Palestinian prisoners continued to develop their collective hunger strike on 9 April, the second day of the “Battle of Dignity (Karameh) 2” inside Israeli prison. A number of leaders from different Palestinian political forces announced the launch of the strike on Monday, 8 April after Israeli prison administration officials reneged on earlier commitments made to the prisoners’ negotiating team about telephone access.

The strike is growing on a rolling basis among prisoners of “the four forces,” the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with additional prisoners joining the strike as it progresses; many more prisoners are expected to join on or before 17 April, commemorated internationally as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. Reportedly, 400 Palestinian prisoners have joined the strike at the present time, including prisoners in Ramon, Eshel, Nafha, Negev, Ofer, Gilboa and Megiddo prisons.

Palestinian prisoners who have joined the strike are being transferred to other prisons in retaliation, reported the Prisoners’ Affairs Committee. This process began even before the strike started, as PFLP leader Wael Jaghoub, one of the first five leaders to announce the strike, was transferred to the Petah Tikva interrogation center two days before it began.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine announced a number of its cadres who had joined the strike on Tuesday, following the first group on Monday. The new group of prisoners who launched an open hunger strike were Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh from Nablus, Hamdi Qur’an from Ramallah, Hakim Awwad from Nablus, Mohammed al-Rimawi from Ramallah, Mohammed Rahimi from Ramallah, Jamal Ankoush from Ramallah, Wissam al-Ali from Ramallah, Mahmoud Abu Wahdan from Nablus and Nael al-Halabi from Ramallah, all held in Nafha prison. In addition, Mehdi Ramadan al-Jarashi, Hakim Derbas and Ahmed Obaid in Section 5 of Ramon prison; Sultan Abu Hamous, Moaz Ka’abi, Moataz al-Absa, Muadh Abu Nassar, Walid Aliyan, Omar al-Lahham, Muhannad As’ad and Tamer Zaid in the Negev desert prison and Misra Qizmar in Eshel prison all joined the strike.

From various organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Democratic Front, other prisoners reported to join the strike on Tuesday included Nihad al-Zughayer from Jerusalem, Sabih Mesbah Abu Sbeih from Jerusalem, Omar al-Abed from Kobar, Sheikh Jamal al-Tawil from el-Bireh, Ahmad Hureish from Beitunia, Rajab Mutayyer from Qalandiya Camp, Israr Barghouthi from Kobar, Anas Meshal Barghouthi from Kobar, Tamim Numan Salem from Nablus, Aseer al-Atrash, Akram Fassisi, Rami Khatib, Moataz Takis, Yassin Abu Lefah, Said Hermas from Bethlehem and Salah Abu Salah.  In addition, Nabil Harb of the Fateh Intifada prisoners joined the strike.

Photo: Hadf News

Protesters in Ramallah gathered to support the hunger strikers, including family members of the prisoners, representatives of Palestinian political parties, organizations and institutions and others. The protesters held up photos of the prisoners and expressed their support for the hunger strikers’ demands.

The Palestinian prisoners’ strike was launched in response to escalated repression inside the Israeli prisons directed by the minister of internal security Gilad Erdan (also directing international attacks against BDS organizing and Palestine solidarity and working to suppress freedom of expression around the world in his role as the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs.) Erdan, a far-right minister of the Likud party, has also used the attacks on the Palestinian prisoners as a plank in his Israeli electoral campaigning, a campaign that has been marked by competition over war crimes, apartheid and racism.

The prisoners’ demands include:

  • Installation of public telephones in the prisons and removal of the cell-phone “jammer” devices installed by the occupation, which reportedly have negative health effects
  • An end of the collective punishments imposed by prison authorities since 2014 and especially the sanctions imposed recently on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails after the repressive attacks in Negev and Ofer prisons.
  • Cancellation of a ban on family visits imposed on hundreds of prisoners and return to a normal (twice-monthly) schedule of family visits for all prisoners.
  • Ending the policy of medical negligence and dull access to medical treatment for injured, wounded and ill prisoners
  • Ending isolation and solitary confinement
  • Improved conditions and freedom for the child prisoners
  • Improving the conditions on the “bosta” for prisoner transfer and addressing violations of Palestinian women prisoners’ human rights.

Mpho Masemola, national secretary of the Ex-Political Prisoners Association (EPPA) in South Africa, a former political prisoner and veteran of the struggle against apartheid, spoke out in support of the Palestinian prisoners and their strike on Tuesday. In a letter, Masemola, who was previously denied entry to Palestine by the Israeli occupation, said that “We reaffirm our condemnation of the barbaric and inhuman treatment and use of violence against Palestinian prisoners in racist Israeli prisons, where Palestinian prisoners face brutal physical and psychological torture…Our experience during the struggle against apartheid in our country is very similar to the circumstances of the detention of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, especially the use of solitary confinement, insufficient nutrition, refusing medical treatment, and the prohibition of books.”

Masemola continued: “We call on the racist Prime Minister of Israel to unconditionally release all prisoners, especially women and children, and to end the policy of demolishing their homes…We support the call made by the Department of International Relations in South Africa on the withdrawal of the South African ambassador from Israel, and we call on the South African government to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. We salute the struggle of the Palestinian people against the worst forms of fascism, and we express our support for the Palestinian struggle and salute the revolutionary spirit of all the Palestinian detainees who have spent long periods in Israeli jails.”

In a statement, Dr. Fawzi Ismail, president of the General Secretariat of the Union of Palestinian Communities and Associations in Europe, noted that “the battle of the prisoners in Israeli jails must be taken up in regional and international forums and be on the agenda in advance of open hunger strikes. For the prisoners, a hunger strike is their last option. As they face the arrogance of the Zionist forces on one hand and the ineffectiveness of the PLO and the Authority on the other hand, the prisoners and our Palestinian national leaders inside the prisons have no choice but to engage in this battle to restore their rights, which the occupation attempts to confiscate and withdraw at any possible opportunity.

Ismail called on all Palestinian institutions, organizations and associations in Europe and everywhere in exile and diaspora to join in this battle of dignity. He praised the position of the Palestinian resistance forces in the Gaza Strip, who have been firm in linking all of these national struggles as one collective battle for justice.

“It is urgent to build consultation and cooperation between the different streams and forces of the Palestinian people, the Arab nation and solidarity movements around the world to support the Battle of Dignity 2. The cause of the prisoners is the cause of the entire Palestinian people, and they represent the solid revolutionary nucleus that is fighting the occupation on the front lines, defending the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people and our struggle for return and liberation,” Ismail said.

Photo: Hadf News

The National and Islamic Forces in the Gaza Strip held a press conference on Tuesday morning, at which they announced a series of actions and events in Gaza to support the Palestinian prisoners. They issued the following statement:

“The Battle of Dignity (Karameh) 2 is the battle of the prisoners’ movement and the entire Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora and its valiant resistance

On the day that marks the anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre, the Palestinian national liberation movement inside the prisons is entering, with all vigor, will, determination and revolutionary escalation, into the midst of the Battle of Dignity 2, which comes after long preparation for many months. It comes as a result of accumulated pressure caused by the escalation of the Zionist attack on the prisoners and the confiscation of their basic rights inside the prisons. On Monday, the decision to enter the strike was reached after negotiations with the prison administration reached a dead end after the disavowal of previously achieved agreements.

The occupier resorted to typical tactics after being confronted by the failure of its repressive actions in recent days against the prisoners, through the use of marathon negotiations and attempts to drown them in detail. The time factor, shuffling of papers and language of delay and procrastination was an attempt to shift circumstances in their favor. Recognizing this reality, the prisoners are prepared to fight this battle so long as their just demands are not realized.

We in the Prisoners’ Committee of the National and Islamic Forces in the Gaza Strip emphasize the following points in light of this important development inside the Zionist detention centers:

1) We declare our firm stand behind the prisoners in this battle of dignity, and we affirm that we will not leave them alone in this struggle. This battle, which is being waged by a united prisoners’ movement, must be the battle of the entire Palestinian people inside Palestine and in the diaspora.

2) We are confident that the prisoners’ movement will lead this struggle intelligently and wisely. It has the determination and will to continue the battle and to deal with the schemes and methods of the prison administration and will triumph over them as it has in past struggles.

3) We announce a series of activities throughout the Gaza Strip to support the prisoners’ movement in this struggle, and we call on the masses of the Palestinian people everywhere to join forces with the prisoners’ movement as they wage this battle. We are confident of victory no matter how challenging and difficult the situation.

4) The Zionist occupation is escalating its daily violations of international law against the Palestinian prisoners, including systematic torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, deliberate disregard of the rights of prisoners to receive medical care, repeated denials of family visits and contact with family members (especially for prisoners from Gaza) and other daily practices. We renew our demand once again for a thorough international investigation and for the International Criminal Court to put the leaders and officials of the Zionist entity and its prison administration on trial for their crimes against our brave prisoners.

5) We call upon all friends of Palestine, international solidarity movements and democratic forces in the world to stand with our struggling prisoners. We also call upon all supporters of the BDS campaign to consider the Battle of Dignity 2 as a Palestinian, Arab and international priority to expose the Zionist racist and criminal policies of the ministe Gilad Erdan, who continually seeks to distort the image of our struggle and target our prisoners. We consider what is happening in the occupation prisons to be one battle, inside and outside Palestine.

In conclusion, we affirm our full and complete stand with the prisoners’ movement in this heroic battle. We affirm that the Zionist entity, which has been built on the massacres, terrorization and uprooting of our people from their homeland, today is confronting the descendants of martyrs and the fallen, in the ranks of a continuing historical battle. The Palestinian resistance is determined to win…our prisoners will triumph and achieve their rights as a step on the road to freedom.”

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its strongest support for the Palestinian prisoners’ movement as it launches this critical battle for dignity and justice. We urge people around the world to take action to support the prisoners’ strike and join their struggle. The Palestinian prisoners will not be isolated or left alone! International solidarity is critical to building support, attention and pressure to help them achieve their demands. 

Take Action!

1) Organize or join an event or protest for the Palestinian prisoners. From today, organize demonstrations, actions and events and join in the Prisoners’ Week of Action from 17 to 24 April 2019! You can organize an info table, rally, solidarity hunger strike, protest or action to support the prisoners. If you are already holding an event about Palestine or social justice, include solidarity with the prisoners as part of your action. Send your events and reports to samidoun@samidoun.net.

2) Write letters and make phone calls to protest the violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights. Demand your government take action to stop supporting Israeli occupation or to pressure the Israeli state to end the policies of repression of Palestinian political prisoners.

Call during your country’s regular office hours:

• Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne: + 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 Winston Peters: +64 4 439 8000
• United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt: +44 20 7008 1500
• United States President Donald Trump: 1-202-456-1111

3) Boycott, Divest and Sanction. Join the BDS campaign 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.