by Stephen Lendman
Palestinian hunger strikers redefined courage. Mass willingness to die for justice is unprecedented.
On May 13, they reiterated their dignity or death steadfastness. More on that below.
Reports about where things stand leave unanswered questions. On Sunday, Haaretz headlined "Israel, Palestinian prisoners on verge of deal to end hunger strike," saying:
A Fatah Central Committee member claims the Israel Prison Service (IPS) will present strikers an agreement on May 14. Egyptian officials are mediating on behalf of Palestinians.
On May 14, the International Middle East Media Center headlined "Israel to Present a Deal on Hunger Striking Prisoners," saying:
The Palestinian Prisoner Association said "Israel will present a deal that will include references to administrative detention, solitary confinement, and visiting permits for Gazan families."
On May 14, Maan News headlined "Egypt brokers deal to end hunger strike," saying:
An unnamed Palestinian source close to ongoing talks said Egypt struck a deal that includes "Israel's acceptance of prisoners' demands in exchange for ending the hunger strike."
Final details were being resolved. An official announcement would follow. Israeli officials didn't comment.
Late Monday, news broke. Strike leaders and IPS officials agreed on terms. They include:
Israel will make specific accusations or release administrative detainees at the end of their terms.
Solitary confinement will end within 72 hours. All detainees are included.
Family visit bans will end. The punitive Shalit Law imposing them will be revoked.
Prison conditions overall will improve. Without details, it's unclear what this means.
Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman said all prisoners must end hunger strikes within 72 hours for concessions to hold.
Long-term strikers Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla refuse to stop unless freed immediately. Addameer said Bilal continues to deteriorate dramatically. He slips in and out of consciousness. His family is being used to pressure him to eat. He's so weak he could go any time.
On May 13, the Samidoun Palestinian Solidarity Network headlined "Statement No. 7 of the Strike Leadership," saying:
Prisoners reasserted their "all of our demands" steadfastness or death. Martyrdom approaches. Partial settlements are unacceptable. Yielding short of "epic humanitarian struggle for justice" fulfillment defeats why this battle was fought.
They "strongly and firmly swear (to) continue (their) battle of the empty stomachs, whatever the costs may be, until we achieve the minimum of our demands."
They named three but have others that matter. They thanked Egypt for not "leav(ing them) to face this battle alone." They "affirm(ed) categorically that (they won't) end (their) strike without promptly achieving (their) demands."
They accept the supreme sacrifice. They're "not amateurs in hunger. Death is easier than disrespect for (their) dignity, so (they) swear (they) will live with dignity or die."
Since strikes began, Israel retaliated harshly. Prisoners have been beaten, isolated, and denied essential rights, including medical care, as well as family and lawyer visits. They've also been transferred to remote detention facilities.
Nearly 5,000 prisoners are held. Hundreds are uncharged. From 2,500 to 3,000 refuse food. Around 1,100 are reported ill. Except for pain medication, medical care is denied. Hundreds suffer from serious diseases. Dozens of children are affected.
On May 11, Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya warned of serious consequences if any hunger striker dies, saying:
"You must realize that the hunger strike is not a party, and we could be surprised by the death of some of the prisoners."
Key international community leaders remain silent or said too little to matter. Obama said nothing. Neither did other administration and congressional members.
According to the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR), over 100 parliamentarians signed a petition calling for ending horrific conditions in Israel's gulag.
Their campaign "address(es) the undemocratic treatment of civilians who are detained without charge or trial for indefinite amounts of time, often secluded in solitary confinement in cramped cells with little to no sunlight or food."
They also called on EU High Representative Catherine Ashton to intervene on behalf of prisoner rights.
America's scoundrel media barely acknowledge what's ongoing. Virtually none did until well into the struggle. It's hard to ignore but they try. Support for Israel alone matters.
Israeli security forces confront hunger strike demonstrators brutally. In early May, arrests outside Ramleh Prison were made.
On May 7, Adalah demanded a criminal investigation into their illegal arrest and abuse, saying:
In custody, "police harassment includ(ed) physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, and violations of the demonstrators' rights under Israeli law. Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn submitted the complaint demanding an urgent criminal investigation."
Police violently attacked them. Tasers were used. Beatings followed. Handcuffed in custody they were brutalized. Women arrested were sexually harassed and threatened with rape.
Police wanted protesters jailed. They faced charges in court. Secret evidence was used. Adalah attorney Orna Kohn said Israel systematically abuses Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who exercise their assembly and free expression rights.
"As on many other occasions," she said, "the police did not hesitate to end a legal demonstration using violence. There is nothing in the law that allows them to do this."
Sixteen-year old Ward Kayal said police attacked her and others. "They put us on the ground and started beating us. I have bruises all over my body. I suffer from a (blood pressure related) medical condition, and am being treated with medicine."
After arrest, "they hand-and leg-cuffed us all, as they continued to use tasers while cursing and humiliating us."
"I told the police, as did my mother who also participated in the protest, that I suffer from a medical condition and to allow me to take the medicine and see a doctor."
While cuffed, "they pushed me down the stairs, beat me with their fists and tasers, and forced me to use the bathroom while the door was open to humiliate me. Four hours later I was too weak to stand on my feet and fainted."
"When they saw that my condition was bad, they took me to a hospital nearby, while hand- and leg-cuffed, and in my medical record it stated that my blood pleasure was 150/122 and that I should take medicine. They kept me under custody and I was deprived any medicine until I was released the following day."
She and others were interrogated until around 3AM. "I find the support of the hunger strikers of national importance....The support should be more active, especially since it has a significant meaning for the strikers (to know) of our support, which gives them hope to go on with their struggle."
Twenty-seven year old Thaira Zoabi also suffered injuries. She was attacked, lifted off the ground with her kuffiyeh (traditional scarf). She couldn't breathe. She was badly bruised.
She saw one protester's mouth forcibly opened and spat into. Police spat on her face. While undergoing a full body search, she was threatened with rape. Despite what happened, she and others won't cease their activism for justice.
On May 14, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) strongly denounced Israel's horrific treatment of Palestinian hunger strikers. It also condemned Israeli prison conditions overall.
It called for the immediate release of "arbitrarily detained" prisoners. Those on protracted hunger strikes are especially at risk. It highlighted the inviolability of fundamental international laws. It stressed that human rights can't be comprised for security concerns, real or contrived.
On May 14, Addameer headlined "International Action for Palestinian Prisoners' Hunger Strike on Monday, May 14," saying:
Addameer and the General Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Palestine urged all Palestinians and supporters worldwide to observe a 10 minute activity-free period at 9:00AM GMT (noon in Jerusalem) in solidarity with prisoners striking for justice.
Monday marked Bilal Diab's 77th day without food. On day 75, he wrote his family:
"We will have victory, but only through either martyrdom or immediate release -- not any partial solution as claimed by the prisons administration."
"I am still determined, patient and focused on continuing against conspiracies, threats and solitary confinement by the fascist Israeli prison administration."
He told family members to bury him at ground level according to Islamic teaching. He asked them to distribute sweets at his funeral to celebrate what he struggled and died for.
He requested Khader Adnan's presence to lower him into his grave. He thanked everyone who supported him. As of May 14, he's alive but faces imminent death. So does Thaer Halahla. Both reached day 77. Others refused food for weeks.
On day 75 without food, Thaer Halahel wrote his two-year-old daughter. He explained why he hasn't seen her. He said in part:
"My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my first born child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with."
"When you grow up you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no guilt but their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence, you will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission, that he will never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity."
"Lamar my love: that day will come, and I will make it up to you for everything, and tell you the whole story, and your days that will follow will be more beautiful, so let your days pass now and wear your prettiest clothes, run and then run again in the gardens of your long life, go forward and forward nothing is behind you but the past, and this is your voice I hear all the time as a melody of freedom."
"(W)e are righteous," he said. "(R)ight will always prevail against injustice and wrong doers."
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
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