Casablanca - More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are taking part in a hunger strike to protest their inhumane treatment by their captors, attracting sympathy and solidarity from around the world.
Casablanca – More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are taking part in a hunger strike to protest their inhumane treatment by their captors, attracting sympathy and solidarity from around the world.
The strike was called for by the prominent Palestinian political figure Marwan Barghouti on April 16 in a New York Times op-ed he wrote from his prison cell.
The Palestinian prisoners demand dignified prison conditions, more frequent family visits, medical care, and abolishment of solitary confinement, and other basic rights. The support of the international community for these prisoners has picked up steam, spotlighting the unbelievably inhumane prison conditions suffered by Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli colonizing power.
In its yearly report, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association unveiled figures indicating a serious humanitarian catastrophe in Israeli prisons. 800,000 Palestinians have undergone imprisonment or detention since 1967, accounting for 40 percent of total Palestinian male population. Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained in inside 17 Israeli prisons. Between 2000 and 2014, 8,000 children were arrested. A staggering 90 percent of these have been convicted in military courts. Two hundred of this number have died while in prison.
Palestinian prisoners, males and females alike, routinely undergo immense psychological and physical abuse, raging from beating, insults, threats and sexual harassment. Children are tried in military court, including those under the age of 16, whose imprisonment alone stands as a blatant violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Other expedients to extend the sufferings of the Palestinians to their families include primarily unlawfully captivating Palestinian prisoners inside Israel’s prisons rather than prisons in the West Bank, and imposing a difficult visit application process, with the low rates of approvals.
Human rights organizations have long warned of the seriousness of the inhumane conditions in the Israeli prisons, but the loud condemnation of the international community has met the West’s deaf ear. Marwan Barghouti affirmed that the hunger strike is a way to “resist these abuses,” writing:
“Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”
International Condemnation and Solidarity
The international community, which seems more and more outspoken about Israeli oppression and apartheid, has closely followed the news of the strikers inside the Israeli prisons, despite the information blackout that the Israeli Prison Service has enforced. They have placed the strikers under solitary confinement, confiscated their phones, and suspended family visits. In the face of these measures, people from all over the world have expressed their full support for the prisoners on social media.
In a social media challenge that has gone viral, people from all the corners of the world post videos of themselves drinking a glass of water with salt, which strikers do to remain conscious and avoid long-term side effects of the hunger, as a show of solidarity with the prisoners. The hashtag #saltwaterchallenge is one of the most trending hashtags on Facebook and Twitter, and the challenge has extended to the real world, as cafés across the West Bank have included salty water in their menus.
Other forms of protests include rallies in the West Bank attended by tens of thousands, a sit-in by several members of the European Parliament at the European Parliament building in Brussels, a hunger strike organized by the students of the University of Manchester in the UK that is expected to continue for at least one week, and a rally in Morocco’s Rabat organized by the Labor Union where Israeli flags were set ablaze.
The Israeli Minister of Security, Gilad Erdan, who in 2015 called for the legalization of force-feeding, dismissed the hunger strike as “new sort of suicide bombing to threaten the state of Israel.” In an op-ed in the New York Times, he expressed Israel’s unwillingness to listen to the prisoners, whom he branded as “terrorists,” and claimed that the “true motivation behind this strike is political jockeying.”