Information about Samer al-Issawi not provided by the Guardian

A Feb. 19 blurb in the Guardian’s ongoing series of posts in their ‘Middle East Live’ blog noted that “Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails declared a one-day fast today in solidarity with four inmates whose hunger strike has fueled anti-Israel protests in the occupied West Bank”.

The story then quoted Reuters, thus:

Samer al-Issawi, one of the four Palestinians who have been on hunger strike, has been refusing food, intermittently, for more than 200 days. His family says his health has deteriorated sharply.

The prisoners’ campaign for better conditions and against detention without trial has touched off violent protests over the past several weeks outside an Israeli military prison and in West Bank towns.

In the Gaza Strip, the Islamic Jihad group said a truce with Israel that ended eight days of fighting in November could unravel if any hunger striker died. 

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which looks after the welfare of inmates and their families, said 800 prisoners were taking part in the day-long fast. 

Additionally, a Feb. 15 edition of the Guardian’s ‘Picture Desk Live’ included a photo of a Palestinian in eastern Jerusalem detained while throwing stones at Israeli police during a protest against the imprisonment of Issawi. Here’s the caption they used:

A Palestinian with marks of pepper spray on his face is detained by Israeli border policemen who suspect him of throwing stones during clashes at a protest in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya. Clashes broke out as residents protested calling for the release of Samer al-Issawi, a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner.

As Issawi prepares to become the latest Palestinian cause celebre (see Richard Millett’s report on a pro-Issawi protest in Trafalgar Square in London) here’s some interesting information about the prisoner recently reported by Tamar Sternthal at CAMERA.

Who is Samer Issawi and why had he been imprisoned?

According to the Israel Prison Service, Samer Issawi of Issawiyeh, Jerusalem was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to an unrecognized (terror) organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials. Issawi (identification number 037274735) was one of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released in the first stage of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011. (The Prison Service lists him as Samir Tariq Ahmad Muhammad. Multiple names are not uncommon among Palestinians. The date of his arrest, birth, his sentence term and the terms of his release are consistent with the details provided about Samer Issawi in media reports.)

Here’s additional information on Issawi’s terror activities that Capt. Eytan Buchman, an IDF spokesman, provided to CAMERA:

Issawi was convicted of multiple crimes which included five counts of attempted murder. This included four shootings, between July 2001 and February 2002, in which Issawi and his accomplices fired on police cars and buses travelling between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem. In one attack, a policeman was injured and required surgery. On October 30, 2001, Issawi, together with an accomplice, fired at two students walking from the Hebrew University campus to their car in a nearby parking lot. In another case, Issawi provided guns and explosive devices to a terror squad, which then fired on a bus. Finally, in December 2001, Issawi ordered an attack on security personnel at Hebrew University, providing a terror squad with a pistol and a pipe bomb. Two of the squad members tracked security personnel but didn’t carry out the attack.

Issawi was re-arrested in July 2102 for reportedly violating one of the conditions of his release.

Sternthal also cited an October 2011 letter to the editor of the Guardian by Amir Ofek of the Israeli embassy in London which criticized the paper for failing to provide information about Issawi’s terror activities in a photo of him they used (in the print edition of the paper).

Ofek wrote the following:

Your centrefold (19 October) carries a double-spread photograph of released prisoner Samer Tareq al-Issawi in a cheering crowd, after being freed under the terms of the deal to release Gilad Shalit. It is important to point out the grave terrorism offences of which Al-Issawi was convicted, including firing a gun at a civilian vehicle in October 2001, indiscriminately firing an AK47 assault rifle at civilian buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.

Since it’s likely that the Guardian (and groups like the Palestinian Prisoners Club) will continue to characterize Issawi as a Palestinian martyr, it’s important to keep in mind that the “hunger striker” is not a ‘civil rights activist’ but, rather, a convicted terrorist who devoted his time attempting to murder Israeli civilians.

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