Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners punished by Israel

Crowd hold candles in tent covered with posters of political prisoners

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus hold a vigil in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners, 3 May.

Ahmad Al-Bazz ActiveStills

Nearly one hundred Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel under indefinitely renewable administrative detention orders are about to enter their third week of an open-ended hunger strike to demand their freedom.

A lawyer with the Palestinian human rights group Addameer was finally able to access the hunger strikers; the group stated on Twitter yesterday that it had been denied access to the striking prisoners.

According to Addameer, the detainees on hunger strike are in Ofer, Megiddo and Naqab prisons.

G4S prisons

“It should be noted that Ofer and Megiddo prisons are provided services by the British-Danish company G4S, which installed cameras and surveillance equipment used to control the Palestinian prisoners,” Addameer mentioned in a statement on the hunger strike today.

G4S is the target of an international campaign to hold the company accountable for its complicity in Israel’s prison system in which thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are held, including children who are subjected to violence.

Last year Arafat Jaradat, a 33-year-old Palestinian father, died in Megiddo prison after being interrogated and tortured by Israel’s secret police service the Shin Bet.

Lives at risk

Addameer reported today that Israel is punishing the hunger-striking prisoners by isolating them, handcuffing them for ten hours a day, and denying them salt, putting their lives at risk:

According to one hunger striker who spoke with Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan, the detainees in the Naqab Prison have all been transferred to an isolated section, separate from the other prisoners. The cells are covered in sand. They have been ill-treated; suffering from daily searches of their cells and being permitted to change their undergarments only twice since the beginning of the strike. They are bound and handcuffed in their cells for ten hours a day.

Three of the hunger strikers in Naqab prison, Fadi Hammad, Fadi Omar and Soufian Bahar, are now in solitary confinement and one detainee, Ahmad Abu Ras, was transferred to an undisclosed location.

Furthermore, the IPS [Israel Prison Service] has been denying the hunger strikers salt for the last two weeks. Prisoners who engage in hunger strikes still take liquids and salt, as they are essential for survival.

Denial of salt is a continuation of the punishments against hunger strikers, and despite the grave danger it imposes on the lives of the detainees, has been institutionalized by the Israeli Supreme Court. In 2004, the Israeli Supreme Court denied a petition by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and several other Palestinian and Israeli NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that demanded the IPS provide salt on a daily basis to hunger-striking prisoners as its denial breaches the constitutional rights of the prisoner.

The hunger strikers can potentially face harsher punishments if the IPS’s most recent proposed bill to legalize force-feeding is approved in the Knesset [Israel’s parliament]. The memorandum is currently up for public critique.

In addition, 42 hunger strikers have been transferred to Ayalon/Ramleh Prison, including Abd al-Rizziq Farraj and Salem Dardasawi. On 4 May 2014, their cells were raided and the hunger strikers beaten. Mohammad Maher Badr’s finger was broken during the attack and Mohammad Jamal al-Natsheh had to be hospitalized for the injuries sustained from the attack. The prisoners are in overcrowded isolation cells, with seven hunger strikers in each. They are in their cells at all times and denied recreational hours in the yard.

The hunger strike was declared by administrative detainees after Israel did not deliver on an agreement reached after another mass hunger strike in May 2012. Israel had agreed to limit its use of administrative detention to only exceptional circumstances; however, Israel has continued with the practice on a “systematic basis,” Addameer noted at the outset of the current strike.

There are currently 183 Palestinians being held on administrative detention orders based on “secret evidence” that the detainee and his or her lawyer cannot access, including nine members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

As of 1 April, Israel was imprisoning 5,265 Palestinians, including 200 children — 24 of them under the age of 16.

Since fall 2010, there has been a wave of both individual and mass hunger strikes undertaken by Palestinians in Israeli prisons to protest rights infringements such as detention without charge or trial, denial of family visits, solitary confinement and Israel’s violations of past agreements reached with prisoners.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.