Hana Shalabi: A Brave Act of Palestinian Nonviolence

10 Mar

                                                                (photo by Joe Catron)

            No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66 day life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank 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 most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

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 of four months ago that freed 1027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Gilad Shalit. Since her release she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normalcy she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier. On February 16, 2012, the day of this renewal of her administrative detention, Hana Shalabi indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end of administrative detention now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinian in prison. Her parents have been denied visitation rights, Hana Shalabi has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. 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 made a video in which she says that even to see food makes her cry considering the suffering of her daughter.


            Despite the calls to Palestinian from liberals in the West these extraordinary hunger strikes have met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West. Israeli authorities declare that such a posture is a voluntary action for which they have no responsibility. The UN has not raised its voice, as well. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of Union of Palestinian Woman’s Committee: “The UN must be responsible for the whole violation 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 plight of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the Israeli 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.”


            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 is futile, and has a long record of failure. In the end, it 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 I would imagine is pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life 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.


            We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral wellbeing 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 that altered position. 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 do so.


(photo by Joe Catron)

            In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment must not only stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out. Wherever we are, whatever we can do, we need to act, to appeal, to shout, and to denounce the inhumanity of allowing such cruelty to be enacted before our watching eyes. 

18 Responses to “Hana Shalabi: A Brave Act of Palestinian Nonviolence”

  1. joecatron March 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    I must propose a friendly amendment to your closing sentence. Write, call, rally, march, protest, occupy! Yallah!

    • Richard Falk March 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

      I accept this amendment, which is definitely friendly..

  2. Anti-Imperialists for the Caliphate! Queers for 'Palestine'! March 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    I’m soooo confused!

    Just the other day you were condemning the use of targeted killings.

    And now today, when your friend, co-conspirator, and ally – a member of “Palestinian” Islamic Gihad (PIG) – is in trouble you stand by her side?!!!

    Which is it, Richard? Either you loudly and unequivocally condemn the wicked “Palestinians” for their sinful crimes against humanity. Or you knock of your condemnation of targeted killings.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be Pro-“Palestinian” but then condemn the United States and Israel for how it conducts war.

    (* The Quranic law of “Palestine” requires racial purity, Richard. So while your “Palestinian” citizenship is ceremonial, you kuffar, your moral responsibility for their Mohammedan crimes is absolute.)

    • david HICKS March 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      Thank you Richard for your clear & compassionate writings above about Hana Shalabi & ‘The Bravest Form of Nonviolence.’
      I note that you have left the oh so very confused letter above in place
      complete with what I can only assume is an instance of verbal abuse in the second last line.
      [ It is interesting Isn’t it that the writer above ( Mr/Ms. I’m soooo confused! ) has read at least two of your posts . All that needs happen is that this person (1) keeps on reading , (2) opens their heart a wee bit & … before too long they’ll be able to write the word Palestine without using inverted commas for & aft ! ]
      Keep writing Richard. Your heart is always in the right place : on the side of justice & human rights & humanity & human decency .

    • Sherri Munnerlyn March 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

      Anti-Imperialists For The Caliphate!

      There are no sinful crimes against humanity perpetrated by Hana Al-Shalabi, which need to be condemned. Hana Al-Shalabi has not even been charged with a crime, as she has spent over 2 years in unlawful Israeli administrative detentions. All of this Israeli persecution against her is probably all just for something her brother did or allegedly did before he was murdered by the Israeli Occupier. You really should get your facts straight. Hana Al-Shalabi is a courageous young woman taking a stand against unjust Israeli practices, and deserves from all people of conscience, our admiration and respect and prayers! You know what I find is ironic, how redemption/salvation for Palestinians can lie in the strangest of places, in unlawful imprisonments and in nonviolent resistance acts, like Hana and Khader’s hunger strikes, in those unlawful detentions!

    • rehmat1 March 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

      No need to be ‘sooooo confused!’ dear. Just stop reading Islamic history through Daniel Pipes eyes – and start looking at it through American Jewish film-maker Norman Gershman’s eyes.

      ”To me Islam is poetry. is science, is to be with the Divine. Islam is beauty,” says Norman Gershman.


  3. monalisa March 10, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    Dear Richard,
    thanks again for bringing up this topic.

    I personally admire the Palestinians for not giving up to fight for their rights and freedom – however bitter and difficult it might be. In the case of Palelstinians it is extremely difficult !

    I would have wished we had much much more of such people in our country when the time would have called for – the occupation by Hitler. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough and the known were murdered by the occupiers and the rest fled or kept silence being terrified.

    Isn’t it some sort of a drama that far too often occupiers show their worst characterial traits especially when it comes to children and women.

    In case of Israel – a newly founded state – one would have thought that they would search for solutions without too much aggressivness. One would have thought that the Isareli government would have implemented human rights as a basic rule for both: for those people living for many generations there as well as for the immigrants.
    Unfortunately, right from the beginning, it was otherwise.
    How sad that they haven’t implemented a wiser way of ruling their country given to them to live in peace !!

    But maybe it is so: Aggressiveness towards a group of people seeds their agressiveness towards other groups of people not being involved in the first place.
    Maybe. Nothing learnt.
    And history isn’t consulted in order to get a broader viewpoint – in case of Israel it would have been very very wise to do that.

    Take care of yourself,

    • Richard Falk March 11, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      Dearest Monalisa:

      How much I value your wisdom!

      Your last comment reminds me of a line from a W.H. Auden poem: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

      Perverse opposite of the golden rule.

      Hope you are fine,


    • rehmat1 March 12, 2012 at 5:17 am #

      Monalisa – Some Americans did something during the very first month Hitler came into power and occupied any European country. In early 1933 – American Jewish Congress declared economic boycott of Germany, which eventually lead the US to join the WW II on the side of the Allied Forces against Germany. The US along with Canada and England refused to accept Jewish immigration from Europe under pressure from World Zionist Movement.

      “One can understand why they (Iranian) might want to become nuclear capable, if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully,” Rep.Ron Paul on FoxNews, August 2011.


      • monalisa March 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

        To rehmat1,

        thank you for your information.

        I share the same opinion as Rep. Ron Paul. Iran would be safe if Iran would really have an atomic bomb. We wouldn’t hear such loud war drums as we do ! They are getting louder and louder !

        Maybe Israel wants to get rid of their neighbors – they never tried to have good relations with them !

        best regard,

  4. jesualdo correia March 12, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    The world would be by far a much more decent and worth-to-live-in place if they were thousands of Richards Falks and N. Finkelsteins… Am I going to be consiidered antisemitic for having stated this?

    • david HICKS March 12, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      Not by me you’re not .
      I agree entirely Jesualdo !

  5. freethemuslims March 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Heartbreaking story of sister Hana Shalabi.

    I thought I would just mention something with regards to the last sentence:

    “In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment, can only stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out.”

    Is that all we should be doing? Really? Merely watching all of these atrocities happen right before our eyes?
    The sad thing is, this is exactly what we’re doing.

    Remaining silent about this oppression, only makes us the criminals!


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