A Palestinian journalist is on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention by Israel. Alaa al-Rimawi, a reporter for Al-Jazeera Mubasher and director of the local J-Media Network news agency, marked his 17th day on a hunger strike on Friday after being placed under detention for three months.
Al-Rimawi, 43, was arrested overnight on April 21 in his home in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. Immediately upon his arrest, al-Rimawi announced his intention to go on a hunger strike. According to a family member, he was transferred to a hospital last week after his condition deteriorated, after which he was returned to Ofer Military Prison, where he was reportedly placed in solitary confinement.
An Israeli army spokesperson told +972 Magazine that al-Rimawi is a Hamas operative who has ties to senior members in the movement and “poses a danger to the security of the region. As such, the IDF commander of the Central Command decided to issue an administrative detention order in his case for three months. The judicial review of the arrest warrant has not yet been completed.”
Israel uses administrative detention to indefinitely detain Palestinians (and occasionally Jews) without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are not told what crimes they are accused of, or shown the evidence against them. As a result, it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.
Under international law, administrative detention should only be used in the most extreme cases. As of September 2020, Israel was holding approximately 350 Palestinians in administrative detention, including two members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
This is not al-Rimawi’s first stint in Israeli prisons. He was arrested in 2018 while serving as the station manager for the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds TV, after which he also launched a hunger strike. He was released a month later. Upon his release, al-Rimawi was reportedly ordered to stop working as a journalist for two months.
Attorney Khaled a-Zbarqa, who represents al-Rimawi, said al-Rimawi was not in good health when he visited him last week. “Yesterday he was visited by another lawyer, and his health is deteriorating, as hunger strikes severely damage one’s health, particularly since Alaa has already gone on a hunger strike in the past and this is affecting his body. He is in prison in poor conditions, in solitary confinement.”
According to a-Zbarqa, al-Rimawi began his hunger strike in response to his “arbitrary detention,” which he says is being carried out for no reason. “Based on his interrogation and the materials in the case, the arrest is only due to his journalistic work. There is no other reason.”
“The occupation thinks that this conduct can affect Palestinian consciousness. This is the first time I have seen a system that claims to be a legal and democratic system, while at the same time infringing on journalistic freedom and arresting journalists,” said a-Zbarqa.
“The first thing they said to Alaa after his arrest was, ‘Your coverage is influential and you are an influential person, so we view you as dangerous,’” added a-Zbarqa. “Is it not normal that a journalist will be influential? Israel wants Palestinian journalists to either be Zionists, lack influence, or sit in prison.”
Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement calling on Israel to release al-Rimawi. Palestinian journalists also announced last week that they will break their Ramadan fast only with water and salt, in solidarity with their colleague.
A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.