Palestinian prisoner Maher Abu Rayan launches hunger strike against Israeli medical neglect

43-year-old Maher Abu Rayan is serving a 25-year prison term and is suffering from multiple health issues as a direct result of the extremely violent fashion in which he was arrested in 2003

March 24, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo : Safa Press Agency

A Palestinian prisoner has launched a hunger strike to protest Israel’s apathy in providing him with necessary medical care for over two years. 43-year-old Maher Abu Rayan, from the city of Hebron (Al-Khalil) in the occupied West Bank, is serving a 25-year prison term and has suffered from multiple health issues in the past as a direct result of the extremely violent fashion in which Israeli soldiers carried out his arrest in 2003, including breaking his nose. 

Israeli prison authorities in the past too have delayed in providing Abu Rayan with the necessary medical treatment, with the surgery to fix his nose eventually taking place as late as 2015, by which time he had developed several other associated respiratory conditions. Three years later, in 2018, he was diagnosed with excessive fluid in his lungs, for which he underwent a surgical procedure.

Even after going through multiple surgeries in the past few years, Abu Rayan still requires special medical treatment because of the attack on him by the Israeli soldiers. He has been demanding that the Israeli prison service (IPS) provide him with the necessary operation, which has now been delayed for over two years.

Instead of giving a prisoner in their custody the necessary medical care, which the Israeli authorities are obligated to do as per international conventions and even Israeli law, the IPS has falsely claimed that Abu Rayan signed an affidavit refusing to undergo the surgery. Abu Rayan filed several lawsuits in the last two years to disprove the claims, according to a statement by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club. Abu Rayan has also undertaken various similar protest actions against the inhuman treatment meted out by Israeli authorities in the past.

Abu Rayan’s ordeal is the latest example of the harsh treatment that Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees are forced to go through while in Israeli prisons. Human rights and prisoners’ rights groups over the years have documented many custodial deaths of Palestinian prisoners after having undergone extreme psychological and physical torture, while many cases of prisoners dying as a result of not receiving timely medical treatment have also come to light. 

Between 1967 and 2019, over 220 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli prisons and detention centers, according to rights groups. An estimated 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of women and children, are currently imprisoned in Israel, some of whom are suffering from serious medical conditions such as cancer, as well as facing a higher risk of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a result of  being held in overcrowded and unhygienic Israeli prisons.