Palestine: Agreement Made to End Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

On May 14 over 2000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ended their hunger strike after periods varying from 28 to 77 days. This decision to end their strike came after an agreement was reached between the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Palestinian committee in charge of prisoner affairs to ensure the basic rights of prisoners would be met.

The agreement came a day before the 64th Nakba Day on May 15, an annual day of commemoration of the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities following the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

The agreement consisted of five main provisions:

The prisoners would end their hunger strike following the signing of the agreement; there will be an end to the use of long-term isolation of prisoners for “security” reasons, and the 19 prisoners [currently in isolation] will be moved out of isolation within 72 hours; family visits for first degree relatives to prisoners from the Gaza Strip and for families from the West Bank who have been denied visits based on vague “security reasons” will be reinstated within one month; the Israeli intelligence agency guarantees that there will be a committee formed to facilitate meetings between the IPS and prisoners in order to improve their daily conditions; there will be no new administrative detention orders or renewals of administrative detention orders for the 308 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, unless the secret files, upon which administrative detention is based, contain “very serious” information.

Awareness about the hunger strike reached a peak in the days before the agreement was announced. On Facebook there was a huge public display of support as thousands of users changed their profile picture in solidarity with the 2500 Palestinian prisoners. The pictures showed blindfolded Palestinians in prison uniform.

Solidarity on Facebook. Image posted by ‏@tounsiwaftakhir.

Additionally, almost instantaneous updates on the strike were provided on Twitter under the hashtag #PalHunger. Palestinian blogger and activist Linah Al Saafin confirmed that Thaer Halahleh, a prisoner on hunger strike for 77 days, ended his strike following the agreement:

@LinahAlsaafin: BREAKING: #ThaerHalahleh's father just called me; told me Thaer has agreed to end his hunger strike on the morning of 15/5 Tears #PalHunger

Nevertheless, only two days after the agreement there was a general call to continue supporting the hunger strike, because administrative detention had not ended. The director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Sahar Francis, explained in an interview conducted by Electronic Intifada:

The success in this hunger strike doesn’t mean that the problem of the Palestinian political prisoners has reached an end, and they would be now living in perfect conditions, no. As well, the changes with administrative detention — until we get to monitor it on the practical level, we have to wait and see how it would work.

It is now apparent that a number of prisoners have resumed their hunger strike protesting Israel’s continued mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners, such as holding them in isolation.

Learning from the Palestinian hunger strikers: dignity first. Cartoon by Carlos Latuff.

Addameer provides constant updates on Twitter about prisoners. On May 17 it tweeted:

‏@Addameer_ps: Ahmad Sa'adat was taken out of isolation today after over 3 years and moved to Shatta prison

@Addameer_ps: As far as we know, there are at least 4 hunger strikers now: #MohammadTaj, #MahmoudSarsak, #AkramRikhawi & #MohammadAbdelAziz

@Addameer_ps: Because he's still on hunger strike, #MahmoudSarsak is not even guaranteed release date of 22 Aug (next date of judicial review)

An agreement may have been reached, but the Palestinian prisoners will not rest until their demands are met. They are ready to strike again if the agreement's terms are not implemented.


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