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'Freedom or death': Family of hunger striker left waiting

Aug. 14, 2015 10:42 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2015 2:56 P.M.)
Nasser al-Din Allan holds a poster depicting his hunger striking son. (MaanImages/Killian Redden)
By: Killian Redden

EINABUS (Ma’an) -- Nasser al-Din Allan said that his son, Mohammad, has already written letters to his closest relatives to be read upon his death.

“If he dies, he will be part of history,” the father of the Palestinian hunger striker said Thursday. “If he lives, he will be part of history.”

Muhammad Allan, a 30-year-old lawyer from the village of Einabus in southern Nablus, on Friday morning passed into a coma as he entered his 60th day on hunger strike.

He has taken nothing but water for two months to protest the administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge -- that Israel has held him under since November.

“He decided he wanted either freedom or death,” his father said. “The hunger strike was the only weapon he had.”

The deterioration of Allan’s health has raised fears that the Israeli authorities might soon make use of a controversial new law to force feed him.

He is being held in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon in southern Israel, where he was moved after doctors in Beersheba reportedly refused to go through with the procedure.

The Israeli authorities have alleged that Allan is affiliated to Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian movement that Israel considers illegal, and they have said he is “dangerous.”

But as residents of Einabus gathered before Allan’s home on Thursday, they spoke of a gentle, conscientious man and a well-respected lawyer.

Muhammad Allan's empty chair in his legal office in Einabus. (MaanImages/Killian Redden)

'An honest man'

Nasser al-Din said that from an early age, his son, the youngest of ten children, was always highly principled and well-liked.

He said it was while he was studying law at the Arab American University in Jenin -- at the height of the Second Intifada -- that he came to adopt the resistance ideals of Islamic Jihad.

It was due to his political position he was imprisoned by Israel from 2006 to 2009, his father said.

However, after he was released, his father said, Muhammad largely cut his political ties to Islamic Jihad and focused instead on his career.

One of his cousins, Saif Allah Allan, said that Muhammad has been extremely successful as a lawyer.

“Many people come to him because he is an honest man,” said Saif.

Mohammad Radshan, the only other lawyer in Einabus, said that Allan, whose cases include criminal, civil and business lawsuits, was viewed by other lawyers as “exemplary.”

He acknowledged that Allan is deeply religious, but said that it had not affected his standing among his peers.

“He has an excellent relationship with the judges, lawyers and state prosecutors,” Rashdan said.

Khader Adnan greets residents of Einabus at a rally in support of Mohammad Allan. (MaanImages/Killian Redden)

'Palestinian spirit raised'

During his career, Allan also defended members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who were detained by Palestinian Authority forces, Rashdan said.

Many of these political detainees are opponents of both the PA and Israel, and critics of the PA have in the past accused the authority of carrying out the detentions on Israel’s behalf.

Allan's family said that the lawyer himself was previously detained by the PA, something he shares with Khader Adnan, another alleged member of Islamic Jihad who was released from Israel's prisons last month following a 56-day hunger strike.

Adnan’s family said during his hunger strike that they did not believe the PA had not done all it could to secure his release.

Similarly, Allan’s cousin Saif said on Thursday that he believed the PA could be doing more.

He noted that popular support for his cousin was possibly at odds with PA efforts “to keep the atmosphere calm” across the occupied Palestinian territory.

“The Palestinian spirit has been raised,” he said, adding that if his cousin dies, “People will revolt -- it could be an intifada.”

Only a few residents of Einabus support Islamic Jihad, and although its black flag has been raised over Allan’s home in the village, the flags of Fatah and Hamas also flutter up and down the street.

His father said that his son’s popularity extended beyond party divisions. “It is not a matter of Islamic Jihad -- it is a matter of the Palestinian people.”

Children hold posters at a rally in Einabus in support of Mohammad Allan. (MaanImages/Killian Redden)

A 'primitive law'

As the sun set across the terraced hills of southern Nablus on Thursday, Palestinian officials gathered below the lawyer’s home to attend a rally in his support.

Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Authority Prisoner’s Affairs Committee, told the crowd of villagers that Allan represented all Palestinians, “not as an individual, but as a symbol.”

Qadura Fares, who heads the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, said that Allan had already been victorious by bringing the Palestinians together behind him.

However, there was little certainty as to how his hunger strike would end.

Last month, the Israeli Knesset approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike to be force fed if their condition becomes life-threatening, a procedure many rights groups view as torture under international law.

Many locals, including the lawyer Rashdan, said that they did not believe Israel would go through with the procedure.

However, Fares, whose prisoners’ society has been seeking to negotiate Allan’s release, was less confident.

He said that Israel was largely unwilling to negotiate, as they claimed that Allan was “too dangerous.”

“This new primitive law to force feed him, gives [the Israelis] enough time not to make a real decision,” he said.

Khader Adnan, who also attended Thursday’s rally, told the villagers that Allan could still be victorious, but he called on the PA to do more -- “before it’s too late.”
Comments
JoeUSA / USA
BOBBY SANDS....Revisited.
15/08/2015 02:31
Horace / Papua New Guinea
Is he dead yet?
15/08/2015 08:37
Michael Collins / Eire
@JoeUSA/USA: Not quite but nearly. Bobby Sands is dead, Muhammed Allan is clinging to life. However I can see the similarities, especially with the Al Quds Brigade. Lets hope there's a happy ending this time.
16/08/2015 00:55
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