The Indy’s Alistair Dawber whitewashes terrorist crimes of Samer Issawi

An April 23 story in The Independent, written by the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent Alistair Dawber, entitled Palestinian prisoner gives up 250 day hunger strike after deal with Israel, begins with a photo of the joyful parents of the convicted Palestinian terrorist in question, Samer Issawi, celebrating their son’s decision to end his hunger strike.

samer

Dawber begins his story thusly:

One of the most high profile Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel has put an end to a 250-day hunger strike after reaching a deal with the Jewish state that will see him serve another eight months in jail.

Samer Issawi was sustained by vitamins and other supplements throughout his protest during which time he refused regular food and turned down a proposal to exile him. His cause has been taken up enthusiastically by Palestinians, many of whom consider the so-called security prisoners as national heroes. Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, several people have been seen wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Issawi’s face.

Dawber is correct that Palestinians and their political leaders routinely characterize even the most malevolent  terrorists in a manner which would lead some to believe they are civil rights martyrs and not cold-blooded killers – a disturbing dynamic which Palestinian Media Watch demonstrates continually.

In fact, some of the runners in the Palestinian Marathon on April 21 wore Samer Issawi t-shirts.

Palestine Marathon, Bethlehem, West Bank, 21.4.2013

Marathon runner on the left seen wearing Samer Issawi t-shirt

Additionally, the “so-called” security prisoners cum “national heroes” Dawber is referring to are the more than 4,800 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have been convicted of serious violent crimes, and include the following:

  • Masterminds who ‘organized’ terror attacks which killed Israelis
  • ‘Specialists’ who prepared the explosives used during such deadly attacks
  • Recruiters of suicide bombers
  • Senior members of terrorist Palestinian organizations

Further in the story, Dawber provides a bit of background on the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner. 

Issawi, 32, was initially sentenced to 30 years in 2002 for, according to Israel, making pipe bombs during the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising. He was released in 2011 as part of the deal to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed by Hamas after five years being held in Gaza. Issawi was one of 1,027 Palestinians to be freed as part of the deal.

However, Issawi didn’t merely make pipe bombs.

Per Capt. Eytan Buchman, an IDF spokesman, as reported by 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 an AK-47 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 didn’t play merely a ‘supporting role’ in terror attacks, but, rather, was directly responsible for firing an automatic weapon at innocent Israeli civilians with the hope of murdering as many of them as possible – and was responsible for ordering additional lethal attacks on other Israelis.

Remarkably, even an AP story published on April 23 in the Guardian about the end of the Palestinian’s hunger strike included information on Issawi’s attempted murder of Israeli students at Hebrew University – a telling fact, and one which places Alistair Dawber whitewash of the terrorist’s crimes in even clearer context.     

The Guardian refers to Palestinian terrorist Samer Issawi as a “political prisoner”.

Last week, we posted about an April 9 story by Harriet Sherwood which reported on recent efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Sherwood’s story included  details about some of the concessions demanded by PA President Mahmoud Abbas before he will agree to resume negotiations with Israel, and included the following sentence:

The Palestinians also want the release of 123 political prisoners who have been in jail since before the Oslo accords were signed almost 20 years ago, and for Israel to present a map showing proposed borders. [emphasis added]

As we demonstrated, however, most of the 123 Palestinians she alluded to (whose release Abbas has been demanding since last year), were convicted for their involvement in deadly terror attacks. Sherwood’s characterization of the 123 Palestinians as “political prisoners” – suggesting that they were imprisoned merely for their beliefs – is erroneous.  We also observed that Sherwood was evoking the Palestinian narrative which insists that even “compatriots convicted of deadly terrorist acts [are] political prisoners and fighters for the Palestinian cause”.

Sherwood’s latest, ‘EU urged to secure Palestinian prisoner’s release from Israeli jail‘, April 17, again advances this misleading narrative in a report on recent demands by Saeb Erekat that Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi – who’s been on a hunger strike to protest his detention – should be released.

Here’s the photo the Guardian used to illustrate the story:

Samer Issawi protest

Here’s the Guardian’s photo caption:

Protesters in London hold up posters calling for freedom of Palestinian political prisoners including hunger striker Samer Issawi.

Issawi – who was freed by Israel in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, but recently re-arrested for violating his release conditions - was originally sentenced to 26 years in prison for his involvement in a series of violent terror attacks, including indiscriminately firing an assault rifle at public buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.

A “political prisoner” is a person ‘imprisoned for their political beliefs or actions’.

No reasonable person can characterize Issawi’s crimes in a manner which fits that definition.

It is indeed that simple. 

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.