Gaza’s solidarity hunger strikers slam international inaction

by Julie Webb-Pullman, Gaza Scoop

gazastrikersThe scene outside the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza on Monday morning reflected the growing dissatisfaction amongst families and supporters of Palestinian prisoners with the inaction of both their own authorities, and that of the international community.

Gaza SCOOP has been regularly reporting from the solidarity tent, dissmeniatingmessages to the international community from those hunger-striking in solidarity with their compatriots in Israeli jails, in the hope and expectation that their voices would be heard, and action to end administrative detention by Israel would be taken.

The massive Israeli repression being carried out against Palestinians in the West Bank combined with the nightly air-strikes on Gaza accompanied by a total lack of action from the international community to do other than mouth platitudes and condemnations has left Palestinians in Gaza feeling justifiably angry and abandoned.

Wael Mamlouk, whose hunger-strike is now in its 57th day, said his muscles might be weak but his spirit is still strong – and he is relying on Palestinians, not the international community, to save the prisoners.

“I am 100% sure there will be a third Intifada. In fact, it would shameful if it didn’t happen.
And I’m not sending any message to the international community – it’s pointless,” he said.

Wael Mamlouk on his 56th day of  hunger-strike says the international community does nothing

His sentiments are endorsed by another hunger-striking ex-prisoner, Misbah Aburabbo, who also blames Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“What’s happening in the West Bank is very dangerous because of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). I am really mad with Abbas for favouring the missing Israeli soldiers over Palestinian kids detained by Israel. Each declaration he makes is worse than the last. I think the third intifada is necessary, especially in the West Bank, but Abbas won’t stop security co-ordination with the occupation, and this will make it hard,” he said.

“They have already stopped them driving, put barricades and obstacles in the street, they are beating old people, women and children, yes, you can be 100% sure this violence will cause an explosion,” he added.

Misbah Aburabbo refuses to send a message to the international community because they are unjust

“I will not send a message to the international community because they are unjust. The UN and the whole world condemned the capture of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and did NOT condemn the capture of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit’s capture is considered a war crime, but that of 5,000 Palestinians is not. I will not ask for their help, I will only ask help from Allah,” Aburabbo concluded.

Nisreen Abdulminem Abu Amra extended her criticism to the unity government, saying that she had high expectations of them until they disestablished the Ministry of Detainees. As the daughter of an ex-detainee and a volunteer with prisoners’ organisations, she is depressed and angry that the new minister has not even delegated someone to attend the Gaza solidarity tent on his behalf.

“He has let us down, we were depending on him. We wanted to show him how active we are and what we can achieve. Well, we don’t need a minister – we are the national and Islamic parties, the children, the fathers and mothers of prisoners can fight alone,” she said.

Israel also came in for its share of rage – Sharif Abu Waddi and her two children have never been permitted to visit their husband and father for the six years he has been in prison.

“His parents are permitted, but we are not. Even his first wife is permitted, who does not have any children, but I and his children have never been allowed, and not even been given a reason for the refusal,” she said. “The Red Cross has tried to help me, but they have not succeeded either.”

Sharif Abu Waddi with her mother-in-law and her son

Like most of those spoken to, Mansour Alzard hopes that the three Israeli soldiers have in fact been captured by the resistance because they see it as the best chance of achieving the prisoners’ demands, although there has been no claim of responsibility and many believe it is an Israeli false flag operation to justify Israel’s repression in the West Bank, and attempt to crush Hamas.

“We’re sorry for the three soldiers, we know what it feels like to be kidnapped,” said Mansour. “We are not terrorists. We are not sadists. We are only freedom fighters. We are struggling. We are fighting just to get a small free place under the sun.”

Mansour said they are all depending on the ethical standards of the Israeli medical professionals to prevent the introduction of force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners, especially under sedation, as a bill before the Israeli parliament seeks to permit.

“They know what the consequences will be,” he commented.

Mansour Alzard, 28 days on hunger strike: "We must knock on all doors"

“Events in the West Bank have distracted attention from the prisoners,” he continued. “Abu Mazen (President Abbas) has let them down, he hasn’t fulfilled his promises. And Israel has transferred many to hospitals and other prisons, so very little information is getting out. If it wasn’t for the repression in the West Bank the prisoners would be getting a lot more support.”

Unlike the others spoken to, Mansour still intends to appeal to the international community.

“We have to knock on all the doors,” he said. “The United Nations is one of the doors we must knock on.”

But will anyone answer it?

Translation by Eman Basher