A Human Chain for Samer Al Issawi: His Hunger, Our Shame

Samer Al Issawi: Day 198 of his Hunger Strike against “administrative detention” in Israel’s prisons:

This article is from Counterpunch, feb. 6th 2013:

Amman, Jordan.

The human chain stretched into the distance each way; representing the path of Samer Al Issawi’s daily struggle and physical agony, a path of dignity and courage; and a path of our own helplessness and shame; every demonstrator held a placard for each day that passed since Al Issawi started his heroic hunger strike on August 1st, 2012, mine was 101; a three digit number jotted down in bold black markers on a white carton paper; was that the day his internal organs began to fail him? Was that the day his stomach started gnawing at its own entrails, muscle tissues and nerves in search of energy? Was it the day his bone structure began to weaken so much that his legs wouldn’t hold up his diminished weight anymore?

It wasn’t just a number; it was the day Al Issawi passed the one-hundred-day-mark of his ongoing hunger strike for freedom, now death is Samer’s bedfellow, overshadowing every little, shivering movement that his frail muscles could muster, skin stretched paper-thin over skeleton; he’s well on his way into crossing the two hundred day mark with his stomach tying itself into aching knots of hunger and the world is tying its lips in deafening knots of silence.

The turnout exceeded everyone’s expectations considering our now infamous pathological tendency for utter callousness and inaction when it comes to the suffering of Palestinians; the human chain was complete with 193 participants from all ages and walks of life, yet the crowd kept getting bigger; those without a sequential number in the chain settled with holding a sign or a poster of the Palestinian hero, others chanted his name; busting their lungs for a man now certainly much frailer than what he looked like in those pictures we held of him.

Of course the human chain wouldn’t have been complete without the presence of the human terrain of security forces which only added more verve to the largely peaceful proceedings, the wind was so strong that each of us held unto his sign lest it flies away, passers-by quickened their pace as they walked past us and the traffic on one of the notoriously busiest streets in Amman (University Street) slowed down as drivers tried to catch a glimpse of our modest attempt at disturbing the contours of our collective anesthetized conscience for a cause that seems to be lost in the tall grass of our reshuffled priorities and the Arab World’s bonfire of revolutions and counter-revolutions.

How can we not think of Samer Al Issawi while we’re picking up exorbitant tabs at five star hotels and fancy restaurants for a microscopic tiny portion of “exotic” food? How can we not curse our chronic passiveness and the fact that our moral abyss widens and grows ever darker with each passing day on Samer’s imprisonment? How can we casually keep his cause on the periphery of our consciousness when Samer’s life clock is hurriedly ticking away? How can I not think of Samer Al Issawi each time my stomach starts wailing that it hasn’t been fed in a couple of hours; that I am somehow committing some kind of “massive injustice” against my own wellbeing by not marching up to the kitchen and cramming whatever it is that I find in there into my mouth? I guess having an empty belly is a hundred times better than having a heart devoid of courage and dignity.

With an empty stomach and shackled to a wheel chair; Samer Al Issawi is now leading the rather “forgotten” battle of the “Empty Intestines” of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails against the Occupation’s draconian policies of arbitrary arrest and “administrative detention”; a rather vindictive colonial procedure that has maneuvered over 200 Palestinian prisoners into a life long struggle in which they had no choice but to literally selfstarve their own way out, while Palestinian politicians -well beyond their expiry date- and bickering factions have clumsily steered an entire occupied people’s fate into the gutter while wearing silk ties, walking on red carpets, and traveling in private jets, is there no depth of cynicism and moral depravity that we can’t reach when we jubilantly cheer that finally two junior officials of Fatah and Hamas managed to meet in Cairo at a time when a true Palestinian freedom fighter is silently weathering away right before our eyes?

Samer Al Issawi’s life is in danger; the fact that we’re not hammered with his story everyday by the mainstream media doesn’t make his struggle any less real, urgent and frightening.

Another human chain is planned for next week; seven more people will be added to the chain; unless the iron will of Samer prevails or his heroic hunger strike ends with an obituary before we manage to pull a repeat of this week’s demonstration.

Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.

Follow Samer Al Assawi’s supporters on Twitter: Twitter.com/samerissawi1

World Health Day at The Palestinian Wall…


My apologies to all for running out so abruptly on that last post, suggesting that crashing a MEChA meeting or supporting an action for Palestinians here and there constitutes “cross-movement organizing.”

It does not.


By my account, cross-movement organizing is deliberate engagement of both leadership and the people of other movements – or other branches of the global movement for universal liberation (which encompasses aspects of environmental and animal rights activists’ agendas as well) – as strategic allies in campaigns, actions, messaging, etc. It’s a process of recognizing and redefining common ground (and common opposition), working out areas of conflict between us, and building solidarity that extends beyond specific issues or actions to a general sharing of human, technological, and economic resources.

For example, “Jobs With Justice” has a campaign that encourages us to pledge that “I’ll be there” at least 5 times in the next year for someone else’s action – to fight for their health care, housing, or liberation, knowing theirs is intricately tied to mine. I don’t know how it’s working in action, but it’s a great concept.

My ASU comrade Emmanuel Gallardo, did an awesome job of cross-movement organizing with the “ASU Social Justice Coalition” a few years ago, which had members from many different student groups involved.

Boy, did we give President Crow some grief.

It’s the most diverse and active student organization I’ve been a part of, and while it was extremely ambitious and demanding, it was also quite inspiring. I learned a lot from Eman’s approach – he already had connections with every Latino organization on campus, but bent over backwards to connect with everyone else – from the NAACP and nAfrican American Men at ASU, to the Greens, to the LGBTQ community – and get us all to share our energy and resources – including bodies at rallies and actions.

So, what I ‘ve been doing is using the expression “cross-movement organizing” loosely to describe my clumsy efforts to establish relationships with people outside my immediate safety zone right now for the purpose of building explicit support for prison abolition. My recent connections include PUENTE, CODE Pink, the Brown Berets de Aztlan, the Liver Foundation, some Anarchafeminists, MEChA and these folks, the Students for Justice in Palestine.

I think it’s all connected anyway, of course – capitalism, war, racism, colonialism, prisons. Compulsory labor and the use of our bodies as soldiers, slaves, consumers or merchandise via coercion, co-optation, and criminalization (or the threat of it) still continues to this day. But the organizing around those principles, the personal connections, all that needs to be deliberate, consistent, prolonged, authentic.

I’m deliberate and authentic, but I’m also sporadic on the bigger scale, and may crash and burn tomorrow. I live on my own schedule, and am distracted by several different drummers in my head, so to speak. I’m something of a shy person, actually, unless I’m really all fired up about something or writing. I’m not too socially ept in many ways, so this isn’t all just coming naturally to me. I think I’m a little frayed from too many years of drugs and a few too many volts through my brain. Or maybe I’m just still rough around the edges, as they say.

In any event, cross-movement organizing is what I’m working on, but not with grace or ease. Take your lessons on that from the Black Panthers, et al – and keep in mind that the only thing that changed really about COINTELPRO is the language and the law: it’s still happening. This cross-movement stuff really threatens them. That’s why the Anti-Arpaio rally in January got disrupted by the cops…

Need not generate more bad vibes there, today, though. This post is really about the Wall. I was so stunned when it came into view on Hayden Lawn Wednesday (World Health Day) that I just put all my stuff down and took it in. I started photographing when I moved in closer, then came upon these words of a child….

I began to weep, right there, in the middle of the lawn with my tripod and camera in hand, in the shadow of this tower of heartrending scrawl, the narrative of perpetual occupation and war punctuated by photographs of dead and dying kids.

One cannot walk away from that wall and not be changed by the sudden visage of the blood we have on our hands. That has left me somewhat speechless; the magnitude of the prison industrial complex and how intricately tied it is to the perpetuation of war and violence. For now, the rest of the story of my afternoon will tell itself in pictures. As I catch back up with my life, I’ll put in a link in the margin to the Students for Justice in Palestine who set this up. hey apparently got the display from a group in California.

Thanks, by the way, to all of you who signed the solidarity card for Mississippi youth and the Scott Sisters.

Tune into NPR for a piece on the supplies finally reaching the Gaza Strip today for the first time in years – the world’s largest open-air prison. Good for the Black Market – of course there is violence and inequality there, too, but at least it’s a manifestation of the Resistance. Those people have done what they’ve needed to in order to survive another generation of genocidal policies. The economy is still so decimated, though. 

What does Israel hope to achieve by continuing to terrorize and massacre their neighbors?

What do we hope to accomplish that way, for that matter?