‘Empty Stomachs’ hunger strike spreads across prisons

‘Empty Stomachs’ hunger strike spreads across prisons
Khader Adnan speaks to his supporters on the night of his release from prison (photo: Omar Rahman)

A movement of Palestinian prisoners protesting their incarceration and treatment inside Israeli prisons is continuing to reach momentous proportions. Billed the “War of Empty Stomachs,” the number of prisoners on hunger strike is now in the thousands.

On April 17, the prisoner movement split into two when between 1,200 and 1,600 prisoners launched a coordinated, open-ended hunger strike against their treatment inside Israeli prisons, including the pervasive use of solitary confinement, denied family visits and right to education. Another 2,000 joined in a limited solidarity hunger strike.

The prisoners had joined a group of hunger strikes launched independently by prisoners protesting their administrative detention—a policy by which Israel incarcerates Palestinians for periods of up to six months without evidence or trial, which can be renewed by a military judge indefinitely.

Galvanized by the hunger strike of Khader Adnan, beginning on December 18 and carried on by Hana Shalabi in February, the hunger strike movement is continuing to grow rapidly. At least seven prisoners are reaching dire health conditions, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who are on the 61st day of their hunger strikes. Hasan Safadi is on his 56th day, and others, including Omar Abu Shalal and Jafar Izzedine, are quickly approaching these lengths of time.

Khader Adnan’s hunger strike—which lasted 66 days, the longest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—opened the door for other prisoners after Israel decided to release him. He was joined near the end of his hunger strike by Hana Shalabi, whose hunger strike lasted 44 days before she was deported to Gaza in a release deal.

As more prisoners continue to approach the end of the road, Israel faces an increasingly difficult position. It can either follow suit with the two aforementioned hunger strikers and release more prisoners, or Israel can let them die in prison and potentially set off large-scale protests in the occupied territories. The latter choice also carries with it increased scrutiny on the practice of administrative detention, which is permitted under international law only in the most extreme cases. There are currently over 300 Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention by Israel; the longest has been detained for over five years. At times, the number of prisoners has numbered in the thousands.

More prisoners have already declared they will begin open-ended hunger strikes this coming week, and demonstrations have begun to spread outside the occupied territories. One is scheduled for Thursday May 3 in front of the prison hospital in Ramle, Israel.

The latest hunger strikes have lacked the media coverage received by Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, both in the country and internationally. However this is likely to change in the coming days as several of them reach the end of the road and Israel is once again forced to choose which path it will take.

Click here to read more on the issue of Palestinian prisoners in an article I published in The National on Friday:

The centrality of the prisoner issue in Palestinian life has virtually no parallel anywhere else in the world. It is almost enough to note that the Palestinian Authority – the semiautonomous body that has governed the Palestinian territories since 1993 – has a ministry of prisoners’ affairs and that there are numerous social clubs, organisations and even a museum devoted to this cause.

For years, prisons have substituted as universities for large swathes of the population and provided a base for grassroots political organising. The country’s most popular political figure, Marwan Barghouti, is currently serving five life sentences but is still a likely contender for president. After close to 45 years of living under military occupation, where resistance is prized and collaboration with Israel is the ultimate crime, the stigma of prison has been transformed from a basis of disrepute into a badge of honour and, indeed, a source of pride.

Put simply, for Palestinians, the prisoner issue is only a microcosm of life under occupation, where many simply substitute a larger cell for a smaller one. Until they are all freed, there will likely be no dramatic changes inside the prison walls.

One response to “Israeli army arrests Palestinian feminist lawmaker, months after her release”

  1. Firentis says:

    Jarrar is a member of the PFLP. The United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union have designated the PFLP as a terrorist organization. So, a terrorist got arrested. Excellent! Hopefully they throw away the key.

    • Ben says:

      Yeah, the terror of women’s rights activism, international law and human rights for the women prisoners and children. It’s such a bummer.

      This is obvious political persecution, just as with the Birzeit students and with Hiba al-Labadi, but interesting larger political question is why is it that the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Otzma Yehudit and the Yesha Council are not designated terrorist organizations? (Because the occupation is terror.) I guess it’s for the same reason the Romans and the British were not designated terrorists when they occupied Palestine–while the Jews resisting them then were designated terrorists by the Romans and the British and their cozy allies.

      Picture the Latin decrees: “This Jew was detained by Roman Imperial forces on August 20th at a crossing while traveling…his arrest was related to meetings he had with Jewish terror-organization (Zealot) affiliates during a previous visit, where he was visiting his sister….” And we know what decrees the British issued against folks like Begin and Shamir. And their “affiliates.” Yes sir “round up the affiliates, we got an occupied population to suppress.”

      • Itshak Gordine says:

        Yescha and the political parties you quote are respectable and have representatives abroad as opposed to the terrorists (considered almost everywhere as such ..) of the PFLP.

    • Bruce Gould says:

      @Firentis: Imprisonment without charge or trial: Jewish justice at its best.

  2. Bruce Gould says:

    A note on how the U.S. handles “terrorists”: Most “terrorism” cases are actually tried in civilian courts in a jury trial.



    “For years, the Justice Department has worked to ensure that terrorism suspects wind up in federal court and not in military commissions, and certainly not in indefinite detention without facing charge or trial…” – that last sentence bears repeating: not in indefinite detention without facing charge or trial.

  3. marilyn katz says:

    Under what definition of democracy could Israel be counted as one?

  4. Carmen says:

    The IOF are just a bunch of p@ssies. Afraid, like so many in this patriarchy, of strong women like Ms. Jarrar won’t bow to them or fear them. Strong women who are admired and loved by their people. If the true measure of a man was how he treats strong women, this is a huge fail, among so many others. #LOSERS

    • Lewis from Afula says:

      Please leave out your silly, American uber-feminist nonsense at home.
      Nobody believes in this rubbish.
      That is especially true for the polygamous, Gay-murdering, honor killing retards who are squatting in Judea & Samria.

  5. Itshak Gordine says:

    She is a member of an organization recognized by several countries as a terrorist. Around the world we are fighting against terrorism. When Isreael does it, it annoys the leftists.

    • Ben says:

      It’s political persecution. Around the world Slobodan Milosevich said he was “fighting terrorists.” Around the world the Apartheid South Africans said they were fighting “terrorists.” Around the world the (Israeli-arms-supplied) generals of Myanmar say they are “fighting terrorism.” Around the world the Chinese who viciously persecute the Tibetan and Uighur minorities say they are “fighting terrorism.” You should be careful with pronouns like “we,” as in “we are fighting against terrorism.” You want there to be a pure, noble “we” in which you dissolve and fudge the particulars of Israel’s tactics, but there is no such “we.” Thus endeth another chapter in your inveterate (Orwellian) misuse of language.

      • Itshak Gordine says:

        We must protect our civilians from danger, whether you like it or not. The PFLP is a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians. We know that leaves you indifferent ..

        • Ben says:

          It has nothing to do with security. You can ritualistically chant “terrorist” a hundred times and it won’t change that fact. It has to do with Rina Shnerb’s death only as a collective revenge reaction. Those Israelis who kill Palestinians–carelessly, needlessly, casually–never get remotely similar punishment. Ever. See:

          15-year-old Palestinian Was Shot to Death. Israeli Soldier Who Fired at Him Got One Month of Community Service
          The soldier admitted that he had fired his weapon toward Othman Rami Halas, without the approval of his commanders. IDF sources: No proof that soldier’s action caused death

          It’s arbitrary, capricious arrest and detention without charge by the Israeli overlord. It’s collective vengeance. Jarrar is being punished for free speech against the occupation. And for refusing to bow down. And for being an effective leader, which is a grave, unpardonable sin in Israeli eyes.

          It’s political persecution. It makes no one safer, just the opposite. The Germans who occupied Paris insisted too that it was all about keeping the occupier safe. Were the power imbalance different Palestinians would round up Habayit Hayahudi and Otzma members every time the Israeli army carelessly, needlessly killed Palestinian civilians. I bet you’d like that, huh?

          Israeli deaths do not leave me indifferent. Fakery about “security” leaves me cold. Dishonesty and injustice leaves me cold. Indifference to Israeli lives sacrificed to the Settler Moloch leave me cold.

          I view you as deeply misguided at best. If you settlers truly cared about Israeli lives you would not keep putting soldiers and civilians at risk for your ruthlessly selfish acquisitive aims. Your cult project. So turn it around. It’s a given that you are utterly indifferent, at best, to Palestinian deaths. (Your far right fellow traveler from Afula takes open pleasure in their deaths—see the post below—just one example. That doesn’t bother you one whit.) That’s a given. But I view you as not caring about israeli lives either if it means giving up your fanatic, totalizing, narcissistic-messianic hypernationalism.

          • Itshak Gordine says:

            What do you know? You are not in Israel. Have you had access to justice records or are you relying on the statements of Haaretz or some leftists?

          • Ben says:

            Halevy, no one has access to “justice records” because it is a police state, a state in which arrest is capricious, defendants are not even defendants, are given no due process, are not allowed lawyers to defend themselves, where there is no public airing of evidence, where “military security” and such is used as an excuse to keep everything secret. Get real.

          • Itshak Gordine says:

            So it’s usually blah blah since you do not know anything about the file. You have only one priority: to slander the State of Israel.

          • Ben says:

            I hate to ruin your fairy tale but Stasi-style secret files with no public airing of evidence is prima facie evidence that a state actually has no case and knows it so it has to substitute bullshit like this: “in suspicion of being involved in activities which jeopardize the security in the area.” You and I both know that if they actually had anything at all on Jarrar they would announce it with trumpets blaring and sirens screaming on every TV channel, Netanyahu facebook page and tweet stream and the right wing TV shouters would be jabbering and foaming at the mouth about it.

            Exposing to light the organized crime of the state-sponsored settlement enterprise is not “slander.” As Justice Brandeis famously wrote:
            “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
            And see the fuller statement of that ethic, by James Bryce, to which Brandeis was referring:

            All of which is light years away conceptually from anything you’ve ever been taught to think.

        • Rivka Koen says:

          > “We must protect our civilians from danger”

          First of all, you don’t have any civillians. Second of all, this is a thought-terminating cliché and is very close to what white supremacists say in America when justifying their terrorist campaigns. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14 words

  6. Lewis from Afula says:

    I hope all such PFLP terrorists are “taken out”.
    Actually, the entire PFLP leadership should be eliminated.
    We should start with this drekess first.

  7. Magdalena Collins says:

    Decent people of the world are with you. We are horrified with Israeli goverment.