Palestinian journalist Alaa Al-Rimawi began a hunger strike after twelve Israeli armed forces raided his home on 21 April, 2021, in Ramallah after midnight, confiscated his mobile phone and arrested him in front of his children.
Al-Rimawi, a 34-year-old father of five, works as a reporter and coordinator for Al Jazeera Mubasher channel, besides running a media company.
“Alaa told me while they were arresting him that he would immediately start a hunger strike to protest his arrest as a journalist, because it is a flagrant violation of the rights of journalists guaranteed by international conventions,” his wife Maymouna Afana told Middle East Monitor (MEMO).
Al-Rimawi has spent around ten years and eight months in Israeli prisons. The last time he was arrested was in 2018, due to his work in the media. He was the director of Al-Quds TV in the West Bank. The Israeli forces stormed the channel’s headquarters, confiscated all the devices related to his work, including cameras, recording devices and others, and arrested several reporters working with him.
According to his wife, his arrest is linked to the Palestinian elections. He was presenting a programme on the J-Media channel called “Palestine Elects”, where he was hosting electoral lists’ candidates for the elections. She explained that many of the candidates he interviewed were either targeted or arrested.
“The Israeli occupation authorities believe that Alaa may influence public opinion at this sensitive period of the Palestinian elections.”
Al-Rimawi, currently held in Ofer prison, has been isolated from the rest of the prisoners because of his hunger strike and has been placed in solitary confinement.
“This is the policy of the occupation. They isolate the hunger-striking prisoner to break his will, determination and persistence,” says Maymouna.
According to Al-Rimawi’s lawyer, all the interrogations carried out with him were about his journalistic work with Al-Jazeera TV and his management of the J-Media media channel.
Israel currently detains 26 Palestinian journalists for publishing news on social media.
“Journalists should not be prosecuted for performing their work and covering the events taking place in the West Bank and the Israeli violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. Journalists should have freedom of expression and the freedom to report the news without harm or persecution,” expresses Maymouna.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, lawyers cannot meet in person with prisoners, and the trial procedures are conducted via video conference.
“Alaa told his lawyer in his call that he vomited blood as a result of his hunger strike, and he was taken to a hospital for checks,” Maymouna told MEMO.
In his last trial last week, Al-Rimawi was transferred to administrative detention. Administrative detention is an arbitrary detention in which Palestinians are held behind bars without any charges, and their detention can be indefinitely renewed for periods of three or six months.
“Alaa’s previous arrests affected our lives in general and his health in particular, which deteriorated due to the long years of detention. As a father, his presence is important at home, helping me raise children and the home duties. His arrest has also taken a toll on the psychology of our children, especially when we spend holidays in his absence, and we spent many months of Ramadan without him,” Maymouna explains.
Mohammed Ateeq, a photojournalist from the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, was arrested while en route to the second Friday prayer of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque, under the pretext that he did not have a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem.
Ateeq was released after five days and forced to sign a pledge that he would be detained for a month and pay a fine of 1,000 shekels if he was caught entering the occupied territories again, including Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Ateeq met with Al-Rimawi at Ofer prison before his transfer to solitary confinement. He told MEMO that Al-Rimawi’s conditions in detention are degrading.
“I was verbally assaulted and insulted by the Israeli officers, and they held a barbecue inside my cell and served me lots of food to break my hunger strike. They spat on me and humiliated me to force me to eat,” Al-Rimawi told Ateeq.
Ateeq added that Al-Rimawi’s health is deteriorating and that he suffers from: “Mouth ulcers, dizziness, cannot walk properly, urinates blood and vomits blood.”
Al-Rimawi assured Ateeq that he would continue his strike until his release.
“There is a systematic approach to arresting journalists, to silence their voices and to close their eyes. The occupation is now afraid of the word of truth and the power of the Palestinian narrative,” asserts Ateeq.