Palestinians in Gaza to boycott ICRC Ramadan iftar over family visit cuts

icrc-nyc1The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces (the Palestinian political factions) and the families of the prisoners in the Gaza Strip have called for a boycott of the collective Ramadan iftar held by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza on Monday, 20 June. They are calling the boycott in protest of the ICRC’s recent decision to cut visits to men prisoners from the West Bank in Israeli prisons, and its overall declining role towards the issues of prisoners and their families.

The Prisoners’ Committee of the National and Islamic Forces held an urgent meeting on Sunday to discuss several issues, including the ICRC iftar. Atiya Bassiouni said that the decision to boycott the iftar was taken to reject the ICRC’s role in reducing family visits for prisoners from the West Bank, while not increasing family visits from Gaza.

Khaled al-Batsh, the coordinator of the National and Islamic Forces, called on the factions to commit to boycotting the iftar, and also informed prisoners’ families, institutions and prominent figures of the boycott.

Abdel-Nasser Ferwana, a former prisoner and prioners affairs researchers, called on all of the guests to take a clear position and boycott the iftar, considering that the ICRC’s invitation to such an event is “not acceptable in light of the failure of the ICRC and the decline in its role.”

The ICRC announced earlier that due to budget restrictions, as of July 2016, it will provide only once-monthly rather than twice-monthly visits for adult men prisoners from the West Bank. (Visit trips for prisoners from the Gaza Strip are arranged approximately every two months.) There is no alternative to the ICRC for Palestinian families to vixit their imprisoned loved ones. Palestinian prisoners have widely rejected this action, condemning it as fully in compliance with Israeli attempts to isolate and cut back on family visits for Palestinian prisoners.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network has joined these demands, writing to the ICRC and protesting outside the ICRC’s UN delegation in New York City. We urge international supporters of justice for Palestine to sign the petition to the ICRC calling upon the international organization to reverse this decision and support family visits for Palestinian prisoners.