22 Days of Hunger Strike: Strike enters fourth week as Palestinians urge intensified support actions

Wall mural in Aida refugee camp supports the strike. Photo via Decolonize this Place

As Palestinian prisoners enter their fourth week of hunger strike, the national committee to support the strike issued a statement urging serious and escalated action in support of their protest, including strikes, full boycott of Israeli goods and civil disobedience. Monday, 8 May marks the 22nd day of the open hunger strike, launched on 17 April by approximately 1500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The strikers have a series of demands, including an end to the denial of family visits, proper health care and medical treatment, access to higher education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. They have faced sharp repression at the hands of the Israeli prison administration, including denial of legal visits and family visits, confiscation of personal belongings, frequent abusive transfers and solitary confinement. Leaders of the strike, including Marwan Barghouthi, Karim Younis and Kamil Abu Hanish, have been targeted for isolation; prominent Palestinian leaders who have joined the strike, including PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, Hamas prison leader Abbas el-Sayyed and longest-serving veteran prisoner Nael Barghouthi, have been isolated and repeatedly transferred as well.

The strikers are threatened with the potential of force feeding, especially as the Israeli press has run reports that far-right Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan is pushing for heavy repression and the potential importation of doctors from abroad to forcibly feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. “This trend carries with it preparation for a targeted crime against the prisoners with the intention of murder. It is clear that we are in the next stage now, that of repression, abuse, and attempts to break the strike through threatening the lives of the prisoners. The ongoing preparations indicate that there is a decision taken against the prisoners to their deaths at the hands of a gang of fascists in Tel Aviv. This is what makes this confrontation an extraordinary moment,” wrote the prisoners in their statement urging outrage and action against the force-feeding threat.

Abusive transfers continued as a means to pressure the prisoners; Democratic Front leader Wajdi Jawdat was transferred from isolation in Ayalon prison to isolation in Beersheba prison. This is the third transfer of Jawdat, the representative of DFLP prisoners in Israeli jail.

Palestinian lawyer Khaled Mahajna was able to obtain a legal visit on Sunday, 7 May with two hunger-striking prisoners in the Negev desert prison, Ibrahim Abu Srour and Nael Hussein, the first time these prisoners or any hunger strikers in this prison have received a visit since 17 April. Mahajna reported that the health status of the strikers is deteriorating severely and most lay in bed throughout the day and find it very difficult to stand. Abu Srour said he fainted the week before and continues to have back pain, but has not been given medical treatment; he said he was offered treatment if he ended his hunger strike. The prisoners also reported frequent nightly raids and inspections and deliberate offers of food from Israeli guards. The hunger strikers in the Negev prison have also been fined 450 NIS ($130 USD) each for not standing during roll call; however, they also told Mahajna that their morale is high and they are determined to continue until their demands are achieved.

Archbishop Atallah Hanna

Prominent figures have continued to announce their hunger strikes in support of the prisoners. Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church announced on 7 May that he will launch his own hunger strike on Monday to support the demands of the prisoners, emphasizing that “the prisoners’ cause is that of the entire Palestinian people.”  Hanna’s announcement comes shortly after the declaration that Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled and Catholic patriarch Gregory III Lahham were also launching hunger strikes in support of the prisoners.

Eight Palestinian mothers of hunger-striking prisoner children are continuing open hunger strike as are a number of released prisoners; in Nablus, five activists including Zaher al-Shishtiri, a leader in the Poplar Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced an open hunger strike on Sunday, 7 May.  These actions are reflected internationally, with strikes taking place in Turin, Bologna, France, Maastricht, Manchester, Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Photo: Palestinian Youth Organization in Beddawi

In Lebanon, Six Palestinian refugee youth from Beddawi refugee camp, part of the Palestinian Youth Organization, announced hat they are launching a hunger strike in support of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails: Mohammed Taha Abu Bakr, Ibrahim Muhawesh, Khaled al-Shibli, Khalil Musa, Bara Abu Siraj and Ahmad Yassin.

Protests are continuing around Palestine and the world in support of the prisoners. On Monday, 8 May, international events are planned in London, Santiago and Olympia in support of the prisoners, following protests and programs in Quito, Munich, Amsterdam, Cagliari and Seattle on Sunday, 7 May to support the strike.

The National Committee to Support the Battle of Freedom and Dignity issued a statement in Palestine on Sunday, 7 May, urging the escalation of efforts to support the prisoners. A translation of the statement follows:

No voice is louder than the voice of the uprising of the prisoners

Statement of the National Committee for the Support of the Battle of Freedom and Dignity

Oh, children of the brave masses of our people; oh, the steadfast ones on the pure land of Palestine…

The battle for freedom and dignity will continue and intensify in the face of the fascist occupation state that has fueled all of its capacities and recruited its organs and institutions to confront this battle of freedom and dignity, in an attempt to break the will of the prisoners and, behind them, the strength and the will of our heroic Palestinian people.

We emphasize that we stand united behind our heroes, engaged in this battle in the prisons as it enters the 21st day. We say to the occupying power, and to the criminal directors of the prisons, that we will be a force for victory for our prisoners to gain their legitimate rights, leading to their just and honorable freedom.

At this crucial moment for the strike, there is no room for hesitation. It is necessary now to take decisive steps at all levels and muster all of our capacities in the service of this battle, so we adopt the statement of the Prisoners’ Movement and therefore, call for these steps:

First, to engage in large-scale civil disobedience, including the closure of the bypass roads in the face of the occupation army and settlers, launching from all villages, camps and cities to the nearest point of the bypass roads and marching for closure, towards full closure.

Second, we demand that the Palestinian Authority announce the immediate, clear and unambiguous end of all forms of coordination with the occupation state, including security, civil and economic coordination, with the exception of humanitarian cases.

Third, we call on the Palestinian government to suspend the local municipality council elections and direct all efforts toward support of the strike. Considering that we are facing calls to mobilize all of our energies in the service of the goal of victory, we call upon the heads of electoral blocs to an expanded meeting tomorrow to discuss this decision and ensure a means of implementation that achieves its purpose.

Fourth, we call on the brave workers of Palestine, who experience the conditions of life that are part of our condition under occupation, to cease working within the occupation state and the settlements.

Fifth, we call for mobilization in city centers and from the sit-in tents to the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, on Monday, 8 May 2017.

Sixth, We call for a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the United Nations inside the state of Palestine and other international bodies on Tuesday, 9 May 2017.

Seventh, we demand a full and absolute boycott of Israeli goods, preventing them from entering their markets with a direct response to their entry. We call on young people and the masses to implement this resolution with the destruction of such goods beginning on Wednesday, 10 May 2017, as a final deadline to empty the shelves of shops and stores of these toxins.

Eighth, we call for a general commercial strike on Thursday, 11 May 2017 until 12:00, after which to be launched marches of anger directed to points of confrontation with the occupation.

Eternal glory to the martyrs
Freedom for the prisoners of freedom
Shame on those who have failed to perform their national duty