Today is a day of power for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation. It was recently confirmed that hunger striker Khader Adnan returned safely to his friends and family. And as tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank commemorate this year’s Prisoners’ Day, upwards of 1,600 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike while another 2,300 refused meals.
This is the year of the prisoner, a year that has already seen and accomplished much more than any year of “negotiations”. The Palestinian people have chosen to work against the system of occupation and apartheid, not with it. As the Palestinian Authority just moments ago submitted yet another series of ‘delegatory demands’ to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, Khader Adnan addressed a crowd in his hometown of Jenin, pledging his full support to the 4,700 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and specifically to the thousands starving themselves for the rest to remain.
Adnan recently went on a 66-day hunger strike to protest his incarceration without charge by Israel. As word spread of his hunger strike, the world took notice of Israel’s administrative detention policies. Investigative journalists with The Guardian released a special report about children illegally imprisoned in Cell 36 of Israel’s Al Jamale jail. Hana Al-Shalabi began her hunger strike weeks later in protest of her incarceration for unspecified reasons. After her action attracted international media attention, Israel was pressured into releasing her. Since then, at least five more Palestinians embarked on hunger strikes including Thaer Halahlah who, according to reports on Sunday, began coughing up blood as his health declined.
As Palestinian prisoners take advantage of the momentum created by Adnan’s and Al-Shalabi’s successful hunger strikes, it is important to put their efforts into context by tracking the numbers. Presently, 4,700 Palestinians are being held in 27 Israeli prisons and detention centers. Among them, at least 185 are children and 9 are women. A total of 27 elected Palestinian officials are also held in Israeli jails while another 310 are held administratively, meaning Israel can indefinitely renew imprisonment every six months without charging them. These statistics were reported by the Ministry of Detainees’ Affairs in the Gaza Strip.
An intifada is stirring from within Israel’s prison walls. In a matter of time, when Israel’s undemocratic and brutal prison system is further called into question, the sacrifices made by Palestine’s newest hunger strikers will play an integral role in securing the rights of the Palestinian people once and for all.