More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners entered their fourth week without food on Monday as Israel intensifies its efforts to break the hunger strike.
The striking prisoners are demanding improvements in conditions and an end to solitary confinement, heavy restrictions on family visits and administrative detention – prolonged imprisonment without charge or trial.
Israel has refused to negotiate with or discuss the demands of the hunger strikers, referring to the prisoners as terrorists and calling the strike a media ploy.
Meanwhile, the Israel Prison Service is attempting to demoralize its participants and their supporters.
Threats of force feeding
The Israeli Medical Association stands with global medical opinion that force feeding is “never ethically acceptable,” as is stated in the World Medical Association’s Malta Declaration, and is tantamount to torture.
In a statement released on Saturday, strikers said “we emphasize that any attempt to implement the crime of forced feeding against any prisoner on hunger strike will mean for us a project of the execution of the prisoners.”
Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike died as a result of being subjected to forced feeding in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the rights group Addameer.
The videos are time-stamped but could not be independently verified.
Israel Prison Service sources told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz that they intentionally set Barghouti up.
Israeli authorities have sought to discredit Barghouti since he launched the mass hunger strike last month, casting the protest as a political maneuver to assert his popularity and and vie for leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
“The Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike has nothing to do with their prison conditions, and everything to do with the political interest of Marwan Barghouti,” Erdan stated on Sunday, repeating claims he made in The New York Times last week.
Barghouti’s lawyer called the video “psychological warfare” against the prisoners.
“We can’t address the content of the clip so long as they don’t let us meet with Marwan. Let us visit him and then we will check the claims with him,” the lawyer said.
Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa Barghouti, said the video was a “low” move by Israel.
“The prisoners are familiar with Israel’s lies and games and the video they released signals the beginning of its fall,” she said at a press conference on Sunday.
After nearly three weeks of refusing to allow hunger strikers to meet with their lawyers, on 3 May the Israel Prison Service was told by the high court that the practice was illegal.
Over the weekend, lawyers met with detainees at Ketziot and Nitzan prisons for the first time since the strike began.
At Ketziot, lawyers reported that several of their clients were unable to walk or stand.
In addition to increased raids and transfers to solitary confinement, Israel has also begun seizing money from striking prisoners’ accounts.
In response, the Palestinian Authority announced that it would stop paying an allowance to prisoners. This money is used for purchases at the prison commissary, including salts, which are a vital nutrient for hunger strikers.
According to lawyers who visited Ketziot, the prison authorities have denied prisoners access to the commissary and have begun fining them for not standing up during roll call.
There are some 6,300 Palestinian prisoners currently being held by Israel, according to the rights group Addameer.