WE SALUTE the victory of the heroic 1,600 Palestinian hunger strikers who fought Israel to the brink of death, and remain alive having secured a number of victories.
One of them is that the Israelis were forced to negotiate with Marwan al Barghouthi, one of the main leaders of the Palestinian revolution, who they had tried to discredit by faking news that he was breaking the hunger strike.
Not a single Palestinian, nor anyone who is even remotely acquainted with this heroic leader believed a word of this foul calumny, and the Israelis had to eat their own words and in a matter of days negotiate with a team of leaders that included Barghouthi.
They knew that the hunger strikers were deadly serious and prepared to die for their cause, and that their death would touch off an explosion of revolutionary anger that would spread throughout the Middle East and well beyond the Arab capitals to the rest of the world. This is why the Israeli ruling group finally went for talks.
The Chairman of the Detainees Affairs Commission, Issa Qaraqe, said on Sunday that 80% of the demands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, have been met by the Israeli authorities and that the strike was suspended after 41 days.
He added that the prisoners suspended the ‘Freedom and Dignity’, strike following more than 20 hours of negotiations between IPS officials and prison leaders in Ashkelon prison, including Marwan al Barghouthi.
The main demands that have been met are:
• Improving the standards for telephone communication between the prisoners and their family members outside the prison.
• Lifting the security prohibition on hundreds of family members who are banned from visiting their imprisoned relatives.
• Initial acceptance for increasing the number of family visits for Palestinian prisoners from Gaza.
• Improving the standards for visits of family members of the second degree to their imprisoned relatives.
• Improving the imprisonment conditions of female prisoners and gathering them in one prison.
• Improving detention conditions of minor prisoners.
• Allowing the prisoners to receive meals while they are being transferred between prisons.
• Improving the standards for taking pictures with family members during family visitation.
• Improving the system of ‘canteens’ in terms of quality and quantity.
• Resolving the issue of overcrowding in prisons.
• Providing an ICU ambulance in multiple prisons.
Also yesterday, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, according to Peace Now. A message from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was read during the rally, which said: ‘There isn’t a voice stronger than the voice of just and inclusive peace, just like there isn’t a voice stronger than the right of people for self-determination and freedom from the burden of occupation,’ the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
‘The only way to end the conflict and the fight against terror in the region and the entire world is a solution of two states based on the 1967 borders, Palestine alongside Israel,’ was the Abbas’ message. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List coalition that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, delivered a speech, saying that: ‘The state which I am a citizen of occupies my people. We must free both peoples of the occupation.’
It is clear that the Palestinian masses are ready to fight to get their state and that more and more Israelis are beginning to realise that while the Palestinians are in chains they will never be free. There will be have to be peace talks, and the hunger strikers will have to be freed so that these peace talks can take place, with leaders like Marwan al Barghouthi leading the Palestinian delegation.
Workers in the UK must play their part in this vital struggle. One thing that they can do almost immediately is to throw out the Tories on June 8th and return Labour, which has committed itself in its Election Manifesto to the immediate recognition of the State of Palestine. Another is to clamp a trade boycott onto Israel, to last until Israel recognises the Palestinian state.