After 40 grueling days of surviving on only salt water, some 1500 Palestinian Political Prisoners have suspended their hunger strike. Led by Fatah leader and fellow political prisoner, Marwan Barghouti, prisoners within in Israeli detention centres began the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike in a bid to access their basic rights, inclusive of access to family visitation, an end to torture and inhuman treatment, and an end to the policy of solitary confinement, which can last indefinitely. Following weeks of Israeli authorities refusing to concede to the demands tabled, on the eve of the Holy month of Ramadan Israeli authorities and the prisoners reached an agreement. This after 20 hours of negotiations. A surprising move, hailed by many as a victory for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
According to reports citing the Israeli prison service, the hunger strike ended after Israel reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority and the Red Cross over prisoners’ visitation rights. The negotiations, attended by a number of the hunger strike’s leaders were held at Ashkelon Prison.
“The prisoners ended the strike after their demands were met,” speaking on Saturday, the head of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, Issa Karaka confirmed.
The parties agreed that prisoners would be eligible for two visits a month, as was in the past before being reduced to one visit a month.
The hunger strike, which was lauded as a positive move toward redressing Israel’s continued violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law saw activists from around the world stand in solidarity with Palestine.
In South Africa, local activists, former struggle stalwarts and politicians, including deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa observed the “#DignityStrike”. Starting their fast on the 14 May, 2017, at 18:00, with only a glass of salt water, they would only complete its observance 24 hours later.
The suspension of the strike follows the hotly contested visit by Unite States president, Donald Trump to East Jerusalem in Occupied Palestine.
During his visit, on Tuesday Trump met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Palestinians are committed to working with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel…The main problem is with the occupation and settlements,” Abbas stated at a joint media briefing.
Meanwhile, Trump said that if Israelis and the Palestinians can reach a peace agreement, “it will begin a process of peace throughout the Middle East.”
“I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope the region and its people.”
The statement by the Free Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners’ international campaign
The Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have prevailed. After long negotiations between Israeli occupation authorities and Marwan Barghouthi and the leadership of the strike, an agreement was reached and the hunger strike was suspended. This is an important step towards full respect of the rights of Palestinian prisoners under international law. It is also an indication of the reality of the Israeli occupation which has left no option to Palestinian prisoners but to starve themselves to achieve basic rights they are entitled to under international law.
The hunger strike launched by over one thousand Palestinian prisoners and led by Marwan Barghouthi lasted 41 days, making it one of the widest and longest collective hunger strikes in the history of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. Its objective was to end Israeli violations of prisoners’ rights. The demands included respect for the right to visits and contacts with families, an end to torture and ill treatment during arrest, interrogation, transfer and detention, an end to the policy of solitary confinement that can last for years, an end to administrative detention without charge for indefinite periods of time, and respect of their right to education.
The Israeli government had announced that it will not negotiate with the Palestinian prisoners under any circumstance, and attempted to break the hunger strike by force, including through incitement against the prisoners and the leader of the hunger strike, punitive measures, inter alia solitary confinement, and threats of force-feeding, which is considered a form of torture. The epic resilience and determination of the hunger strikers and their refusal to end their hunger strike despite the repression and very harsh conditions they endured allowed for their will to prevail over the will of the jailer.
We wish to thank all those who stood in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people in this important battle in their long struggle for freedom. We particularly thank the former political prisoners around the world, including in South Africa, Ireland and Argentina who expressed their unwavering support for the Palestinian prisoners, as they understand that the Palestinian struggle is an embodiment of the struggle for freedom against all forms of oppression throughout history.
The Palestinian people are a nation held captive, and the Palestinian prisoners are the reflection of this painful reality. Their plight is the most striking example of mass arbitrary arrest in contemporary history with over 800,000 Palestinians arrested since 1967, the equivalent of 40% of the Palestinian male population in the occupied territory.
Marwan Barghouthi said on the first day of the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike “our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost”. The Free Marwan and all Palestinian prisoners’ international campaign will pursue its efforts relentlessly till the freedom of the Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people is achieved. This is the only path to justice and peace.
The Free Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners international campaign was launched in 2013 from the cell of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, by anti-Apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada, and Fadwa Barghouthi, wife of Marwan Barghouthi. The campaign enjoys the support of 8 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, 120 governments, 15 former Presidents and Prime Ministers, hundreds of parliamentarians, artists, intellectuals and organizations and thousands of citizens, making it one of the widest international campaigns for the freedom of the Palestinian people.