Act now for starving political prisoners

Emergency statement by Jews for Justice for Palestinians

May 8th 2012

On Monday 7th May the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals of two hunger strikers, Bilal Diab 27, and Thaer Halahleh 33, held in administrative detention without charge or trial, denied the right to see the evidence against them. These young men are in the 70th day of their hunger strike and by rejecting their appeals, the Supreme court could, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, be condemning them to death. There is no known evidence that a hunger striker has ever lived beyond75 days.

There are at present between 1600 and 2000 prisoners on hunger strike. Their main demands are an end to administrative detention and to solitary confinement, as well as the reinstatement of family visits from Gaza.

Israel insists it is a democracy which abides by the rule of law. However it is hard to see how the state can justify this position when one considers that administrative detention for any length of time, is a violation of international law.  Holding ‘protected persons’ in the territory of the occupier is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Israel talks with conviction about its ‘security’ as a rationale for holding Palestinian prisoners from the occupied territories. However Israel also states that the annexation wall has brought it unprecedented security. So Israel must decide. Either it is under such an overwhelming threat that it needs all the legal resources at its disposal to protect its population from external threats, or it is using its machinery to imprison a subject population and to submit them to human rights abuse. The evidence points inexorably in one direction. Over 40% of Palestinian men have at some point been detained by the Israeli authorities. This sort of scenario is consistent with all colonial powers, who use what they call their ‘criminal justice’ system to criminalise those who challenge their dominion.

It is time that we expose the real criminals. It is those who oppress another people and treat them with callous contempt, while hiding behind what they call the law, but which stands in stark contrast to international law to which all countries calling themselves democracies hold allegiance. We urge the Israeli government even at this late stage to show some humanity and to release the prisoners. We also urge the UK Government to demand that Israel abide by international law and release the prisoners. Israel should be informed that, unless it abides by its international treaty obligations, sanctions could be imposed.

Further actions that can be taken to help Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh:

*Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that the prisoners be released immediately and his administrative detention order not be renewed.

Brigadier General Danny Efroni, Military Judge Advocate General
6 David Elazar Street
Harkiya, Tel Aviv

Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon
OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command

Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
Fax: +972 2 530 5741

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak

Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel

Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757

Col. Eli Bar On
Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
Beth El 90631

Fax: +972 2 9977326

*Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Bilal Diab and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.

Petition in support of Palestinian hunger strikers
To sign this petition produced by Jewish Voice for Peace, click on the headline above

I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian Hunger Strikers
Israel has long imprisoned Palestinians without charge, a practice called “adminstrative detention.” But now Palestinians are making history by nonviolently resisting these abuses with a 2,000 prisoner hunger strike.

Their demand is just: freedom from arrest without charge, the right of habeas corpus, is at the foundation of international human rights. The hunger strikers have inspired support actions from Palestinians and Israeli allies, as well as from international human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

Two of the hunger strikers are near death. We need to bring them justice before it’s too late. Please add your name to petition to end administrative detention below.

I support the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike in opposition to inhumane prison conditions and the Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians without charge. I stand with their historic act of nonviolent resistance to these gross injustices.

Submit to the strikers

The hunger strike is the latest rock in the avalanche of largely nonviolent flotillas, ‘fly-ins’ and marches that Palestinians and their supporters have organized, to great success.

By Shay Fogelman, Ha’aretz

It’s impossible to determine precisely how many days people can survive without food. The medical history of hunger strikes indicates that healthy people of average weight can expect to lose consciousness on the 55th day of their fast. The data also indicates that hunger strikers can expect to die by day 75.

As these lines are being written, administrative detainees Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla are approaching the 70th day of their hunger strike. They are reportedly both still conscious but, statistically speaking, they can expect to die any minute.

In addition to Diab and Halahla, six other administrative detainees are also on a hunger strike – one for more than 40 days, and another for nearly 60. The oldest of them, a 72-year-old man, has been refusing to eat for three weeks. What they are all demanding is their freedom. They have stated that they would rather die than remain in detention without being tried or even charged, without a release date, without visits from family or any of the other rights that regular prisoners are guaranteed by law. They want to stop being the victims of that distortion of law and justice known as administrative detention – a category that accounts for around 300 Palestinians currently incarcerated in Israel.

More than two weeks ago, some 1,500 convicted prisoners joined the hunger strike. They are reported to have done so primarily to improve their prison conditions, which got much worse while negotiations were under way for the release of Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity. But representatives of the hunger strikers have said at every opportunity that they are taking part in the protest primarily to show their solidarity with the administrative detainees.

The hunger strike is the latest rock in the avalanche of largely nonviolent flotillas, “fly-ins” and marches that Palestinians and their supporters have organized, to great success, in the last several years. After all, it was a single Turkish ship that, in 2010, prompted Israel to expand the list of goods allowed into Gaza far faster than the thousands of rockets and mortar shells that Palestinians had been firing on Sderot for years. It was a single protest fly-in, and Israel’s demand last month that presumed pro-Palestinian demonstrators be barred from boarding Tel Aviv-bound planes, that turned the world’s attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And it was a single protest bicycle tour by European and Palestinian activists in the Jericho area last month, and an Israeli officer’s videotaped attack on a Danish participant, that won more international media coverage than any Palestinian shooting attack on settlers.

The hunger strike, and its ever-widening circle of participants, has already achieved a lot for the Palestinian national struggle, primarily regarding administrative detention. Israel recently released Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan, who refused to eat for 67 days while he was being held in administrative detention for four months. Hana Shalabi, who went on a 30-day hunger strike while under administrative detention, has been released and deported to the Gaza Strip for three years.

The research that has been conducted on hunger strikes shows that on the second or third day people stop feeling hungry. After two weeks, the glycogen reserves in the liver and muscles are depleted, causing a significant drop in weight. Around day 30, vision becomes impaired because of weakened eye muscles, vomiting begins, and hunger strikers begin to have difficulty swallowing water and suffer severe vertigo. Most of these symptoms fade after about 10 days, leaving the hunger strikers weak and apathetic. In the next few days, those who continue to refuse food can expect to lose their hearing and vision, suffer internal bleeding and ultimately die.

The State of Israel cannot allow Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla to die of hunger. It does not have the moral legitimacy to do so. The State of Israel must submit one more time to a just and nonviolent struggle. It must release Diab and Halahla and put an end to the unacceptable practice of administrative detention.

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