A strike has been spreading through the Palestinian territories like a wild fire over the last two weeks. On April 16, 2017 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails began a mass hunger strike in protest of the poor and deteriorating conditions Palestinians are subject to in Israeli custody.
Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are participating in the strike taking only water and salt as sustenance. History has shown the devastating effects of participating in hunger strikes for the individuals involved. Serious health consequences and death have been too often a result. But for a people with no options left, this last resort of peaceful protest must become an international issue which brings about an end to the suffering of Palestinian prisoners and the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners.
Why they Strike?
The living standards and conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and especially Gaza, known as the worlds largest open-air prison, are dismal as-is. The conditions for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that have been subject to Israeli confinement is even worse.
According to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer over 40% of the male population of the Palestinian territories have been confined or imprisoned by Israel. This huge number begins to make sense when you learn that in 2015 Israel approved 20-year prison terms for Palestinians, regardless of their age, if they are caught throwing a stone.
Some of the demands forwarded by the striking prisoners according to prominent Palestinian leader and political prisoner, Marwan Barghouti, include: Torture, denial of medical treatment, and hundreds of Palestinians who have been killed while in Israeli custody. Another large aspect of their protest is as Barghouti wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times in which he explains the reason for the strike, “Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.”
In retaliation to the strike Israeli authorities have placed leading strikers including Barghouti into solitary confinement and have cracked down on the few privileges left to other striking prisoners.
According to Addameer there are currently 6300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. That includes 61 female prisoners, 300 children and over a dozen members of Palestinian government.
The Strike Grows
In the past couple of weeks since the strike began it has become an integral part of the Palestinian peoples quest for human rights and self-determination. Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel itself have joined the call for solidarity with the striking prisoners. Mass protests and a general strike that shut down the West Bank have all been part of the solidarity. Other solidarity actions have taken place around the world organized by Palestinians, Jews and their allies in support of the hunger strikers and attempting to spread the message of the Palestinian people.
The plight of the Palestinian political prisoners must be heard and supported by all who believe in peace and freedom. The hunger strike led be Palestinian political prisoners does not end at only improving the living conditions of those unjustly held in Israeli dungeons. The strike represents the Palestinian people aspirations for liberation from the brutal Israeli occupation.
The Solution Must Confront the Problem
The nature of Palestinian political prisoners from the very core is a result of Israeli occupation. If Israel did not occupy, expand and terrorize Palestinian people, there would be no Palestinian political prisoners for there would be no need for Palestinians to fight an occupying power.
Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve a life of peace and security. The reality is however that there can be no peace and security for either side under occupation. The reality that Palestinians and Jews must come together to bring an end to the occupation becomes more apparent each day. The big block to progress in this case is not Palestinians protesting for their human rights, it is the Zionist state of Israel which denies their human rights and in so doing, endangers the lives of Israelis living on occupied Palestine.
This hunger strike should be seen as a call for Jews and Palestinians to unite in a single state of Palestine where each individual has the right to vote and together shape the future of a democratic and secular country of Palestine. In this day in age we must come to understand that much more can be achieved by coming together and uniting then by destruction and dividing.
Free Marwan Barghouti Now!
Free all Palestinian Political Prisoners!
Right of Return for all Palestinian!
End the Colonial Occupation of Palestine by Israel!
Follow Noah Fine on Twitter: @noahfine
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