The Palestine Brief :The Battle of Empty Stomachs Continues

Photo: The Daily Beast Newspaper

By Yousef M. Aljamal

The Palestine Brief

The Battle of Empty Stomachs Continues

A weekly report published by the Center for Political and Development Studies (CPDS), Gaza on the latest developments in Palestine.


27 days ago, on April 17, some 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails launched an open-ended hunger strike. Their demands are simple as they echo through the prison walls: liberty or death. The lives of all prisoners on strike are currently in danger, but among them is a smaller group, which has been striking for a longer period of time.

Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab have not eaten for over 76 days – since the 29th of February. Israeli courts have rejected their appeals and refused to free them from administrative detention where they remain without charge or trial, subject to secret evidence and secret allegations. They are in critical condition.

The Prisoners’ Key Demands Include:

· Ending the policy of solitary confinement and isolation

· End to the use of administrative detentions

· The restoration of visitation rights to families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip, a right that has been denied to all families for more than 6 years

· Canceling ‘Shalit’ law[1]

· Ending systematic humiliation, including arbitrary strip searches, nightly raids and collective punishment

Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been hit hard with retaliation from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). Taking different forms, the IPS’ retaliation includes beatings, transferring from one prison to another, confiscation of salt (an act that could have severe health consequences for hunger strikers), denial of family and lawyer visits, and isolation and solitary confinement of hunger strikers.

Hunger Strikers:

More than 4800 Palestinian political prisoners are still held in miserable conditions in 20 Israeli prisons. 1100 are ill and deprived of medical attention except for pain-killers. Hundreds of them are suffering from cancer, heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, renal failure. 185 of them are children, while 19 others are held in solitary confinement of two meters of length and one meter of width. Dozens of prisoners have spent long time in prisons. Nael Albarghothi, who was freed in the last exchange in October, 2011, spent 34 years in the occupation jails, according to the Palestinian Center For Defending Prisoners.

Names of Hunger Strikers:

Bilal Diab- Day 76 of hunger strike
Thaer Halahleh- Day 76 of hunger strike
Hassan Safadi- Day 70 of hunger strike
Omar Abu Shalal- Day 68 of hunger strike
Mohammad Taj- Day 60 of hunger strike
Jaafar Azzedine- Day 53 of hunger strike
Mahmoud Sarsak- Day 54 of hunger strike
Abdullah Barghouti- Day 32 of hunger strike

Over 2,500 others are also on their 27 day of mass hunger strike. Prisoner Anass Al-Qadoumi has been rushed to hospital.

Prisoners’ Support:

-A leader of Hamas on Friday warned Israel there would be consequences if any of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike dies in jail. “You must realize that the hunger strike is not a party, and we could be surprised by the death of some of the prisoners,” Khalil al-Haya said at a solidarity tent for the strikers in the center of Gaza City.

– Professor Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights said “As might be expected, the voices of concern from the international community have been muted and belated. The International Committee of the Red Cross has finally expressed in public its concern for the lives of these strikers.” Full article can be found here.

– The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, expressed his grave concern about the current medical and health conditions of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Sadly enough, the statement by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA was taken off the website shortly after it was published.

– John Minto, the Global Peace and Justice Alliance (GPJA) spokesperson, sent a letter to New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs urging him to speak out on behalf of the country in support of Palestinian prisoners. He mentioned that there has been a 50% increase in administrative detention during the last year, and it is well recorded that conditions for prisoners have seriously deteriorated over that period of time.

– Demonstrations in support for prisoners have escalated in the last days, with thousands of Palestinians taking to the streets in solidarity with hunger strikers. A protest took place in Ramallah, in which UN premises were closed, and action for hunger strikers was demanded.

– In a statement, a group of Sinn Fein members in Ireland asked for:

International Law and its provisions with regard to administrative detention to be respected
Israel to end its policy of administrative detention
Israel to end its policy of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement
Prisoners to be allowed to see their families.

– More than a hundred parliamentary and prominent political leaders have signed a petition calling on Israel to respect the rules of international law in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in its prisons. The petition includes some prominent names in the field of European politics.

-The Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR)’s petition calls for improving the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and adopted as part of the demands of the prisoners on hunger strike, in particular the end of solitary confinement, and allowing them to receive visits by parents and family members.

– Jumana Abu Jazzar, a child of political prisoner went in a hunger strike in solidarity with imprisoned father.

– Prisoners Kefah Al-Hattab, Alaa’ Shritih, Nidal Samara, Jafaa’r Abdelazeez, Mohammed Al-Taj, Mohammed Al-said Almasri, Bilal Thiab, Thaer Halahla, Mahmoud Al-Sarsak, Hassan Al-Safadi, Omer Shalal, Akram Alrkhawi, and Mohammed Abdelazeez are at Al-Ramla hospital.

– Prisoners at Ofer prison declined an Israeli Prison Service (IPS) offer and asked it to negotiate with the National Committee of the Hunger Strike.

Role of Media

Western media played the game of brinkmanship, along with Israel, leaving their coverage until many prisoners were already at death’s door. Earlier coverage may well have prevented the situation deteriorating to this extent.

Western media outlets should reasonably be expected to cover the plight of thousands of prisoners protesting the inhumane conditions they live in. All of the Palestinian prisoners’ demands are compatible with human rights guaranteed in international instruments for the treatment of prisoners.

Western media have been slow off the mark.

[1] The Shalit Law was introduced by Israel to punish Palestinian prisoners after Shalit’s capture. It includes deprivation of family visits, education, watching T.V channels including Aljazeera and holding prisoners in solitary confinement.

CPDS highly appreciates your comments and feedback on this weekly report which will be published on Sundays.

This entry was posted in Reports from Gaza. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Palestine Brief :The Battle of Empty Stomachs Continues

  1. Yousef, I want to help work on these reports. (You might have noticed I’m a little … obsessive … when it comes to following news of the prisoners’ movement and the hunger strike.)

  2. Imaan says:

    May Allah make it easy 4 u all. Keep up the good, informative work you always do! Oppression cannot and will not last for long…

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