Palestinian Hunger Strike Over – or is it?

Today reports have flooded in that Palestinian prisoners have agreed to end their mass hunger strike in the Israeli jails. They suggest that Israel has made some concessions, including some visitation rights for prisoners families in Gaza, and some improvements to prison conditions. What is being considered the largest concession is a change to Israel’s administrative detention policy so that now the six month internment period can’t be renewed without new evidence. However, the evidence is secret evidence, shown only to a military judge, so forgive me if I don’t see why this is a big difference.

However, while the mass hunger strike ends, there is a report that Bilal Diyab, one of the hunger strikers near death, is not giving up his struggle but will continue on till he is freed. The following report is from Nasouh Nazzal and was published in Gulf News today:

Ramallah: Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Diyab told his family that he will not break his fast until he is released from prison. Israeli authorities permitted Bilal to make a 6 minute phone call to his family, a rare luxury for a Palestinian serving administrative detention. “His voice was very weak but he said he will only end his hunger strike at his own home,” Bilal’s brother, Bassam told Gulf News. “Bilal is ready to reject any offers from Israel,” he said. “So far, there have been no proposals.” The Israeli military detained Bilal Diyab and sentenced him to a six months administrative detention order which was renewed with another six months order, where he started his hunger strike in protest. Since his detention, the Israeli authorities refused to grant Bilal’s family members a single family visit permit. Currently Bilal’s sick mother has applied for a permit to visit her dying son via the Red Cross, but the Israeli authorities rejected the request.

Many commentators on the situation, including Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, have expressed concern that if a hunger striker dies solidarity action could spiral out of control. I get the sense that the hunger strike has been ended in an attempt to avoid this potential for the escalation of the conflict, which is seen as not in the interest of the current leadership. However, if Bilal dies, Abbas might not get his way.

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