By Yaseen Kippie
“To go on hunger strike is a jihad, because you are sacrificing your own self.” These were the words of ardent Palestinian rights supporter Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels, at a picket organised by the Al-Quds Foundation in support of the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
With placards and Palestinian flags, members of the ulema, activists and school children stood outside the provincial legislature in Wale Street. Several other organisations have pledged their support of this campaign and will join in the upcoming events.
“The reason for this picketing and for future activities is to do our utmost for the 1500 political prisoners that were so brave to go under hunger strike. They are putting their lives in danger for Palestine,” said an impassioned Gabriels.
Students from the Al-Azhar and Darul Islam High Schools also joined the picket.
“We are fighting for freedom for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We urge them to give them the basic demands they are asking for,” said Firdous Hattas and Ashma Parker.
The hunger strike started last month after an op-ed by Fatah Leader Marwan Barghouti in the New York Times, detailing the dismal conditions experienced by political prisoners in Israel. Israeli authorities say 894 Palestinian prisoners have kept up the strike, though Palestinian officials say it is more than 1,000 in 200 Israeli jails.
Palestinian Solidarity Campaign chairperson Michael Philip spoke to VOC News about the urgency of the South African response to this crisis.
“We are in support of this campaign to hammer Israel for doing what the South African government did during Apartheid. Imprisonment without trial, abuses in the prison system that is not properly investigated, biased judges. In every aspect, when it comes to treatment of Palestinian prisoners, there is bias and injustice. We want out government to step in. We should lead this campaign. We should be demanding an impartial enquiry,” said Philip.
He denounced individuals who deny Apartheid in Israel.
“They deny it because they’re comfortable here, and they don’t want any transferred feelings of guilt. They are avoiding the truth.”
Vincent Diba, a political prisoner during apartheid, who spent eight years on Robben Island, explained the similarities between Apartheid in South Africa and Israel.
“As a former poltical prisoner in Apartheid jails, I understand that Israel is also an Apartheid state as its government was part of the Apartheid in South Africa. I was the chairperson of the Hunger Strike Co-ordinating Committee at Robben Island. So as Mandela said that we will not be free until the Palestinian people are free. We must take this head-on.”
On Sunday the 14th May, the Al Quds Foundation will host a Nakba program, in the Samaj centre in Gatesville from 3-5pm. It will host the Muadhin of Masjidul Aqsa in Palestine. Another picket is scheduled on the 15th May outside the legislation offices at 12pm.
For more information, contact Yunus Alli on 079 494 5786. VOC