MK Odeh Conducts Day-Long Fast in Solidarity with Hunger Striking Palestinian Prisoners

Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh undertook a day-long fast on Thursday, May 11, in solidarity with the hunger striking Palestinian prisoners. From inside the a protest tent set up in Nazareth, Odeh said: “I joined the strike in identification with the struggle of the political prisoners in order to help increase awareness in the general public in the country for the just and basic demands of the prisoners.”

MK Odeh, second from right, in front of the solidarity tent erected in Nazareth; the banner to the left reads "Hunger  and Honor, Not Kneeling and  Subdued."

MK Odeh, second from right, in front of the solidarity tent erected in Nazareth; the banner to the left reads “Hunger and Honor, Not Kneeling and Subdued.” (Photo: Al Ittihad)

“One of the first demands of the prisoners is the installation of public telephones so they can stay in touch with their families, whom some of them haven’t seen for years” Odeh said. “The prisoners are also fighting so that family members that come for visits will get humane, basic conditions like the use of a bathroom.”  According to Joint List chairman, the prisoners want better medical care and better treatment when they are transported between prisons or to court. Odeh accused the government of using “cheap and ugly tactics” to try to deter the hunger strikers. Some Palestinians have said that a video recording documenting Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti allegedly eating during the strike was in fact doctored. “They will not break the spirit of those fighting for their most basic rights. Beyond that, we see that solidarity around the world with the hunger strikers is only growing. The government must stop abusing them and start negotiations immediately, before their health begins to deteriorate,” Odeh added.

Far right Yisrael Beytenu faction Chairman MK Robert Ilatov ironically congratulated Odeh on joining the strike, saying, “I hope that in the near future [Odeh] will go on a hunger strike behind prison walls.”

On Wednesday, May 10, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) and Palestinian Prisoners’ Families Committee in Jerusalem organized a sit-in protest in solidarity with the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. Families of prisoners spoke at the sit in, demanding the intervention of international and legal organizations “without any delay to achieve the demands of Palestinian prisoners,” who will have been on hunger strike in Israeli prisons for 26 days as of Friday, May 12.

Head of PPS in Jerusalem Nasser Qaws said at the sit-in that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) was “trying to spread rumors to break the will of prisoners and their families,” referring to a video released by IPS on Sunday purportedly showing Marwan Barghouthi, the Fatah leader who organized the strike, eating in his cell during the strike.

All attempts to reach Marwan Barghouti, who remains in solitary confinement, have failed. MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash – Joint List) attempted to visit him, but his request was denied by the prison services, the third time in the past few weeks that Israeli authorities have rejected Jabareen’s plea to see Barghouti. According to Jabareen, the Israel Prison Service’s “denial of all my requests to visit Barghouti constitutes a serious infraction of my political activity as a member of the Knesset and my parliamentary immunity. There is no doubt that the prisoners’ strike is of utmost public importance and that it is my role as an elected public official to examine and scrutinize the policies of the Israel Prison Service related to this issue. This is done, among other means, by visiting prisoners.”

Jabareen and Muna Haddad, a lawyer from Adalah (the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), have again written to the prison authorities in order to be allowed to see Barghouti. It is likely that their request will be denied.