[Pnews] The Prisoners’ Revolt: The Real Reasons behind the Palestinian Hunger Strike

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 3 10:57:35 EDT 2017


  The Prisoners’ Revolt: The Real Reasons behind the Palestinian Hunger

by Ramzy Baroud <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/cet6s/> - May 3, 2017

Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison. The West Bank is a prison, 
too, segmented into various wards, known as areas A, B and C. In fact, 
all Palestinians are subjected to varied degrees of military 
restrictions. At some level, they are all prisoners.

East Jerusalem is cut off from the West Bank, and those in the West Bank 
are separated from one another.

Palestinians in Israel are treated slightly better than their brethren 
in the Occupied Territories, but subsist in degrading conditions 
compared to the first-class status given to Israeli Jews, as per the 
virtue of their ethnicity alone.

Palestinians ‘lucky’ enough to escape the handcuffs and shackles are 
still trapped in different ways.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh, like millions of 
Palestinian refugees in ‘shattat’ (Diaspora), are prisoners in refugee 
camps, carrying precarious, meaningless identification, cannot travel 
and are denied access to work. They languish in refugee camps, waiting 
for life to move forward, however slightly – as their fathers and 
grandfathers have done before them for nearly seventy years.

This is why the issue of prisoners is a very sensitive one for 
Palestinians. It is a real and metaphorical representation of all that 
Palestinians have in common.

The protests igniting across the Occupied Territories to support 1,500 
hunger strikers are not merely an act of ‘solidarity’ with the 
incarcerated and abused men and women who are demanding improvements to 
their conditions.

Sadly, prison is the most obvious fact of Palestinian life; it is the 
status quo; the everyday reality.

The prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are a depiction of the life 
of every Palestinian, trapped behind walls, checkpoints, in refugee 
camps, in Gaza, in cantons in the West Bank, segregated Jerusalem, 
waiting to be let in, waiting to be let out. Simply waiting.

There are 6,500 prisoners in Israeli jails. This number includes 
hundreds of children, women, elected officials, journalists and 
administrative detainees, who are held with no charges, no due process. 
But these numbers hardly convey the reality that has transpired under 
Israeli occupation since 1967.

According to prisoners’ rights group, ‘Addameer’, more than 800,000 
Palestinians have been imprisoned under military rule since Israel 
commenced its occupation of Palestinian territories in June 1967.

That is 40 percent of the entire male population of the Occupied 

Israeli jails are prisons within larger prisons. In times of protests 
and upheaval, especially during the uprisings of 1987-1993 and 
2000-2005, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were subjected to 
prolonged military curfews, sometimes lasting weeks, even months.

Under military curfews, people are not allowed to leave their homes, 
with little or no breaks to even purchase food.

Not a single Palestinian who has lived (or is still living) through such 
conditions is alien to the experience of imprisonment.

But some Palestinians in that large prison have been granted VIP cards. 
They are deemed the ‘moderate Palestinians’, thus granted special 
permits from the Israeli military to leave the Palestinian prison and 
return as they please.

While former Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat was holed up in his 
office in Ramallah for years, until his death in November 2004, current 
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is free to travel.

While Israel can, at times, be critical of Abbas, he rarely deviates far 
from the acceptable limits set by the Israeli government.

This is why Abbas is free and Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, (along 
with thousands of others) is jailed.

The current prisoners’ hunger strike began on April 17, in commemoration 
of ‘Prisoner Day’ in Palestine.

On the eighth day of the strike, as the health of Marwan Barghouti 
deteriorated, Abbas was in Kuwait meeting a group of lavishly dressed 
Arab singers.

The reports, published in ‘Safa News Agency’ and elsewhere, generated 
much attention on social media. The tragedy of the dual Palestinian 
reality is an inescapable fact.

Barghouti is far more popular among supporters of Fatah, one of the two 
largest Palestinian political movements. In fact, he is the most popular 
leader amongst Palestinians, regardless of their ideological or 
political stances.

If the PA truly cared about prisoners and the well-being of Fatah’s most 
popular leader, Abbas would have busied himself forging a strategy to 
galvanize the energy of the hungry prisoners, and millions of his people 
who rallied in their support.

But mass mobilization has always scared Abbas and his Authority. It is 
too dangerous for him, because popular action often challenges the 
established status quo, and could hinder his Israeli-sanctioned rule 
over occupied Palestinians.

While Palestinian media is ignoring the rift within Fatah, Israeli media 
is exploiting it, placing it within the larger political context.

Abbas is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on May 3.

He wants to leave a good impression on the impulsive president, 
especially as Trump is decreasing foreign aid worldwide, but increasing 
US assistance to the PA. That alone should be enough to understand the 
US administration’s view of Abbas and its appreciation of the role of 
his Authority in ensuring Israel’s security and in preserving the status 

But not all Fatah supporters are happy with Abbas’ subservience. The 
youth of the Movement want to reassert a strong Palestinian position 
through mobilizing the people; Abbas wants to keep things quiet.

Amos Harel argued in ‘Haaretz’ that the hunger strike, called for by 
Barghouti himself, was the latter’s attempt at challenging Abbas and 
“rain(ing) on Trump’s peace plan.”

However, Trump has no plan. He is giving Israeli Prime Minister, 
Benjamin Netanyahu, carte blanche to do as he pleases. His solution is: 
one state, two states, whichever ‘both parties like.’ But both sides are 
far from being equal powers. Israel has nuclear capabilities and a 
massive army, while Abbas needs permission to leave the Occupied West Bank.

In this unequal reality, only Israel decides the fate of Palestinians.

On his recent visit to the US, Netanyahu articulated his future vision.

“Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area 
west of the Jordan River,” he said.

Writing in the ‘Nation’, Professor Rashid Khalidi expounded the true 
meaning of Netanyahu’s statement.

By uttering these words, “Netanyahu proclaimed a permanent regime of 
occupation and colonization, ruling out a sovereign independent 
Palestinian state, whatever fiction of ‘statehood’ or ‘autonomy’ are 
dreamed up to conceal this brutal reality,” he wrote.

“Trump’s subsequent silence amounts to the blessing of the US government 
for this grotesque vision of enduring subjugation and dispossession for 
the Palestinians.”

Why then, should Palestinians be quiet?

Their silence can only contribute to this gross reality, the painful 
present circumstances, where Palestinians are perpetually imprisoned 
under an enduring Occupation, while their ‘leadership’ receives both a 
nod of approval from Israel and accolades and more funds from Washington.

It is under this backdrop that the hunger strike becomes far more urgent 
than the need to improve the conditions of incarcerated Palestinians.

It is a revolt within Fatah against their disengaged leadership, and a 
frantic attempt by all Palestinians to demonstrate their ability to 
destabilize the Israeli-American-PA matrix of control that has extended 
for many years.

“Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor,” wrote Marwan Barghouti from 
his jail on the first day of the hunger strike.

In truth, his message was directed at Abbas and his cronies, as much as 
it was directed at Israel.

/*Dr. Ramzy Baroud* has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media 
consultant, an author of several books and the founder of 
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom 
Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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