The Lift the Sanctions movement is echoing inside Israeli jails, as several leading Palestinian prisoners announced the launch of an open hunger strike on 25 July 2018 against PA sanctions policies against prisoners from Gaa. Representing a united front of all major Palestinian political parties within Israeli jails, the hunger strikers are demanding the reinstatement of aid and social support to Palestinian prisoners and their families from the Gaza Strip.
As part of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah’s sanctions on Gaza, which have included cuts to social benefits, delays in approval of medical treatment, cuts to electricity payments and other key issues that have affected the popular classes in the Strip, prisoners’ allowances, which are used to purchase goods at the “canteen” or prison store were also slashed or eliminated for Palestinian prisoners from Gaza, as were family support funds. Research has shown that prisoners are economically exploited and pay artificially high prices for food and other items. Palestinian prisoners’ families also rely on these social benefits, as their imprisoned family members are denied the opportunity to work to support their wives, children and parents.
The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is a moral and political beacon for the Palestinian liberation struggle, and attacks on the well-being of Palestinian prisoners are particularly appalling in this context. It should also be noted that the severance of such payments is a key demand of Israel and the United States, and supporters of Israeli colonization and apartheid have engaged in heavy lobbying on an international level in an attempt to cut all support for Palestinian prisoners.
Of course, the particular targeting of Palestinian prisoners from Gaza, at the same time that PA officials swear to uphold support for prisoners and their families, comes hand in hand with the intensified Israeli siege on Gaza and the daily bombing of the Strip. The PA sanctions have tightened even as over 136 Palestinians from Gaza have been killed in peaceful, popular protests for the right of return and the breaking of the siege under the banner of the Great March of Return. In addition, the PA sanctions on Gaza cannot be separated from the policy of security coordination that sees it turn over information on Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and imprison, interrogate and harass Palestinian community organizers.
In cities throughout occupied Palestine, protesters have taken the streets to demand the lifting of PA sanctions, especially amid the worsening Israeli siege on Gaza. During those protests, they have faced at times violent repression from PA security forces.
The policies have sparked anger especially as they coincide with intensified Israeli attacks. Fishermen’s fishing zone has been reduced once again to three nautical miles, commercial and trade crossings have been closed and the attempts to suppress Palestinian resistance through starvation and siege have only intensified. It is in this context that Palestinian protesters have made clear that the PA’s sanctions serve only to perpetuate and intensify the siege, in line with Israeli and U.S. policies.
Against this framework and de facto alliance, the prisoners have launched a historic and unprecedented strike inside Israeli occupation prisons against the policies of the Palestinian Authority that work in cooperation with the Israeli occupation. The prisoners who have launched the hunger strike are among the most prominent leaders of the prisoners’ struggle and the national liberation movement as a whole:
- From the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kamil Abu Hanish, leader of the Front’s branch in occupation prisons
- From Islamic Jihad, Zaid Bseiso, chair of the leadership committee of the Islamic Jihad prisoners in occupation prisons
- From Hamas, Mohammed Arman, the chair of the leadership committee of the Hamas prisoners in occupation prisons
- From Fateh, Nasser Oweis and Majid Masri, coordinators of the preparatory committee of their organization in occupation prisons
- From the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Mohammed al-Maleh of the DFLP’s prison branch
The prisoners’ movement issued a statement, noting that more prisoners will be joining the struggle in the coming days. The launch of the hunger strike came as imprisoned PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat issued a call for unity from Ramon prison, calling for “popular unity and democracy” in the Palestine Liberation Organization, so that it can act as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in all their political and social colors and in all locations.” He emphasized the need to activate the interim leadership of the PLO to plan for its reconstruction and a democratic election process as essential to reconciliation and national unity.
Sa’adat demanded “the cessation of all punitive measures against the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip…in order to confront all of the external pressures of the U.S. and Israel.” In addition, he urged the implementation of the striking prisoners’ demands, noting that these prisoners whose families are suffering “have sacrificed their freedom to defend the fundamentals of the Palestinian national cause.”
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands with the hunger strikers and demands the lifting of the PA’s sanctions on Gaza and Palestinians from Gaza, inside and outside Israeli jails. We join with the Palestinian, Arab and international movement to break the siege on Gaza, from the Great Return Marches to the Freedom Flotilla sailing for justice for Palestine.
The statement of the prisoners is republished below:
Statement issued by the prisoners’ movement in the jails of the Zionist occupation
After months of efforts to return the social support funds to the families of the Palestinian political prisoners from the Gaza Strip held in Israeli occupation prisons, and after we have seen that the only answer is to increase the injustice against these families, we are moving forward in the framework of progressive steps of protest. This includes the open hunger strike by a number of prisoners.
Because those who are in the position of responsibility must be at the forefront of the struggle and put their flesh and blood on the line for those who have entrusted them with the duties of leadership, so we take action in the prisoners’ movement today to strengthen our protest steps and raise the call for justice and confront the falsehoods about how these benefits have been prevented from reaching families.
Today, we announce the launching of an open hunger strike by the leaders, officials and coordinators of the organizations of the national Palestinian prisoners’ movement in the occupation prisons. These are the brothers, comrades and mujahideen, as follows:
For the Palestinian National Liberation Movement – Fateh: Coordinators of the preparatory committee for the organization in the prisons of the occupation, Nasser Oweis and Majid Masri
For the Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas: Chairman of the supreme leadership council of the Hamas prisoners in the occupation prisons, Mohammed Arman
For the Islamic Jihad Movement: Chairman of the supreme leadership council of the Islamic Jihad movement in the occupation prisons, Zaid Bseiso
For the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: Leader of the PFLP Prison Branch, Kamil Abu Hanish
For the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine: Mohammed al-Maleh
We in the prisoners’ movement affirm this escalation of our protest steps and vow that a greater number of prisoners will join the strike in the coming days if these rights are not returned to our families. This is, above all, a legitimate, legal and moral right and attempts to undermine it are an attack on the values of our Palestinian people and their unified consensus.
We trust you, our people, that you will be our throats that will cry out on behalf of our absent voices.
You will not perish, and your victories and struggles continue.
Your brothers in the prisoners’ movement in the occupation prisons
Wednesday, 25 July 2018