24th day of Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike: Legal visits blocked for Sa’adat, Abu Ghoulmeh, Barghouthi

Projection in New York City by Decolonize this Place

Palestinian prisoners’ 24th day of hunger strike comes as lawyers continue to be denied access to prominent leaders among the prisoners, including prominent Palestinian leaders and hunger strikers Ahmad Sa’adat, Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh and Marwan Barghouthi. These visit denials come as increasing numbers of Palestinian prisoners face risky health conditions well into their fourth week without food as part of the Strike for Dignity and Freedom.

Over 1500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails launched the hunger strike on 17 April 2017, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. The strike has grown and includes Palestinian prisoners from all political forces and factions. The strikers’ demands are for their basic human rights, including ending the denial of family visits, providing appropriate health care and medical treatment, the right to pursue distance higher education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.

Despite the efforts of Adalah and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission at the Israeli Supreme Court to compel access for lawyers to Palestinian hunger strikers from the Israel Prison service, legal visits continue to be denied, especially to prominent Palestinian political leaders, such as Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that “Addameer’s attorney Farah Bayadsi was prevented today, 9 May 2017, from visiting PFLP leader Ahmad Sadaat, who was transferred to isolation in Ashkelon prison. Despite the Israeli High Court ruling to allow prisoners see their attorneys, the IPS frequently denied visits upon request. Addameer anticipates that the IPS will continue to use such tactics in order to systematically prevent lawyers from having access to the hunger strikers, such as moving prisoners to other prisons without informing their lawyers, in an attempt to further isolate the hunger strikers and undermine their strike.”

Fellow imprisoned PFLP leader Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, who joined the strike with Sa’adat on 4 May, was also denied a legal visit from lawyer Amani Ibrahim. In addition, Fateh leader and key strike spokesperson Marwan Barghouthi was also denied a legal visit on Tuesday, 9 May by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society lawyer Moataz Shqairat.

Ma’an News reported that dozens of hunger striking prisoners were transferred to a so-called “field hospital” after experiencing fainting, vomiting blood and severe pain. The creation of this “field hospital” has raised particular concern that Israeli occupation forces will forcibly feed Palestinian prisoners, including with doctors brought from abroad in order to perform the internationally-condemned practice. Ahmad Hamamrah, 19, a hunger striker facing serious health deterioration, was transferred to Shaare Tzedek hospital.

The strikers have been met with constant repression, including frequent and abusive transfers that physically tax and stress the weakened bodies of the hunger strikers, solitary confinement and isolation, confiscation of all personal belongings, and denial of legal and family visits. Widespread abusive and arbitrary transfers continued on Tuesday, 9 May; all of the prisoners in Section 8 in Ohli Kedar prison were transferred to section 4, while 120 Palestinian prisoners in Nafha prison were transferred to Shatta prison.

Palestinian lawyer Khalid Mahajna was able to visit with hunger striking prisoner Aroun Ayad in Ohli Kedar prison, who reported that prison doctors are displaying food to striking prisoners and attempting to negotiate with prisoners to eat and break their strike in exchange for treatment. He also reported that the strikers are isolated and denied access to recreation. While their personal clothing and blankets have been confiscated, they have also been denied access to the canteen (prison store) and each fined 300 NIS (approximately $80 USD). He also reported that repressive units and guards storm and inspect the prisoners’ sections up to three times daily, a mechanism to harass the strikers and force them from their rooms despite their deteriorating health. The Prisoners’ Society said that this legal visit was obtained only after multiple rejected requests and lengthy negotiations.

Meanwhile, prisoners in the Negev desert prison were also subject to ongoing punitive and repressive practices, including searches and raids using dogs and one guard pouring water on the head of Mohammed Abu Rub from Jenin, according to Palestinian lawyer Yousef Nasasreh. Prisoners in multiple prisons have reported routine denials of access to the normally-provided bottled water, including many prisoners forced to drink from the hot bath tap and others given small amounts of water to be shared among multiple prisoners.

The home of former long-term hunger striker and imprisoned journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq, one of 50 prominent Palestinian political prisoners who joined the strike on 4 May, was invaded by Israeli occupation forces in the early morning hours of Tuesday, 9 May. Fayha Shalash, al-Qeeq’s wife, said that 20 occupation soldiers stormed the home, ransacking the family’s belongings. She stated that this was an attempt to pressure her husband into ending his strike, and would fail.

Al-Qeeq issued a statement from inside prison on 9 May. He emphasized that the hunger strikers are “steadfast in their commitment despite the hunger and the pain that they are experiencing, in order to achieve their legitimate rights.” Al-Qeeq urged the student movement in Palestinian universities to take a leading role in the struggle to support the prisoners; he is a former chair of Bir Zeit University’s student council, which was the subject of his first arrest by occupation forces. “The Israeli occupation will not be able to break the hunger-striking prisoners,” said al-Qeeq.

The longest consecutively-held Palestinian prisoner Karim Younes, one of the leaders of the strike, also issued a statement from isolation in Ayalon prison on 9 May, emphasizing that “We assure you that we continue the strike of freedom and dignity until victory. Either victory or martyrdom. There is no life without dignity.” Younes also denounced the alleged video shared by Israeli officials that claims to depict Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi secretly eating a nutrition bar, which the Israeli prison administration claims to have been videotaped during the strike. The blurry video, which does not show the face of the person in the prison cell, was denounced as a fabrication by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. Palestinian lawyers demanded access to Barghouthi, noting that they had been denied legal visits with him since 17 April, the day of the launch of the strike.

Screen capture via Mondoweiss

An advertisement by Israeli Pizza Hut sparked outrage online after it mocked the hunger strike, using a still from the alleged video, into which was photoshopped a Pizza Hut box and slice of pizza. Following a widespread call to boycott Pizza Hut internationally after this mockery of Palestinian prisoners whose lives are on the line after three weeks of hunger strike, Pizza Hut International released a statement apologizing for the advertisement and claiming that it was unauthorized by the corporate body and that the advertising agency involved had been fired.

Screen capture via Mondoweiss

Arab and international actions also continued in support of the hunger strike. Dozens of Sudanese and Palestinians held a sit-in on 9 May at the UN headquarters in Khartoum in support of the prisoners. The Tunisian Quartet, winners of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, issued an appeal to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to pressure the Israeli occupation to release Palestinian prisoners and accept the demands of the hunger strikers. The organizations in the Quartet are the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, the National Commission of Tunisian Lawyers and the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights.

On Tuesday, 9 May, events and protests took place in Paris, San Francisco, Bologna, Coventry, Santiago de Compostela, Bern and Geneva. In Paris, six hunger strikers from CAPJPO-EuroPalestine launched a hunger strike in the center of the city to support Palestinian political prisoners. On Wednesday, 10 May, protests are being organized in Toulouse, Brussels, Karachi, Cape Town, London, and Barcelona, while one set of Brussels students will launch their 24 hour hunger strike from the Universite Catholique du Louvain today. Upcoming international actions and events to support the prisoners are available at Samidoun’s Global Schedule of Events.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges ongoing and escalated action to support the strikers at this critical moment.

1) Organize or join an event in support of the hunger strikers. Protest outside your local Israeli embassy, consulate or mission, or at a public square or government building. You can drop a banner or put up a table to support the prisoners and their strike. See the list of current international events here, and add your own: send your events and actions to us at samidoun@samidoun.net, on Facebook, or use the form to tell us about your actions. Building this strong list of actions around the world will help to underline the global support for Palestinian political prisoners in their struggle for freedom, and the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation. You can download flyers and posters for your events to support the prisoners among our resources. 

2) Hunger Strike for Justice! Join the Palestinian hunger strikers to support their demands with a symbolic one-day hunger strike in your community or on your campus. Tell us about your solidarity strike at samidoun@samidoun.net, on Facebook, or use the form.

3) Call your government officials and demand action.  Call your foreign affairs officials – and members of parliament – and urge action for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

Call your country’s officials urgently:

  • Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop: + 61 2 6277 7500
  • Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland: +1-613-992-5234
  • European Union Commissioner Federica Mogherini: +32 (0) 2 29 53516
  • New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully: +64 4 439 8000
  • United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: +44 20 7008 1500
  • United States President Donald Trump: 1-202-456-1111

Tell your government: Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike for their basic human rights – for family visits, medical care, and freedom from imprisonment without charge or trial. Governments must pressure Israel to recognize the prisoners’ demands!

4) Take action on social media! Support the hunger strike on social media. Take the #SaltWaterChallenge! Drink water and salt on video and add a message of support for the hunger strikers. Share and reshare information about the #DignityStrike.

5) Build the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign! Join the BDS Movement to highlight the complicity of corporations like Hewlett-Packard and the continuing involvement of G4S in Israeli policing and prisons. Build a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, impose a military embargo on Israel, or organize around the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.