Palestinians’ hunger strike, and Nakba Day!
More than 2000 prisoners engaged in a mass open-ended hunger strike in protest against the inhumane and illegal treatment meted out by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) since April 17 although a few had been fasting much longer – up to 77 days such as the prisoners Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab. They began their hunger strike on the same day; Bilal Diab is suffering from hypothermia and has lost sensation in his feet. He is at imminent risk of death, while Thaer Halahleh is losing his hearing and he is vomiting blood. He now weighs less than 55 kilograms and the prison doctors have told him to expect death at any moment.
Until Monday night May 14, the Hunger Strike Leadership committee did not release any statements to end the strike, despite Hamas and Fatah spokesmen announcing that the prisoners signed the deal after their demands were met. But if the deal was to be confirmed the first information on it are the following: ending solitary confinement to all prisoners, ending administrative detention, allowing Gazans to family visit and improving life conditions.
They are responding to prolonged isolation, physical abuse, the denial of family and lawyer visits and the denial of education materials, and an easing of so-called “administrative detention”, a practice that has drawn international criticism on human rights grounds.
According to the Addameer, a prisoners’ rights organisation, on 1 May there were 4,635 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 308 on administrative detention, seven women and 218 children. 308 Palestinian prisoners are being held under administrative detention, which is a military process Israeli authority’s use to arrest and detain Palestinians without trial or evidence. Many of them have been in prison for years. None of them have had their cases heard in court. Most, like Halahleh, were violently arrested and taken away in the middle of the night, and to this day don’t know the exact charges they face aside from vague accusations. To the Israeli authorities, a “security threat” can be someone who is a semi-active member of a political organization, or someone who frequents nonviolent demonstrations. In addition, Israel continues to impose collective punishments that existed to secure the release of the captured Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, despite the fact that he has now been freed
In response to the hunger strike campaigns, the IPS is fining prisoners up to $130 (Dh477) per day as a punitive measure. Many have been placed in solitary confinement. More have had their water and electricity supply cut off. Almost all are being denied access to their lawyers and families.
The illegal policies of the IPS have long been overlooked by the international community and nearly completely ignored by Western medias.
Since Israel began its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel has imprisoned 650,000 Palestinians—around 20 percent of the population, and 40 percent of all males.
Reactions on the Palestinian Political scene
The hunger strike has galvanized Palestinian society, leading to weekly protests outside Israeli prison walls. The fate of the hunger strikers has touched a raw nerve among Palestinians, with daily rallies of support in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Dozens of Palestinians, including politicians who had served terms in Israeli jails in the past, have gone on hunger strikes in tents put up in solidarity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli security forces have responded to protests and marches in towns and villages across the West Bank with teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon. In Gaza, protests and rallies have been held and the hunger strike has featured in sermons at Friday prayers.
Leaders of Islamic Jihad Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine and Hamas have warned of a violent uprising if one of them dies. Hamas rhetorical discourse can nevertheless be nuanced by the practice of Hamas in Gaza which has prevented any military resistance from Gaza and a special unit has actually been formed to arrest resistance fighters trying to launch rocket into Israel. The special force will nevertheless not act in cases in which Israel attacks first, such as last March.
Hamas was also fast to declare the end of the hunger’s strike campaign.
On its side President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said few days ago that his security forces were struggling because Israel had refused to allow them to import a shipment of weapons, and that he was “very, very, very afraid” of what might happen if one of the Palestinian prisoners on a long-term hunger strike died. He denounced the fact that said 3,000 guns from Egypt and Russia sitting in Jordan had been previously authorized, but were now blocked from entering the Palestinian territories.
In addition to this M. Abbas met with a delegation from J Street, an American Zionist lobbying group, while on Monday night May 14 when the PA announced the end of the hunger s strike, still to be confirmed as we speak, it threaten as well through its thugs protesters in Ramallah, warning them not to strike tomorrow and to break up solidarity with the prisoners, according to Palestinians activists.
Mahmoud Abbas has been the targets of the criticisms of many Palestinians. Firstly, they did not forget that Abbas was fast to pay his condolences recently to Netanyahu’s father death, but was silent regarding the hunger strikes of Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab and the mass hunger strike that began on April 17th.
This following declaration has moreover created uproar and condemnations from many Palestinian activists: “He has “My legacy? I have one thing, security! Ask anyone if we are going to the third intifada. They will say no, they want peace. That has never happened before. People realized that through peaceful means we can achieve our goals.” This feeling is not shared by a great majority of Palestinians who want to struggle for true liberation, justice, and dignity.
The hunger strike and the Nakba
Palestinians will demonstrate like every year for May 15, the commemoration of the Nakba day, “the catastrophe” where an estimated 800,000 Palestinians were expelled following Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948. Protesters demonstrate on Nakba Day also for the right of return for the descendants of these refugees, who are up to some seven million Palestinian today. Today on a total population of 10.6 million Palestinians, 7.1 million, which is about 67% of the Palestinian population, are refugees.
The scale of the devastation in 1948 was actually overwhelming: four in five Palestinian villages inside the borders of the new state were ethnically cleansed, an act of mass dispossession accompanied by atrocities. Around 95 per cent of new Jewish communities built between 1948 and1953 were established on the land of expelled Palestinians.
The day will be commemorated in Palestine, by the Palestinian Diaspora and by solidarity activists all over the world tomorrow.
In Bethlehem there will be a demonstration at 11am in Manger Square. In Ramallah, there will be a demonstration at 11am in the city centre and at 1pm there will be one also for the hunger strikers, meeting in Ramallah city centre and walking to Ofer prison.
There will be many other events going on in Palestine and around the world.
We Are All Hana Shalabi have also organized the event ‘Global Fast for the Palestinian Hunger Strikers on Nakba Day’ that everyone can participate in.
When the Palestinian struggle was driven by armed resistance, the international media gorged itself on stories of Dalal Mughrabi, Laila Khaled and many other brave men and women who would be accused them of being terrorists. Regrettably, popular resistance does not hold the same attraction for the world Medias.
The Palestinian hunger’s strike resistance action shows the refusal of the Palestinian to submit to the Israeli racist, colonial and occupying state. One popular chant in the daily protests that have swept Ramallah in the last two weeks goes symbolized the will of resistance of the protesters:”Those calling for peace will tomorrow write on the walls they regret they did so.”
The long-term and massive hunger strikers and the world-wide solidarity for these hunger strikers have demonstrated this year; the occupiers cannot crush the spirit and steadfastness of the Palestinian people.
Solidarity with the Palestinians!