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Show solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails

May 4, 2017, midnight

The prisoners’ struggle is a symbol of dignity and epitomises Palestinian aspirations for their long-awaited liberation from 50 years of occupation. Prof./Amb. Manuel Hassassian

Today is day 19 of the biggest hunger strike launched in the last two decades by Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. Nearly three weeks into their ordeal, the hunger strikers will be feeling dizziness, acute exhaustion and will be unable to stand up. Soon other effects will set in such as vomiting, a slowed heartbeat and difficulties with vision.

The strike for ‘Freedom and Dignity’, launched on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, 17th April, is over 1000 strong and is led by imprisoned resistance leader, Marwan Barghouti. The prisoners are protesting the deprivation of their basic rights under international law which amount to grave breaches of the Geneva Convention. Today leaders of other Palestinian political factions will be joining the strike.

The prisoners’ demands are clear and simple. They object to being subjected to imprisonment without charge or by trial under administrative detention and to being put into solidarity confinement. They demand that Israel stop denying their right to family visits and their right to contact their families by phone. They insist that they receive adequate medical care and are not subjected to medical negligence.

These demands put Israel on the spot as the occupying power which, under international law, must address these legitimate human rights. Yesterday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Dr. Riyad al-Malki met with the Red Cross in Geneva to discuss the prisoners’ hunger strike and Israeli human rights violations.

There has been wide spread international support for the hunger strike with activities and events almost daily since its onset, from Milan to Athens, from Lyon to Galway from Sydney to New York, including a sit-in at the European Parliament last week. There have been many events across the UK and many more planned to show solidarity, including a demonstration and vigil in London this coming Saturday on 6th May.

The UK government should play its part and put pressure on Israel to desist from arbitrary, restrictive and punitive measures against Palestinian prisoners in its jails, who number 6500 today, including 300 children, 56 women and 500 administrative detainees (i.e.those detained without charge on ‘secret evidence’ which is a clear breach of international law).

Since the Israeli occupation of 1967, 50 years ago, 800,000 Palestinians have been detained in Israeli prisons amounting to 20% of the Palestinian population in occupied Palestinian territory. This is one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world and is emblematic of Israel’s inhumane and brutal occupation and is a cruel mechanism of intimidation.

The hunger strikers urgently need support for their brave struggle for their legitimate rights and democratic governments everywhere, including here in the UK, should give this support by pressuring Israel to abide by international law in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners. We also call on the British public to write to their MPs to urge the government to act swiftly to advocate for the rights of the hunger strikers and censure Israeli anti-humanitarian abuses.

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