40 Days on Hunger Strike: #BDS4DignityStrike as strikers pledge to fast from salt and water in Ramadan

Image by BDS Movement

Palestinian prisoners entered their 40th day of hunger strike on Friday, 26 May. As the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee called for #BDS4DignityStrike actions internationally, prisoners noted on the eve of Ramadan that many are planning to abstain from salt and water during the day’s fasting in the upcoming month-long holiday.

1500 Palestinian prisoners – out of a total of nearly 6500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails – launched the strike, the Strike of Dignity and Freedom, on 17 April. The strikers have a series of basic human demands, including an end to the denial of family visits, a return to twice-monthly visits, the right to pursue distance higher education, proper medical care and treatment and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.

After 40 days of consuming only salt and water – and many prisoners denied salt for days or even weeks at a time due to punitive confiscations by Israeli repressive forces – prisoners’ health is at serious risk. Dozens of prisoners have been transferred to Israeli civilian hospitals in recent days as many prisoners have lost over 20kg (40 pounds) in weight, are vomiting or urinating blood, and are experiencing severe fatigue, pain and inability to walk. At the same time that the prisoners’ health is deteriorating, they continue to face harsh repression by Israeli jailers, including frequent abusive transfers conducted shackled hand and foot in the infamous “bosta” prison transit vehicle, solitary confinement and isolation for strikers and strike leaders, frequent repressive raids, fines, and confiscation of personal belongings, including clothing, blankets and even salt.

40 prisoners in Hadarim prison on hunger strike were transferred to civilian hospitals after their health deteriorating; meanwhile, Palestinian media reported that Israeli hospitals have been called upon to discuss the implementation of forced-feeding at the behest of the Israeli political and prison authorities. Forced feeding is a form of torture that is prohibited by international medical ethics guidelines and conventions.  Meanwhile, striking prisoners meeting with Palestinian lawyers reported that when they are transferred for medical testing, doctors attempt to convince them to stop the hunger strike by providing warnings about health risks and that the testing becomes a framework to further pressure the prisoners.

Nasser Abu Srour, held in Hadarim prison, met with Palestinian lawyer Ihab al-Ghaliz, where he reported that the hunger strikers will fast for Ramadan and refrain from consuming water and salt or vitamins during the daylight hours throughout the month of Ramadan. Abu Srour also said that all of the striking prisoners were taken in stages to Israeli hospitals in the previous week for medical tests before being returned to prison, although Zafir Rimawi was taken to Meir Hospital after he was injured as he fainted due to weakness. He emphasized that despite their weakening health, the morale of the prisoners is high and they are determined to continue the strike until victory.

The 40th day of the strike was met by protests throughout occupied Palestine. In occupied Palestine ’48, protesters gathered outside Afula hospital, where hunger strikers were being brought for medical tests, supporting their strike and their demands. In Nabi Saleh north of Ramallah, protesters in support of the striers were attacked with tear gas, pepper gas and “skunk water” by Israeli occupation forces, who also beat the demonstrators and shot rubber-coated metal bullets at them. In Beita, south of Nablus, Ahmed Jibril, 19, was wounded by Israeli occupation soldiers who shot him in the shoulder with live bullets. In al-Khalil, Israeli soldiers also fired live ammuniition on protesters, while in Bil’in protesters were attacked with tear gas. In the Gaza Strip, two young men were wounded by Israeli occupation forces as they protested on the borders of Gaza and were fired upon with live ammunition east of Khaza’a.

Paris photo, 25 May 2017

Outside Palestine, Thursday, 25 May marked a day of global hunger strikes, with actions in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Albertville, Nimes, Saint-Etienne, Montpellier, Donostia/San Sebastian, Berlin, Bremen, Nairobi, Brussels, London, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Chicago, Madrid, Tripoli, Bratislava, Victoria, Toronto, Calgary, Cagliari, Portadown, Houston, Stanford, Halifax and more. CAPJPO-EuroPalestine led the drive for the global strike which was supported by Samidoun and organizations around the world.

Bratislava photo, 25 May 2017

On Friday, 26 May, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee urged the organization of actions and protests to support the strikers on their 40th day under the banner of #BDS4DignityStrike. Events are being organized on Friday in Gothenburg, Maynooth, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Lima, Modena, Vienna, Berlin and Pretoria, including Samidoun’s New York City action.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all supporters of Palestine to continue to mobilize, demonstrate and organize in public squares, government offices and outside Israeli embassies, as the prisoners have urged. We also urge participation in the urgent call to action to pressure the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to take a real stand and end its complicity in the violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights. Take Action: 

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.

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. Post a picture of yourself with a sign saying you support the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike! Include the hashtag #DignityStrike when posting your photo to Facebook or Twitter. Share and re-share information about the strike with the #DignityStrike hashtag.

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.