Since April 17, over 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners have been on hunger strike. Each time the political prisoners declare their intention to strike, Israeli authorities put them into solitary confinement.
This strike, the largest such demonstration inside Israel’s colonial prisons, is called the Freedom and Dignity hunger strike. It suggests that the people who sit in cold, lonely cells remain confident of their cause and of their victory. Dignity is important. It is the opposite of occupation.
The prison authorities have barred family visits and any recreation as well as the right to the group prayer on Friday. They have also banned the prisoners from washing their clothes. They are also denied drinking water.
The gap between the new rules for prisoners on hunger strike and the rest of the Palestinian political prisoners is narrow. An Amnesty International report released April 13 showed that the 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners are held without concern for international law.
The most well-known Palestinian political prisoner is the Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who has been in prison since 2002. From his cell in Hadarim prison, Barghouti wrote a moving op-ed that was carried by the New York Times. In it, Barghouti writes that the Israeli system of occupation attempts to « break the spirit of the prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. » The op-ed was published on Palestine Prisoners’ Day, which was the start of the hunger strike.
Barghouti, along with prisoner leader Karim Younis, was moved into solitary confinement in al-Jalama prison.
One of the curious features of colonial systems is that the authorities incarcerate those who call for non-violent resistance. By holding people like Barghouti, who has pledged to lead a non-violent struggle against Israeli occupation, the Israeli authorities denude Palestinian society of important sections of its leadership. It leaves the field open for bewilderment and rage, whose options are often violence. It is violence that allows Israel to claim that every action of its state is for security reasons.