Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network denounces the right-wing, racist, U.S. imperialist and Zionist attacks on the lives and rights of Palestinian political prisoners, and the threat and actual use of force-feeding torture to suppress prisoners’ hunger strikes for justice and freedom.
Israeli Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Zeev Elkin, told Channel 10 that “The State of Israel can’t allow itself to be held hostage to hunger strikes by prisoners because today it’s one prisoner and tomorrow it will be others,” Elkin said. “Today it’s a prisoner in administrative detention and tomorrow it will be someone who was sentenced to jail after a fair trial.”
Elkin clearly admits that there is nothing fair or just about being imprisoned without charge or trial in administrative detention – the condition of hunger striker Muhammed Allan, currently comatose and at risk of death after 62 days of hunger strike – and makes the ludicrous claim that Israeli military courts are any such alternative.
However, the positing of Allan, a comatose man, a lawyer with no recourse to legal mechanisms to achieve justice, held arbitrarily without charge or trial, shackled to a hospital bed in intensive care under armed guard, threatened with force-feeding and denied access to doctors as “holding Israel hostage” is a horrific reversal of facts. Allan is being held hostage by the Israeli state with all of its forces: the military, courts, political and medical apparatus, along with nearly 6,000 other Palestinian political prisoners.
And yet, this statement reveals the strength and power of Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, that it exposes the injustice at the heart of the colonial project in Palestine and reveals a firm dedication to seeking justice that truly frightens those who seek to rule over the indigenous people of occupied Palestine through ethnic cleansing, apartheid, mass incarceration and genocide.
Elkin is all of the above – one of the primary authors of the law which prohibits Israelis from advocating the boycott of products produced in West Bank settlements and a proud advocate of the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. “This is our land, and it’s our right to apply sovereignty over it. Regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in Judea and Samaria what we did in [East] Jerusalem and the Golan.” A settler himself, Elkin called for genocide in Gaza, “a thorough cleaning of Gaza.”
That Elkin holds such a position is no surprise, as the Israeli state was founded 67 years ago on the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees, the indigenous people of the land and the imposition of a Zionist settler colonial project over the land and people of Palestine.
Elkin’s comments come hand in hand with that of another official representative of a settler colonial state based on the dispossession and genocide of indigenous people: U.S. Colonel Michael Bumgarner, former commander of the Guantanamo military base on U.S.-occupied Cuban territories, where 780 international captives, detained and abducted from around the world by U.S. forces, were held without charge or trial for years.
Bumgarner, who presided over the torturous force-feeding of dozens of prisoners in the military camp via nasogastric tube, labels the torture of hunger striking detainees as “a matter of discipline within your facility.” He specifically warns against prisoners “[thinking] they were influencing national decisions by their behavior.” Bumgarner’s statement comes at the same time that the U.S. is attempting to prevent the release of a cleared, innocent man in Guantanamo – Tariq Ba Odah – on hunger strike since February 2007 and tortured by force-feeding since that time.
It must be noted that force-feeding for U.S. prisoners in California on hunger strike in 2013 – disproportionately Black and other men of color, pushed into the prison system in a manifestation of systematic racism and oppression – was also “legitimized” by a U.S. court, despite the clear international consensus that force-feeding is cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture. As U.S. empire kills and destroys in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, it also kills and destroys in Ferguson, New York, Waller County, Cleveland and Baltimore, targeting Black life and sparking resurgent resistance.
The reality is that Palestinian hunger strikers are using the only tool they have to push back against their colonizer and occupier, their bodies, to not only influence “national” decisions, but the international political scene. Palestinian hunger strikers are, like the Irish hunger strikers who put their bodies on the line against British colonialism (the creator of administrative detention in Palestine), a voice of conscience to the world, freedom fighters for justice. As Khader Adnan said, addressing Muhammed Allan, “Today you are representing not only our people, you are representing all human beings in the world who love freedom and dignity. You are now an advocate not only for Palestinians, you are for everyone.”
Elkin, Bumgarner and their ilk, on the other hand, are the voices of repression, racism, colonialism and dehumanization. Torture, force feeding and mass imprisonment are tools of Zionism and U.S. imperialism to preserve colonial rule and attempt to destroy the resistance of the people. Muhammed Allan – and the Palestinian liberation struggle he represents now – stands against these forces. His struggle is indeed “for everyone,” in the words of Ghassan Kanafani, “for every revolutionary… as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.”