A lesson from Thaer Halahla's hunger strike
I was awestruck by this man who was so determined to have his voice heard that he didn’t eat for 77 days.
This week, a Palestinian prisoner ended the 77th day of his peaceful hunger strike after Israeli authorities agreed to release him on June 5.
Thaer Halahla was on the brink of death as the deal was secured. The father of one had been detained without charge for two years and has never even met his daughter – her existence is only known to him through a few pictures.
Ironically, an Israeli spokesperson had stated:
This is about hard-core activists, from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who through this protest are trying to instigate violence.
Clearly this representative hasn’t heard of the term 'non-violent resistance' – a peaceful method of protesting used by Palestinians to fight for freedom.
Thaer Halahla, despite what you might read in the Israeli media, was not instigating violence.
The 33-year-old was indeed prepared to die in his fight for freedom. He, along with an estimated 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, were in administrative detention – in other words, they were held without charge or a fair trail.
Palestinian prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement, daily body searches (including female prisoners being frisked by male guards), abuse and taunting – the list is endless.
Thaer’s struggle for freedom was put in beautiful words in the form of a heartbreaking letter, written to his one-year-old baby girl.
The following are some excerpts from his letter:
My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my firstborn child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault; this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be apart from each other and to have a miserable life.
When you grow up you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no reason other then their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence. You will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission, and that he would never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity.
This non-violent letter reached millions worldwide. Not a single stone was thrown, no gunshots were fired and it was only Thaer’s determination to die that finally brought him justice.
In Pakistan, cars are set on fire, cities are brought to a halt and people are murdered. It is not the police, but innocent civilians who suffer as a result of these protests.
Do you think the average business owner in the Lea Market area has sufficient insurance to cover the cost of damages? Of course not.
Yesterday, I was thinking about Thaer Halahla and his fellow detainees when I sat down for my evening meal. I was awestruck by this man who was so determined to have his voice heard that he didn’t eat in 77 days – the longest hunger strike ever.
Palestinians use non-violent resistance to protest for their basic human rights. There is no freedom as far as Israel is concerned. If you speak in Arabic, you can be arrested; if you peacefully protest against Israeli policie, you can be arrested.
The Palestinians use civil rights methods such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which targets Israeli products and companies violating international law and benefiting from Israeli occupation.
Many people in Pakistan, too, are going through agonising times. They too have just cause to go into the streets of Karachi, Lahore and every other city; they have the right to be heard. But trust me, as an eye witness to Israel’s oppression, violence only makes you as bad as they are.