Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation jails are in their eighth day of rising up in a collective call to action, demanding justice and liberation. They have announced an escalating program of struggle leading up to 22 March, the first day of Ramadan, when prisoners have declared they will launch a collective hunger strike.
The prisoners’ movement has risen up in response to repeated attacks by the occupation regime aimed at rolling back everything that has been won by the prisoners through decades of struggle, from preparing their own food in bakeries to having more than four minutes to shower. Further, these daily attacks inside the prison are combined with escalating political assaults, including the passage by the Zionist Knesset of a law designed to strip citizenship from Palestinians from occupied Palestine ’48 and force them into statelessness if they receive financial support from Palestinian entities. Even this new legislation pushed by Zionist far-right forces was an act of revenge after the Palestinian people and the world witnessed the joyous homecoming of Karim and Maher Younes after 40 years behind Zionist bars, as Karim raised the Palestinian flag high in Ara, occupied Palestine ’48.
The prisoners’ movement calls for action
In a statement, the Higher National Emergency Committee of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement declared: “In light of these challenges, we have decided to embark on a series of steps that begin with disobedience and end with an open hunger strike on the first day of Ramadan, bearing freedom as our sole demand. Everyone must carry this message of ours and our voice, as we can no longer tolerate the continued abuse against us day and night, the attack on our dignity and the dignity of our women prisoners…This strike is titled, ‘Freedom or Martyrdom,’ will be waged by every capable prisoner of all factions, and we will engage in this strike with unified demands and unified leadership — which we also want to see outside — and this unity is the main guarantor of the success of our struggle.”
Another statement followed on Saturday, 18 February by the prisoners serving life sentence: “As we go through this battle of dignity, we raise an open appeal to our people, all of our people, from the guns of the resistance and the revolution to the leadership ranks, to all of the factions, parties, forces and movements, to respond to our voice and break our chains by standing behind us and supporting us. While we are ready to take steps of struggle….the main solution to our issue is liberation by the same means by which the resistance and the revolution have liberated hundreds who preceded us in the path of pain we continue to walk, carrying the stake of our just cause with our chains for many years, which for most of us have reached two, three or even four decades. These have been a march in which we have increased our faith in the justice of the cause, and we hope we will soon reach the achievement of our freedom and emancipation at the hands of our people who we have never forsaken, a revolution that we have never abandoned and a resistance that lives within us.”
The Higher National Emergency Committee of the prisoners’ movement called for a day of anger this coming Friday, 24 February, in support of the prisoners and the struggle of Palestinians in Jerusalem fighting back against ongoing attacks, confiscation of their property and demolition of their homes. “Our battle has begun and will not stop except with our freedom…The jailer wanted to fight us for our most basic rights, and we will respond to him by demanding our complete freedom,” they said. Samidoun Deutschland has announced a protest in Berlin, Germany, at 6 pm on Friday, 24 February, gathering at Sonnenallee 36 to rally with the prisoners on this day of action.
Repression and resistance
Last Friday, 17 February, the prisoners engaged in a sit-in following Friday prayers in all the prison yards, announcing that the state of alert and mobilization was intensifying. The prisoners have begun wearing their brown prison uniforms, refusing to exit their rooms for counts and security checks, banging on the windows and bars of the rooms and refusing to go out to the exercise yards. Sick prisoners have begun boycotting the prison clinics, themselves notorious for medical neglect and inappropriate treatment.
Palestinian women prisoners in Damon prison have also taken protest steps, with six women prisoners wearing the brown prison uniforms, sat down in the prison yard and raised a handmade banner reading: “No bread or water, we want freedom.” The six Palestinian women and girls who were subjected to penalties by the occupation included Nafeth Hammad, Shatila Abu Ayada, Tahrir Abu Sariya, Falasteen Nijim, Azhar Assaf and Aseel al-Titi. Their fellow women prisoners pledged to continue to close the sections until all penalties imposed on the six are lifted, and emphasized that they are an integral part of the prisoners’ movement.
As the mobilization of the prisoners escalates, the Zionist prison administration is attempting to suppress their struggle by further intensifying the repression directed afainst the prisoners. On Monday, 20 February, a large force of repressive units invaded several sections in Gilboa Prison, confiscating electrical appliances from inside the prisoners’ room. These repressive units are notorious for provoking the prisoners, ranscking their belongings and turning the rooms upside down, often in the middle of the night, in a deliberate exercise of repression.
On Tuesday, 21 February, repressive units stormed section 3 in Ramon prison, firing stun grenades, tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at the prisoners before forcibly transferring 80 prisoners to other areas, including isolation cells, while others were transferred to section 10 in Nafha prison.
The Israeli occupation prison administration informed the prisoners that they would be subject to various collective punishments in response to their disobedience, including the closing of the canteen (prison store), cutting off hot water in the bathrooms, locking the showers, closing morning exercise yards and shacking prisoners leaving their sections for any reason, including those in need of medical care. In Megiddo, Ofer and other prisons, basic electrical tools and heating coils have been confiscated from the prisoners’ rooms and their exercise time has been cut. In Nafha prison, a large number of ill prisoners were denied their medications, including diabetics who need insulin.
The prisoners’ own calls have made clear that they are calling on the Palestinian people and all friends and supporters of Palestine to take action to stand with them as they put their bodies and lives on the line to struggle for freedom. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all to join in taking action to stand up with the Palestinian prisoners as they rise up and resist for freedom. The prisoners are doing everything they can to confront the occupation attacks — now is the time to show that they are not isolated, and that we stand with these imprisoned strugglers and leaders as they resist a vicious onslaught of repression.
1. Mobilize actions, demonstrations, direct actions and creative interventions – Take to the streets to defend the Palestinian people and their resistance. Join with Samidoun Deutschland’s action in Berlin this Friday — and keep organizing up to and beyond 22 March. There is a vast depth of support for the Palestinian people everywhere around the world, including inside the imperialist powers. It is our responsibility to act and make it impossible to continue their support for the crimes against the Palestinian people. Direct actions like those taken by Palestine Action have already shut down multiple weapons facilities in Britain owned by Israeli arms companies, and even more action can provide further direct support to the Palestinian people.
2. Take a stand against “twinning” with Israeli occupation cities – Recently, the city of Barcelona took a strong stand against the normalization of occupation after years of campaign work by thousands of residents of the city, as all collaboration with the Israeli occupation and the “sister city” relationship with Tel Aviv were suspended by the Mayor. This important victory comes as the Collectif Palestine Vaincra is leading a campaign in Toulouse, France, to bring an end to that city’s “sister city” relationship with the apartheid capital. If your city has a twinning relationship with the occupation, launch your own campaign to bring that arm of complicity to an end!
3. Build the boycott of Israel – This is a critical moment to escalate the campaign to isolate the Israeli regime at all levels, including through boycott campaigns that target the occupation’s economic exploitation of the Palestinian land, people and resources as well as those international corporations, like HP and G4S, that profit from the ongoing colonization of Palestine.