Hunger Strike: Deadly Resistance from Behind Israeli Prison

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The Palestine tale never separated from sad story. The people have to face various forms of oppression. Invaders have expelled most of their family from the homeland, dozens of years as refugees in various countries. While those who survive have to be strong to live under pressure, if you dare to resist, then be prepared to be separated from family, thrown into prison until indefinite time.

A data released by the Palestinian sites, alresalah.ps shows, the number of Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons reached 8,000 people, and they are dispersed in 22 Israeli Prisons. Among them there were 73 women and more than 1,000 minors.

This injustice cannot be tolerated. Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails resist. Among the popular resistance is “Hunger Strike.” This can be considered as a powerful weapon of the prisoners to exert pressure the Israeli side. In some cases, this resistance succeeded in forcing Israel to release prisoners, but not a few such actions have led to the death of the strikers.

A Palestinian website wrote that the first action of coloring the Israeli prisons in the 70s. Since then, Palestinian fighters from behind the bars of Israel began to fall. Among them was Abdul Qadir Abu Al-Fahm, martyred on July 11, 1970 in a hunger strike in Ashkelon prison. He was followed by Palestinian prisoners after his death namely Raseem Halawah and Ali Al Ja’fari, both were martyred on July 24, 1980 in a hunger strike in Nafhah prison. Then there was Mahmud Faritah martyred in Junaid prison in 1984, and Hussein Namar Ubaidat martyred in Ashkelon prison on October 14, 1992.

Abdul an-Nashir, an expert on Palestinian prisoner said, in a dictionary the prisoner movement, there is a term “The Battle of empty Intestines”, another term of hunger strike as forms of resistance in order to regain their rights. The prisoners refused to eat and just drink water. Done within a certain time, it means just several days, but sometimes done continuously indefinitely until their demands are achieved. This movement is done by individually and group.

Battle from behind the bars is an attempt to put pressure on the Israeli prison authority to grant their demands. The prisoners refused food from the prison and only survive by drinking water until their demands fulfilled.

The biggest mass hunger strike was occurred in 2012. At that time, as many as 1,600 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike on April 17, 2012. This hunger strike was a protest of Israel’s actions that treating them arbitrarily, starting from arrest without cause and without trial, until a ban of visit for families.

Among of their demands was an end to administrative detention and release them from the solitary confinement. Administrative detention (AD) is a procedure that allows Israeli occupation forces to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial, and solitary confinement is the practice of isolating people in closed cells for 22-24 hours a day, virtually free of human contact to humiliate the Palestinian prisoners.

Other demands of the prisoners were getting the education rights, stop Israeli incursions against Palestinian cells, getting visitation rights from the family, especially families coming from the Gaza Strip. The other thing is getting treatment for sick prisoners, stop excessive diligence measures against families that visit; stop torturing individually or in groups in prison, to allow reading books, newspapers and magazines. Then to get permit to call their families once a month via phone, to allow to unify inter-prisoner cells for family, and other demands.

The Longest Hunger Strike

Among the Palestinian hunger strikers, it was Samer al-Issawi who did the longest hunger strike. Samer Issawi became a national symbol in the Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression after launching a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. He has been twice imprisoned by the Israeli authority. In his first arrested about 11 years ago for arms possession he was released through a Hamas-Israel prisoner exchange deal in October 2011, before he had spent ten years of imprisonment.

But Israel rearrested him on July 7, 2012 and ordered him to serve the remainder of his original 26 year sentence, allegedly for travelling outside Jerusalem in violation of his parole. A month after the arrest, he launched his hunger strike movement until his release. He launched this action to protest his imprisonment without reason and without trial.

He succeeded to suppress Israel. He ended his nearly-nine-month strike on April 23, 2013 after striking a deal with Israel’s prison authorities to serve an eight-month sentence for an alleged parole violation. Israel was subdued with his resistance and forced to release Issawi after surviving for 266 days.

Resistance scene from behind bars still continues even now. In 2016, the resistance of Palestinian prisoners also bequeathed hunger strike resistance until their demands was granted. Muhammad, Mahmoud Balboul and Malik Qadli; they are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prison serving administrative detention. They launch hunger strike since the beginning of July 2016.

Three health conditions continue to deteriorate, until Israel finally decided to fulfill their demands. Israel feels threatened by hunger strike movement, because if a prisoner died, it will worsen their image before the world and add a black mark for Israel in the Human Rights issue.

Malik Qadhi was finally released on 22 September 2016, and the two captive brothers Muhammad and Mahmud Babul released on 8 October 2016 and both will not get extended the period of administrative detention.

Deadly weapon

What is mentioned above is the story of the Palestinian people struggle from behind Israeli bars. Resistance through hunger strike certainly gives pain for themselves, but that’s the only weapon (for now) in the middle of the weakness of their position, which may put pressure on the Israeli occupation.

This method is effective drawing an avalanche of international support on the injustice they face in Israeli prisons. With this “weapon”, this world had turned around, there is real crime committed by Israel against their prisoners. Moreover, this action received massive support from the Palestinians themselves, it made them to establish some NGOs that concern about the prisoner issue.

The resistance groups also doing similar support. Several years ago, Hamas resistance movement in Gaza captured the Israeli soldier named Gilad Salith, to release him Hamas made a deal to swap with 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. And in October 2011 the swap deal has done.

Currently there are 1,800 sick Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails, 120 of them in critical condition. Because it is no secret that Israel often neglected sick prisoners, and let them die slowly.

Of course, the problem of Palestinian prisoners is a part of the series of the sufferings of our brothers in Palestine. Then information about their condition should continue to spread, and various advocacy actions should be done, because it’s the one of way to suppress Israel, so there is no choice but to release those prisoners that they arrest and held arbitrarily.

Muhammad Syarief

Div. of ASPAC for Palestine Studies