TODAY, hundreds of Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli jails are refusing food for one day in solidarity with the four leading Palestinian Prisoners – Samer Issawi, Tariq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Yamna Sharawna who have been on a continuous hunger strike.
They have chosen peacefully to protest their illegitimate detention and the occupying Power’s callous disregard to their rights and lives.
Their lives are at imminent risk as we write this.
Samer Issawi is currently on his 211th day of hunger strike and faces death if there is no intervention to save his life; Yamna Sharawna has been on hunger strike for 147 days; Tariq Qaadan has been on hunger strike for 85 days; and Jafar Ezzedine has been on hunger strike also for 85 days.
We demand action by the UK government to save these men’s lives and to compel Israel to cease its practice of arbitrary detention and imprisonment of Palestinian civilians, including children, and its egregious physical and psychological mistreatment of the thousands of Palestinians in its captivity.
Samer Issawi, 33 from Jerusalem, has been on hunger strike since 1st of August 2012, in protest of being re-arrested and placed under administrative detention after being released in the prisoners deal in October 2011.
Samer has been on hunger strike for over 200 consecutive days forming the largest hunger strike by a political prisoner in history.
In an open letter, written earlier this week, Samer wrote ‘My health has deteriorated dramatically and I’m hung between life and death…
‘I draw my strength from my people, from all the free people in the world, from friends and the families of the prisoners who continue day and night chanting for freedom and an end to the occupation’.
Over 4,743 Palestinian are currently detained by Israel, 10 of them women, 193 of them children, 15 MPs and 178 of them held under administrative detention, a decrepit policy that Israel uses to hold Palestinians on secret information indefinitely without charging them or allowing them to stand trial.
Israeli Military Court Order 1651, Article 186 allows for a special Israeli committee to sentence released prisoners to serve the remainder of their previous sentence based on secret evidence provided by the military prosecution without disclosing the evidence to the prisoners or their lawyer.
There is a fear that Israel will be using this article in order to rearrest released Palestinian prisoners.
The deteriorating health of prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails has sparked several mass protests across the Palestinian territories.
On Monday, more than 1,000 people joined a rally of support in the northern city of Nablus, while another 1,500 gathered in the centre of Hebron in the south to demand their release.
With public anger growing over the fate of the prisoners, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging her to go beyond calls for Israel to improve its treatment of prisoners and to act to secure their release.
‘We believe it is no longer acceptable to merely request better treatment of Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons, but to demand an end to the arbitrary system of Israeli detentions,’ it said.
Mukid Abu Atwan, the Director General of Palestinian Prisoners’ Ministry, urged for the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers immediately.
‘We want to tell Israelis and the rest of the world that we won’t accept for Palestinian prisoners to come out of jail in coffins. They deserve to be free and live a dignified life,’ he said.
Ambassador Hassassian, the Palestinian Mission UK said: ‘The Israeli Authority is responsible for the wellbeing of Palestinian prisoners who are battling not only for their individual freedom but to defend the plight of the Palestinian people.
‘I urge the UK government to act immediately and exert pressure on Israel to release Samer Issawi and other administrative detainees with immediate effect.
‘It is prime time that the human rights and international law articles in the bilateral relations agreements with Israel are upheld and respected.
‘The brutal and racist policies of the Israeli occupation should not be tolerated.’
We need your support to break their chains and the global silence on administrative detention and help put pressure on the Israeli government to release all Palestinian Political prisoners.
We urge you to not allow the desperate attempts by fellow Palestinian prisoners who join the hunger strike today in solidarity to fade away in vain.
The plight of the Palestinian people to defend their rights and freedom are echoed in the hunger strike and solidarity movement we see today.
You too can help us in this global action to end the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners who today are also conducting a great sacrifice to break the chains of silence and protect their freedom and dignity.
1) Contact the FCO and demand that they put pressure on Israel to release all the Palestinian political prisoners
Use this feedback form or write to them at Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH
2) Write to your MP and press him or her to ask the UK government to uphold justice by pressing Israel to release the Palestinian political prisoners http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/
3) Organise a day of action or event at your university or in your city
• An Israeli court on Tuesday ruled that Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for over 200 days, must remain in custody.
Issawi’s lawyer Jawad Bulous requested Issawi’s release at a magistrate’s court in Jerusalem. An Israeli military prosecutor opposed the request.
Issawi, who entered the court in a wheelchair surrounded by armed guards, has been on hunger strike since August. Asked by the judge about his condition, Issawi ‘replied in a weak voice that he suffers pains and is facing death,’ Bulous said.
His mother collapsed in court as the judge announced that Issawi would remain in prison until the next hearing in one month.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails declared a one-day fast on Tuesday in solidarity with Issawi and three other prisoners on hunger strike.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, which looks after the welfare of inmates and their families, said 800 prisoners were taking part in the day-long fast.
The prisoners’ campaign against detention without trial has touched off violent protests over the past several weeks outside an Israeli military prison and across the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad said a truce with Israel that ended eight days of fighting in November could unravel if any hunger striker died.
Issawi was among 1,027 jailed Palestinians freed by Israel in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was abducted on the Gaza border.
Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, who has also been on hunger strike, are among 14 Palestinians who have been re-arrested by Israel since being released in the Shalit trade.
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter that Issawi and Sharawneh were detained ‘because they violated the terms of the Shalit deal by returning to illegal activities which pose a threat’.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said he had been in contact with Israel and urged it to release the men. He said Egypt, which helped mediate the Shalit prisoner swap and also negotiated an end to a Palestinian mass hunger strike in Israeli jails last year, was trying to end the new protest.
Israel has defused previous long-term hunger strikes among the some 4,700 Palestinians in its jails by agreeing to release individuals or deporting them to Gaza – a prospect rejected by the four prisoners, who hail from Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union – have expressed concern at the hunger strike.
In a statement on Monday, France’s Foreign Ministry urged Israel ‘to be sensitive to the risk of a tragic outcome and to take appropriate measures as a matter of urgency’.
The statement said: ‘administrative detention must remain an exceptional measure of limited duration and be carried out with due regard for fundamental safeguards’.
Israel holds some Palestinians in ‘administrative detention’ based on evidence presented in a closed military court. It says the practice pre-empts militant attacks against it while keeping its counter-intelligence sources and tactics secret.
There were some 178 administrative detainees in Israeli jails in January, down from just over 300 around the time of another hunger strike campaign last spring, according to prisoner rights group Addameer.
‘The battle waged by me and by my heroic colleagues … is everyone’s battle, the battle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and its prisons,’ Issawi said in a message conveyed to the PA Ministry of Prisoners last week.