On April 27th, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, nearly 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners declared a hunger strike in Israeli prisons, demanding fair treatment and humane living conditions. Hunger strikes are often the most peaceful form of resistance available. Pain is inflicted solely on those who willingly participate and on their loved ones, in hopes that their empty stomachs and sacrifice will help resonate a message beyond their confined dark cells.
It has been over a month since this strike began.
Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisoners have a series of demands: an end to the denial of family visits, opportunity to purse higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement. Many have been imprisoned without charge or trial. Strikers have reported being chained from their arms, beaten, deprived of sleep and often threatened with harm towards their family members. A Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for 75 days, during which they can be denied a lawyer for 60 days. Some have been killed while in detention.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Israeli forces have detained nearly a million Palestinians since the start of the occupation (1967). Currently, there are 6,300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. One third of the current prisoners are children and teenagers, of whom 300 are minors.
Israel’s appalling treatment and conditions of the strikers also reflects the broader daily suppression of the Palestinian people. Mass imprisonment of Palestinians is part of the colonial settlement of the Israeli State. It is a mechanism of colonial control, meant to disrupt and repress political organizing, to divide and destabilize communities and families, and to scare the people. The treatment of prisoners is unlawful and cruel. It violates many forms of international law, including the Geneva Convention (protecting civilian persons in the time of war) and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by over 192 member states (including Israel) at the United Nations.
This Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, it is vital to build international activism and solidarity for Palestinian prisoners—to demand their case be taken up by the International Criminal Court. We must fight for their freedom; struggle to end the use of detention; free child prisoners; and prevent Israel in silencing political leaders, freedom fighters and resistance strugglers.
We must rise—through boycotting, divestment and international sanctions, to show international solidarity and support for the thousands who have sacrificed so much. One day is not enough to remember the past and the present of the Palestinians. 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.
Image credit: Carlos Latuff