Cantona, FIFA join pressure on Israel, as hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak determined to reach freedom or death


Palestinians paint a mural depicting Mahmoud al-Sarsak in southern Gaza on June 10. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

PALESTINIAN footballer Mahmoud Sarsak is still on hunger strike and is determined to continue until he dies or Israel agrees to free him, his lawyer Mahmoud Jabarin said today.

The news came as football legend Eric Cantona and other major public figures, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, joined the growing international calls on Israel to free Sarsak and end its abuses of human rights.

After coming close to death on Sunday, Sarsak has agreed to take milk only until Thursday when the Israeli Supreme Court is due to review his case.

Ma’an News Agency reports today:

Mahmoud al-Sarsak is on his 86th day of hunger strike but is drinking milk to prolong his life until his court hearing Thursday, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Mohammad Jabarein told Ma’an that Israeli prison officials called him to visit al-Sarsak urgently Sunday because he was in danger of dying. Al-Sarsak was briefly hospitalized that afternoon.

Jabarein met with 15 doctors at the hospital, who said al-Sarsak was at immediate danger of paralysis and losing consciousness.

“I decided that al-Sarsak must drink milk,” Jabarein said.

Al-Sarsak was reluctant, but the lawyer said he persuaded him to accept some nutrients so he would survive until his judicial review, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Al-Sarsak agreed to drink milk but would only be fed by his lawyer.

The 25-year-old prisoner has decided that if the Supreme Court does not agree to release him he will refuse all supplements until his death, Jabarein said.

The judicial review Thursday is the “last chance” to save al-Sarsak’s life, Jabarein said.

Life still in danger

Despite his decision to take milk, Sarsak’s life is still in danger, as Ma’an notes:

The prisoner rights group Addameer notes that consuming milk does not break a hunger strike.

A representative of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel told Ma’an that milk is less nutritious than other supplements consumed during a hunger strike, which include vitamins, minerals, salts and glucose.

Drinking milk will not reduce the danger to al-Sarsak’s life, PHRI added.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter urges Israel to act to save Sarsak

FIFA president Sepp Blatter called on the Israeli Football Association (IFA) to urge the Israeli government to act to save Sarsak, whom Blatter said, “is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention.” Blatter’s official statement added:

FIFA urgently calls on IFA to draw the attention of the Israeli competent authorities to the present matter, with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process. The matter came to FIFA’s attention following correspondence with the Palestine Football Association, several international media reports concerning the football player Mahmoud Sarsak and a FIFPro media release.

On Friday, FIFPro, the international association of 50,000 professional football players called on Israel to free Sarsak.

Football legend Eric Cantona, other public figures join campaign for Sarsak

Football legend Eric Cantona has co-signed a letter with other international figures including Noam Chomksy, filmmaker Ken Loach, international law expert John Dugard to UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, UEFA President Michel Platini and other European government and sporting bodies to protest Israel’s actions and the complicity of international sporting bodies.

The letter, the text of which was provided to The Electronic Intifada by in an email release states:

We are all shocked at the racist chanting at football matches in Poland and Ukraine where Euro 2012 is being played. Footballing bodies and politicians have been outspoken in their condemnation. Indeed some government officials are boycotting group stage matches in Ukraine because of perceived human rights abuses in that country.

So why are these same groups silent when Israel is to host the U.E.F.A. Under 21s competition in 2013? Racism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country.

Israeli government ministers respond to mob attacks on black refugees by denouncing them as ‘infiltrators’ and calling for them to be imprisoned in military camps.

Israeli jails house around 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners, more than 300 of them “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial. One of these is a footballer from Gaza, Mahmoud Sarsak, aged 25. He has been imprisoned for nearly three years. No charge, no trial. In desperation, he has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days and is now close to death. He, and all victims of abuse by the Israeli state, need our support.

It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.’


• Eric Cantona, actor and former footballer

• Noam Chomsky, Professor MIT, USA

• John Dugard, Former Special Rapporteur of UN on Palestine, South Africa

• Trevor Griffiths, Writer, UK

• Paul Laverty, Screenwriter, UK

• Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK

• Michael Mansfield, QC, UK

• Miriam Margolyes OBE, Actor, UK

• John Pilger, Journalist, author, film maker, Australia

• Show Racism the Red Card

• Ahdaf Soueif, Writer, UK

Forty-two Gazan football clubs wrote a letter to UEFA President Michel Platini over a year ago to protest the awarding of the 2013 Under 21 tournament to Israel. They have received no reply.

* The Electronic Intifada


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One response to “Cantona, FIFA join pressure on Israel, as hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak determined to reach freedom or death

  1. Pingback: Top athletes call for Israel to release Mahmoud Sarsak | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

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