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Why Are Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Israeli Occupation Government Prisons?

By Marwan Al-Barghouthi

NYT, April 16, 2017 

Marwan Al-Barghouthi Marwan Al-Barghouthi portrayed on the Israeli Apartheid Wall

Al-Jazeerah Editor's Note:

Marwan Al-Barghouthi is a Palestinian prisoner in one of the Israeli occupation government prisons. He was arrested for his anti-occupation activities. In his trial by an Israeli occupation military court, he refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court, as it represented a foreign occupying power, without any jurisdiction or authority over the Palestinian people, living in their own territories. 


Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. 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.

Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.

Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.

I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.

A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.

The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.

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.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.

Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.

How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?

Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

The Israeli authorities and its prison service have turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including those painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges they decide to grant us or deprive us of. Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.

Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.

Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.


This article was published in the New York Times, on April 16, 2017, at:  


More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on Monday decided to start an open-ended mass hunger strike to demand basic rights.

April 17, 2017

GAZA, (PIC) + -

Concurrently with the occasion of “the Palestinian Prisoner Day,” more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on Monday decided to start an open-ended mass hunger strike to demand basic rights.

The hunger strike aims to pressure the Israeli prison authority to respond to the prisoners’ just demands and improve their incarceration conditions.

The hunger strikers have made 13 demands to improve their detention conditions, but the Israeli prison authority responded negatively and threatened to take punitive measures to force them to end their hunger strike.

According to detainees, the administrations of Israeli jails embarked in the morning on transferring hunger-striking prisoners to other places and prisons.

In previous remarks, ex-detainee Abdul-Rahman Shadid, director of the Asra Media Office, told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum would participate in the hunger strike, which he said would be launched in Hadarim jail first.

Palestinian prisoners launch a hunger strike in Israeli occupation government prisons, demanding humane treatment

IMEMC, April 17, 2017

Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian leader who has been likened to the ‘Palestinian Mandela’, is leading the call for a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners from every party and faction beginning on Monday.

Every major Palestinian political party has announced their support for the strike, which marks the largest show of unity from every political party since the 2006 election of Hamas. On Sunday, the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP – formerly the Communist Party), the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF) both announced their support of the hunger strike.

The PPSF said the hunger strike marks “a turning point in the life of Palestinian prisoners”, and warned of a crackdown by Israeli authorities in response to the unified hunger strike.

Already, one strike organizer has been thrown into solitary confinement, with prison officials claiming he was “inciting” other prisoners into joining the strike.

The strike is known as “Freedom and Dignity”, and the prisoners involved have issued a number of demands.

The demands are as follows:

1. Install a public telephone for Palestinian detainees in all prisons and sections in order to communicate with their families.

2. Visits:

• Resume the second monthly visits for Palestinian prisoners that were halted by the International Committee of the Red Cross last year.

• Ensure the regularity of visits every two weeks without being prevented by any side.

• First- and second-degree relatives shall not be prevented from visiting the detainee.

• Increase the duration of the visit from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

• Allow the detainees to take pictures with their families every three months.

• Establish facilities to comfort the families of detainees.

• Allow children and grandchildren under the age of 16 to visit detainees.

3. Health care:

• Shut down the so-called Ramla Prison Hospital, because it does not provide the adequate treatment.

• Terminate Israel’s policy of deliberate medical negligence.

• Carry out periodic medical examinations.

• Perform surgeries to a high medical standard.

• Permit specialized physicians from outside the Israeli Prison Service to treat prisoners.

• Release sick detainees, especially those who have disabilities and incurable diseases.

• Medical treatment should not be at the expense of the detainee.

4. Respond to the needs and demands of Palestinian women detainees, namely the issue of being transported for long hours between Israeli courts and prisons.

5. Transportation:

• Treat detainees humanely when transporting them.

• Return detainees to prisons after the visiting clinics or courts and not further detain them at crossings.

• Prepare the crossings for human use and provide meals for detainees.

6. Add satellites channels that suit the needs of detainees.

7. Install air conditioners in prisons, especially in the Megiddo and Gilboa prisons.

8. Restore kitchens in all prisons and place them under the supervision of Palestinian detainees.

9. Allow detainees to have books, newspapers, clothes and food.

10. End the policy of solitary confinement.

11. End the policy of administrative detention.

12. Allow detainees to study at Hebrew Open University.

13. Allow detainees to have end of high school (tawjihi) exams in an official and agreed manner.

The hunger strike beginning on Palestinian Prisoners Day, April 17, comes just after a report was released documenting that Israeli authorities have detained one million Palestinians since 1948. That report was released Saturday by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).


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