Solidarity events for Palestinian political prisoners and the ongoing hunger strike of Mahmoud Sarsak – Sunday 8th June – Sunday 15th June
Posted in

Solidarity events for Palestinian political prisoners and the ongoing hunger strike of Mahmoud Sarsak – Sunday 8th June – Sunday 15th June

While solidarity actions with the Palestinian political prisoners are continuing, the last week has seen ever increasing activity around the unprecedented hunger strike of 25 year old Palestinian professional footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, imprisoned without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation forces for the last three years. As international outrage over his illegal detention by Israel intensifies, and calls are made to disqualify Israel from hosting the Under 21s UEFA championship in 2013, solidarity protests for Sarsak intensify throughout the world. Below is a summary of statements relating to Sarsak's imprisonment, and also a resumé of several protests in Palestine, Scotland, Argentina and England.


Mahmoud Sarsak is today on his 91st day of hunger strike while Akram Rikhawi is on his 67th day of hunger strike. 4659 Palestinian political prisoners are currently held in Israeli jails.




On 8th June, as Sarsak entered his 85th day without food, the captains of several Spanish football clubs including the head of the Spanish professional footballers' union, released a statement calling for his immediate release. 1


On the same day, the international federation of professional footballers, FIFPro, also demanded that Sarsak be released from prison, with Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe, highlighting Israel's policies of restricting the freedom of movement of Palestinians, and the effect this has on Palestinian footballers:


“The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen. It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country. But actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.”2


Four days later, on Tuesday 12th June, the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, released a strongly worded letter expressing his grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players,” and demanding that the Israeli Football Association pressure the Israeli government “with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process.” 3


Also on 12th June, several high profile international figures, amongst them football legend Eric Cantona, award winning film director Ken Loach, John Dugard, Former Special UN Rapporteur and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, addressed a letter to the president of UEFA, Michel Platini, raising Sarsak's case and demanding an end to Israel's violation of international law with impunity. The signatories demanded an explanation as to “why Israel is to host the U.E.F.A. Under 21s competition in 2013 [given that r]acism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country.”4


Adding to the growing international outrage at the illegal detention of Mahmoud Sarsak, over 20 prominent European athletes , including footballers Frederic Kanouté and Nicolas Anelka, and sailor Jo Le Guen, 5 released the following statement:


“In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial.”


The letter ended with an appeal for Sarsak's release: “A person’s freedom cannot be taken in an arbitrary way. In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak.”


Amnesty International reiterated their appeal for the immediate release of Sarsak on Thursday 14th June, urging the intervention of the international community to save his life, and demanding his transfer to a civilian hospital where he can receive the specialised treatment which he needs.

Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme says: “The specialized medical care al-Sarsak urgently needs is only available in a civilian hospital and he must be admitted to one or released so that he can receive it.”6


Solidarity actions


In Palestine


Daily protests are still staged at 5 pm in Clock Square in the center of Ramallah in order to show solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.


On Sunday 10th June, youth protestors gathered in Al Manara square to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle in Israeli prisons.


On Monday 11th June in Jerusalem, around 50 Palestinian and international activists marched from the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross to the British Consulate, both in Sheikh Jarrah, where the Scottish activists delivered a letter to the British Consul demanding immediate action to save Sarsak's life. 7


Palestinian activists have staged daily demonstrations in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak. On Saturday 16th June protesters, including activists from the We Are All Hana Shalabi network, marched to the Muqat'a, the Palestinian National Authority headquarters in Ramallah to demand that they take action to save his life. Palestinian police, fearing the anger of the Palestinian street, at one stage drew their batons and threatened to beat protesters, forcing foreign journalists to delete footage.


In Beit Omar, International and Palestinian activists marched to the town's land stolen by the illegal Israeli settlement of Karmi Tzur. They wore blindfolds and tied their hands together and played a brief yet highly symbolic game of football. Israeli occupation forces, numbering around 20, proceeded to beat protesters with their shields, and kick and punch protesters, who were unable to defend themselves. The soldiers focussed specifically on female demonstrators, making sexually violent comments to several comrades. At one stage a Scottish/Irish demonstrator, with his hands symbolically tied, was dragged behind army lines and punched in the head, later to be released. One Palestinian was arrested while he tried to retrieve a football that had rolled close too the soldiers' lines, and was released on bail the following night.


In Scotland


As the Scottish national womens' football team met the Israeli national womens' team, hundreds of Palestine activists packed into Tynecastle stadium in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. They waved Palestinian flags and held banners demanding a boycott of Israel and Freedom for Palestine. The most popular chant was “They're useless without their guns”, as activists booed every time an Israeli player touched the football. Scotland won 8-0. A small victory against apartheid, and yet more evidence that the representatives of Israel are increasingly unwelcome around the world.


In London


Activist from the Palestine Place social centre in the centre of London have been holding a packed schedule of events for the last two weeks, focussing specifically on the ongoing hunger strike of Sarsak. There have been daily vigils outside the Israeli Embassy, as well as a number of marches and demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.8


In Argentina


Argentinian activists held a protest outside the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, showing clearly that opposition to Israeli apartheid extends far beyond the borders of Palestine and imperialist European countries. The importance of the Palestine activism in the global south, and Latin America in particular, will only increase as Israel strengthens diplomatic and economic relations with countries in the region.9