Friday, July 27, 2012
In January 2011, 39 year-old drywall taper Michael Williams of Bedford, Massachusetts attended a demonstration in New York commemorating the two year anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. After the rally, he noticed a drunken white man shouting, “Go back to your country, you [expletive] terrorists!” at some teenage girls wearing hijab in front of a pizzeria. Williams and a friend intervened to defend the girls, who had also just attended the rally, and then led them in an impromptu chant of “Free, Free Palestine!”
The drunk then hit Williams in the face, whereupon Williams punched him back and a fight ensued, for which both men were arrested.
Curiously, the District Attorney let the drunk man go free but charged Williams with first degree felony assault and endangerment of a child, crimes he did not commit – in fact Williams and the Muslim girls were the victims of a racist assault!
In June 2012, the case went to trial. Despite having six eyewitnesses and clear photographic evidence that the other guy hit him first, the jury after three days of deliberation found Williams guilty of second degree assault, a sentence which carries up to 7 years. He was released on a $7500 bail so that he could return to Massachusetts to coach his son’s baseball game. Williams’ sentencing is to scheduled for August 10, 2012. He will appeal. Anyone wishing to donate money to his legal fund this Ramadan may contact al-Awda New York.
Michael Williams, in an exclusive telephone interview with TMO, mentioned some dark details of his court ordeal. The Muslim girl who filmed the assault and served as a witness was asked to whom she showed the film and what organization she was serving. After the soft-spoken girl broke down in tears, the prosecutor stated: “The reason you are here today is because you want him to become a martyr.”
This changed the whole mood of the trial. Afterwards, another eyewitness was grilled regarding his affiliation with the Green Party and was asked if the party’s belief in self-defense included killing innocent people?
Al-Awda New York circulated a notice entitled, “Dire Verdict for Michael Williams in Self-Defense Against Anti-Muslim Bigot,” which states:
“Michael’s conviction – despite unchallenged evidence of self-defense – reflects the prosecution’s orchestrated campaign to punish and intimidate those who dare stand up for Palestinian rights and against racist attack. Over the repeated objection of attorney Lamis Deek, the prosecution was permitted to introduce grossly prejudicial anti-Muslim rhetoric against defense witnesses, one of whom was even questioned about his opposition to a US war with Iran. During deliberations, the court refused to answer juror’s questions about the law of self-defense. Thus, Michael and the young girls he defended have been double victimized in this case; First by a racist attack on January 11, 2011, and then by an unfair and politically motivated witch-hunt in the courts. The resulting conviction is a dire threat not only to Michael, but to all Muslims, communities of color, and social justice activists.”
Williams expressed to TMO his total confusion as to how and why this was happening to him. Of Irish and Italian descent, married with two children, Williams speaks with a thick Boston accent. He is not the kind of person one normally expects to find as a defendant in such a highly biased trial. He is better known to his community as an activist with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades than for his views on the Middle East. Like most ordinary Americans, he remains largely unaware of pro-Palestine activist campaigns whether local or international. At that moment when he hit the man back, who had just swiped him in the face, he was acting as an American, doing what any other self-assured American man would be expected to do in the same situation. He kept on asking me, “What did I do? What have I done that was so wrong?”
Perhaps the most dangerous thing of all to the powers that be is when ordinary working class people start asking questions like those of Michael Williams: “What’s wrong with giving money to schools? Why can’t Gaza have a baseball field? How come I can buy an ice cream for my children but I can’t buy an ice cream for a Palestinian child? How is our system throwing innocent people in jail, labeling them as terrorists? The DA and the judge lied about me. They broke the law.
How could this happen? Why couldn’t my lawyer defend my innocence when everything was on film? How could the jury believe such obviously fabricated charges? This is an injustice!”
“I should have the right to an opinion,” Williams continued. “If you sat down and talked to me, you wouldn’t find any violence or hate in me. I believe everyone should have food and water. I love Jewish people. I love Palestinian people. I’m content with my life. I enjoy life. I believe that the capitalist system should allow Palestinian people to work and do business. I don’t hate people. I love people.
God don’t need you to fight for Him. Capitalism and Socialism go in cycles. In the end, it all boils down to economics. Israel will have to negotiate labor. The world is not coming to an end.”
About two years ago Williams called into Michael Graham’s radio talk show and mentioned that in Israel, it is illegal for Jews to rent or sell property to non-Jews. “Do you think that’s right?” he simply asked. Later that month, the FBI came to his house and arrested him in front of his children for “threatening to commit a crime” and “harassing” the talk show host. After making him go to court ten times, where they accused him of hating homosexuals and wanting to establish an Islamic caliphate, they finally dropped the charges. Due to the current zealousness of the prosecution to tie Williams to some unnamed terrorist organization based on bizarre and unsubstantiated insinuations, some wonder if the drunk man might have been an undercover agent.
“In the end, everything will come out. Nobody can conspire against God. The truth will come out of darkness and into the light,” Williams philosophized, admitting that he feels very alone right now. He feels like his life is in limbo and that he has no control over his fate.
His family will be destroyed if he goes to jail. He feels that he is being used as a pawn, but he doesn’t know what the game is.
Friday, July 20, 2012
On June 16, the US House of Representatives held another panel on Radicalism in the Muslim-American community, sparking outrage that the probe is a witch hunt akin to the 1950s anti-Communist campaign. It is unfortunate that any Muslims at all participated in such a demeaning event. No Muslim representative should or could ever explain to some authority what Islam means to me, or to anyone else. Especially when the judges in this particular tribunal are guilty of mass murdering Muslims in various countries via unprovoked war and war funding.
The Congressional discussions were premised on the obnoxious assumption that al Qaeda committed 9/11, and that al Qaeda is stepping up its efforts to recruit Americans for jihad using prison chaplains and the internet. My guess is that the 5% of Muslims said to hold positive views of al Qaeda are referring to their role in helping the US defeat the USSR, and do not believe that al Qaeda had anything to do with 9/11, like many Americans. During the Reagan era, the Afghans were referred to–by non-Muslims–as “freedom fighters,” not “terrorists.”
What American officials don’t understand, is that when Muslim-Americans talk about extremists in our mosques, we are talking about people who have narrow-minded viewpoints on things. For example, when I tried to publish an article questioning the farming background of Islamically slaughtered livestock in my local mosque’s newsletter, several local business owners intervened to prevent the publication of my article. So yes, every community organization has people who behave in a controlling way. They don’t like people who criticize or disagree with them. They don’t even like people who agree with them too loudly.
This is not the same thing as being guilty of terrorism.
“The greatest threat (to America) … is actually a theopolitical ideology that is hijacking my faith: … Islamism,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy told the House Homeland Security Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican. Mainstream American Muslim groups are “in denial” about extremism, “claiming victimization,” Jasser said.
I am in total agreement that Islamism is the worship of Islam, while true Islam is the worship of God. What Muslim-Americans don’t seem to understand, though, is that when the US Congress asks you whether or not you are an “extremist,” they mean: Do you accept Israel as a Jewish State?
Zuhdi Jasser, who served as the primary expert witness for this panel, and has connections with famous Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer, has made a career of trying to force pro-Israel and pro-war viewpoints on the Muslim-American public. According to Wikipedia, “Jasser is an outspoken supporter of Israel, and believes that Muslim organizations and leaders need to be held to a litmus test to see whether they recognize Israel as a state, specifically condemn groups such as Hamas and al Qaeda, and governments such as the Saudi and Syrian dictatorships. ‘If they don’t … then you have to wonder where their allegiances are,’ said Jasser.”
Jasser is a Syrian-American. So basically, it sounds like he is saying, if you are from an Arab country, and you are not working with the US to overthrow your former government, then you don’t belong here. Given the intimidation of Muslim intellectuals regarding the pro-Israel litmus test, a Muslim-American activist or politician can’t be considered “moderate” unless they accept Israel as a Jewish State.
Jasser and the US government are actually creating a boundary between Muslim-Americans and their fellow Americans, preventing meaningful political interaction. They talk about “democracy,” but what they really fear is that Muslim-Americans will join their neighbors in political activism. Because no American wants to pay taxes to Israel.
It doesn’t matter if they are left wing or right wing. We all have bills to pay, we hate to see dead children, and giving money to Israel simply makes no sense.
As usual, the Muslims avoided the elephant in the room and debated between accusations of militancy and pleading innocence. Not a single person raised the issue of why Jewish-Americans are regularly sent to Israeli Army summer camp to help enforce a murderous racial apartheid no American would tolerate at home.
Opposing Israel makes perfect sense, if you’re an American. It has nothing to do with being Muslim. A future two-state solution is unlikely to happen, and even if so, it would involve the ethnic cleansing of the entire region and would probably be worse than anything we have ever seen before in Palestine. Remember, when India and Pakistan separated on religious grounds at the same time when Israel was created, 6 million people died as they were forced out of their homes to relocate in the religiously appropriate location.
Still, India has almost the largest Muslim population in the world, so the ethnic cleansing was entirely useless. It really makes no financial or moral sense to separate Jews and Muslims into separate governments.
The most American option, which would probably go over well with the majority of Americans, is an equal rights solution like eventually happened in the US and South Africa. This argument is so persuasive that there is really no rational counter-argument. This is why pro-Israel lobbyists are working very hard to tell Muslim-Americans that they should join the pro-Israel camp against the American people, by giving them the false story that they need to accept Zionism in order to be a socially acceptable member of society. Yes, friends.
It’s all about Israel. We Americans already know you are innocent of 9/11.
Palestinian soccer player Mahmoud Al-Sarsak (L) is greeted upon his arrival in Gaza City July 10, 2012. Israel released the Gaza soccer player on Tuesday in a deal to end his intermittent four-month hunger strike after he spent three years behind bars without being put on trial, officials said.
“I thank God and all the athletes in the world,” Mahmoud Sarsak told a Ma’an reporter as he was transferred to Shifa hospital in Gaza City for medical attention after being released in a “rapturous welcome” to relatives who were gathered in great celebration at the Palestinian side of the Israeli Erez crossing in northern Gaza on Tuesday. ESPN reports that “Islamic militants” fired rifles in the air in a rousing homecoming for a beloved member of the Palestinian national soccer team who was released by Israel after being held for three years in prison without charge, trial, or contact with his family.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, American author Alice Walker and others had chimed in to support his release. Sarsak, the jailed Gazan soccer star, freed on July 10, 2012 due to massive international attention, had been detained on his way to a national team match on the West Bank in 2009. While participating in a hunger strike by 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, Sarkar lost almost half of his body weight.
Shuaib Ahmed commented in the Morning Bark that “the world remains, as it always has been – hesitatingly observant.”
The Palestinian plight was brought to world attention by the campaign to free Sarsak. Palestinian National Team players are often blocked at checkpoints, jailed, or even killed. Sarkar’s arrest was part of a broader effort to degrade his “national team without a nation.”
British comedian Mark Steel joked in the UK’s Independent that the Palestinians “were employing that old terrorist tactic of becoming the national football team, then qualifying for the World Cup finals from where it’s a simple step to start an insurrection.”
Energetic protesters in the stands in Scotland added to the 8-0 humiliation of the Israeli national women’s team in a European championship match on June 17. The Israeli national anthem was also booed before kick-off. In Wales, Israel lost 5-0, and in France, protesters actually invaded the pitch to pressure Israel regarding Sarkar’s life.
An Israeli Embassy functionary responded that Sarsak was a terrorist and that calling him a “young Palestinian footballer” was “insulting to footballers.”
FIFPro, the international federation of professional footballers, stated that no other Palestinian footballers should have to go through what Sarsak has experienced. Yet there are two other Palestinian football stars held in indefinite detention, prevented from playing for Palestine.
President of the Palestinian Football Association, Jabril Rajoub, asked UEFA president Michel Platini to remember Olympic squad goalkeeper Omar Abu Rois and Ramallah player Mohammed Nimr, detained without charge by Israel.
“For athletes in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement and the risks of being detained or even killed are always looming before their eyes.” Since Israel is in “direct violation of FIFA regulations and the International Olympic Charter,” Rajoub implored, “we ask Your Excellency to not give Israel the honour to host the next UEFA Under-21 Championship 2013.”
A similar plea was sent by 42 Palestinian football clubs based in Gaza, home to many of the world’s best football players.
Platini continues to ignore requests from concerned citizens, stating, “We cannot hold the Israeli Football Association responsible for the political situation in the region or for legal procedures in place in its country.”
What I want to understand is, if you knew that your country imprisoned a fellow athlete, how could you play for your country? I mean, given the obviousness of the treachery your playing would imply. How could any Israeli footballer, in good conscience, agree to play under these circumstances? And if you were an Israeli that chose to play, how should we look at you? Should we applaud your gains and cry for your losses, knowing that you didn’t care about simple obvious human rights issues regarding fellow players living close to you? Why are the Israeli teams not refusing to play another game? I would, if I were them.
For an explanation, let us look at the recent past.
In June, 2012, 12 year old Gazan Mamoun Hassouna was killed while playing football.
In 2011 Palestinian players flying in from a game in Thailand were prevented entry into the West Bank. Mohammed Samara and right back Majed Abusidu therefore missed the return game at home five days later.
In 2010, Gaza and West Bank winners had to postpone their cup final because the Gazan team was refused permission to travel. Also that year, Israel refused to allow six members of the Palestinian national team to travel from Gaza to Jordan for a match against Mauritania.
Ahmed Keshkesh was prevented from returning home for months.
During Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-9, Israel was responsible for leveling much of Gaza including the Rafah National Stadium, and killing football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1400 other citizens.
In May 2008, the national team was not able to attend the AFC Challenge Cup, denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup.
In 2006, Israeli missiles destroyed Gaza’s only football stadium.
Palestine had reached the top of their group in the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup. They failed to qualify after the Israeli authorities refused permission for five key players to travel to a match against Uzbekistan in Qatar on September 7, 2005.
In 2005, while playing football, Ashraf Samir Ahmad Mussa and Khaled Fuad Sahker Ghanam, and Hassan Ahmad Khalil Abu Zeid, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.
There are countless other such incidents. None of that is really news, just banality of evil. What is news is that international pressure freed one Palestinian prisoner. Dave Zirin reports in the Nation: “Not only does Sarsak live but the movement lives as well. It’s been strengthened by Sarsak’s survival and the revelation for many that the thankless, frustrating and often devastating work of international solidarity with political prisoners can actually work.”
Monday, July 16, 2012
This summer, I packed my four kids into my Corolla and headed for the highway going south from Boston towards Michigan, where I was born and spent my first 28 years. Returning home was a very moving experience, both uplifting and disturbing.
Our first stop was Oak Tree Road in Iselin, New Jersey, where we bought cheap Indian trinkets and feasted on chickpeas, yogurt and fried bread. My daughter Iman and I knocked on the door of the tiny apartment where she was born at home in Piscataway eleven years ago and a kind Pakistani lady and her daughter let us come inside for a moment to look at the place. As we left, I burst into tears thinking of the years of our lives that seem to have vanished without a trace.
Not a lot had changed, but there was no one to visit, no familiar faces; just the ever-tender painful memories of a difficult yet sincere interracial marriage that ended in great loss nine years ago.
I told my children I would take them to the mosque if they wanted because we’d probably run into some of their relatives there, but they said no because they couldn’t even remember them. After learning that their favorite ice cream and candy store no longer existed, we agreed that there was no further reason to stop in New Jersey ever again.
When we arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan the next day, I showed my children the Georgetown neighborhood where I grew up. While the cement structures I used to climb on as a toddler were still there, the shopping center where there used to be a Krogers, a drug store, a Hallmark gift shop, and a Chinese restaurant was all boarded up. The bank where I opened my first savings account as a child was empty and abandoned. I was not expecting Ann Arbor to look like Detroit! But the most remarkable change was the trees. When I was a kid I used to be able to see my best friend’s house from my porch. But now the pine trees are so huge that you cannot see across the street. While it is indisputably marvelous to see nature towering over one’s old home, it does create a troubling sense of the sheer irrelevance of America’s or perhaps humanity’s continued existence. Ann Arbor’s downtown still seemed to be thriving, and many of my old haunts like Orchid Lane, the Michigan Theater, and Jerusalem Garden were still there. I was startled to discover that there were two halal restaurants, one Indian and one Arab, located at the main intersection of State and Liberty Streets!
Then we took a trip to Detroit, where we stayed at the Duck and Roll Inn, a lovely three bedroom guest house with a duck farm in the backyard on the East Side on a street with many abandoned homes. The weather was scorching hot from a prolonged drought. As we visited in the garden with old friends from my old Wayne State University days, a brush fire across the street turned into a fifteen foot tall bonfire, and we watched lazily as the Detroit Fire Department eventually came and doused it with water. I felt a deep sense of time moving much more slowly than it does in Boston. It was a great relief to feel myself becoming myself again. It was so wonderful to be back among friends, who were practically competing for us to stay with them, even people I hadn’t seen in over 25 years.
Probably the most harrowing but important part of our journey was our visit to the Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit, where my first baby was buried 14 years ago. The Muslim section of the graveyard was almost entirely grown over. Thankfully, we found about four letters of my son’s name still visible beneath the brown, crispy grass. I knew the grave would need some cleanup but I was not expecting this level of neglect. My children and I ripped out grass for two hours, uncovering the stone. We poured the last of our drinking water over the gravestone and used twigs to clean out the mud from my son’s name and the dates of his short life. We worked until we were sick from heat exhaustion and completely filthy from the cemetery dirt. We planted a few wildflower seeds around his grave and prayed for rain, which actually did fall a couple days later. Oddly enough, I did not cry, but felt a deep sense of peace and satisfaction at having rescued my son’s grave from being overtaken by time. He is the only member of my family thus far to be buried in America, and the fact that his bones lay there in that terrible neighborhood with its burnt out buildings and vast expanses of desolation that was once a booming industry, provides me with a sense of permanency that does not exist on any other level in my life.
My family has all moved away from Michigan. All that remains are memories. It was incredibly healing to return to Ann Arbor to attend my high school reunion and to hug every single person that looked even vaguely familiar. For one weekend, I felt normal again. I went back to a time in the past when I knew who I was, and so did everybody else.
People in the Midwest are so polite and nice. All you have to do is look at them and they smile at you. My children wished we could stay there forever among friends, feeding the ducks in the pond, but I have no job there.
Back in Boston, for the past two days, I have experimented with trying to make eye contact and smile at people on the street without much success. They look right through me like I’m not there. Here in Boston, the weather is much milder and the health insurance is free, but people just make you feel so alone. Unless they perceive you as belonging to their socio-economic-political-racial status, they only talk to you if they are scolding you for something like if your bag accidentally brushed against them. When I lived in Michigan, I used to greet everybody and they were happy to greet me. These nine years I have lived in Boston, I have been deeply miserable. My summer vacation has taught me that it’s not my fault. I’m just a Michigan girl that somehow got lost like a leaf blowing in the wind.
“You get punished for Holocaust denial, even if you are just revising; yet if you are a Nakba denier, your Israeli organization gets rewarded with German and American tax money. In fact, the Nakba was far more of a deliberate genocide than the Holocaust, in how carefully and openly it was premeditated.”
I posted this on Facebook the other day and as expected, I was rewarded with heaps of abuse from the under-informed. Note that I neither denied the Holocaust nor tried to quantify who has suffered more.
My post was related to a recent article in Haaretz on the proposed ‘Nakba Bill,’ which aims to withhold state funding from academic institutions that commemorate the Palestinian Nakba. Commemorating the Palestinian Catastrophe or celebrating the Israeli Independence Day as a Day of Mourning is viewed as an activity that “opposes the existence of Israel as Jewish-democratic state.” This is interesting, since in the US, Thanksgiving has been commemorated as a Day of Mourning for decades by many Native Americans and others, but nobody even blinks.
The point I was making however is that it is curious how competing historical narratives are legislated. “The victor writes the history.”
If a competing historian happens to be German or Austrian, they can expect to die in prison simply for writing a book.
From what I can gather from my now un-friends, it is taboo to compare or relate the Holocaust with any other human tragedy. Even many of those who claim sympathy for the Palestinians feel a need to reserve a special place for the Holocaust, despite the political use of the concept of “unique suffering” to give Jews special rights, including the right to commit genocide during our lifetime without comment. An Israeli Facebook friend and alleged peace activist posted:
“Palestinian people suffering does not amount to the whole sale industrial attempt to physically kill an entire people which was close to being totally successful in Europe.”
While nobody denies that millions of Jews perished in World War II, along with tens of millions of Christians and others, the number of 6 million has been reduced to 3 million in recent times by mainstream historians. Death inside German concentration camps was widespread, but in most cases, prisoners died of disease and malnutrition.
However, people tend to fixate on the belief that 6 million Jews were gassed to death in a systematic method by the German government with the same amount of passion that Christians hold for the Crucifixion.
In truth, there is no evidence that Hitler ever ordered all Jews to be killed. These beliefs are based on the Hollywood movie, the Holocaust.
The historical Hitler actually worked hand in hand with the Zionists, helping Jews emigrate to Palestine. There was even a Zionist (Jewish) faction of the Nazi party. Edwin Black’s book, The Transfer Agreement, the standard text on Nazi-Zionist collaboration, makes clear that the transfer of funds from Nazi Germany under this agreement made the Jewish State possible.
As WWII progressed, the German government had to deal with the problem of Jewish sympathy for the USSR, and with traitors giving away government secrets to Stalin with the same shamelessness with which US government secrets are leaked to Israel today, and Jewish organizations rallying to the cause of the traitor. Most people agree that this problematic situation in Germany was handled poorly.
What is almost never discussed is the context. The USSR, whose party leaders were largely Jewish or else influenced by secular Jewish philosophers such as Karl Marx, was an imperialist government that started annexing land in the 1920s, mass murdering tens of millions of Christians and burning churches. Millions of people were brutally tortured and died in Soviet prisons. It is safe to say that during the 20th century, Russia killed more people than Germany did. The US was also guilty of incinerating entire German cities as well as torturing prisoners. All in all, war is an ugly and cruel enterprise. World War II reduced the European population by 25 to 30%.
The idea that Nazi Germany is uniquely evil and that Jews in particular have suffered uniquely is a cornerstone of the creation of the State of Israel. For this reason, the State of Israel and several other countries actually mandate by law that no one can ever question the Holocaust, even if just to reduce the number to 5 million. If popularly accepted Jewish history were to be revised in the way that all other people’s histories have been revised in the light of researched evidence, the entire basis of Israel’s existence would come into question.
Yet even if we were to accept that 6 million Jews were gassed to death by Germany, it still doesn’t make any sense why Palestine should be wiped out order to create Israel. In 1934 Arab leaders offered asylum to European Jews fleeing the Nazis and presented a plan for legal Jewish immigration to Arab countries. Israeli Founding Father David Ben-Gurion refused the offer. “One cow in Palestine is worth more than all the Jews in Poland,” stated Zionist leader Izaak Greenbaum.
While the imprisonment of Jews and political dissidents in Germany can be attributed to wartime hysteria, Hitler did not run his election on an anti-Jew platform (unlike today’s politicians running on anti-Muslim platforms). By contrast, Zionist genocidal goals were openly discussed as early as 1897, at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, where they discussed how to physically remove Palestinians from Palestine in order to create a Jewish State. Today in 2012, we are still experiencing debates on whether the existence of Palestinians can even be mentioned in public.
While President Obama awarded Israeli president Shimon Perez with a medal last week, world outrage about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has escalated exponentially as professional footballer Mahmoud al Sarsak nears death from his hunger strike of over 90 days in protest of his illegal incarceration. Thousands of other Palestinian prisoners, including 20 children, have joined his hunger strike. Despite a media blackout, the word has been spreading globally through Facebook and Twitter.
With Sarsak, Akram Al-Rikhawi, a prisoner for 8 years on his 57th day of hunger strike, wrote in a letter to the world: “This is an urgent and final distress call from captivity, slow and programmed death inside the cells of so-called Ramle Prison hospital, that you know that your sons and brothers are still struggling against death and you pay no attention to them and do not remember their cause…You are the ones able to support us for victory in our battle.”
Sarsak, a 25 year old from Rafah, in Gaza, was arrested at a checkpoint while on his way to the West Bank to play with the Palestinian national team in 2009. Since then, he has been detained without charge or trial, and has not been allowed to see his family.
He is being held under the Unlawful Combatant Law, which allows Israel to detain Palestinians from Gaza indefinitely without charge or criminal proceedings being brought to court. As with every other Palestinian prisoner held by Israel, Mahmoud was transferred to a prison outside of the Occupied Territories. This is illegal under Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from an occupied territory to that of the occupying state. 2,000 prisoners, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, are held as administrative detainees without a chance of trial.
UN Special Envoy to the Occupied Territories, Richard Falk, has called for the 25 year old’s release, saying that ‘he has suffered immensely.’ Sarkar has lost 33 percent of his body weight. After three months without food, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel issued a warning that he could die at any moment.
There are huge demonstrations expected in Scotland on Saturday, where Israel’s women’s soccer team is to play against Scotland. Mick Napier, chairman of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), explains: “There should be no business as usual for Israel’s national teams while Israel denies Palestinians the same privileges.”
Meanwhile, dozens of professional athletes have been rallying to Sarsak’s cause, sending out twitters to fans. “In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial,” wrote Marcelo del Pozo, an Argentinian player for Spain.
Seville striker Frédéric Kanouté posted on his website: “In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak.” Kanouté gained international fame when he lifted his team jersey to reveal a shirt with the word “Palestine”after scoring a goal during a league match at the height of Israel’s January 2009 attack on Gaza, an action for which he was fined $4,000.
Other supporters include Nicolas Anelka, former player for Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and French sailor Jo Le Guen. Prominent figures such as former France and Manchester United midfielder Eric Cantona, film director Ken Loach and American philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky have urged Israeli authorities to release Sarsak. Protests under the banner “Let Sarsak Live” took place in London’s Trafalgar Square last week to raise awareness of his ordeal. In a letter to The Guardian, former UK Member of Parliament John Austin called on the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to “reconsider its decision to hold its under-21 championship in Israel in 2013.”
Amnesty International also proclaimed that Sarsak, “who is at risk of death after more than 90 days on hunger strike in protest against his detention by Israel should immediately be admitted to a civilian hospital or released so that he can receive life-saving medical care.”
Philippe Piat, vice-president of FIFPro, the global organization which represents professional footballers said, “freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen. It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country. But actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colors of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.’
As the Israeli Asaf Harofe Hospital announced that Sarkar’s death could come within hours, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) became heavily involved in pressing the Israelis for Sarsak’s release. On June 20, Mahmoud Sarsak rejected an offer from negotiators and lawyers to be released to Norway or Sweden.
Mahmoud wants to be free to go to his home in the Gaza Strip only.
Gaza TV News reported on June 21: “After 91 days on Hunger Strike, Mahmoud Sarsak is to be released on July 17th. We will post further news as it reaches us.” This report has not yet been confirmed, so it is vital that the public continue writing letters and making phone calls of support.