Twelve things you should know about the strike
Over 1,100 prisoners have been on hunger strike for better prison conditions since April 17th. Marwan Barghouthi’s health is already in serious decline. He is taking only water and salt and refusing medical treatment.
Prisoners are demanding regular visits and an end to deliberate medical negligence, solitary confinement, administrative detention, and a long list of other demands.
Israeli prisons have punished hungers strikers by suspending family visits, preventing lawyers from visiting and putting leaders of the strike in solitary confinement.
Barghouthi has been threatened with prosecution for publishing an article in the New York Times setting out the prisoners’ demands. Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Minister for Intelligence, has called for his execution on Twitter.
In the article Barghouthi describes hunger striking as, “the most peaceful form of resistance available – it inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells”.
Some members of Israel’s government have also suggested shutting down The New York Times bureau in Jerusalem as a punishment for publishing his article.
According to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population.
Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners – over 30 years.
According to the US State Department, these prisoners face harsher conditions than Israeli criminals, including increased use of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for parole and solitary confinement.
Israel labels the prisoners as “terrorists” but their former prime minister Menachem Begin is regarded as a hero for his role commanding the militant Irgun movement which carried out the 1949 bombing of the King David Hotel that left 91 dead.
The Israeli court service boasted in its annual report that the conviction rate for Palestinian suspects charged in its military courts in the West Bank is 99.74 per cent – without explaining that suspects stay longer in jail if they plead not guilty than if they plead guilty.
The UK media has met the strike with an almost total news blackout. Even the Guardian has not reported on the strike since the day it started – April 17th.
On May 6th as the strikers entered the 19th day of the strike a day of solidarity was be marked by vigils and demonstrations in 20 cities across the UK, including the one pictured next to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, London.