By Linah Alsaafin
On Saturday June 16, a group Palestinian youth in Ramallah invited activists from the We Are All Hana Shalabi campaign to participate in a protest that took off from Clock Square in Ramallah’s city center.
The protest was in support of 25 year old Mahmoud Sarsak, who had entered his 90th day on hunger strike that same day, protesting his illegal detention without charge or trial for three years. Arrested by Israeli authorities at the Erez checkpoint in 2009, Sarsak was on his way to rejoin the rest of his team in the West Bank. Held under the indefensible “Unlawful Combatant Law”, Sarsak’s detention had been subjected to renewal for 6 times on a 6 month basis.
As the demonstration passed the Manara Square and into Irsal Street, the number of protesters increased to about 60 people, who chanted slogans in solidarity with all Palestinian prisoners incarcerated by the Zionist state and condemning the Palestinian Authority’s silence and failure to pressure the international community to secure the release of Sarsak- once a star player, now a skeletal figure.
Palestinian Authority police were waiting for the protesters, who were on their way to demonstrate by the PA compound al-Muqata’a. The police tried to block the protest from proceeding further on down the main street, and for a short while, despite several protesters sidestepping the policemen, the protest came to a halt. However, as more and more protesters slipped through, the policemen gave up and began running towards the Muqata’a in an attempt to cordon it off before the protesters could reach it. Several policemen began brandishing their batons in the air before slapping them down next to the feet of protesters, yelling threats and ordering them not to advance.
In the end, the protest did manage to reach the Muqata’a, and the presence of policemen increased. Popular chants calling out the security coordination between the PA and Israel while the Palestinian people are under occupation were vigorously repeated over and over again. PA intelligence or mukhabarat were taking pictures of the protesters. After 20 minutes—and with the escort of police—the protest made its way back to Ramallah’s city center, and walked through the streets still chanting.
While PA president Mahmoud Abbas was not present at the Muqata’a, his inexcusable silence regarding Mahmoud Sarsak’s detention and hunger strike is another result of the collaborative and unrepresentative nature of the PA, especially considering that Abbas has no qualms in publicizing his visit to the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister next month for another farcical round of “preliminary negotiations” [[http://maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=496055]].
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike for dignity and for freedom, something the PA never had since its inception off the back of the disastrous Oslo Accords in 1993, has signaled another victory in the Prisoners Movement. A deal was reached on Monday which will see him released on July 10th, following in the footsteps of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi, and many other prisoners who have recently won their release due to their resistance from inside the prison walls.