Update: Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Suspended; Solidarity and Action Needed for Struggle to Come

An update from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun, on the hunger strike that was supposed to take place from today:

Header from SamidounPalestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced today, 11 August, that hundreds of prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who had planned to launch a hunger strike today, are suspending their planned strike after a concession from Israeli prison administration cancelling the order banning family visits for imprisoned Palestinian leader and PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. The Palestinian prisoners are still calling for action – click here to find out what you can do.

The PFLP prisoners issued a statement noting that the struggle of the prisoners is far from over, and that they along with all other Palestinian factions inside the prison are engaged in united planning for the next steps of struggle:

Following the announcement of the planned hunger strike to begin today, the Israeli Prison Service was forced to rescind the order prohibiting imprisoned PFLP General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat from family visits. The first visit with his family will take place this month and the next in September, and there is a final agreement with the comrades in the PFLP’s prison branch to cancel this order on a permanent basis.

The PFLP branch in the prisons of the occupation emphasizes that the struggle inside the prisons is continuing and escalating, and that it is working in coordination with all Palestinian factions in the prisons, uniting all Palestinian prisoners, for the next stages of struggle to secure all of our demands and improve the circumstances of life for the prisoners. Therefore, the prison branch of the PFLP has suspended its decision to go on hunger strike as one faction, and will join together with the entire Palestinian prisoners’ national movement in the protest steps to come.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners remains critical and international action is necessary. This concession was only attained because of the willingness of Palestinian prisoners to put their bodies on the line to confront injustice, and because of the eyes of the Palestinian people and the world on the struggle of the prisoners. Today, the united prisoners’ movement is escalating its struggle and calling for action, solidarity organizing and escalation of boycott to achieve its goals.

In particular, the situation of Palestinian lawyer and hunger striker, Muhammad Allan, 31, held in administrative detention without charge or trial since November 2014 is particularly critical and demands international action and solidarity. Allan has been on hunger strike for 56 days and is shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital. He is being threatened with force-feeding – cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture – and becoming the first victim of the new force-feeding law passed by the Knesset last month, condemned by UN officials, the Israeli Medical Association, the World Health Organization and human rights advocates. His medical situation is dire, and international action can help to not only save his life but gain his freedom and that of his fellow over 5750 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network notes that Palestinian prisoners’ organizations are working together to determine the next phase of struggle. The Israeli prison administration and occupation forces exert great efforts to divide Palestinian prisoners and their demands from one another by targeting particular Palestinian political factions – first one, then another. In light of this situation, Palestinian prisoners know that united action is always the most effective means of struggle. We also must stay on high alert, as we – and the prisoners’ movement – are well aware that Israeli occupation forces routinely violate the agreements obtained through Palestinian prisoners’ struggle. Sudden changes in the situation and the dynamics inside the prisons due to Israeli attacks and violations of prisoners’ rights should be expected – and we must be prepared to mobilize and respond accordingly.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is acutely aware of its conditions within the prisons of the occupation; every day, they live in confrontation with an occupier which routinely violates their rights, and yet they continue to organize and struggle. Our task must be not only to amplify their voice but to build a loud, broad and strong movement to achieve the just demands of the prisoners; their liberation; and the cause for which they struggle – the liberation of Palestine.

Take Action today for Palestinian prisoners!

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Update: Take Action: Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to strike Tuesday

This comes from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network (Samidoun):

UPDATE, 10 August: There are now reports that the Palestinian prisoners in Nafha and Ramon prisons have suspended their hunger strike for two weeks. 32 prisoners are continuing to conduct their hunger strike. The Palestinian Prisoners Society is quoted as saying that there is an agreement to return prisoners in Nafha to their sections, and that the strike will resume if the Israeli prison administration does not comply within two weeks. The call for hunger strike on Tuesday, 11 August remains in place.

As of Sunday, 9 August there were 180 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on open hunger strike and hundreds more set to begin striking on Tuesday, 11 August. The wave of strikes was initiated after Israeli special forces attacked Palestinian prisoners in Nafha, injuring 30 prisoners in a violent nighttime raid, including Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian political leader and General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Groups of prisoners were isolated and transferred from Nafha and Palestinian prisoners launched a campaign of resistance.

TAKE ACTION: Click here for action steps to support Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

120 prisoners in Nafha affiliated with Fateh launched a hunger strike on Thursday, 6 August, demanding an end to isolation and solitary confinement, the return of transferred prisoners, an end to the denial of family visits, canteen (prison commissary) access and an end to the raids on prisoners. On 9 August, 32 prisoners affiliated with Islamic Jihad launched a hunger strike as several dozen more Fateh prisoners in Ramon and Eshel prisons joined the strike. The prisoners of Islamic Jihad announced that they were dissolving their leadership as of Monday 10 August – thus leaving no official representatives to negotiate with Israeli prison administration, and demanded the end of the isolation of prisoner Nahar Saadi, the end of the force-feeding law and in particular its use against Muhammad Allan, and expressed their support for the striking Fateh prisoners and their demands.

These open hunger strikes come in addition to several individual hunger strikes, including that ofMuhammad Allan, 31, a Palestinian lawyer held without charge or trial in administrative detention who has been on hunger strike for over 55 days, is in a severe medical emergency situation and is being threatened with force-feeding by the Israeli military under the new force-feeding law that has been condemned by UN representatives, the Israeli Medical Association and human rights advocates. Click here to take action on Muhammad Allan’s case!

The prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in all Israeli prisons announced on 9 August that their escalation to open hunger strike – earlier announced for Sunday and then delayed until Wednesday – will now take place on Tuesday. Ahmad Sa’adat, for whom the Israeli prison service had promised to end the denial of family visits, was instead ordered to an additional three-month prohibition on family visits on Sunday, even as a one-month ban on family visits was imposed on all Palestinian prisoners in the Negev prison.

The leftist party’s prison branch issued the following statement:

The prison branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by national leader Ahmad Sa’adat, will launch an open hunger strike on Tuesday [11 August], following a stalemate in the negotiations with the Prison administration, brought about by the Prison Service’s intransigence in response to the just demands of the prisoners. In addition, today a military order was issued extending the security prohibition against leader Sa’adat, denying him family visits for an additional three months.

The prison branch confirmed that the Front’s prisoners, led by Sa’adat, have decided to fight a long and difficult battle with the occupation which is not conditioned by any covenants or undertakings, after exhausting all options in order to impel the occupier to respond to the demands of the prisoners.

The PFLP prisoners called on the masses of our people, the Arab and Muslim communities and countries, and the forces of justice and freedom in the world to provide the widest support and solidarity to the struggle of the prisoners’ national movement in the battles of confrontation and steadfastness they are waging around the clock against the prison and intelligence officials of the occupation. The breadth and depth of solidarity gives prisoners inspiration to continue the struggle until their rights are achieved in full.

The PFLP prisoners have put forward their demands:

  • allowing family visits for prisoners who have been, until now, prohibited from such visits with their loved ones, including Palestinian political leader Ahmad Sa’adat;
  • providing necessary and adequate medical care to sick prisoners;
  • ending the policy of administrative detentions;
  • improving the living conditions inside the prisons;
  • prohibiting invasions and raids by special units of the Zionist forces, including the Metsada unit, on the sections and cells of the prisoners.

A Human Chain for Samer Al Issawi: His Hunger, Our Shame

Samer Al Issawi: Day 198 of his Hunger Strike against “administrative detention” in Israel’s prisons:

This article is from Counterpunch, feb. 6th 2013:

by AHMAD BARQAWI
Amman, Jordan.

The human chain stretched into the distance each way; representing the path of Samer Al Issawi’s daily struggle and physical agony, a path of dignity and courage; and a path of our own helplessness and shame; every demonstrator held a placard for each day that passed since Al Issawi started his heroic hunger strike on August 1st, 2012, mine was 101; a three digit number jotted down in bold black markers on a white carton paper; was that the day his internal organs began to fail him? Was that the day his stomach started gnawing at its own entrails, muscle tissues and nerves in search of energy? Was it the day his bone structure began to weaken so much that his legs wouldn’t hold up his diminished weight anymore?

It wasn’t just a number; it was the day Al Issawi passed the one-hundred-day-mark of his ongoing hunger strike for freedom, now death is Samer’s bedfellow, overshadowing every little, shivering movement that his frail muscles could muster, skin stretched paper-thin over skeleton; he’s well on his way into crossing the two hundred day mark with his stomach tying itself into aching knots of hunger and the world is tying its lips in deafening knots of silence.

The turnout exceeded everyone’s expectations considering our now infamous pathological tendency for utter callousness and inaction when it comes to the suffering of Palestinians; the human chain was complete with 193 participants from all ages and walks of life, yet the crowd kept getting bigger; those without a sequential number in the chain settled with holding a sign or a poster of the Palestinian hero, others chanted his name; busting their lungs for a man now certainly much frailer than what he looked like in those pictures we held of him.

Of course the human chain wouldn’t have been complete without the presence of the human terrain of security forces which only added more verve to the largely peaceful proceedings, the wind was so strong that each of us held unto his sign lest it flies away, passers-by quickened their pace as they walked past us and the traffic on one of the notoriously busiest streets in Amman (University Street) slowed down as drivers tried to catch a glimpse of our modest attempt at disturbing the contours of our collective anesthetized conscience for a cause that seems to be lost in the tall grass of our reshuffled priorities and the Arab World’s bonfire of revolutions and counter-revolutions.

How can we not think of Samer Al Issawi while we’re picking up exorbitant tabs at five star hotels and fancy restaurants for a microscopic tiny portion of “exotic” food? How can we not curse our chronic passiveness and the fact that our moral abyss widens and grows ever darker with each passing day on Samer’s imprisonment? How can we casually keep his cause on the periphery of our consciousness when Samer’s life clock is hurriedly ticking away? How can I not think of Samer Al Issawi each time my stomach starts wailing that it hasn’t been fed in a couple of hours; that I am somehow committing some kind of “massive injustice” against my own wellbeing by not marching up to the kitchen and cramming whatever it is that I find in there into my mouth? I guess having an empty belly is a hundred times better than having a heart devoid of courage and dignity.

With an empty stomach and shackled to a wheel chair; Samer Al Issawi is now leading the rather “forgotten” battle of the “Empty Intestines” of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails against the Occupation’s draconian policies of arbitrary arrest and “administrative detention”; a rather vindictive colonial procedure that has maneuvered over 200 Palestinian prisoners into a life long struggle in which they had no choice but to literally selfstarve their own way out, while Palestinian politicians -well beyond their expiry date- and bickering factions have clumsily steered an entire occupied people’s fate into the gutter while wearing silk ties, walking on red carpets, and traveling in private jets, is there no depth of cynicism and moral depravity that we can’t reach when we jubilantly cheer that finally two junior officials of Fatah and Hamas managed to meet in Cairo at a time when a true Palestinian freedom fighter is silently weathering away right before our eyes?

Samer Al Issawi’s life is in danger; the fact that we’re not hammered with his story everyday by the mainstream media doesn’t make his struggle any less real, urgent and frightening.

Another human chain is planned for next week; seven more people will be added to the chain; unless the iron will of Samer prevails or his heroic hunger strike ends with an obituary before we manage to pull a repeat of this week’s demonstration.

Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.

Follow Samer Al Assawi’s supporters on Twitter: Twitter.com/samerissawi1

The Massive Palestinian Hunger Strike: Traveling below the Western Radar

Update: More and more news is being circulated on Twitter these days, and we picked up amongst others this one:
Joint Palestinian-Israeli declaration in support of Palestinian political prisoner struggle
http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/news/4379-joint-palestinian-israeli-declaration-in-support-of-palestinian-political-prisoner-struggle-.html

This article was published on May 3rd 2012 in: Foreign Policy Journal

Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,300 hunger strikers in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? It would be featured day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food. At this time, two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance, Thaer Halaheh and Bilal Diab, entering their 64th day without food, are reported by the prisoner protection association, Addameer, and the NGO, Physician for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Despite this dramatic state of affairs there is scant attention in Europe, and literally none in North America.

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has devoted to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing a few days ago and find a safe haven at the U.S. Embassy. This is an important international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of these thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system? Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box ever since 1967, are denied protection, exist without rights, and cope as best they can without even the acknowledgement of their plight.

There is another comparison to be made. Recall the outpouring of concern and sympathy throughout the West for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured on the Gaza border and held captive by Palestinians for five years. A powerful global campaign for his release on humanitarian ground was organized, and received constant reinforcement in the media. World leaders pleaded for his release, and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008, which killed more than 1,450 Palestinians, that their real mission was to free Shalit, or at least hold accountable the entire civilian population of Gaza. When Shalit was finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago, there was a brief celebration that abruptly ended when, much to the disappointment of the Israeli establishment, Shalit reported good treatment during captivity. Shalit’s father went further, saying if he was a Palestinian he would have tried to capture Israeli soldiers. Not surprisingly, Shalit, instead of being revered as an Israeli hero, has quietly disappeared from public view.

This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17th, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures. It should be understood that administrative detention is validated by secret evidence and allows Israel to imprison Palestinians for six months at a time without bringing any criminal charges, with terms renewable as they expire. Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, and sentenced once again to a term of confinement for four months. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, eight times subject to administrative detention for a total of six and a half years.

Both Mr. Adnan and Ms. Shalabi were released by deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not want to risk a third intifada resulting as a reaction to such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating, or draw into question its reliance on administrative detention and imprisonment. Israel has refused, until the present, to examine the grievances that gave rise to these hunger strikes. In Hana Shalabi’s case her release was coupled with a punitive deportation order, which cruelly confines her to Gaza for the next three years, away from her family and the familiar surroundings of her home village of Burqin near Jenin in the West Bank. There are some indications that Ms. Shalabi was not fully informed about the deportation feature of her release, and was manipulated by prison authorities and the lawyer representing her interests. The current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it led to deportation or exile. At this time it is unclear how Israel will respond. There is a fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities, between those with hard power of domination and those with the soft power of moral and spiritual courage. The torment of these striking prisoners is not only a consequence of their refusal to accept food until certain conditions are met. Israeli prison guards and authorities are intensifying the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, denial of examination by humanitarian NGOs, and a hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions require.

The Israeli response to the hunger strikes is shocking, but hardly surprising, within the wider setting of the occupation. Instead of heeding the moral appeal implicit in such extreme forms of resistance, there are widespread reliable reports of punitive responses by Israeli prison authorities. Hunger strikers have been placed in solitary confinement, held in shackles despite their weakened conditions, denied family visits, had personal belongings confiscated, and subjected to harassing comments by guards intended to demoralize. Israeli media has generally taken a cynical attitude toward the strikes, suggesting that these hunger strikers are publicity seeking, aiming to receive ‘a get out of jail free’ card, and deserve no empathy even if their life is in jeopardy because they voluntarily gave up food by their own free will, and hence Israeli prison authorities have no responsibility for their fate. Some news reports in Israel have speculated about whether if one or more hunger strikers die in prison, it will spark an uprising among the Palestinians, but this is less an expression of concern or a willingness to look at the substantive issues than it is a source of worry about future stability.

Broader issues are also at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were covered to bring out sensationalist aspects, but when Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and blind eyes, or worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict the particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to destroy the state of Israel. All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, being in the process of being retroactively legalized. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not an iota of good faith when it continues to tell the world that it is dedicated to negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinians. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has not yet had the diplomatic composure to call it quits when it comes to heeding the calls of the Quartet for a resumption of direct talks. It is long past time to crumble bridge to nowhere.

That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity would yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times are unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment. Shame on you, Mr. Friedman!

Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained than Friedman, suggests that any sustained display of Palestinian nonviolence if met with Israeli violence would be an embarrassment for Washington. Malley insists that if the Palestinians were to take to the streets in the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Israelis responded violently, as the Netanyahu government certainly, it “would put the United States in an … acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.” The dilemma depicted by Malley derives from Obama’s constant encouragement of the democratic aspirations of a people who he has repeatedly said deserve their own state on the one side and the unconditional alignment with Israel on the other. Only a confirmed liberal would call this a genuine dilemma, since any informed and objective observer would know that the U.S. Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

Let there be no mistake about the moral and spiritual background of the challenge being mounted by these Palestinians. Undertaking an open ended hunger strike is an inherently brave act that is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and is only undertaken as an expression of extreme frustration or acute deprivation. It is not an act undertaken lightly or as a stunt. For anyone who has attempted to express protest in this manner, and I have for short periods during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, but to maintain the discipline and strength of will to sustain such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Only specially endowed individuals can adopt such a tactic. For a hunger strike to be done on such a scale of collective action not only underscores the horrible ordeal of the Palestinians that has been all but erased from the political consciousness of the West in the hot aftermath of the Arab Spring.

The world has long refused to take notice of Palestinian one-sided efforts over the years to reach a peaceful outcome of their conflict with Israel. It is helpful to recall that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22% of historical Palestine on which to establish an independent and sovereign state. In recent years, the main tactics of Palestinian opposition to the occupation, including on the part of Hamas, has been to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and a practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has not taken note of either development, and has instead continuous thrown sand in Palestinian eyes. The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restrain and away from violence have been to embark upon a program of feverish settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing, reliance on excessive retaliatory violence, as well as an intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One dimension of this oppressiveness is the 50% increase in the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention during of the last year, along with an officially mandated worsening of conditions throughout its prison system.

Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Read more articles by Richard Falk.
http://richardfalk.wordpress.com

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/03/the-massive-palestinian-hunger-strike-traveling-below-the-western-radar/