Why we are on hunger strike in Israeli prisons

 

Daughter of Abdullah Barghoutti, sentenced to several life sentences, reads a letter to his father

 
By Marwan Barghouthi.
 
 
[More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners began on Monday 17 April an indefinite hunger strike to demand respect for the basic rights of prisoners and an end to "the application of administrative detention, torture, unfair trials, Degrading and inhuman treatment, medical negligence, detention of children and deprivation of basic rights such as family visits or the right to education. "
 
Currently, there are 6,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 57 women, 300 minors, 13 parliamentarians and 18 journalists. In addition, 800 are in need of medical care and about 500 remain in prison under the so-called "administrative detention", which allows the arrest of a person without charges against him for a period of six months, which can be extended for a further six months.
 
The protest coincided with the National Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners held every 17 April since 1974, led by Al Fatah's jailed leader, Marwan Barghouthi. For now, the Israeli response has been to suspend the visits of all prisoners, to isolate Barghouthi, who has been transferred to another prison, and to suppress the demonstrations of support to the prisoners.
 
We reproduce below the letter of Marwan Barghouthi, written in the Hadarim prison in Israel, published in The New York Times on Tuesday 18/04/2017 ndt].
 
Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness and a victim of the illegal Israeli system of arbitrary collective detention and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Having exhausted all other options, I have decided that the only option to resist such ill-treatment was to go on a hunger strike.
 
About 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to participate in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we celebrate here as the Day of the Prisoners. Doing hunger strikes is the most peaceful form of resistance there is. It causes only those who participate in it and those who are dear to them, in the hope that their empty stomach and sacrifice will help the message find an echo beyond the limits of its dark cell.
 
Decades of experience have proved that the inhumane Israeli system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the courage of the prisoners and the nation to which they belong, inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their family and society, making use Of humiliating measures to force them to submit. Despite such treatment, we will not submit.
 
Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in many ways for nearly 70 years, and has enjoyed impunity for its acts. It has committed serious violations of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinians; Prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.
 
I was only 15 when I was first arrested. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to separate my legs when I was standing naked in the interrogation room before hitting my genitals. I fainted from the pain and the fall left a scar on my forehead for the rest of my life. The interrogator scoffed after me, saying that I will never be born because people like me only give life to terrorists and murderers.
 
Some years later I was again in an Israeli prison, on a hunger strike, when my first child was born. Instead of the candy we usually give to celebrate such news, I distributed salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18 years old, he was in turn arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
 
The oldest of my four children is now a man of 31 years. However, I remain here, continuing this struggle for freedom at the same time as thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and with the support of many people around the world. The arrogance of the occupant, the oppressor and his supporters deaf to this simple truth: our chains will be broken before we are, because it is in human nature to respond to the demand for freedom whatever its price.
 
Israel has built almost all its prisons in Israel more than in the occupied territories. By doing so, he has illegally and by force transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity and has used this situation to restrict visits by families and to inflict suffering on prisoners with long journeys in painful conditions. It has transformed fundamental rights that must be guaranteed in application of international law - including some obtained with great effort by the previous hunger strikes - in privileges that its penitentiary service decides to grant us or retire.
 
Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest report by the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such acts. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a priority objective of the Israeli policy of imposing collective punishment.
 
Through our hunger strike, we try to put an end to such ill-treatment.
 
Over the past five decades, according to the Addameer association for the defense of human rights, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained in Israel - that is, the equivalent of 40% of the male population in the Palestinian Territories. Today, about 6,500 of them remain imprisoned. Some of them have the lugubrious distinction of having the world records of longer periods of detention of political prisoners. There are hardly any families in Palestine who have not endured suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or more of their members.
 
How to account for this incredible state of affairs?
 
Israel has created a double legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, which ensures quasi-impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. The courts of Israel are a parody of justice, and are clearly instruments of colonial and military occupation. According to the State Department, the Palestinian conviction rate in military courts is nearly 90%.
 
Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians jailed by Israel are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, walkers, family members of the prisoners. And all this with a single objective: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.
 
Instead, however, Israeli prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once again that the movement of the prisoners is the compass that guides our fight, the fight for Liberty and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new stage in our long march towards freedom.
 
Israel has attempted to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize their violations of law, including arbitrary collective detention, torture, punitive measures and stringent restrictions. In the Israeli will to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences in prison and 40 years in prison in a process turned into a political spectacle denounced by international observers.
 
Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Any national liberation movement in history may recall similar practices. That is why so many people have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid at our side. The International Campaign for the Liberation of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners, which the emblematic anti-apartheid figure Ahmed Kathrada and my wife Fadwa launched in 2013 from the former cell of Nelson Mandela on the island of Robben Island, Has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics from around the world.
 
Their solidarity reveals Israel's moral and political failure. Rights are not conferred by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights inherent to humanity, which all nations and all human beings should enjoy. The Palestinians will be no exception. Only the fact of ending the occupation will put an end to this injustice and mark the birth of peace.
 

Letter published in the New York Times on 04/18/2017, translated from http://www.france-palestine.org/Pourquoi-nous-sommes-en-greve-de-la-faim-dans-les-prisons-d-Israel
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