Palestinian political prisoners launch mass hunger strike against prison conditions

A man holds up a poster of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti at a protest in Hebron in support of hunger strikers, 17 April.

At least 1,100 Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s prisons launched a mass hunger strike on Monday to protest rights violations and dire conditions, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.

The strike was launched on Palestinian Prisoners Day and is being led by Marwan Barghouti, the leader of political group Fatah. Political prisoners from across the political spectrum are joining the protest across six prisons in Israel for an indefinite period of time, Al Jazeera reported.

Prisoners are demanding the installation of public telephones in all prisons, the resumption of bi-monthly family visits, visits from second-degree relatives, an increase in the duration of visits and freedom to take photographs with their families.

Prisoners have also complained of intentional medical negligence, inadequate healthcare and the denial of access to water.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, at least 50 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli prisons due to medical negligence since 1967.

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times a day before the launch of the strike, Marwan Barghouti, who is a parliamentarian and has been imprisoned for the past 15 years on murder charges, wrote:

“Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”

According to the human rights group Addameer there are about 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners currently jailed in Israeli prisons.

The imprisonment of Palestinians in jails situated in occupied territories is a contravention of international law, which Amnesty International has called “unlawful” and “cruel.”

1500 prisoners launched a month long hunger strike in 2012 and 800 prisoners held a hunger strike for 63 days in 2014 before they reached deals with prison authorities to obtain rights.

A statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs has alleged that Israeli Prison Service (IPS) officials have already forcibly moved hunger-striking prisoners to different sections of Israeli jails, confiscated clothes and personal belongings and placed leading figures in solitary confinement, Al Jazeera has reported.

Isreali prison authorities have not commented on the hunger strike.