud and clear . . . in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could arise in the heart of the simplest person. [You] should get away from all abstractions and confront the bloodstained face history has taken on today. We need a group of people resolved to speak out clearly and to pay up personally.”

Besides saying no to religiously sanctioned violence, multi-faith groups also need to say yes to the policies of justice that prepare the ground for a harvest of peace, by means of institutions that serve the common good rather than the “greater good.” Such policies are forged in the very heart of religious faith. Only a politics of forgiveness and human dignity has the power to free the future from being determined by the failures of the past, to make space for hope.

Conflict mediation specialist Byron Bland has written that two truths make healthy community difficult: that the past cannot be undone, and that the future cannot be controlled. However, two counterforces are available to address these destructive tendencies: the practice of forgiveness, which has the power to change the logic of the past; and covenant-making, which creates islands of stability and reliability in a faithless, sometimes ruthless world. A third counterforce also calls out to be deployed: the exhilaration of our discovery of the usefulness of human difference.

Religious communities have unique resources to foster politically realistic alternatives to policies of vengeance and to shape civic discourse in ways that free communities and nations from cycles of violence. When faith communities actively acknowledge one another’s gifts, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

This acknowledgement is essential. For in addition to the purpose and promise of interfaith engagement, there is also a peril that must be avoided. Interfaith dialogue too often presumes that for progress to be made, distinctive faith claims must be abolished, distinctive practices muted. Part of the shadow side of modernism is its tendency to reduce everything to common denominators.

There is a kind of cultural imperialism in this purported “universalism.” Interfaith advocates have a tendency to become culture vultures, picking a little from this tradition, a little from that—whatever looks and feels good at the time. Severed from particular disciplines, historic memory and communal commitments, this kind of freeze-dried spirituality offers sugary nutrition that stimulates but does not and cannot sustain healthy institutions. Politically speaking, the result of this intellectual fickleness isolates progressives from traditional cultures of faith and from the very communities whose collective weight must be brought to bear on our wanton, promiscuous state of affairs, where vulgar enthusiasm for personal gain forever seems to trump the commonwealth.

It has been said that in a drought-stricken land it does little good to dig many shallow wells. We believe that the way forward for interfaith engagement will acknowledge at the outset that energizing interreligious collaboration does not mean homogenizing faith. Of course, that does not mean we shall remain unchanged. But we will be pushed to trust that the Center of our adoration, however that reality is named, is greater than the limits of our comprehension.

In the end, such delight and joy—some say reverence—is the only power that will sustain the risks to be endured.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, author of She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of Renewed Judaism, is coordinator, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence, Berkeley, CA. Her book, Trail Guide to the Torah of Nonviolence, will be published by September 2012.

Chaplain Rabia Terri Harris is a teacher and student of transformational Islam. Founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship in 1994, she is president of the Association of Muslim Chaplains and a scholar in residence at the Community of Living Traditions.

Rev. Ken Sehested, author of In the Land of the Living: Prayers personal and public, is co-pastor of Circle of Mercy in Asheville, NC. An award-winning writer, he was the founding director in 1984 of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.

 

“Speak up loudly, pay up personally: The purpose, the promise, and the peril of interfaith engagement” is excerpted from Peace Primer II: Quotes from Jewish, Christian and Islamic Scripture and Tradition, published in June 2012 by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (bpfna.org).

For permission to reprint this article, contact Evelyn Hanneman, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, 704.521-6051, evelyn@bpfna.org.

Hana Shalabi Refusing to Play by Occupiers’ Rules

By: 

Hana Shalabi has been on hunger strike for over a month. Her condition has been deteriorating so badly that prison officials had to transfer her to a Haifa hospital (though she wasn’t admitted to the hospital).

Shalabi is protesting being held in administrative detention. These detentions are quasi-legal action through which Israel incarcerates individuals without charge or proper trial. Israel inherited this undemocratic procedure from the British mandate, which enacted it as part of the 1945 emergency regulations.

International humanitarian law frowns on this procedure
and Israel was asked by the international community on numerous occasions to end this practice. Over 300 Palestinians are presently held without charge.

Administrative detention orders are usually six months long; they are made by an Israeli military commander and presented in front of a military committee for renewal or cancellation.

Typically, individuals are detained by such order when the military prosecutors do not have strong enough evidence to charge them, but have a strong feeling that they are guilty of some security crime and prefer to keep them behind bars. However, many times administrative detention are used as punishment, revenge or as part of a system that the Israeli intelligence service (Shin Bet) uses to control the Palestinian population.

This seems to be the case against Shalabi, who was released last year as part of an Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange. Released Palestinians are given a pardon recommended by the minister of defense and signed by the Israeli president. The very meaning of a pardon is that all the previous charges and sentencing are erased from all legal books.

While some might attempt to try Shalabi in the court of public opinion, she is considered innocent in the eyes of the law. Basic juridical concepts prevent governments from punishing a person twice for the same crime or from using a pardoned crime as justification for further punishment.

Shalabi’s previous record, regardless of what she did, cannot be used against her.

The state of Israel has no new evidence of wrongdoing against Shalabi, otherwise they would have charged her. In fact, the Israeli commander who signed the order against her chose the unusual step of ordering her incarceration for four months, rather than the usual six months. This is a sign of lack of any “secret” evidence against her.

In an attempt to get out of the quagmire they find themselves in, and to prevent setting a precedent, the Israeli military prosecutors offered to free Shalabi on condition that she is transferred to Gaza.

A similar offer was made to her lawyers to have her sent to Jordan. It is unclear whether the offer is for the duration of the administrative detention and what guarantees, if any, were offered for her return. Both offers were rejected by Shalabi through her lawyer.

The idea of deportation, temporary or permanent, touches a nerve with the Palestinians. Since its establishment in 1948, the state of Israel has prevented Palestinians who left to avoid the violence from returning to their homes.

While any Jewish citizen, from anywhere in the world, is allowed to come to Israel and receive immediate citizenship, Palestinians continue to suffer from what is called “transfer” policy, which uses administrative means to deny individuals residency, sometimes when they are away for schooling or work.

Even inside areas that Israel controls there is a policy of internal displacement and exile. Twenty-six Palestinians who took refuge in the Church of the Nativity in May 2002 were expelled to Gaza, and 13 to various European locations. They have been denied the right to return to their homes since.

Israel, which always boasts of being the only democracy in the Middle East, uses various emergency laws and administrative orders to control the Palestinian population under its military rule. The rule of law is converted by the Israelis into a rule by law — military law, that is — by which the Israeli army decides how millions of Palestinians are controlled.

Most Palestinians have learned the hard way to acquiesce to this unjust rule and play the game by obeying the rules of the military dictators. Shalabi refuses to play by these unjust rules. She is using a centuries-old nonviolent technique to show her protest. She suffers to make the world see injustice. Will anyone see and react?

Hana Shalabi: Palestinian non-violence and global indifference

By: Richard Falk, Al Jazeera

No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his life-threatening 66-day hunger strike than new urgent concerns were voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 33 days. Both strikes were directed against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the hard-hearted. She seems a young, tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad but is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

 

 Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike

She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange that freed 1,027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Corporal Gilad Shalit. Since her release, she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and has rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normality, she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier.

Beginnings of a strike

On February 16, 2012, the day her administrative detention was renewed, Hana indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end to the practice of administrative detention – under which people are arrested and imprisoned without charge. A practice now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinians in prison.

Hana’s parents have been denied visitation rights, she has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. According to her lawyer, Raed Mahameed, Hana Shalabi was examined by a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights and the doctor said that “she suffers from a low heartbeat rate, low blood sugar, loss of weight, weakness in muscles, yellowing of the eyes and high levels of salt in the blood which [has] affected her kidneys, causing her pain in her sides, especially the left side, as well as pain in chest bones.”

Physicians for Human Rights said that Shalabi cannot sleep because of pain; she also suffers dizziness and blurred and occasional loss of vision. Ms Shalabi told Mahameed that she took salt last week, but refused to take any more and is living on two litres of water a day.

Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has said that even to see food makes her cry – considering the suffering of her daughter. Her father has likewise made a global appeal to save the life of his child.

Despite frequent mentoring to Palestinians by liberals in the West to rely on nonviolent tactics of resistance, these extraordinary hunger strikes (Palestinian human rights group Adameer recently tweeted that it was aware of 24 such hunger strikers) have been met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West.

Israeli authorities crudely declare that undertaking a hunger strike is a voluntary action for which they take no responsibility, and that the striker alone is responsible if any harm results. There is also not a hint that Palestinian grievances about administrative detention will even be considered, much less acted upon. Such hard-heartedness in the face of such sacrificial bravery is a sure sign that Israel is not ready for a sustainable and just peace with Palestinians.

The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is, in my opinion, a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings. It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.

- Yael Maron, Physicians for Human Rights

The UN also disappoints those who believe in its ideals. It has not raised its voice even to take notice of Hana Shalabi’s plight or of Israel’s accountability. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees: “The UN must be responsible for the whole of violations that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.”

The sad yet noble situation of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the NGO, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is, in my opinion, a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings. It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.”

Spiritual collapse

To engage in an open-ended hunger strike, especially for a person who is not in a leadership role, requires a deep and abiding dedication to right a perceived wrong of the greatest gravity. It is physically painful and dangerous to bodily health, as well as being psychologically demanding in the extreme. It presupposes the strongest of wills, and usually arises, as in these instances, from a sense that any lesser form of resistance has proved futile, exhibiting a long record of failure. In the end, this unconditional hunger strike is an appeal to the conscience and humanity of the other, and a desperate call to all of us, to understand better the cartography of abuse that abusive imprisonment entails – which can only be pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life and health in this way without harming or even threatening the oppressor is to turn terrorism against the innocent on its head. It is potentially to sacrifice one’s life to make an appeal of last resort, an appeal that transcends normal law and politics, and demands our response.

We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the complete restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral well-being, it is time - really, long past time - to renounce reliance on administrative detention and, to do more than this, to end forthwith its varied crimes of occupation. At this point the only possible way to do this is to withdraw unconditionally behind the 1967 borders, and to start peace negotiations from such an altered position of acknowledged wrongdoing without asking or expecting any reciprocal gesture from the Palestinian side. In the present atmosphere, it is politically unimaginable that Israeli leaders will heed such a call, but it is morally unimaginable that Israel will survive its impending spiritual collapse if it does not quickly learn to do so.

In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment, must do more than stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out. We need to do all we can to strengthen the demands of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi – and all who act in solidarity with them – for the immediate release of all Palestinians currently held in administrative detention, for an end to detention without charge, and to abusive arrests in the middle of the night.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


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