More than 1,000 of the 6,500 political prisoners held by Israel are refusing food in protest of their degrading treatment. The collective hunger strike began on April 17 – the internationally commemorated Palestinian Prisoner Day under the banner of "Freedom and Dignity."
The prisoners on strike have not consumed anything but salt water since the open-ended strike began. They say the conditions of Israeli prisons have become unbearable and they are demanding basic rights such as regular family visits and adequate medical services.
Among the strikers, there are a number of parliamentarians who have been held in detention. Elected parliamentarian and lawyer Khalida Jarrar was released in April last year after a 15-month sentence. She says,
“You can’t imagine how important family visits are. We are supposed to receive two visits a month, but some of the women I was with did not receive family visits at all. I had my first visit after four months. When my family first applied to see me, they were turned down. They were told there was no family connection, even my mother was told this. They had to get legal documents from the interior ministry proving their relationship to me. Even then, only my daughters and sisters were allowed. My husband and brothers were turned down because of security reasons. The Israelis always use this excuse.”
Some 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel at some stage in their lives, including around 40% of the entire male population. Many prisoners have been incarcerated in violation of international law under a system known as Administrative Detention.
Administrative Detention means that any Israeli military officer in the occupied territories can have a person jailed almost indefinitely. Administrative detention procedures do not require the detainee to be informed of the charges against them, their attorneys cannot defend them, and the evidence against them is not open to judicial review. Many detainees are held under this process and often people who are held under this system have their detention extended every six months. This is not the first time that prisoners have initiated a hunger strike in protest of this cruel policy.
Israel hopes to break the prisoners’ spirits. It has locked up the leaders in solitary confinement, denied striking inmates access to a lawyer, taken away radios, and in the strike’s second week they began confiscating salt rations – the only sustenance along with water the prisoners were taking.
We support the Palestinian prisoners and their demands. We stand in solidarity with the prisoners, their families and all Palestinians who have had to endure the policies of Israeli detention that violate their basic human rights.