Roughly 2,000 Palestinian prisoners held in various Israeli prisons are currently on a hunger strike, according to Palestinian organizations in Ramallah.
The strike was started by prisoners loyal to Islamic Jihad, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in opposition to prison sentences being handed down without trials.
Since April 17, the hunger strike has spread to include prisoners that received trials, in an attempt to raise awareness of what they are explaining as a policy of «double punishment» in jail, specifically the poor prison conditions that prisoners are calling a humiliating violation of their human rights.
Three prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal have erected a tent in support of the hunger strike in Ramallah’s Clock Square. Similar tents have been set up in other Palestinian towns.
One of the former prisoners behind the tent initiative, Nijar Tamimi, said that during the seventies and eighties, prisoner hunger strikes succeeded in bringing Palestinian society together in support of the Prisoner’s movement and its demands.
Tamimi, who was sentenced to life in prison 19 years ago for the killing of a settler, praised the unity and support that he said was responsible for prisoners succeeding in their struggle.
In the late sixties, for example, it was considered a significant achievement when combs and mattresses were brought into prisons. Later on books and writing materials were obtained. Now, however, it seems that Palestinian society has lost interest in the prisoner’s conditions.
At any given time, there are between ten and twenty people at the solidarity tent. Some stay for a short time, others spend hours there. Loud speakers, set up at the tent compete with the noise of the busy street and the cars, as they play rhythmic songs describing the ongoing Palestinian struggle and life in prison.
On Thursday, two relatives of prisoners sitting at the tent complained: «Today, people are more interested in shopping, and their salaries.»
Fahri Barghouti, one of the initiators of the solidarity tent, who was imprisoned for 34 years, agreed with the assessment with a sad smile on his face. Today, he said, people are interested in material things.
At the solidarity tent, people are hoping that the success of hunger striking prisoners Khader Adnan andHana Shalabi continues, and that their efforts lead to a renewed public interest and international attention.
Prisoners on hunger strikes are fighting against the prison authority, which continues to implement punishment policy that went into effect while Gilad Shalit was held in captivity, specifically, the prohibition on family visits from Gaza, and the prohibition on university studies.
Prisoners are opposing solitary confinement being used for long periods of time, sometimes lasting ten years, as well as the increasing prices of fines, and unreasonable visiting conditions.
According to prison reports, the Israel Prison Service is using drastic means to suppress the hunger strike. In some cases, prisoner’s personal effects have been confiscated, doctor visits have not been allowed, and prisoners organizing the strike have been separated.
In other cases, salt, which prisoners have been adding to water to prevent rapid loss of minerals has been taken away, and family visitation rights for prisoners on hunger strike have been suspended.