Palestinian Prisoner Unity


Stephen Lendman – TRANSCEND Media Service

Commentary is a neoconservative publication. Fronting for Israel is policy. 

Senior editor Jonathan S. Tobin formerly served as executive editor for the Philadelphia-based Jewish Exponent. At the time, he was called its most right-wing voice. Things haven’t changed. He writes often on Israeli/Palestinian issues.

On May 4 [2012], his Commentary article headlined “Hunger Strikers’ Goal is Not Peace,” saying:

“(T)he Palestinian goal is not their own state living in peace beside Israel but the end of the Jewish state and its replacement by one in which Arabs will rule.”

“Palestinians view violence against Israelis as not only a legitimate tactic but also something that is integral to their nation identity.”

Tobin wears blinders. History isn’t his long suit. Before imperial Britain arbitrarily granted Jews a Palestine homeland, generations of majority Arabs and small Jewish populations lived peacefully together as neighbors.

They do now in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Tobin, however, equates Arabs with confrontation and violence. So do hardline Zionists. “(T)he time is long passed for (hunger striking) stunts whose only purpose is to embarrass or intimidate the Israelis,” he claimed. Justice isn’t one of his priorities.

In a letter Maan News received, Marwan Barghouti said Palestinian prisoners affiliated with different political factions are united behind hunger strikers.

They’re “fighting a battle for freedom and dignity,” he said. Late Saturday, reports said Fatah prisoners accepted Israel’s compromise to end hunger strikes.

Twelve concessions were demanded. Prisoners accepted six, including:

(1) Gazan families will be able to visit relatives in prisons.

(2) An IPS/prisoner committee will be formed to move detainees from isolation.

(3) Three satellite TV channels will be restored.

(4) 400 NIS per month will be alloted for canteen privileges.

(5) Products there will include items prisoners need, including fruits and vegetables.

(6) Sick or injured prisoners will move by ambulance, not military vehicles.

Discussions continue on other issues. Barghouti’s dubious. Only the hunger striker committee is authorized to negotiate on behalf of prisoners, he said.

Its members include:

Abdul-Rahim Abu Holy, Alaa Abu Jazar and Nasser Abu Hmeid from Fatah, Jumaa Tayih and Zeid Bseiso from Islamic Jihad, Jamal al-Hur, Muhannad Shreim and Mahmoud Shreitih from Hamas, Ahid Abu Ghilmi from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Osamah Abu al-Asal representing the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Nafha Prison detainees said Israeli concessions are inadequate. Major issues remain unresolved. Barghouti’s letter said:

“We have been on hunger strike for 20 days under the banner of either we live in dignity or die.”

Over a dozen prisoners continue extended fasts. More on the two longest below.

On April 17, Palestine Prisoners Day, over 1,000 began hunger striking for justice. Up to 2,500 are now involved. More join them daily. Virtually all are political prisoners. Their crime is wanting to live free on their own land in their own country. Israel calls them terrorists.

Since 1967, over 700,000 Palestinians were imprisoned. Over 20% of the population was affected. For males, it’s 40%. For women, it’s about 10,000, and for children around 7,000 since 2000 alone.

By any standard, these numbers are appalling. For Palestinians, it’s a highly emotive issue. Most families have loved ones unjustly imprisoned or did earlier. Justice is nowhere in sight. Prisoners use their only resistance weapon. Yielding to Israeli pressure assures no chance for redress.

On Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad Al-Hindi warned of a third Intifada if any hunger striker dies. He said the “battle of the empty stomachs” remains united.

“This battle will be the gateway for Palestinian unity,” he told supporters. He called on Arab League leaders to close Israeli embassies and expel envoys.

On Sunday, a Cairo meeting was held. A prisoner supportive General Assembly resolution was proposed. Passing one is symbolic only but a step in the right direction.

Liberation struggles take time. Palestine’s occupation remains unresolved for decades. One day, resistance will bear fruit. Hunger striking may be remembered as an important stepping stone toward it. Hopefully, prisoners will stay the course, united for justice.

On May 7, hunger strikers Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh reached day 70.

On May 6, a joint Addameer/Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) press release headlined “Concern Mounts for the Lives of Prisoners on Protracted Hunger Strikes, as Bilal Diab, Thaer Halahleh and Hassan Safadi are Subjected to Medical Negligence.”

Both men risk imminent death. Nonetheless, repressive Israeli Prison Service (IPS) officials deny independent doctors and human rights groups like Addameer from regular access.

Medical ethics are grievously breached. Emergency situations are ignored. On May 5, PHR-I petitioned in District Court. It demanded its right to visit. It also wants family members given access. Its appeal was rejected until a May 7 or later hearing.

Bilal is held at Assaf Harofeh (public) Hospital. He’s in grave condition. Thaer remains in Ramleh Prison’s medical clinic. Treatment administered there is appalling. Breaching medical ethics is policy.

Following a May 3 High Court hearing, Judge Eliakim Rubenstein announced a later decision without saying when. He and judges Noam Saulberg and Yuram Dinzinger dismissed the urgency of the situation. As a result, both men may die.

Hassan Safadi may follow. On May 7, he reached day 64 without food. In grave condition, he’s also at Ramleh’s clinic getting sub-minimal care. He said  guards restrain him to let a prison doctor administer an injection in his arm.

What’s in it isn’t known. Doing so involuntarily violates medical ethics. According to the World Health Organization’s Malta declaration:

“Physicians need to satisfy themselves that food or treatment refusal is the individual’s voluntary choice. Hunger strikers should be protected from coercion.”

“Physicians can often help to achieve this and should be aware that coercion may come from the peer group, the authorities or others, such as family members.”

“Physicians or other health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on the hunger striker to suspend the strike. Treatment or care of the hunger striker must not be conditional upon suspension of the hunger strike.”

Hasan also said Ramleh prison guards beat him. He’s denied visits from independent doctors. PHR-I petitioned for access. IPS officials rejected it.

Hunger striking for 47 days, PHR-I appealed for Jaafar Azzedine in district court. Its judge said he won’t consider hunger strike caused medical emergencies in rendering his decision.

Israel’s High Court alone can decide. So far, it abstained. Only Jewish lives matter. Palestinian ones have no worth. Expect little help from judges with these views.

Palestinians are on their own. Sustained resistance is vital. So is continuing the “battle of empty stomachs” and willingness to die for justice. What greater sacrifice than that so one day others can live free.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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