Palestinian prisoners launch massive hunger strike against Ben-Gvir's policies
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced on Tuesday their final decision to launch a massive hunger strike in protest of Israeli restrictions on their detention conditions, with members of the prisoners' movement unified leadership effectively entering into the strike as of Tuesday.
The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said in a statement made public on Tuesday that the prisoners' decisions followed the collapse of a final round of negotiations between prisoners' representatives and authorities of the Israeli prison service.
According to the Prisoners' Club statement, seven members of the "Higher Emergency Committee", the prisoners' leadership body representing all political affiliations, started to refuse food on Tuesday. A first wave of 2,000 prisoners will join the strike on the first day of the Muslim month of Ramadan on Wednesday.
"Negotiations lasted until late on Monday and centred on the prisoners' main demand, which is a public announcement by the Israeli prison service that all repressive measures introduced by the occupation's security minister will be suspended," Amani Sarahneh, spokesperson for the Prisoners' Club, told The New Arab on Tuesday.
Over 2000 Palestinian prisoners will go on a mass hunger strike on the first day of Ramadan to protest against Israeli occupation authorities' punitive measures. pic.twitter.com/jtDZlRGiMv— Kuffiya (@Kuffiyateam) March 21, 2023
"The negotiations reached a dead end, which led the prisoners to announce their final decision on Tuesday by delivering an official letter to the Israeli prison service informing them of the hunger strike," she pointed out.
In early February, the Israeli far-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced a series of restrictions on Palestinian prisoners, including reducing shower time to four minutes and a reduction of the quantity of bread by stopping bakeries in prisons for Palestinian inmates.
Ben-Gvir has also been championing an Israeli bill to allow the death penalty for Palestinian prisoners with life sentences. The bill was voted into a parliamentary debate in early March by an overwhelming majority of 55 to 9 in the Israeli Knesset. The bill still has to be approved in a first and second reading before taking effect as law.
"Prisoners made it clear that if the Israeli prison service doesn't meet their demand of officially suspending Ben-Gvir's repressive measures before the hunger strike starts, they will add other demands, such as the liberation of prisoners with high or life sentences," noted Sarahneh.
"This means that prisoners are willing to take the strike to its last consequences," she added.
🚨 Death penalty legislation, increased administrative detention, citizenship & residency revocation & brutal detention conditions [prison raids & isolation]— Addameer –الضمير (@Addameer) March 3, 2023
🚩 We warn of Israel's hostile radical agenda toward Palestinian prisons & the Palestinian people as a whole #FreeThemAll pic.twitter.com/Toe8LbiFfc
On Sunday, the Prisoners' Club made public a collective farewell letter by Palestinian prisoners, in preparation for the beginning of the hunger strike.
"After we found ourselves besieged between neglect and the colonial teeth of Ben-Gvir, we have made our decision with our full faithful wills, stemming from our human and liberation consciousness, putting our faith in God and in our people," read the farewell letter.
"Trust in us, our people, for we have always been and still are projects of martyrdom, titles of freedom, whose Palestinian steadfastness is well recognised," it added. "We endow you to protect Palestine and its historical narrative, the resistance, the families of martyrs and prisoners, the Palestinian woman, the Palestinian democracy, our political pluralism, our liberation consciousness and our unified national identity."
BREAKING: More than 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have officially informed prison authorities they will go on an open-ended hunger strike starting Thursday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, in protest of the Israeli repression campaign. pic.twitter.com/IpGIs3AXDS— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) March 21, 2023
Palestinian prisoners declared a massive hunger strike in late August 2022, demanding the suspension of restrictions introduced by the Israeli government on prison life after the Gilboa prison break in September 2021. The strike was called off on 1 September, on its first day, following an agreement with the Israeli authorities, where the prisoners' demands were met.
Following his appointment as security minister in January, Ben-Gvir vowed to resume the suspended restrictions and began to introduce new measures. Palestinian prisoners responded by launching a "disobedience" campaign, refusing to step out of their cells for counting and refusing to go out on courtyard time.
The "disobedience" actions lasted 36 days, met by Israeli prison authorities with raids into Palestinians’ cells, solitary confinements and transfers of Palestinian prisoners between jails, leading up to the hunger strike announced on Tuesday. The strike is expected to be the largest by Palestinian prisoners since 2004.
Israel currently holds 4780 Palestinians in its jails, including 29 women, 160 children and around 1,000 detainees without charges under the "administrative detention" system.