The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has suspended family visitation rights to Palestinian prisoners and is continuing its crackdown on prisoners as the large-scale “Freedom and Dignity” prisoner hunger strike led by Marwan Barghouti entered its third day. Some 1,500 prisoners are participating in the strike, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday.
Amnesty International said in a statement released last week, before the declaration of the hunger strike, that “Israel’s decades-long policy of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza in prisons inside Israel and depriving them of regular family visits is not only cruel but also a blatant violation of international law.”
Meanwhile, head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that Israeli authorities had prevented lawyers from visiting hunger-striking prisoners on Tuesday, April 18, and that the IPS had declared a state of emergency in detention facilities holding Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian Prisoner’s Society chairman Qaddura Fares told Ma’an that the measures were a “punitive” procedure by Israeli authorities, adding that the IPS had shifted hunger-striking prisoners around in its detention facilities in order to separate them from Palestinian prisoners who were not participating in the hunger strike.
Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) published a communique in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner’s hunger strike. Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, paid a visit on Monday to demonstrate his solidarity with the hunger strikers. “I met with Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of Marwan Barghouti, his lawyer Elias Sabag, and the team for the struggle for prisoners,” wrote Odeh, who ended his post with a demand for “freedom for political prisoners” and an “end to the occupation.”
In addition, Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to deal with the demands and accused the Israeli authorities of violating the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) sent a request to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to be allowed to visit Barghouti, and said lawmakers should be permitted to see security prisoners. “Erdan should immediately cancel his order [to shift prisoners around and place Barghouti in solitary confinement],” the lawmaker said on Monday, April 17. “The order is meant to isolate and weaken Palestinian prisoners…and prevent the exposure of severe violations by Israeli authorities against prisoners who are hunger striking.”
Touma-Sliman said that the decision to place Barghouti in solitary confinement “reveals the authorities’ obtuseness and refusal to hold a dialogue.” “Any harm that will come to hunger-striking prisoners is the sole responsibility of Israel’s government, and [it] will be responsible for any escalation that takes place,” she added.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians from throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip marched and attended rallies on Monday to show their support for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The hunger strike, which has been in preparation for several weeks, began Sunday evening, April 16, with around 700 prisoners. By Monday morning the number of participants grew and is expected to include more than 2,000 people in all Israeli prisons. The Israel Prison Service said Monday that 1,100 prisoners announced their intention to launch a hunger strike in the Gilboa, Meggido, Nafha, Ketziot, Shikma, Ramon, Hadarim and Nitzan prisons.
The prisoners are demanding improved conditions, a change to visiting policies and specific requests such as the installation of public telephones in the cellblocks. Some of the demands involve a return to policies that were in effect before the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit in 2006 and the abduction and murder of three Jewish teens in the occupied West Bank in 2014, when Israel withdrew prisoner privileges. Most of the demands, however, are new, such as the closure of the Israel Prison Service clinic in favor of bringing prisoners who need medical care to a hospital. The prisoners are also demanding an end to detention without trial and solitary confinement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas published a statement supporting the hunger-striking prisoners and called on the international community to intervene before their medical condition deteriorates. The prisoners are at the top of the Palestinian leader’s agenda, the statement said.
Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, said in a statement, “The Palestinian people, wherever they lives, declared today that the prisoners’ issue is sacred and that the government of occupation will not enjoy quiet and security as long as it violates the rights of the Palestinian people and harms its prisoners.”
“The Palestinian people today declared an intifada on behalf of the prisoners who are conducting a campaign whose foundation is a hunger strike for their rights and their dignity,” the statement said.
Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society and a close friend of Barghouti, said the campaign launched on Monday would mark a turning point in the prisoners’ struggle that “opens a door to the start of a popular intifada for Palestinian national unity and the rights of the Palestinian people.” The strike, Fares said, sends a clear message that, “the Palestinian people has not abandoned the path of resistance and that a hunger strike inside a prison must also have an effect outside its walls.
Israeli far-right Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) related to the hunger strike on Tuesday, April 18. “In everything pertaining to the hunger-striking terrorists in Israeli prisons, I suggest adopting the approach of Margaret Thatcher,” Liberman said. A former conservative Prime Minister of Britain, during her tenure Thatcher took a brutal stance against Irish prisoner hunger strikes and did not give in to their demands, even after some of them had died. In addition, Liberman said, “I soon hope to see MKs from the Joint List joining the hunger strikers and not breaking without eating chicken at night.”