Oct 06 2011
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Centre stage in Palestine
Sumud, in her early 20s now, has not seen her father in five years. Attempts to obtain this basic human right through the International Committee of the Red Cross have failed. Neither did an attempt to get redress from the Israeli courts have any result.
A month ago, the Israeli high court accepted the Israeli army lawyer's claims that if young Sumud would meet her father, he might transmit to her (even across a glass window) some kind of sign or message that would cause violence!
As a result, the high court of the "only democracy in the Middle East" forbade a young woman from seeing her father for the fifth year in a row.
In addition to an open-ended, full-time hunger strike, inmates are also participating in part-time hunger strikes and refusing to obey certain IPS rules, such as wearing prison uniforms and participating in roll calls.
Israeli officials, who were so focused on the PLO's UN bid and the fear of mass activities thereafter, seem to have been taken by surprise by the prisoners' protests.
In his speech at the UN for statehood application, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made special reference to the need to pay attention to Palestinian freedom fighters held in Israeli jails in difficult circumstances.
If past actions are to be judged, prisoners' hunger strikes, more than actions at the UN, have a way of moving the Palestinian public like nothing else. In a small community such as Palestine, 6,000 prisoners mean hundreds of thousands of relatives and friends, as well as supporters. As prisoners on hunger strike become sick and there is a possibility of loss of life, the emotions outside prisons are often raw and produce active reactions.
Palestinian prisoners are held in 22 jails in Israel. They include 38 women, 285 children and 270 men held administratively (without charge); among them, there are 22 members of parliament taken as hostages. Twenty prisoners are held in solitary confinement and 143 prisoners have been incarcerated for more than 20 years.
A further development has been apparent movement on the prisoner exchange negotiations. Gaza's Hamas officials expressed surprise that the German envoy negotiating the release of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit made a sudden and unannounced visit to Egypt Tuesday. Hamas officials say that his visit was suggested by Israel to distract attention from the prisoners' demands.
While the Israeli media and hasbara (information campaign) give the Israeli soldier held by Hamas a huge amount of publicity, little attention has been given by regional and international press to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including some like Saadat, who were also kidnapped and whose family members are not allowed to visit them.
Palestinian protesters are hoping that their hunger strike will produce the needed attention to their suffering.
© Jordan Times 2011
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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