Denial and solidarity meet hunger strike prisoners

Oberlin Students for Free Palestine to fast in solidarity May 7-11

Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine will be holding a solidarity fast from May 7 to May 11. This action is intended to raise awareness of the two thousand plus Palestinian prisoners who are currently on hunger strike in Israeli administered prisons.

Palestinian hunger strikers are refusing food in order to protest the Israeli government’s ongoing unjust practices and to focus international attention on these violations, including violent arrests, imprisonment outside of the occupied territories, solitary confinement, denial of access to medical care, torture, and the policy of administrative detention which enables Israel to hold prisoners indefinitely without a charge and without any access to a trial.

In particular two individuals have emerged as leaders of this movement, Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, both of whom have spent years of their lives in and out of Israeli prisons under the administrative detention policy. Neither were ever charged with committing a crime, yet they were both forcibly separated from their families and communities. Although they have both been released in recent weeks, hundreds of their fellow prisoners remain on hunger strike and even more remain in administrative detention, including two hundred and three children.

These hunger strikes are a part of a deeper history of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel’s occupation and appropriation of Palestinian land. This tactic was used widely during the first Intifada in concert with consumer boycotts, labor strikes, and popular demonstrations.

These hunger strikes are also part of a wider history of liberation struggles throughout the world. Many people are familiar with those carried out by Northern Ireland in the 1980s by IRA prisoners such as Bobby Sands, but hunger strikes have also been used in situations around the world, including detainees at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, prisoners in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay, California, La Mujer Obrera from El Paso, in addition to many other activists and prisoners whose efforts are less widely recognized. Currently this tactic is being used by political protesters in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in Bahrain who has been on hunger strike since February 8.

In solidarity with these prisoners, members of Students for a Free Palestine and other organizations, including Student Labor Action Commission, Filipino American Students Association, the Middle East Peace Forum of Northeast Ohio, Al-Awda of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Arab Americans Association, and many individuals have chosen to undertake fasts where they will not eat any food for a day. In an effort to educate and engage students in dialogue about this action, SFP will set up tables around campus to be available for conversation. We hope this initiative will give Oberlin students a greater awareness of the many instruments of repression Israel employs to suppress Palestinian freedom and to perpetuate the illegal occupation. We also hope to make people aware of some of the creative, resourceful and nonviolent ways that Palestinians have adopted in order to resist this oppression and demand their freedoms.

We would like to stress that in our position as student activists we do not claim to speak for Palestinians or share their struggle. Instead we aim to make their voices heard. Unlike the hundreds of prisoners who remain confined to Israeli jails, we have chosen to fast without facing any potential consequences to our health or freedom, and we would therefore like to acknowledge our privileged position. We also wish to emphasize that Palestinian hunger strikers are not victims; we fast in order to honor their act of resistance and steadfastness, an act which demonstrates their continued agency in the face of ongoing challenges to their basic freedom and dignity.

[You can follow the Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine on Twitter @OberlinSFP]

Palestinian hunger strikers’ appeal rejected

Israel Supreme Court rejects plea by two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest at being held without charge.
Al Jazeera and AFP

Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest at being held without charge.

But in its decision, released by the justice ministry on Monday, the court said security authorities should consider freeing them for medical reasons.

The two prisoners, Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 34, have been on hunger strike for the past 70 days.

“The Supreme Court refused both appeals,” Jamil Khatib, their lawyer, told the AFP news agency on Monday of the prisoners’ appeals against their administrative detention.

“Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word.

“They will continue their strike till the end,” Khatib said.

A ruling on the appeals was postponed after being lodged at Israel’s highest court last Thursday, WAFA, the Palestinian News and Information Agency reported last week.

The two men are among hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to demand better conditions and an end to detention without trial in one of the biggest prison protests in years.

Health concerns
Ten Palestinian prisoners participating in the mass hunger strike were placed under medical supervision on Saturday as their conditions worsened, a spokeswoman for Israel’s prison service previously said.

At least 1,550 are taking part, although activists have said the figure is as high as 2,500 out of 4,600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Most of those participating began refusing food 19 days ago, but a smaller core have been striking for periods ranging from 40 to almost 70 days.

Hundreds of Palestinians held rallies over the weekend to demand the prisoners’ release. On Monday, there was a small group of protesters outside the Ofer prison where the hunger-strikers are being held, Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reported.

Diab was moved to a civilian hospital last week. An independent doctor with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said then that he was at immediate risk of death.

Both Diab and Halahleh, were suffering “acute muscle weakness” which prevented them from standing, Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group, said via PHR-I.

Halahleh was arrested on June 28, 2010 and has been held in administrative detention ever since, while Diab has been held since August 17, 2011.

On Friday, a Hamas leader warned Israel of consequences if any of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike die in jail.

“You must realise that the hunger strike isn’t a party, and we could be surprised by the death of some of them,” Khalil al-Haya said in Gaza City. “If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us.”

Administrative detention is an antiquated procedure that allows suspects to be held without charge for periods of up to six months, which are renewable indefinitely.

Israeli officials say they use the procedure to hold Palestinians who pose an immediate threat to the country’s security.

“The Israelis will say that this is a matter of their national security, that these are security-related prisoners, and so therefore they argue to the Israeli Supreme Court that they do not need to disclose what these prisoners have done, because they are security prisoners,” our correspondent said.

“The issue here really in the occupied territories is the numbers: the numbers of those who have been detained in the past years is huge, some 250,000 Palestinians have made their way through the Israeli detention centres.

“So when you grow up here in the occupied territories, you are faced with that reality,” Perry said.

Barghouthi: Prisoners united behind hunger strikers
Ma’an news,

BETHLEHEM — Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi said Sunday that Palestinian prisoners would remain united to support detainees on hunger-strike.

Prisoners affiliated to different political factions and in prisons across Israel all support the hunger strikers, who are “fighting a battle for freedom and dignity,” the Fatah leader said in a letter received by Ma’an.

Commenting on negotiating with Israeli prison authorities, Barghouthi said that the hunger strike committee is the only body authorized to take decisions on behalf of the strike action.

The committee consists of Abdul-Rahim Abu Holy, Alaa Abu Jazar and Nasser Abu Hmeid from Fatah, Jumaa Tayih and Zeid Bseiso from Islamic Jihad, Jamal al-Hur, Muhannad Shreim and Mahmoud Shreitih from Hamas, Ahid Abu Ghilmi from the PFLP and Osamah Abu al-Asal representing the DFLP.

Prisoners in Israel’s Nafha prison said Sunday that the Israeli response to strike demands has so far been inadequate, adding that they would escalate action by chanting “Allah Akbar” and banging on prison cell doors.

“We have been on hunger strike for 20 days under the banner of either we live in dignity or die,” prisoners in the Negev jail said in a letter received by Ma’an.

On April 17, Palestinian prisoners day, over 1,000 prisoners joined a group of hunger-strikers protesting detention without charge. Around 2,000 are now taking part in the strike, prisoners rights groups estimate.

Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad al-Hindi warned Sunday that the death of any hunger-striking prisoner will start the third intifada.

The issue of prisoners is highly emotive in Palestinian society, where an estimated 40 percent of men in the occupied territories have been detained by Israel at some point in their lives.

Fayyad: Netanyahu responsible for health of striking prisoners
Ma’an news
(updated) 06.05.12

RAMALLAH — The prime minister in Ramallah said Thursday that his counterpart in Israel was ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of Palestinian prisoners.

Salam Fayyad said Benjamin Netanyahu is accountable for the health of hundreds of prisoners on hunger strike, and he called on the international community to intervene.

Thousands of Palestinians are on hunger strike in Israeli jails, and several are at risk of death. They are protesting detention without trial, restrictive visiting rights and limited access to educational materials.

“Their cause is an integral part of the homeland’s cause,” Fayyad said, referring to a slogan declared by journalists marking World Press Freedom Day: “Press freedom is part of the homeland’s freedom.”

He added: “When it’s about freedom in Palestine, including freedom of press, I think of the freedom that’s on every Palestinian’s mind in these hard times, namely those on strike in the occupation’s cells.”

Speaking at a reception marking the annual press freedom day, Fayyad defended his government’s commitment to free expression and opinion and called on journalists to work without fear.

“I tell you that we’re committed, out of our commitment to public freedom and its protection and conservation in Palestine, to freedom of the press without limits,” he said. “I greet you every day for your role in delivering Palestine’s message to the world, and what you do to push freedoms forward.”

Fayyad acknowledged lapses in protecting freedom of expression and cited internal disagreements about “the rational balance between total freedom and putting a fence around it.”

“We must choose to remove restraints on these freedoms to the maximum degree,” he said. “This includes, for example, the attempt recently to block websites, which isn’t technically feasible.”

Mashour Abu Daka, the former communications minister who resigned last week after criticizing the attorney general’s decision to block websites, defended Fayyad’s role Wednesday.

Abu Daka told French radio that when the decision was first made, “the cabinet was against the blockages. The prime minister was against it and this was (stated) by the prime minister. He said a journalist’s freedom limit is ‘up to the sky,’ and there shouldn’t be any hindrance on journalists to express their views.”

He added: “We have a problem in the legal infrastructure, and this has to be addressed by the president, himself, because the cabinet at various stages was powerless.”

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