Franco-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri has been on hunger strike for almost two weeks. He has lost more than seven kilos, still refuses any medical attention – “but his morale is good”, according to his lawyers. With a group of 30 Palestinian prisoners, he is fasting to demand an end to his administrative detention. This practice inherited from the British colonial period allows a judge to put suspects – almost exclusively Palestinians – in preventive prison for a renewable period of six months. The defendant’s lawyers do not have access to the file, which remains secret.
A cell of 8 m2 without ventilation
Denounced by civil society, this arbitrary detention is one of the main tenets of the prison web woven around the Palestinians by the Israeli military occupation. And it is on the rise: nearly 800 Palestinians are today imprisoned with this status, a record for fifteen years.
A hunger strike is often the only recourse. The prison authorities know this, and the punishment is immediate. Salah Hamouri was placed in solitary confinement in an 8 m2 cell with no ventilation, equipped only with a toilet and a two-centimeter thick mattress. He must have left behind photos and books, and only goes out to shower.
An emblematic case
Born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and a French mother, this committed lawyer has spent half of the last twenty years behind bars. The Israeli authorities accuse him of belonging to a terrorist organization. His freedom of movement was restricted, his communications monitored. His wife and children, residing in France, are inadmissible. Since October 2021, we want to force him into exile by withdrawing his papers to “lack of allegiance to the State of Israel”. He has been in administrative detention since March 7, 2022.
This race for expulsion, possible in his case partly because of his dual nationality, worries Palestinian human rights associations. Salah Hamouri’s situation could set a precedent that would facilitate the expulsion of other Palestinians.
Closed door diplomacy
Forfeiture of nationality, forced transfer, abusive detention: “The case of Salah Hamouri is emblematic of what we denounce when we talk about the crime of apartheid” explains Nathalie Godard, director of the action division of Amnesty International France. She is aware that this legal concept requires explanation: “It’s easy to make shortcuts and caricatures. It is important to get information, especially from Palestinian associations, which are currently undergoing repression. »
Salah Hamouri’s lawyers have lost all hope in Israeli justice: they are counting only on the vigorous intercession of Emmanuel Macron, who maintains privileged relations with the current Israeli Prime Minister, the centrist Yaïr Lapid. So far, Paris has preferred closed-door diplomacy, the only way according to the Quai d’Orsay to obtain results with the Israelis. This week, his spokesperson moderately raised his voice, replacing his usual formula, “wish for his release” by “Salah Hamouri must be able to be released”.
But, less than a month before the legislative elections in the Jewish state, that will probably not be enough to convince the Israeli executive to take political risks for Salah Hamouri and the other strikers. In the meantime, the pressure is mounting: Thursday, October 6, 900 other Palestinians held in the military prison of Ofer in the West Bank joined the strike in solidarity.