ARAB writers convening at the First Palestine Forum for the Arab Novel appealed on Wednesday to world governments to intervene to end the suffering of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The appeal went as follows:
‘We, the undersigned Arab writers who gathered at the First Palestine Forum for the Arab Novel in Ramallah from 7-11 May 2017, have been following up on the hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Twenty four days have passed since the beginning of the hunger strike, with Israel not responding to their legitimate demands, including medical treatment to the sick prisoners and the right of the prisoners to freely express their will, and with the world being silent towards the arbitrary actions against them, which are tantamount to war crimes.
‘This strike, carried out by the Palestinian prisoners in response to the arbitrary Israeli measures against them, is part of the right of the people of Palestine to self-determination, to live in dignity on their homeland and to realise their full rights, foremost of which the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
‘This appeal, made by us the Arab writers at the First Palestine Forum for the Arab Novel in light of the critical conditions experienced by the prisoners of dignity and freedom, is a call to all Arab peoples, writers, intellectuals and politicians of different attitudes and clusters to once again recognise the Arab right in Palestine. It is also a call for them to take the actions appropriate to our Arab culture in its historic battle against the Zionist culture, which targets the history and the achievements of our nation.
‘The undersigned hold the occupying authorities fully responsible for the lives of the prisoners, and call on all countries, peoples, organisations and intellectuals to intervene immediately to compel these authorities to respond to the demands of our prisoners who sacrifice their lives for their just cause. We at the same time stress that silence towards the Israeli measures against the hunger strikers legitimises their murder, and opens the door to further Israeli actions against them.
‘We appeal to the free writers in all Arab countries and abroad to support our prisoners and to highlight and support their legitimate rights, as well as to support the full rights of the Palestinian people. This is part of the Arab writer’s message, commitment and responsibilities. The cause of the Palestinian people is at the heart of this message and its ignited flame.’
• More than three months into his presidency, the United States President Donald Trump has still not reached a decision over whether to implement his campaign promise of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a White House spokesperson said on Wednesday, ahead of Trump’s planned visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory later this month.
Trump’s highly controversial campaign promise of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, should it be implemented, would in effect amount to American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, effectively torpedoing efforts to implement a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, warned in March that relocating the embassy in Tel Aviv would ‘explode the situation’ in the entire Middle East and North Africa. However, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that Trump ‘has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that’.
While US President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to move the embassy has been reiterated a number of times since his election, the Trump administration said at the end of January that it was still ‘too early’ to discuss the issue, and that details would be announced ‘soon’.
The new postponement of the decision comes as Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported on Thursday that the Israeli government was purposefully postponing a meeting to approve illegal settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory until after Trump’s visit.
Haaretz quoted an anonymous senior Israeli official as saying that the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had postponed a meeting by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee initially scheduled for this week to June, in order to avoid having the issue of illegal settlements become the focal point of Trump’s visit on May 22.
‘We didn’t want to hold discussions on the settlements close to Trump’s visit,’ the official told Haaretz. ‘The postponement was necessary.’ On the issue of Palestine, Trump has remained largely elusive, saying in February that when it comes to a solution for the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict he could ‘live with either’ a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favour of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Elsewhere across the occupied Palestinian territory, supporters of the hunger strikers, who entered the 24th day of their strike on Wednesday, organised a number of actions to show their backing of the prisoner movement. Nagham al-Khayat, the wife of hunger-striking prisoner Yasser Abu Bakr, called on the Palestinian society to escalate its support of prisoners on the ground, and demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) assume its responsibilities vis-a-vis the prisoners currently forgoing food to obtain basic rights.
‘We are not against elections, but we have demanded that they be postponed until after the end of the prisoners’ hunger strike, to no avail,’ al-Khayat said. ‘Today we demand that all those who still have a conscience boycott local elections on Saturday for the dignity of Palestinian prisoners.’
Al-Khayat also called on Fatah, the ruling party of the PA, to show its support of Marwan Barghouthi, the leader of the hunger strike movement, noting that the Fatah Central Committee had not commented until then on Israeli attempts to smear Barghouthi, notably by claiming that he had secretly been breaking his hunger strike.
Meanwhile, the media committee of the hunger strike announced that church bells would ring and mosques would broadcast takbir – ‘God is great’ – at noon on Thursday in the occupied Palestinian territory in a show of solidarity with the hunger strikers.
In the southern occupied West Bank, the municipality of Hebron sent letters to its 20 sister cities around the world detailing the difficult circumstances in which Palestinian prisoners were detained in Israeli custody, as well as the suppressive measures used against the hunger strikers by Israeli prison authorities.
Hebron municipality head Nader al-Bitar said that the city was conducting numerous efforts to support the prisoners, notably by calling on the foreign municipalities partnered with Hebron to urge their respective governments to exert pressure on Israel.
Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has imposed a range of repressive measures in an attempt to quash the hunger strike, including solitary confinement, arbitrary prisoner transfers, nightly cell raids, lawyer and family visitation bans, and the confiscation of personal belongings including salt – the only nutrient hunger strikers have been consuming except for water.
Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to Palestinian organisations.
According to prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody in April.