Palestinian prisoners at critical stage of hunger strike!

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TWO Palestinian prisoners have entered the critical stages of hunger strikes undertaken in protest at how they have been detained without charge or trial.

Hassan Shokeh, 29, from Bethlehem, has been refusing food for more than 30 days. Shokeh was previously detained by Israeli forces before he was released on 31st August and arrested again less than a month later. Shokeh has spent a total of 13 years in Israeli prisons. Eight of those years were spent under administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial.

Hamza Bouzia, 27, from Salfit in the occupied West Bank, has been on hunger strike for around 30 days. He is also protesting against being placed under administrative detention. He has previously served more than seven years in Israeli prisons. After three weeks on hunger strike, prisoners are at severe risk of long-term damage to their health and even death. Bouzia and Shokeh are both suffering weight loss, pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

Another prisoner began a hunger strike after he was taken into detention last week. Bajis Nakhleh, 53, from Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid, according to Samidoun, a network supporting Palestinian prisoners. Nakhleh spent 20 years in Israeli prisons in the past.

A fourth Palestinian prisoner, Bilal Diab, was also on hunger strike for more than 20 days before an agreement was reached with occupation forces to release him on 14 January next year without renewing his administrative detention, according to Wattan TV.

Bilal Diab was protesting administrative detention for the third time. During his most recent hunger strike, the Israeli authorities transferred him and Hassan Shokeh to solitary confinement. Diab also participated in a mass hunger strike in 2012 when he fasted for 78 days, alongside fellow prisoner Thaer Halahleh. That strike brought them very close to death, as Israel continued to subject them to inhumane and degrading treatment.

He has also conducted a 14-day hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan. Diab has spent a total of almost 115 days without food, combining his hunger strikes over the years. This has left him with severe health complications, according to Palestinian lawyer Karim Ajwa who recently visited Diab.

In June, the Israeli high court issued a ruling that would increase cell space for prisoners.

The average Israeli cell is three times smaller than the average European one. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, pushed to exclude Palestinians from the ruling, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported. But Israel’s justice ministry blocked Erdan’s efforts. One idea being discussed to address prison overcrowding is that Palestinians would be detained in tents.

Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities have cancelled all permits for Palestinians from Gaza to visit their imprisoned relatives for the rest of November. The reasoning behind this move was that renovations were being made in the prisons, Ma’an News Agency has reported.

Israel has also banned the entry of seven members of a 20-strong European delegation planning to visit Marwan Barghouti, Salah Hamouri and other Palestinian prisoners, according to Haaretz. The Israeli authorities have claimed they have been denied entry as they supported the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The group of visitors from Europe includes mayors and members of parliament.

• The Netherlands embassy in Tel Aviv is partnering with an Israeli settlement profiteer. This flies in the face of the Dutch government’s stated opposition to Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. Last week the Dutch embassy posted a photo on Twitter showing Ambassador Gilles Beschoor Plug posing with the CEO of supermarket chain Shufersal as they launch Dutch food month.

The CEO Shufersal and the Dutch ambassador officially opened The Dutch Month at Shufersal. Dutch iconic products on sale! pic.twitter.com/X3TXEWnXPp — Dutch Embassy Israel (NLinIsrael) November 8, 2017

Behind them are displays promoting Dutch products and a sign that says ‘in cooperation with the Netherlands embassy’. Shufersal is also boasting of the Dutch government sponsorship on its Facebook page.

The Electronic Intifada has confirmed that the Dutch-sponsored promotion is taking place in Shufersal stores located in settlements in the occupied West Bank. Photos taken by an Israeli citizen at a Shufersal store at 17 Tzvia ve Yitzhak Street in the Gilo settlement last Sunday show the signs promoting the Dutch goods and confirming embassy sponsorship.

The Dutch brands being promoted in the settlement store include Calvé, Gouda’s Glorie, Vos Banket, Merba, De Ruijter, Buiteman, Jeurgens and Daelmans, which makes stroopwafels, a syrup-filled cookie that has been aggressively marketed in the US in recent years.

According to recent media reports, Shufersal is one of more than 100 firms likely to appear on a UN list of companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.

Palestinians have hailed the list, whose creation was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, as the first concrete step to hold Israel accountable for its settler-colonisation of the occupied West Bank, which Israel has carried on for decades with impunity.

Last month, the Netherlands was one of several European governments to condemn Israel’s recent announcement of a further massive expansion of settlements. ‘This decision raises the question of what kind of peace Israel envisions,’ Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said. ‘Effectively expanding illegal settlements is completely irreconcilable with the two-state solution.’

The Dutch government also endorsed a statement made by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reiterating that ‘all settlement activity is illegal under international law’. But in the now familiar fashion of the EU and its members, the Netherlands completely contradicts its stated position against settlements by actions that demonstrate complicity with, if not outright support for, Israel’s crimes.

The Dutch foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

The Dutch government’s partnership with Shufersal is identical to the one France held with the settlement profiteer last year. Although France also claims to oppose Israeli settlements, the French government – like the Dutch – was content to boost Shufersal’s income from illegal settlements just as long as its companies received a cut of the profits.

In a shocking sign of the EU’s willingness to put profit before its much touted ‘values’, the EU embassy in Tel Aviv last summer hired Avishai Ivri, an Israeli who advocates the genocide of the Palestinians, to star in a video promoting trade with European states.

There is a growing consensus among international jurists and human rights organisations that business and trade in and with Israeli settlements must be ended because it sustains Israel’s occupation and illegal colonisation and enables serious crimes against Palestinians.

In a further sign that Israel takes EU support for granted, Israel’s interior ministry announced Monday that it was barring entry to seven European officials who are scheduled to be part of a delegation made up of European Parliament members and French mayors.

Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan, who is tasked with thwarting the global movement for Palestinian rights, called the banned officials ‘senior politicians who consistently support the boycott against Israel and promote it’.

In response, Sharon Abraham-Weiss, director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, called the interior ministry ‘a commissar standing at the gate and deciding for the country’s citizens and for the residents of the occupied territories, who are dependent on Israeli border crossings, which positions are appropriate to be heard’. Meanwhile, for the Dutch government, it’s business as usual.