Saluting the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
A prisoner hunger strike is a protest of the last resort.
This week, over 1000 Palestinian prisoners launched the largest collective hunger strike in years, on the occasion of marking 50 years of military occupation & nearly 70 years of Israel’s displacement & imprisonment of Palestinians. Their demands are simple, including: reinstating visitation rights, installing phones, improving medical care, and ending solitary confinement and administrative detention (the practice of holding prisoners for indefinite periods without charge or trial).
Since the occupation of 1967, roughly 20% of the Palestinian population has been imprisoned by the occupying power at one point or another. The Palestinian prisoners organization Addameer reports that Israel currently holds approximately 6300 Palestinian political prisoners, including 300 children and approximately 56 women as well as an estimated 500 Palestinians in administrative detention (including 2 children).
This hunger strike comes in a long tradition of hunger strikes and prisoners strikes as nonviolent protest tactics used by movements for liberation around the world.
As Marwan Barghouti wrote in The New York Times this week: “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.”
As Barghouti noted, Israel has a tendency to brand all forms of resistance to its military occupation as terrorism, a tendency evidenced by Israeli MK Michael Oren calling the op-ed itself a “journalistic terror attack.” As punishment for publishing the op-ed, Mr. Barghouti was placed in solitary confinement.
In a legal system where all forms of protest are being criminalized, it is not surprising that the Israeli Prison Service stated that strikes & protests will be punished, or that Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at protesters in solidarity with the strike outside Ofer prison, or that the Israeli state is refusing to negotiate with the striking prisoners.
As Jewish Voice for Peace launches Deadly Exchange, a national campaign to end Israeli and U.S. law enforcement exchanges, we acknowledge our government’s role as a partner in the repression and punishment of political prisoners in Palestine, and its own contemporary and historic repression of political prisoners. We oppose the rubber-coated bullets and teargas in Palestine, just as we oppose its use at Standing Rock.
Striking under the banner of Freedom and Dignity for a future free of occupation and oppression, we salute the brave women, men and children who are participating in and supporting the hunger strike.