Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike - A Test for Israeli Arrogance

Media Briefs
August 18, 2015


Israel, the occupying power, systematically abuses Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, holding them as hostages to exert pressure on the Palestinian leadership to pay a hefty political price for their release. Since 1967, Israel arrested more than 800,000 Palestinians and incarcerated them in Israeli jails. Today, there are around 5,820 Palestinian political prisoners scattered over 20 Israeli jails, detention and investigation centers,1 and more than 450 administrative detainees, including 10 elected Legislative Council members. Israeli practice constitutes a flagrant violation of the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law, the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and the third agreement on the legal protection of prisoners. The international community faces a moral test and has a political, humanitarian and legal obligation to end the occupation, and enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and return. 

Hunger Strike Challenges the Arbitrary Administrative Detention Policy

Administrative detention is a measure that allows the Israeli military occupation authorities to detain Palestinians for indefinite time periods based on “secret information” without pressing specific charges and without appearance before the court. Israel uses administrative detention as a “speedy and effective substitute for criminal proceedings,” thus circumventing the international procedural protection rights of the accused. Pursuant to the Israeli law, administrative detention orders could go up to 6 months. Administrative orders are renewed automatically.  

At the time when Israel exercises all forms of oppressive measures against the Palestinian people. Palestinian prisoners have committed themselves to peaceful and legitimate strategies to confront and defy oppression and injustice and defend their righteous cause. Palestinian prisoners opted for starting a hunger strike in reaction to Israeli policies.

Through Israel’s military occupation, Palestinian prisoners have engaged in collective and individual ‘hunger strike” battles to acquire their basic rights. Palestinian prisoners held hunger strikes in Ramla jail and Kfar Youna detention center in 1969; in 1970 female prisoners held a hunger strike in Neve Tresta jail; in 1977 a hunger strike was held in Nafha and Ashqelon jails; a hunger strike was also held in Jneid prison in 1980. In 2000 and 2011, Palestinian prisoners launched an open hunger strike calling for an end to administrative detention, solitary confinement and medical negligence, and in 2012 individual hunger strikes were launched by Khader Adnan and female prisoner Hana Shalabi. Many other prisoners have also striked including Bilal Dhiab, Thaer Halahleh, Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawneh, Mohammad Allan and others who through their sacrifices laid the foundation for a behind-the-bars peaceful protest against the Israeli unjust practices.   

Palestinian prisoners are determined to continue their protests and strikes against Israeli oppressive measures and embarrass Israel before the world. Desperately, the Israeli Prison Service is using all its power to suppress and control the protests of Palestinian prisoners. A few days back the comrades of Mohammad Allan in Israeli jails, Samer Issawi, Mohammad Aqra and Abdel Majid Khdeirat, decided to launch a hunger strike in solidarity with him.2

Forced-Feeding Law

The Israeli Parliament (Knesset) passed last July the Force-Feeding Law which allows the “occupying authorities to force feed Palestinian prisoners when their lives are endangered.” Force feeding is a blatant violation of the rights of prisoners and it poses a real threat to their life. In 1980, for instance, Palestinians hunger striking prisoners in Nafha prison were force fed resulting in the death of two prisoners Ali Jaafari and Rasem Abu Halaweh. Three years later prisoner Ishak Maragha lost his life as a result of force feeding.3

The international community, including the International Red Cross, the World Medical Association and the United Nations, have recognized the right of prisoners of sound mind to go on a hunger strike. Force-feeding has been labeled a violation on the ban of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The World Medical Association holds that it is unethical for a doctor to participate in force-feeding. Put simply, force-feeding violates international law.

The Force-Feeding Law is the latest invention of the Israeli criminal institution and it is tantamount to torture. In fact, the law gives the green light to end the lives of open hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. It merits mention that the Israeli Physicians Guild has thus far rejected the new law.

Prisoner Lawyer Mohammad Nasser Eddin Allan

“Administrative detention is a return to bondage and slavery, and I refuse to be a slave to anyone. I relish hunger as long as freedom is my goal. I am hunger striking for a just cause, either to bring me before the court or release me.”4

Lawyer Mohammad Nasser, from Einabous village, was arrested in 6 November 2014. He has been subjected to administrative detention since the beginning of 2015. In June 2015, he launched an open hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention. Lately, his health has sharply deteriorated.5 Allan lies now in the ICU at Barzilai Hospital. He is now in coma and maintains breathing through artificial respiration. He receives fluids and salt by intravenous drip.6 

Allan’s lawyer confirmed, “The health condition of the prisoner as described by physicians from the Red Cross and lawyers who have visited him leaves no room for doubt that he has lost sense of time and place.”7

PM Netanyahu has intervened in person to prevent Palestinian physician Hani Abdeen from visiting and examining prisoner Mohammad Allan, this goes to show the extent of official political level involvement and the fear that the Israeli establishment will allow the prisoner to die as means to stop hunger strikes. The Israeli Supreme Court announced that they will hold a hearing on Wednesday and consider a settlement on Allaan’s release from administrative detention on the condition he is expelled for four years.8 

Attorneys from the legal rights organizations Adalah reject the Israeli proposal, stating that the proposal "proves that by ordering administrative detention, Israel's objective is to impose a lengthy and harsh punishment on detainees without charge or trial for political reasons, not legal."9

In response to the appeal, the Israeli State Prosecutor stated that she is willing to come to a settlement on the condition that Allan is expelled for four years, otherwise he will remain in Israeli custody as per the Israeli High Court of Justice decision.

The Palestinian Position

The case of Palestinian prisoners and its legal, judicial, human and political dimensions head the list of priorities in the Palestinian national agenda. The government of Palestine continues political, legal and diplomatic efforts in the international arena with the hope of ending Israel’s impunity and enshrining accountability. The occupied State of Palestine views with concern the general outbreak of racism in Israel and the passing of discriminatory laws, especially the Force-Feeding Law that violates all international conventions and contradicts the position of the international community. The international community recognizes the right of political prisoners to hunger strike as explicitly articulated by the UN, Red Cross and the World Medical Association.

Palestine demands the international community and international civil, legal and medical organizations to deter Israel and hold it accountable for violating the Geneva Conventions. The Palestinian leadership also calls on special rapporteurs to open Israeli jails for inspection by international authorities in order to have a closer look at the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners. Palestine calls for the immediate

  • Unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners,   
  • Cancellation of discriminatory laws and legislations in particular administrative detention policy. Israel continues to illegally deprive Palestinian prisoners of the right to freedom and fair trial contradicting international humanitarian laws particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Vienna Convention and Hague Conference of 1907, and UN Charter and International Resolutions of 1960;
  • Ending physical and psychological torture of Palestinian prisoners during interrogation, providing prisoners with proper health care services, putting an end to solitary confinement, respecting the immunity of Palestinian parliamentarians and releasing them, and complying with international standards in dealing with prisoners.
  • Putting an end to the transfer of Palestinian prisoners to jails inside Israel pursuant to Geneva Conventions.
  • Releasing the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners arrested prior to 1993 in accordance with Sharm Al-Sheikh Agreement and setting free prisoners who have been re-arrested after their release. 
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