Amira Hass hopes the resistance of prisoners will inspire collective action by Palestinians outside; James Zogby says Israel provokes violence by the deplorable way it treats Palestinians.
There hasn’t yet been an article to repost on what makes this hunger strike different but prisoners and supporters have an air of confidence: they can’t lose. Either they get concessions or they die. Either way the Israeli state loses. Some witty, grave and number-crunching pieces.
Israel has made Marwan Barghouti an iconic and exemplary figure amongst Palestinians. He was a leader in the first intifada (for which he was imprisoned after his ‘show trial’) and has constantly urged non-violent resistance. His intelligence and integrity have won him many admirers. He tells us here why he and thousands of Palestinian prisoners have embarked on a hunger strike.
Like 700 other Palestinians, Mohammad Al-Qiq is being held under administrative detention – no charge, no evidence, no trial. He has been on hunger strike for three months and is on the edge of organ failure. Many bodies have taken up his case. His employer, Saudi-owned Al-Majd Television, is not known to have lifted a finger on his behalf.
An anguished Bradley Burston, who immigrated from LA to Israel in 1976, has finally had to recognise that the mesh of laws which the Israeli state has amassed to restrict every possible form of independent Palestinian life can only be called apartheid. Every self-respecting Jew should oppose this injustice.
The hunger strike is an honourable form of resistance. British feminists used it to good effect – and much suffering – in order to win the vote. Palestinian prisoners are now using the tactic. The Knesset has authorised a form of torture – force-feeding.
JfJfP Exec has issued a statement deploring “all use of children and young people as political pawns and bargaining chips in international disputes. We condemn the kidnapping of the Israeli Jewish teenagers Gilad Shaarh, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah. But we also condemn the Israeli government’s exploitation of their disappearance in order to impose an illegal collective punishment on the Palestinian people and to attack Hamas and attempt to wreck the new Palestinian unity government.” Israel’s use of ‘administrative detention’ also amounts to the routine kidnapping of hundreds of Palestinians, adults and children.
On the advice of Israel’s security junta – Shin Bet in this instance – Palestinian prisoners (who have refused food for over 47 days) should be force fed. They are protesting against administrative detention. Rather than introduce the rule of law the Israeli state has rushed through an act to make barbaric force-feeding ‘legal’. Addameer urges protest letters. The Israel Medical Association ‘voices its strong opposition’ to force-feeding.
Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial (administrative detention) have again launched a hunger strike, eliciting mass protests in support and a letter to the EU’s Catherine Ashton asking for intervention against this illegal practice. At the same time, protests against the Wall have again broken out in the Hebron area.
On 9th April 2013 political prisoner Samer Issawi, now in his eight month on hunger strike and perilously weak, issued a moving call to Israelis to visit him in hospital. Two who tried were immediately arrested. One group of Israeli authors and scholars including Amos Oz responded, not by calling for his release but for him to call off his hunger strike. Another group responded in the spirit Issawi wished for, expressing their profound solidarity with him and the cause he is willing and ready to die for.
Samer Issawi is, as far we know, still on hunger strike while in hospital in Haifa. He has refused an offer of his freedom in exchange for exile to the Gaza Strip. He wishes to return to his home village of Issawye. There have been many warnings to the Israeli government and prison service, including from UK diplomats, that if another prisoner dies they will not to be able to control the consequences.
Palestinian political prisoners have come to stand for all Palestinians – a life of humiliation, subject to arbitrary arrest and restrictions, Israeli indifference.. Samer Issawi, now moved to hospital, says in the Guardian that the UK bears a special responsibility for the unjust situation. Families demand the International Red Cross acts. In February, President Abbas called for ‘urgent intervention’ by the international community.
There has long been a leadership deficit for Palestinians write Ramzy Baroud. Not because individual Palestinians are weak or corrupt but because any leadership has to compromise in order to be recognised internationally. So the gulf between that elite and the people is growing as protests such as the tent villages (other posts) and prisoner hunger strikes (1-3 here) spread. Last, JfJfP is holding a public meeting on Popular Struggle in Palestine with Saeed Amireh from Nil’in village.
If the principal aim of the PA is to be Israel’s ‘partner for peace’, speaking for all Palestinians, then it follows they will crush articulate or organised dissenting voices. Chief dissenter is Hamas, many of whose members were arrested in a 2010 crackdown by the PA’s security service.. Now six of those detained – whose release was ordered by the Palestinian High Court – are on hunger strike. Occupied Palestine, PCHR and background article.
Mahmoud al-Sarsak’s lawyer has said the young footballer has agreed to start eating in exchange for release on 10 July 2012. He has been held without charge or trial for three years and been on hunger strike in protest for over 80 days. In the last few weeks, Eric Cantona and professional footballers had taken up his case and protested against Israel hosting a Uefa tournament next year. BBC and Ma’an news.
IRIN provides a usefully factual report on Israel’s prison system for Palestinians, and on the physical and political effects of the mass hunger strike. There are no political prisoners – only ‘security prisoners’. Mahmoud al-Sarsak is the only one detained as an ‘unlawful combatant’.
Gains of the prisoners’ hunger strike include the release of PFLP leader Saadat and others from solitary confinement – their effort has, he says, brought a new and rare unity. But footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak is still on hunger strike (2). Richard Falk – keep your eyes on the issue (3)
Led by the PSC, JfJfP and others, the BBC is accused of bias for its month-long silence on the historic mass prisoner hunger strike. Rumours of a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ in the BBC are alive on the web. This is nonsense. Rather, the undoubted BBC bias is testament to a belief that Israelis are ‘like us’ (Mark Regev is Australian) while Palestinians are the violent ‘other’. Palestinian groups could do more however to cultivate relationships with foreign journalists.
The end of the hunger strike is only the beginning: of holding Israeli authorities to the conditions on which prisoners agreed to end the strike; the possible beginning of humane standards for prisoners in Israeli gaols; the start of family visits; the beginning of the end for administrative detention. Richard Falk, Stephen Lendman and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights greet the next stage with scepticism and expectation. Haaretz begins to write of ‘national liberation struggle’ and ‘political prisoners’.
Fear the prisoners on hunger strike would start dying, sparking a third intifada, and behind-the-scenes pressure from diplomats brought the Israeli Prison Service – with, presumably, the agreement of the government– to reach an agreement with the prisoners’ representatives. Solitary confinement and the ban on family visits will be ended. (Now the strike is over, it was mentioned on the BBC news.)