Solidarity hunger strikers in Israeli jails face harsh punishment, prisoner says

Palestinian women hold pictures and posters of their imprisoned relatives, during a protest calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, outside the office of the ICRC, Gaza city, on Monday, 6 February 2012.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in solidarity with Khader Adnan are facing harsh punishment by Israeli prison authorities who fear unrest could spread if Adnan, who has been on hunger strike for 64 days, deteriorates further or dies.

Adnan in “imminent danger of death”

Meanwhile the Israeli High Court has announced it will hear an appeal from Khader Adnan’s lawyers on 23 February at 11.30 AM, according to a joint statement from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

The statement warned:

Despite the elaborate medical report, which confirmed that Khader Adnan “is in immediate danger of death,” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival,” the Israeli High Court appointed the petition session for 23 February with no guarantees that a decision will be made on the same day. By then, Khader Adnan – if alive – will have reached the 69th day of his ongoing hunger strike.

Israeli prisons on high alert

Ynet reported in Hebrew that:

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) is preparing for disorder in security prisons in case of further deterioration in the condition of administrative detainee Khader Adnan or his death. Adnan (33), who has been on hunger strike for 62 [sic] days, is hospitalized at Ziv hospital in Safad, and his condition is described as critical but stable. At the weekend it was decided to remove the shackles from his hands by which he was chained to his bed, but he is still under guard.

IPS ordered prison administrators and facilities where security prisoners are detained to be on alert regarding their conduct and intentions to disrupt order if Adnan’s condition deteriorates.

The report claimed that a number of “security prisoners” had been on strike but had “started eating again.” It is difficult to verify information from inside Israeli prisons.

Prisoner tells of hunger strikes and harsh punishments

An affadavit taken by Addameer on 14 February from a 33-year old prisoner who is serving a 26 year sentence told of the spreading strike. The Electronic Intifada has seen the affadavit. The affadavit names 10 prisoners who began hunger strikes starting in late January, but said more were joining in a staggered action – two every day.

The prisoner who gave the affadavit, whom this post will refer to as “M.” said that he and fellow prisoners in Shatta prison began to hear about Khader Adnan’s hunger strike in mid-January when it had been going for about 25 days. Prisoners from M.’s section wrote to the prison director on 20 January to inform him they would hold him responsible for anything that happened to Adnan.

M. was then transferred to Megiddo prison where he said dozens more prisoners, especially from Islamic Jihad – Adnan’s faction – began to plan returning means if Khader’s strike exceeded 40 days.

M. says that he and several other prisoners began a hunger strike on 26 January. Then “intelligence officers” began to threaten him with transfer in order to break the strike. More prisoners, especially from Islamic Jihad wanted to join the strike, but it was decided that prisoners would join gradually.

On 27 January, two more prisoners at Megiddo joined the hunger strike. Striking prisoners were transferred to cells, but every day two more prisoners joined the strike.

Dirty blankets, fines, strip searches

The prison authorities also transferred several prisoners to other prisons. M. recounted the kind of punishments hunger strikers face, including fines:

I stayed in the cells in Megiddo for 10-11 days, the conditions were very tough in the cells. The administration gave us very dirty blankets and the cells were very humid and old. They strip searched us every day in a very humiliating way in order to pressure us, they also searched the cells and threw everything we had around in order to exhaust us.

Then they used to take us to court, each time we return a meal they sentence us to spend some time in cells, for example, they sentenced me three days in cells after that four days in cells and then NIS 750 ($200). They threatened that they will make each prisoner that returns a meal pay NIS 100 ($25) or up to NIS 1500 ($400).

M. described being confined with a cell-mate who had been on hunger strike for 19 days to a tiny 2.5 by 1.5 meter cell with barely enough room to pray and nothing but a hole in the ground for a toilet. Possessions were strictly limited and washing was made difficult and strip searches are carried out in the middle of the night.

On 8 February, M. said, an official tried to convince him to end his hunger strike, but he refused. He said the official then said he had the power to sentence M. to 60 days solitary confinement.

“A nurse or a doctor comes each day to examine our blood pressure and weight, they don’t give us the required attention,” M.’s affadavit added.

The ICRC visited Meggido on 2 February, but was not allowed to enter the cells, M. said, so they met with M. and other prisoners in the administration offices.

Since the affadavit was taken, it is unknown if M. is still on hunger strike, or how many others have joined.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.