Last updated: April 29, 2013
Elisa Gennaro: Inside the Occupation jails

"25 Palestinian prisoners have cancer and their cases raise further concern from the population and the international community"

The death of prisoner Maysarah Abu Hamdiyah in an Israeli jail earlier this month raises more than one concern. Since 1967, 270 Palestinians have lost their lives like him. His story is meaningful because it reminds us of the path of the political resistance and the exile, it tells us about the inefficiency of the law and unveils the cruelty of policies and practices inside the Israeli occupation prisons.

Maysarah Abu Hamdiyah had suffered from cancer for more than eight months when he passed away. The Israeli Prison Services only gave him painkillers. Due to his stomach infection, he couldn't swallow pills orally so they gave him suppositories. They didn’t allow his family to visit during Jewish holidays. Three years ago he wrote for the first time about medical negligence inside the prisons and denounced many other cases among his fellows.

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After a conversation with Lojain Ahmad, director of the English website of Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights, we are able to trace the days that led to the death of Maysarah Abu Hamdiyah.

“On August 2012 his health started to deteriorate: he was afflicted by a sore throat accompanied by swollen in lymph nodes and salivary glands. At that time he was detained in Ramon prison clinic, they didn’t make any check up on his health nor they provided any kind of medicine.

The martyr then took anti-flu injection when he had pain in the rib cage and all the ribs in his body. But the severe physical discomfort brought the prisoner to go back to the clinic and explained to the doctor his condition but the doctor was not concern about his acute pain. Only after several pressure on the prison clinic, he got the approval to be transferred to the hospital. This happened on October 2012 but only two months later he went back to the Soroka hospital where he has been told that he had only a problem to his eyes. Then they brought him back to Remon prison without having a chance to make a real check up on its physical conditions. Within one month he lost 14 kilos.

On 10 January 2013 the prison's authorities transferred him again to Soroka hospital. The same day a specialist examined his neck by the ultrasound and informed him that he was suffering from cancerous cells in the throat area and these cells scattered in the glands near the neck area.

Two weeks later he was transferred in Ramlah prison hospital where he had a chest radiography, but as soon as all the medical examinations were done, they brought him back to the prison. As Abu Hamdiyah would have written ‘those frequent transfers were like a torment.

Later on, he was transferred to Asaf Harofieh hospital, he had an x-ray for his neck, chest and glands. He has been given colorful intravenously substances so that they can take color images but this afflicted him even more. Doctors in Asaf Horvaah justified these tests in order to prove the existence of cancerous cells and ensure the appropriate treatment. They said that he would be relocated to a hospital in Jerusalem for further tests and will turn to a specialist also in Soroka.

On Sunday 10/3/2013 Abu Hamdiyah was transfered from Ramla to Eishel prison to be moved again after only two days to Soroka hospital where he conducted examinations under anesthesia arthroscopy to the throat and stomach.”

Medical negligence coupled with disregard for his family and legal defence led him to die. When the Israeli realized that no treatment could have saved him, they started the procedures for his release but on April 2 announced his death.

Most Palestinians have had experiences with the cruel conditions of Israeli detention which in time has become a constitutive feature of their resistance. The prisoners’ issues have always been one of the most sensitive aspects within the Palestinian cause. Israel is aware about its weight and that's the reason why they use these inhuman treatments to provoke the people.

The humanitarian face of the illegal detention of Palestinians should not dull its political character. The way Palestinians reacted the day after his death demonstrates to us the role that prisoners play for the whole society: strikes and public protests took place regardless of the risks.

The day of Abu Hamdiyah’s death, 20 Palestinian were arrested, joining the 4.500 detainees who are subjected to various form of torture: deprivation of sleep and confinement, beating and other cruel psychological mistreatments aiming to destroy their personality, leading them in many case to physical deterioration.

For too long we have read about their cases from a lens of numbers and statistics while we are unable to react when casualties happen.

Dr. Lojain Ahmed did not speak to me only as a medical expert, nor just as Ahrar representative. As a Palestinian and activist she underlined the relevance of the link between the freedom for the detainees and the liberation of the land.

“Their efforts are the evidence of their attachment for the land and their awareness about the legitimacy of their resistance. The latest attack against a human life and the umpteenth instigation should persuade our politicians to delete from their agenda every negotiation until Israel will not guarantee, and put in practice, the full respect for the Human Rights inside its prisons.”

The stories of medical negligence should be associated with the human abuses against the person and the fighter who was Abu Hamdiyah. Yet he is not an exception. Currently 25 Palestinian prisoners have cancer and their cases raise further concern from the population and the international community.

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