Some information I put together on the Palestinian Hunger Strikers

I compiled this information from various sources for a pamphlet that will hopefully be produced soon on the hunger strike, to inform people in Toronto about what is going on. The information is no longer entirely current, but I think it still provides a descent primer on the situation.

Starting on september 27th, thousands of Prisoners across Palestine have been on an open-ended hunger strike. 

What is a hunger strike?

A hunger strike is an act of non-violent resistance in which a person chooses not to eat indefinitely, which results in the slow breakdown and self-cannibalization of their body. First their body eats away the fat, followed by muscle, and finally the body begins its own brain before it finally collapses.

Why go on hunger strike?

Hunger strikes have been effective means of non-violent resistance in the past. In Northern Ireland, the republican hunger strikers succeeded in politicizing their struggle. The election of one of the IRA hunger strikers, Bobby Sands, to the British Parliament showed the republican movement that it could win in the polls. This led to the rise of Sinn Fein and the eventual adoption of the republican movement into democratic politics in Northern Ireland, ending “the troubles”.

Hunger strikes are a way to draw public attention to a situation of injustice. It is an exercise of personal human freedom

Why are the Palestinian Prisoners on hunger strike? 

The demands of the prisoners are simple. They are protesting primarily against the newly instituted visitation conditions, in which they can only visit with their families with arms and legs chained, and behind a plastic barrier. They are also protesting the endemic use of solitary confinement as a punishment (some prisoners have been subject to solitary confinement for years at a time!). Thirdly, they are protesting the use of administrative detention, which is the holding of prisoners without charge for six months at a time or more. Hana Al Shalabi, 27, has been in administrative detention for over two years.

Palestinians on hunger striking are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for international treaties on the rights of prisoners to be respected.

What will happen to the hunger strikers?

What has already happened to the hunger strikers is quite disturbing – they had been sustaining themselves on salted water, but the Israeli officials have stopped giving the prisoners salt, which will result in very difficult conditions for the hunger strikers very quickly. Prisoners at some prisons have been isolated, and (ironically enough) put in solitary confinement. At the Askhelon and Nafha prisons, prisoners have been attacked by gas bombs which has caused a number of injuries and trips to the infirmary.

According to Israeli law, it is illegal to allow a prisoner to die by their own choice, so the prisoners will likely be force-fed against their will rather than let to die. The World Medical Association recognizes force-feeding as a form of degrading and inhumane treatment.

Palestinian prisoners have gone on open-ended hunger strike before, and some have died (while others saved by forced-feeding).

The success of a hunger strike depends entirely on the upheaval it creates in the civilian population in the Palestinian territories, in the state of Israel, and around the world. In other words – the success of their strike depends on YOU! If you believe that the Palestinian prisoners deserve the rights guaranteed to them under international treaties, speak out against the inhumane conditions in Israeli jails, speak out in favour of the hunger strike!

What are other people doing about it?

Both Israelis and Palestinians are protesting the illegal conditions in Israeli jails in Israel and in the territories. They are gathering around the prisons and chanting in support of the prisoners.

What can you do?

Contact the Israeli embassy and tell them to obey international treaties on the treatment of prisoners (Inquiries over the phone from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at: (416) 640-8505)

Contact the International Red Cross (jerusalem.jer@icrc.org)

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