All drawn in by hunger strike
This posting has these items on the current prisoners’ hunger strike:
1) JPost: Analysis: Barghouti poised to win if hunger strike succeeds, Ben Lynfield is surprisingly sympathetic on prisoners’ conditions though wary of Barghouti’s motives;
2) Haaretz: Palestinian Hunger-striking Prisoners’ Lawyers Call Boycott of All Israeli Court Sessions, because, incredibly, the prison service has prevented lawyers access to their clients;
3) Ma’an: Palestinian women join hunger strike, lawyers declare boycott of Israeli courts, this hunger strike has already picked up more solidarity action than any previous one;
4) Mondoweiss: Israel packs seven lies into one statement on the Palestinian hunger strike, Amitai Ben-Abba identifies what the seven are;
5) Haaretz: Barghouti’s N.Y. Times Article Met by Israeli Ritual of Diversion and Denial, in a wonderfully sardonic article Chemi Shalev introduces us to the Israeli gov’t’s technique of ‘accentuating the insignificant at the expense of the essence';
6) Al Jazeera: Palestinian prisoners launch mass hunger strike
Rally in support of the hunger-striking prisoners, Ramallah, April 17. 2017. Photo by Mohamad Torokman/ Reuters
“If it goes on for a long time and if anyone dies, it will definitely bring more sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause.”
By Ben Lynfield, JPost
April 19, 2017
As many as 1,500 Palestinian security prisoners marked a second day of a hunger strike Tuesday in what promises to be a protracted battle of wills with Prisons Service authorities. At the heart of the strike is Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader serving five life sentences plus 40 years for his role in the murdering and wounding of Israelis, who called it for the stated goals of improving prisoner conditions and ending administrative detentions.
The key question to which there is no easy answer is to what extent are the reasons for the strike to be taken at face value and to what extent is the action a reflection of the ambitions and interests of Barghouti. The same ambiguity hung over his role in the period following the outbreak of the second intifada in October 2000, when he emerged at the forefront of the unrest as an organizer and firebrand spokesman.
His role in the second intifada and his imprisonment over the last 15 years have turned him into the most popular Palestinian leader, someone who would likely defeat PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniye if elections were held today.
The striking prisoners, mostly from Fatah, are exposing themselves to harm, much as did the youths attacking Israeli checkpoints in 2000. This time, however, Barghouti is physically leading the charge and, if he sustains the strike, may be putting his own life on the line.
Barghouti spelled out his reasons for the strike in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday. “Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and medical negligence,” he wrote.
Some have died while in detention.
According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoner Club, some 200 Palestinian prisoners have died in prison since 1967. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s deterrent policy of imposing collective punishment.”
“Through our hunger strike we seek an end to these abuses,” he wrote. Kadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, elaborated some of the demands in remarks to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He said that due to a restrictive policy adopted at the height of the second intifada, thousands of first-degree relatives are being denied prisoner visits on security grounds, including parents of prisoners in their seventies and eighties.
The prisoners want visitation rights expanded. There are health concerns, with prisoners waiting for years for operations and diagnosis being a protracted matter, he says. Prisoners are also demanding the installation of public phones, which Fares says could still be monitored and tapped by prison authorities.
Another demand is to reinstate study programmes for matriculation exams and correspondence courses.
The Prisons Service denies charges that security prisoners are mistreated.
It seems that some of these demands would actually not be that difficult to meet and that authorities could yield to them rather than face a possible wave of violence in the West Bank and international scrutiny that would come if prisoners lives become endangered or if they die. On the other hand, authorities will want to avoid an appearance of having lost or caved in to the strikers.
Those who believe the strike should be taken at face value and is not a Barghouti gambit for ulterior motives note that Barghouti is already the most popular Palestinian leader and say he does not need a strike to catapult him into that status.
“I think the main motive is the basic demands they raise. Israeli attempts to accuse them of a political agenda is a way of diverting attention from their legitimate demands,” says Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Bir Zeit University near Ramallah.
But there is no denying that the strike, especially if it forces Israeli authorities to back down, will further enhance Barghouti’s popularity. The contrast between Barghouti actively opposing the authorities and casting himself at the forefront of a struggle against oppression and Abbas’s perceived passivity in the face of Israeli rule is unlikely to be lost on the public.
If the strike is successful, it could also raise Fatah’s standing in its rivalry with Hamas, which has taken an ambivalent posture toward it because it is a Fatah initiative.
The strike also promises to put the Palestinian cause back on the regional and international agenda, where it has taken a back seat over the past six years due to the Arab Spring and the internal fighting in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, according to Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at al-Azhar University in Gaza. “If it goes on for a long time and if anyone dies, it will definitely bring more sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause,” he said.
Abusada does not believe Barghouti has called the strike to improve his standing, but he does predict that could be the result of it. “No question he will succeed in gaining more privileges if he’s able to stay alive and he’ll definitely be much more popular and much more credible among Palestinians.”
Move comes after Israel bars attorneys from meeting with Palestinian prisoners
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz premium
April 19, 2017
Lawyers from organizations that aid Palestinian prisoners in Israel announced a boycott of all Israeli court sessions starting Tuesday, after the Israel Prison Service prevented them from meeting with hunger-striking prisoners.
The PLO’s commission for prisoner affairs said in a statement that the boycott was also a response to other Israel Prison Service decisions that it deemed arbitrary, including preventing family visits to prisoners and isolating the prisoners’ leaders.
The commission said the Israel Prison Service claimed that the lawyers’ visits were banned only because their clients were being held in isolation. The commission added, however, that a few of the lawyers reported being told by the prison authority that the prohibition order had come from the Israeli government.
The Palestinian Prisoners Society, one of the aid groups, wrote to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the Justice Ministry’s High Court division on Tuesday and asked them to rescind the ban on meetings with lawyers, arguing that such meetings are a prisoner’s basic right. If this demand isn’t met, it added, it will petition the High Court of Justice against the ban.
Both the Prisoners Society and people close to the prisoner leading the hunger strike, Marwan Barghouti, rejected the claim that Barghouti organized the strike in order to undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and increase his own support among the Palestinian public in general and the Fatah party in particular.
Jawad Boulus, an attorney who heads the society’s legal department, told Haaretz that the prisoners’ demands for better conditions were first presented to the Prison Service in August 2016 and the prisoners had planned from the start to launch a hunger strike if their demands were not met.
“The Prison Service cannot claim it was surprised by the demands, and this has no connection to internal battles, as people are trying to claim,” Boulus said.
“Had the Prison Service engaged in serious negotiations, perhaps we’d be somewhere else and this strike wouldn’t have begun. But the Prison Service and the defence establishment didn’t expect that the prisoners would be able to go forward with the strike and treated it with contempt.”
The strike’s timing also wasn’t connected to any political development, Boulus said; rather, it was chosen to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners Day, which the Palestinians mark on April 17. Nor was the decision to strike made by Barghouti alone, but by the prisoners’ collective leadership, including other senior Fatah members, he added.
As of Tuesday, the Prison Service was still refusing to negotiate, but the prisoners believe that at least some of their demands will eventually be granted.
Meanwhile, both the prisoner commission and the Prisoners Society are working to keep the prisoners’ strike at the top of the public agenda in the West Bank. In the coming days, they plan to organize additional rallies and marches in support of the prisoners.
On Monday, some 2,000 Palestinians took part in such demonstrations, and organizers hope the number will grow as time goes on. This is especially likely if Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners join the strike, which they have not yet done.
Supporters rally, Ramallah, April 17, 2017. Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP
By Ma’an news
April 19, 2017
RAMALLAH — Hundreds of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners entered the third day of the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike on Wednesday, with imprisoned Palestinian women launching protest measures, as lawyers representing the hunger strikers announced they were boycotting Israeli courts.
Prisoners are demanding that Israeli prison authorities grant them basic rights, such as receiving regular visits, and are also calling for an end to deliberate medical negligence, solitary confinement, administrative detention, among a long list of other demands laid out by the Fatah movement and its imprisoned leader, Marwan Barghouthi.
Some 1,500 prisoners continued the strike that began on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17th, according to a statement Wednesday from a joint media committee comprising of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
According to the statement, lawyers from institutions such as PPS and the prisoners’ committee decide to boycott Israel’s courts. As Barghouthi noted in an op-ed published by the New York Times ahead of the hunger strike, the conviction rate for Palestinians in military courts is nearly 90 percent, according to the US State Department.
The piece has sparked widespread outrage among Israeli leadership; Barghouthi could face prosecution for writing it, while some members of Israel’s government have also suggested shutting down The New York Times bureau in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe called upon the United Nations secretary general to hold an emergency meeting for the UN General Assembly to discuss “the escalating and dangerous conditions” in Israeli detention centres and prisons, as the strike continues.
The committee reported on Wednesday that Palestinian women in Israel Hasharon prison, where 58 women are held, have launched protest measures in solidarity with the hunger strikers.
Lawyer from the committee Hiba Masalha said that the women would refuse meals every ten days, highlighting that their measures could escalate in the coming days if Israel does not respond the demands of the hunger strikers.
Meanwhile, after seven Palestinian prisoners suffering from various illnesses held in Israel’s Ashkelon prison decided to join the open-ended strike, prisoners’ committee lawyer Karim Ajweh said Wednesday that Israeli prison authorities continued to punish them.
After visiting the prisoners at Ashkelon, Ajweh said that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) confiscated their electronic devices and other possessions, leaving the sick prisoners with just three blankets, one pair of underwear, one small towel, and one toothbrush for the seven men to share.
The seven prisoners, identified as Said Musallam, Othman Abu Khurj, Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, Yasser Abu Turk, Nazih Othman, Ayman Sharabati, and Abd al-Majid Mahdi, had also been strip searched, transferred from their normal cells, and “humiliated,” Ajweh said.
The lawyer added that the ill prisoners decided to undertake the strike in protest at being medically neglected, despite the dangerous consequences the strike could have on their health. The seven men also threatened to stop taking their medication if they were to be force fed.
Since the hunger strike began, Israeli authorities have established field hospitals, Israel’s Public Security Minister has confirmed, for Palestinian prisoners. The move has raised alarm that hunger strikers, who will likely face deteriorating health conditions in coming days, will be force fed en masse — violating international standards of medical ethics and international law that regard the practice as inhumane or even a form of torture.
Israeli doctors in civilian hospitals have so far refused to force feed hunger strikers, despite the Israeli Supreme Court’s recent decision that ruled the practice to be constitutional.
In addition to punitive measures taken against the group of sick prisoners, IPS has punished the hundreds of other hungers strikers by suspending family visitation rights, preventing lawyers from visiting some hunger strikers, and moving hunger-striking prisoners around in its detention facilities in order to separate them from Palestinian prisoners who were not participating in the hunger strike.
IPS officials have also placed a number of hunger-striking prisoners — including Barghouthi and Karim Yunis — in solitary confinement and banned the prisoners from watching TV, with IPS declaring “a state of emergency” in detention facilities holding Palestinian prisoners.
Thousands of Palestinians marched in solidarity with the hunger strikers on Monday, with Israeli forces notably suppressing a demonstration in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, and detaining four young Palestinians at another demonstration in the central West Bank district of Ramallah.
Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.
Bethlehem, April 17, 2017, Palestinian protesters wave their national flag during a demonstration to show their support for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli /AFP/Getty Images
Comparing article to terror attack and suggesting sanctions against the Times, as Michael Oren did, is more damaging to Israel’s image
By Chemi Shalev, Haaretz
April 19, 2017
At the end of his opinion piece in the New York Times about the Palestinian prisoners’ strike, Marwan Barghouti was originally described as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” After 24 hours of outrage and condemnation, an editor’s note conceded that further context was needed, pointing out that Barghouti had been convicted on “five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization.” News of the clarification spread like wildfire on social media. It was described in glowing terms as yet another historic victory of good over evil and of the Jewish people over its eternal enemies.
It was another example of the time-tested Israeli ritual of accentuating the insignificant at the expense of the essence, the results of which are well known in advance.
First you manufacture righteous indignation over a minor fault in an article or the problematic identity of its writer, then you assault the newspaper or media that publicized it and cast doubt on its motives, then you demand to know how this was even possible and who will pay the price. In this way, the Israeli public is absolved of the need to actually contend with the gist of the article or public utterance, in this case Barghouti’s claims that he was physically tortured, that almost a million Palestinians have been detained over the years, that their conviction rate in the Israeli military court system is absurdly high, whether it’s really wise to hold as many as 6,500 security prisoners in custody at one time and so on.
The guiding principle of this perpetual war waged by Israel and its supporters against the so-called hostile press – to paraphrase a legendary John Cleese episode about a visit by German visitors to Fawlty Towers – is “Don’t mention the occupation!” After one spends so much energy on protestations and exclamations of how unthinkable, how outrageous and how dare they, there’s very little enthusiasm left to consider eternal control over another people or the malignant status quo that many Israelis view as the best of all possible worlds or how is it even possible that someone who is defined by former Israeli Ambassador and current deputy minister Michael Oren as a terrorist and a murderer on a par with Dylann Roof, who killed nine African American worshippers in a church in Charleston, is considered by many people around the world, including those at the New York Times, as an authentic leader whose words should be read and heard.
In an interview with IDF Radio on Tuesday, Oren put the ingenious diversionary strategy on full display. He described Barghouti’s op-ed as nothing less than a “media terror attack.”
To this he added a pinch of conspiracy theory with a dash of antisemitism by claiming that the Times purposely published Barghouti’s article on Passover, so that Israeli and Jewish leaders wouldn’t have time to react. Then he approvingly cited the wise words of his new oracle, Donald Trump, describing the publication of the article and its content as “fake news.” And for his grand finale, Oren intimated that the proper Zionist response would be to close down the Times’ Israel office, no less.
In this way, anyone who wants to address Barghouti’s claims substantively, even if it’s to criticize them, is seen as collaborating with a terrorist and enabling terror. It’s the same system by which anti-occupation groups such as Breaking the Silence are tarred as traitorous, backstabbing informants so that no one dares consider the actual testimonies they present about the hardships of occupation and the immorality of forcing the IDF to police the West Bank.
What’s hilarious, however, is that so many Israelis and Jews are convinced that articles such as the one written by Barghouti, which most readers probably view as yet another tedious polemic about an intractable Middle East conflict, somehow causes more harm to Israel’s image than a senior government official who compares a news article to a terror attack and who recommends closing down the offices of the most widely respected news organization in the world, a la Putin or Erdogan.
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners start hunger strike to demand basic rights as Israeli jails’ conditions hit ‘new low’.
By Zena Tahhan, Al Jazeera
April 17, 2017
Some 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel launched a mass hunger strike on Monday to press for basic rights and shed light on the difficult humanitarian conditions inside Israeli prisons, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.
The open-ended hunger strike, one of the largest in recent years, coincides with Palestinian Prisoners Day, annually commemorated on April 17. Led by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the strike will see Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum participate from within six prisons inside Israel.
“They have central demands and will continue to fast until they achieve them. The prisoners see hunger striking as the only door they can knock on to attain their rights,” Amina al-Taweel, the centre’s spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
“Even though it is one of the most dangerous and difficult decisions, they are only making this choice because conditions [inside the prisons] have reached a new low,” said al-Taweel.
Rallies are expected to take place across major Palestinian cities in the occupied territories including Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus, in solidarity with the plight of prisoners.
Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, released a statement directed at the prisoners and the Palestinian people, ahead of the strike.
“On this day, we are reminded of the pain of imprisonment, the cruelty of the occupation and the injustice of the prison cells, as we are reminded of our pride in your steadfastness and sacrifice,” he said in a recorded video message shared on his Twitter page.
“In the midst of this battle I call on all the Palestinian people and national institutions to show more solidarity so we can deliver the message of the prisoners to the whole world,” he continued. “Let us all push for the largest international, popular and official movement to stand by the prisoners in this critical time.”
There are currently 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, including more than 500 administrative detainees, according to Jerusalem-based prisoner rights group Addameer.
Prisoners’ demands include installation of a public telephone in all prisons to allow communication with relatives, resuming bi-monthly family visits, allowing second-degree relatives to visit, increasing duration of the visits and allowing prisoners to take photographs with their families.
The Israeli government will be responsible for any and all of the consequences of this hunger strike – if a prisoner dies, or becomes extremely ill, they are the ones that will have to handle the outcome.Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for StudiesMany prisoners suffer from medical negligence in jails. Prisoners must pay for their own medical treatment, and are not provided with adequate healthcare. Sick prisoners have also reported being denied water.
Since 1967, more than 50 Palestinian prisoners have died owing to medical negligence inside Israeli jails, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. “Some people wait four years to get surgery,” said al-Taweel. “They’re calling for an end to this deliberate medical negligence.”
Additionally, prisoners are demanding better treatment when being transferred between prisons or between courts and prisons. Detainees are transported in a vehicle with blacked-out windows, known as the Bosta.
The vehicle is divided into tight metal cells, whereby the prisoner is chained from their arms and legs to a chair in a confined space, for long periods of time in the dark.
Other demands include installing air conditions in prisons, restoring kitchens, allowing detainees to keep books, newspapers and clothes, as well as ending the policies of administrative detention and solitary confinement.
Administrative detainees are arrested on “secret evidence”, unaware of the accusations against them, and are not allowed to defend themselves in court. Their detention periods can be indefinitely renewed.
“The Israeli government will be responsible for any and all of the consequences of this hunger strike – if a prisoner dies, or becomes extremely ill, they are the ones that will have to handle the outcome. Palestinian prisoners have been demanding these basic rights for years,” said al-Taweel.
Al-Taweel said there are high expectations that the Israeli Prison Service will carry out a campaign of prisoner transferrals, which she said would be an attempt to “try and break the will and determination of the prisoners”.
Al Jazeera reached out to the Israel Prison Service for comment but did not receive a response.
Under international humanitarian law, prisoners from occupied territories must be held in the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying power. Though most Palestinian political prisoners hail from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they are placed in prisons inside Israel, in direct contravention of international law.
Families of Palestinian prisoners must apply for permits to visit them and are regularly denied entry into Israel on security pretexts.
“One of the most significant concerns is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch), told Al Jazeera:
“Palestinian prisoners are placed inside Israel as opposed to the West Bank and Gaza strip. This is a crippling restriction on access to family and loved ones.”
A recent report from UK-based rights group Amnesty International also condemned Israel’s policy of holding Palestinian prisoners inside Israel, describing it as “unlawful and cruel”. [Israel must end ‘unlawful and cruel’ policies towards Palestinian prisoners
“Instead of unlawfully transferring prisoners outside the occupied territories, Israel must ensure all Palestinians arrested there are held in prisons and detention centres in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Until then, the Israeli authorities must stop imposing excessive restrictions on visitation rights as a means of punishing prisoners and their families, and ensure that conditions fully meet international standards,” the report read, quoting Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy regional director at Amnesty International.
Hunger striking as a method for pressuring Israel has become increasingly prevalent among Palestinian prisoners in recent years. In 2012, approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched a similar hunger strike for close to a month before managing to obtain their rights.
And, in 2014, 800 prisoners staged a strike against administrative detention for 63 days before a reaching a deal with the Israeli prison authorities and deciding to end their strike.
According to Shakir, a mass hunger strike is an attempt by Palestinian prisoners to shed light on such practices that raise serious questions about Israel’s policies under international law.
“It can help return the issue of Palestinian prisoners on top of the international community’s agenda. It’s about the plight of Palestinians behind bars,” said Shakir.
Additional reporting by Farah Najjar