UN raises alarm over Palestinian hunger strikers –– Free them now!

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THE United Nations (UN) has raised the alarm over the health condition of hunger-striking Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement on Wednesday, ‘I am especially alarmed by reports of punitive measures by the Israeli authorities against the hunger strikers, including restricted access to lawyers and the denial of family visits.’

Zeid, the UN human rights chief, added that, according to international human rights law, the right to consult an attorney was a ‘fundamental protection’ and should ‘never’ be violated. He also said the health condition of the hundreds of hunger strikers had ‘deteriorated significantly’.

Zeid’s comments came as lawyers with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society announced that at least 60 imprisoned hunger strikers in Ohalei Kedar prison had been moved to infirmaries, set up in the prison, for observation. Many of the hospitalised inmates were in serious condition, the lawyers added.

Since April 17, more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have been refusing to eat food as part of a protest action dubbed the ‘Freedom and Dignity Strike’, led by imprisoned Marwan Barghouthi, a top leader of the Palestinian Fatah Movement. The strikers are demanding basic rights, such as an end to administrative detention, solitary confinement, and deliberate medical negligence.

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has been punishing the hunger-striking prisoners by placing them in solitary confinement and denying them legal visits by their families and lawyers since the strike began on April 17, which also was the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Now, after the visit of Trump, Israel’s ruling group has become even more arrogant. Israel’s minister for military affairs says Tel Aviv does not require US approval to build new settlements in the occupied West Bank. ‘We did not ask for a green light, and we will not ask for a green light from the US,’ Avigdor Lieberman said in a Wednesday interview with Israel’s Army Radio.

The remarks came following US President Donald Trump’s two-day visit to East Jerusalem al-Quds and the Palestinian territories, during which Trump did not mention the word ‘settlements’ or ask Israel to respect the 1967 borders. Just two days after Trump’s visit, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed that the city’s Temple Mount and Western Wall, which Trump has just visited, will remain under Israel’s control ‘forever’.

He also revealed that the US has increased its military aid to Tel Aviv by tens of millions of dollars.

‘Three days ago, the US added another $75 million to the aid package,’ Netanyahu said. Under its September 2016 agreement, the US is already bankrolling Israel’s military spending to the tune of around $38 billion dollars effective from 2019 for the next 10 years. Under the deal, Israel will be allowed to upgrade most of its fighter aircraft, improve its ground forces’ mobility and strengthen its missile systems.

Washington has also been providing Israel with an additional $3.1 billion annually since a 2007 agreement with the administration of former President George W Bush. Trump had arrived in Israel from from Saudi Arabia where he signed a massive $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh. He views Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states as the stormtroopers to be used against Iran.

This reality means that the only deal that Trump will come up with for Palestine is one where Israel is allowed to absorb the occupied territories and where the bourgeoisiefied upper layers of Palestinian society are bribed with Saudi gold to accept the arrangement.

Such a deal can only be cemented over the dead bodies of the hunger strikers, and the crushing of a massive Palestinian insurrection that these deaths will cause. This is why the working class in the West must take action now to support the rights of the Palestinian people and clamp an immediate boycott worldwide on Israel.

Western trade unions must agree that in the event of a Palestinian uprising they will give it their full economic, political and financial support until it is victorious!

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