Starving for dignity

May 23, 2017
Sarah Benton

Freedom and Dignity strike: Some of Palestine’s most high profile prisoners. From right to left: Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, Karim Yunis, Nael Barghouthi, Fouad Shubaki

No signs of negotiations with Israel as prisoners plan to refuse salt and water

By Ma’an news
May 23, 2017

BETHLEHEM — As some 1,300 Palestinian prisoners entered their 37th day of mass hunger strike, with dozens of prisoners transferred to civilian hospitals due to their critical health conditions, the Israeli government has continued to refuse to negotiate with leaders of the hunger strike.

Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe released a statement Tuesday accusing the Israeli government of “disdaining the lives and health of hunger strikers in favor of causing deaths among them.”

He warned that “if something happens to any prisoner, nobody will be able to control the anger of the Palestinian people.”

Qaraqe added that a special team, formed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has been tasked with “continuing to talk with the Israelis in attempt to bring to an end to the ongoing tragedy.”

While it remained unclear who was a part of the alleged negotiations team, and if it consisted of hunger strike leaders, the media committee formed to support the hunger strikers released a statement on Sunday, stressing that the press be careful and “remain cautious” when publishing information on negotiations between prisoners and Israeli authorities.

Reports had emerged last week in Israeli media that Palestinian security officials and officials of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, were attempting to reach an agreement that would end the hunger strike.

However, according to the committee’s statement, Palestinian hunger strikers have consistently refused to accept negotiations without the presence of the strike’s leadership, most notably imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi who has remained in solitary confinement since the start of the strike in April.

Hunger-striking prisoners have previously stated that attempts by Israeli officials to enter negotiations with Palestinian officials without the strike’s leadership represented “false and futile negotiations aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises.”

Meanwhile, according to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, hunger strike leader Karim Yunis — the longest serving Palestinian prisoner — released a letter via his lawyer and brother Tamim Yunis, saying that prisoners will be “escalating their strike” in the coming days.

“Our bodies may be weakened and barely able to move, but our spirits reach the sky, and despite the stretch of the battle and its ferocity, we are determined to continue until we achieve victory, not only for us but for all of our people,” the letter said.

While a number of prisoners have already begun refusing water, Yunis said that several more prisoners will begin refusing salt and water — a mixture that prisoners have been consuming as their only form of sustenance — in the coming days.

“This (step) requires a parallel escalation of our people and our supporters to expand and take the battle everywhere,” Yunis said, seemingly calling on Palestinians across Israel, the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip to increase solidarity actions and clashes with Israeli forces, which have erupted across the West Bank and Gaza in recent days, leaving dozens of Palestinians injured.

“We are determined to complete the mission to the fullest. This battle is not only a battle of prisoners and their demands, but it is the battle of the people and their dignity,” Yunis said.

Hunger-striking prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017