Friday, May 11, 2012

Hunger Strike for Dignity

More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners are on a hunger strike in Israeli jails.  They are protesting against solitary confinement, detention without charge, and restrictions on family visits, education and other aspects of their treatment.  Two of the prisoners, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, are on the brink of starvation, having been an incredible 74 days without food.  
These men have now refused food longer than Kieran Doherty, the longest surviving of the 10 Irish militants who died in a hunger strike in 1981.  Bobby Sands, the best known of the 10, died after 66 days.

On May 8, 2012 The International Committee of the Red Cross asked that six prisoners be transferred to hospital and allowed visits from their families.  All six of these men are being held without trial as administrative detainees, which can be renewed six months at a time.  They are in jail because Israel suspects they may be guilty of security offences. (The Chicago Tribune from Reuters  These men are “at imminent risk of dying.” 

The bravery and dignity of these prisoners has captured the hearts and minds of people throughout the world, but the Palestinians living under occupation have taken up their cause with particular fervor.  Protests in many cities of the West Bank and Gaza in support of the prisoners show tremendous and wide-spread support.  The feeling of solidarity with the prisoners is so high that the death of one or more of these brave men could easily trigger another Intifada or uprising.

And where is the United States while people are dying in protest of imprisonment without trial and harsh treatment?  There is talk that Israel is negotiating in an effort to end the strike, and Robert Naiman writes in an article in Huffington Post, that it is possible that a word of support from the US could turn the tide.

The article by Ali Abunimah in the Electronic Intifada tells of the current state of Thaer Halahleh’s deteriorating health and the lack of adequate medical care for the prisoners.

What can we do?  At the very least, we can sign a petition.  There is one from Just Foreign Policy, and Jewish Voice for Peace has a petition in solidarity with the Hunger Strike for Dignity.  The US Campaign to End the Occupation has joined with the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee to sponsor a petition going to the State Department on Monday. 
This is a matter of extreme urgency. 

To all of the brave souls who are enduring unimaginable pain and loss to bring their plight to the attention of the world, I quote the words of Susan Abulhawa, author of the international bestselling novel Mornings in Jenin:

Take heart and do not despair. We have not reached the end of history. There is still blood in our veins, air in our lungs and brilliant souls in our wombs. They have but the cold steel of death machines and the moral void of lies, which cannot and will not prevail against naked hearts and empty stomachs taking up the good fight for freedom.  
 Susan Abulhawa  (from )


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