The massive Palestinian hunger strike

Heroic Palestinian hunger strikers win concessions on unjust detention and ill-treatment of prisoners. As of May 1 there were 4,635 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 308 on administrative detention, seven women, 218 children and some two dozen members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

Protest outside Ramleh prison in support of hunger striking prisoners, May 3, 2012.

AS THE Palestinian and world’s people prepare to mark the Nakba once again without a resolution of the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, Israel was forced to submit to some of the just demands being made by the Palestinian political prisoners in its jails who launched a mass hunger strike almost one month ago on April 17. What began as an action of some 1,600 prisoners had grown to 2,500 out of the 4,600 total prisoners in Israeli jails.

TML salutes the great sacrifices and indomitable courage of the Palestinian people, especially the thousands of political prisoners in Israel’s jails, who despite difficult circumstances continue to find the ways and means to prevail over the Occupier.

Qadura Fares, Head of Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, announced on May 14, the eve of the commemoration of the Nakba, that an agreement between the Prisoners’ Committee and Israeli Prisons’ administration had been signed at Ashkelon Prison, in the presence of the representative of the Egyptian government which brokered the deal. News agencies report that some of the major concessions made by the Israeli authorities include:

  • An end to the solitary confinement of all prisoners over the next 72 hours, including Hassan Salameh, Ibrahim Hamed and Abdulla al-Barghouthi.
  • Allowing the parents of Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to visit their children in Israeli jails.
  • An end to the Shalit Law which was imposed after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas in Gaza Strip in 2006. (The Shalit Law is a form of collective punishment that restricted prisoners’ access to families and to educational materials as retaliation for Shalit’s five-year captivity in Gaza. Shalit was freed in October 2011 in a prisoner swap agreement.)
  • To improve the conditions for prisoners’ in all Israeli prisons.
  • To provide a list of accusations to those held under “administrative detention” (held without charge or trial based on “security reasons”) or release them at the end of their term.

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened that the deal will only hold if all prisoners end their hunger strikes within 72 hours, agencies report.

Bilal Diab

The deal has also been agreed to by those prisoners who have been on long-term hunger strikes that started prior to April 17. Palestinian Prisoners’ Society lawyer Jawad Bulous met these six hunger-strikers for several hours late Monday. Thaer Halahla, Bilal Diab, Jaafar Izz Addin, Omar Shalal, Mahmoud Sirsik and Hasan Safadi all agreed to end their hunger strikes and be transferred to a civilian hospital in Israel for treatment, he said. Egyptian officials and prisoner representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad also witnessed the deal, Bulous told Ma’an News.

The father of Thaer Halahla, 33, told Ma’an his son telephoned him to tell him he agreed to the deal in exchange for release at the end of his current administrative detention term on June 5.

Meanwhile, Bilal Diab, 27, phoned his mother to tell her he will be freed at the end of his term on August 17, and had stopped his strike.

Jaafar Izz Addin, who held a 54-day hunger strike, informed his family he will stop the strike in exchange for release at the end of his detention term on July 20.

Omar Shalal spent 69 days on hunger strike and Hasan Safadi refused food for 71 days.

Mahmoud Sirsik, a footballer from Gaza who refused food for 59 days, will also be released, but Bulous said the date had yet to be clarified.

A sign that a deal was forthcoming took place on Sunday, when Israeli authorities finally permitted Bilal Diab, on hunger strike for 78 days, to make a five-minute call to his family for the first time. Diab’s brother told media that his brother spoke with a strong voice, confirming that he would continue his hunger strike “until achieving freedom or martyrdom.” He conveyed Bilal’s thanks to all the Palestinian people for their support of the prisoners’ cause. Bilal had recently sent his will to his family. “We will have victory, but only through martyrdom or immediate release – not any partial solution,” Bilal wrote. “On the 75th day of my hunger strike, I am still determined, patient and focused,” he wrote.

Thaer Halahla

Thaer Halahleh, also on hunger strike for 78 days, in anticipation of his possible death, wrote a letter addressed to his daughter who was born two weeks after he was imprisoned 23 months ago and whom he has never seen. The letter said in part:

“When you grow up you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no reason other than their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence.”

“You will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission and that he would never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity.”

Background to the massive Palestinian hunger strike

The mass open-ended hunger strike was launched April 17, 2012 when some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners joined those who were already on hunger strike and hundreds more joined every week, reaching a peak of some 2,500 prisoners on hunger strike. As of the day the hunger strikes were called off, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla had been on strike for 78 days, with four other long-term hunger strikers going without food for 54-71 days. All are in critical condition. According to Physicians for Human Rights, there is no previous recorded case of anyone surviving without food or supplements for more than 75 days.

On May 7, the International Committee for the Red Cross warned that the six long-term hunger strikers were in “imminent danger of dying” and called on Israel to transfer them to hospital. The World Health Organization on May 4 called on Israel to provide adequate medical care to prisoners in ill health, to transfer prisoners requiring treatment to hospital, to enable family visits, and not to provide medical treatment without the consent of prisoners.

Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, reports that as during hunger strikes in the past, the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) escalated its punishment of hunger striking prisoners in an effort to undermine the campaign. This included raids by IPS special forces; confiscation of personal belongings; transfers from one prison to another; placement in solitary confinement; fines of up to $130 per day; and denial of visits from family members and their lawyers. Prisoners also had their water and electricity supply cut off.

Palestinian women militantly demonstrate for freedom for the thousands of
prisoners in Israeli jails, Nablus, May 6, 2012. (Activestills)

Addameer reports that abuse of prisoners also took the form of forced treatment, citing the case of Hassan Safadi. On May 3, he was held down by prison guards and forcefully given treatment by a prison doctor via an injection in his arm, a violation of the principles of medical ethics and the guidelines of the World Medical Association and the Israeli Medical Association. Hassan also recounted having refused water for several days until he was moved to Ramleh Prison medical clinic. Upon his arrival, he was beaten by prison guards and the prison doctor refused to record the injuries sustained from the attack.

Palestinian women militantly demonstrate for freedom for the thousands of
prisoners, Nablus, May 6, 2012. (Activestills)

According to Addameer, as of May 1 there were 4,635 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 308 on administrative detention, seven women, 218 children and some two dozen members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, informs that “Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial that is authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Under international law, it is allowed under certain circumstances. However, because of the serious injury to due-process rights inherent in this measure and the obvious danger of its abuse, international law has placed rigid restrictions on its application. […] Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly violates these restrictions. […] Over the years, Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods of time […].”

Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq, an independent non-governmental Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah, in a May 13 item for the UAE’s The National, points out:

“In March of this year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called for Israel to end its policy of administrative detention, declaring it to be discriminatory and in violation of international law. The European Parliament resolution of September 4, 2008 made the same demand and urged Israel to ensure that the minimum standards of detention be respected. Both the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture have declared that prolonged administrative detention constitutes ill-treatment that exposes the detainee to torture and other violations of human rights.”

On May 3, in the context of the mass hunger strike of Palestinian political prisoners, the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations issued a series of demands in which it:

  • calls on the European Union, in particular the EU Parliament, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately intervene with Israel in order to save the lives of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh and demand that they be released from administrative detention;
  • demands that all hunger strikers have unrestricted access to independent doctors and adequate medical care;
  • demands that the Member States of the United Nations urgently put pressure on Israel to end its policy of arbitrary detention and to abide by the standard rules for the treatment of prisoners adopted in 1955, which set out what is generally accepted as decent principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners;
  • calls on the European Parliament to dispatch a parliamentary fact-finding mission that includes members of its Subcommittee on Human Rights to investigate the conditions of detention of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 reports that about 750,000 Palestinians, including 23,000 women and 25,000 children have been detained in Israeli jails since 1967. That figure represents 20 per cent of the total population in the occupied territories or 40 per cent of the male inhabitants in those lands, Falk states.

(Addameer, PIC, PNN, The National, B’Tselem, Ma’an, Reuters, Prensa Latina)

Source: The Marxist-Leninist Daily, May 15, 2012, No. 69.

Militant mass support for prisoners

Gaza City

Support tent in Gaza City where dozens of people are holding hunger strikes in support of the Palestinian prisoners.

Ramallah

Solidarity tent for all those supporting the Palestinian prisoners, Ramallah, May 3, 2012. (Activestills)

Ramallah rally for hunger-striking prisoners, May 5, 2012. (Activestills)

Ma’ale Adumim Settlement, West Bank

Protestors block entry to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank in solidarity with the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, May 13, 2012. (Activestills)

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2 responses to “The massive Palestinian hunger strike

  1. Pingback: The war on Palestinian soccer: Free Mahmoud Sarsak | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

  2. Pingback: The war on Palestinian soccer: Free Mahmoud Sarsak | Tony Seed’s Weblog

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