Yesterday we were taken by one of the students we are working with to Ramallah, where activists are currently camped out in solidarity with the thousands of Palestinian prisoners who are currently entering their ninth day of a hunger strike. As the Israeli prison administration continues to reject prisoner’s demands for basic improvements in living conditions inside prisons, support for the strike is becoming widespread across the occupied territories.
I wanted to draw attention to the strike as it demonstrates a form of non-violent protest that is clearly not reported in any of the British media and barely in any international news either. As usual, it seems that the only news from the conflict that British media is interested in is that which is sensational and violent. For decades, Palestinian prisoners have engaged in hunger strikes to demand – and win – their rights, putting their bodies on the line to demand freedom and dignity for themselves, their people, their homeland and their nation.
Netanyahu recently announced his plans to impose harsher conditions on Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s prisons; he described academic studies for political prisoners as “an absurd practise” and stated his intention to end prisoner’s enrolment in academic studies. This particular move has directly touched the heart of Birzeit’s Right to Education campaign which I am working on here, as it serves to demonstrate one of the many ways the Israeli government has attempted to limit and restrict Palestinian’s access to education.
The Palestinian prisoners have made several key demands that at a very basic level fulfil the “absolute rights” of prisoners, and I have listed the most pertinent ones below:
– End the abusive use of isolation (this is a long-running element of the prisoner’s campaign as some inmates have been held in solitary confinement for over ten years)
– End restrictions on university education in the prisons;
– End the denial of books and newspapers;
– End the shackling to and from meetings with lawyers and family members (where, we were told, prisoners were not even allowed to hug their children)
– And ultimately end all forms of collective punishment, including the refusal of family visits, night searches of prisoners’ cells, and the denial of basic health treatment.
Netanyahu’s restriction on the prisoners’ rights is in part a collective punishment enforced after an Israeli soldier was captured by Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza. This idea of collective punishment is something that truly shocked me, in spite of the fact that it has been shown time and time again to be the automatic response of the Israeli government; if one Israeli is harmed, then the whole of Palestine will suffer. It made me reflect upon the ideas of the ConDem government after the riots in London took place, which considered both punishing the families of rioters and removing their access to benefits, which would have entirely ignored the basic welfare of these people. Is this really the way England, as a “democratic” state, ever considered dealing with this crisis?!
But anyway, I want to please urge any readers of my blog who feel passionately about the Palestinian cause to take action and express their solidarity with the prisoners, by sending an email that will take only ten minutes of your time away from facebook/youtube/the guardian etc…
Please write to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other human rights organizations to exercise their responsibilities and act swiftly to demand that the Israelis ensure that all Palestinian prisoners are freed from punitive isolation. Email the ICRC, whose humanitarian mission includes monitoring the conditions of prisoners, at email@example.com, and inform them about this urgent situation.