On the 17th of April, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, 1500 prisoners held in Israeli jails began a open ended hunger strike protesting the use of administrative detention, strip searches, the denial of access to education, the prevention visits, and demanding an end to solitary confinement and other human rights abuses practiced in the Israeli jails.
The strike is an inspiring act of national unity against the Israeli occupation – there are representatives from all Palestinian political factions involved, with a united representative leadership.The Palestinian community has united to support the cause of the hunger strikers. There have been mass demonstrations in city centers, and at checkpoints and along the Wall, as well as demonstrations in front of the prisons on an almost daily basis.
The young people of Palestine have provided the backbone of this movement, acting in tandem with the student movement in the universities. In addition to the youth, there are representatives from all walks of Palestinian life at the demonstrations, and in many towns, cities and refugee camps tents have been set up where constant vigils are being held to demonstrate support.
The rhetoric in the weekly demonstrations against the Wall and the settlements now solely focuses on support for the prisoners and "Victory or Death" has become a primary slogan. There are now weekly demonstrations in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in various parts of the country calling on it to break the silence about the plight of the Palestinians in the jails.
As is customary, the Israeli army suppresses the demonstrations, and the use of tear gas and plastic coated bullets is not uncommon. Almost daily, demonstrators are violently attacked and arrested, sometimes resulting in serious injury.
During a demonstration at Ramleh prison on May 3 30 protestors were injured, including one broken leg, with 19 arrested and held overnight. Such repression is often in response to the demonstrations moving from their position, as the protestors attempt to highlight the prisoner’s situation, and march on the headquarters of organizations who are complicit in their silence.
Pro-strike prisoners are abused when they are open about their support for their comrades, and are put in solitary confinement and denied privileges as punishment. Pressure is also being put on the hunger strikers in a number of ways; being denied visits from their families or lawyers or being placed in solitary confinement.
The silence of the international community is particularly alarming when the condition of hunger strikers Bilal and Thaer are considered. After 71 days of continuous hunger striking, death and martyrdom are very near for these two courageous freedom fighters. The Israeli Supreme Court’s rejection of their appeal demonstrates the complete absence of humanity within the framework of the Israeli authorities.