The hunger strike that began with 1,000 participants in mid-April has now grown to 2,000 according to the the Palestinian prisoner support network Addameer.
The first prisoners to go on hunger strike, Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab, have now entered their 70th day without food and Israeli Physicians for Human Rights reports that they are “very close to death”. Both Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab are detained in what is known as “administrative detention” meaning that they have not been charged with any crime and have received no trial. Hassan Safadi is now on his 63rd day of hunger strike and his health is reported to be rapidly deteriorating. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel reports that on May 3rd Safadi was “held down by prison guards and forcefully given treatment by a prison doctor via an injection in his arm.” Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has pointed out that this forced injection is, “in strict violation of the principles of medical ethics and the guidelines of the World Medical Association and the Israeli Medical Association… Hassan also recounted having refused water for a several days until he was moved to Ramleh Prison medical clinic. Upon his arrival, he was beaten by prison guards, and the prison doctor refused to record the injuries sustained from the attack.”
The hunger strikers are demanding an end to the practice of administrative detention, which refers to the Israeli policy of indefinitely imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial. In addition, the hunger strikers are demanding an end to solitary confinement, the denial of family visits, and are requesting access to university education.
This mass hunger strike furthers the wave of resistance that began last December when Khader Adnan began his hunger strike on December 17th, 2011 to protest his arrest and imprisonment in administrative detention. The Israeli authorities were forced to agree to release Adnan after mass solidarity protests began spreading across the world. Soon afterwards, on February 16th, 2012, Hana Shalabi began her hunger strike against her imprisonment in administrative detention and after 43 days Israel was forced to release her into the occupied territories.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights and Princeton University professor Richard Falk aptly points out that this hunger strike has received almost no attention in the corporate media. Instead, Falk writes, they seem to be obsessed with the plight of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist who recently escaped house detention in China. Falk blasts liberal columnists such as Thomas Friedman who have been for years been using their privileged positions to preach non-violent resistance to the Palestinians and yet are now completely silent in the face of mass Palestinian non-violent resistance. In fact, as Falk points out, The New York Times did not even devote “one inch” of space to the hunger strikes until the 65th day of Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab’s hunger strike.
The United States currently gives complete and unconditional military, economic, and diplomatic support to the Israeli government.