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Hungry for Freedom

palestinian hunger strikers challenge israel prison system

Barely a week goes by these days without a Palestinian detainee announcing a hunger strike in protest at their treatment by the Israeli prison system. But what are portrayed as isolated incidents are in fact turning into a cascade of resistance. Now, as Palestinian's prepare to mark Prisoner's Day on the 17th April, the leaders of those incarcerated have called for a mass open-ended hunger strike to commence on the same day.

They are in good company. At the end of March, Hana Shalabi was finally released from administrative detention, ending her 44-day hunger strike. However, despite being in critical condition she was exiled to Gaza instead of being able to return to her family home of Burqin in the northern West Bank. Shalabi was one of the prisoners exchanged, to much fanfare, when Hamas agreed to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit back in October 2011. There were approximately twenty other Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in solidarity with her, a small percentage of more than 300 Palestinians currently being held without charge.

Another striker, Hasan al-Safadi, was rushed to hospital on Friday 7th April after fainting on the 33rd day of his refusal to take food. Also in hospital are Omar Abu Shalal, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla. All are being held without charge.

These protests follow the agreement reached between Israel and Khader Adnan, whose administrative detention will not be renewed beyond April 17th following his 67-day hunger strike beginning in December last year. Still, he remained shackled to a hospital bed in northern Israel, with armed guards overseeing his recovery. Adnan was previously held in the notorious Ofer Prison, partly run by Anglo-Danish security company G4S.

Israel's administrative detention policy allows the state to hold detainees for unlimited periods of time without trial or formal charges. Initial detention is scheduled to last for six months, but this is simply extended as the expiry date approaches, and can be renewed indefinitely.

Whilst exact figures are vague, as with previous prisoner swaps a number of Palestinian's released alongside Shalabi in the Shalit deal were swiftly re-arrested and again disappeared into the Israeli prison system. Some have reportedly been killed in airstrikes. Many others were banished to Gaza, or exiled to neighbouring countries.

For what it is worth, the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer, by an occupying force, of a population from occupied territories – the same as it prohibits the transfer of a population into an occupied territory (as Israel is also doing with it's colonisation of the West Bank).  Israel's barbaric treatment of the Palestinian prisoners flies in the face of any modicum of human rights, and is yet another of Israels grave breaches of international law. It's time for international solidarity activists to step up and call Israel to account.

International Solidarity Movement: http://palsolidarity.org/

Brighton-Jordan Valley Solidarity: http://www.brightonpalestine.org

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Twitter: @SchNEWS