Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 May 2017


Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

Protesting against the Israeli government's attacks on Palestine, photo by Paul Mattsson

Protesting against the Israeli government's attacks on Palestine, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Shahar Ben-Horin , Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel/Palestine)

The Strike of Freedom and Honour is the name given to an indefinite mass hunger strike of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which started on Palestinian Prisoner Day, 17 April.

The prisoners are demanding the ending of discrimination on national grounds in prison and arbitrary detention without charge or trial ('administrative arrests'). The prisoners' protest is also against medical neglect, solitary confinement, violation of rights to visits, prohibition of telephone calls and denial of the right to academic studies.

Every week sees dozens of military raids on homes of residents throughout the West Bank. Residents are removed from their beds in the middle of the night as a matter of routine.

According to Israeli Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of April more than 6,100 Palestinian prisoners classified as 'security prisoners', including nearly 500 administrative detainees, were held in Israeli jails. 300 of the prisoners are minors, according to the Palestinian prisoners' rights association A-Dameer (The Conscience).


Aside from the security prisoners held by the IPS, hundreds of Palestinians are held after being criminalised by the occupation authorities as 'illegal stayers', usually after seeking work in Israel; and dozens more Palestinians are held in military and police facilities before being transferred to the IPS.

Since October 2015 some 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested by the Israeli authorities, about a third of them under 18.

Israeli regime propaganda seeks to systematically mark all Palestinian security prisoners as murderers. Even if this was true - and it is not - criminal murderers get better incarceration conditions.

However, the sweeping indictment is intended to silence public criticism and torpedo discussion on the reality of the occupation. Many of the prisoners were imprisoned for the sole fact of their involvement in a political struggle against the occupation and the national oppression of the Palestinians.

In contrast, Ami Popper, a Jewish security prisoner who slaughtered seven Palestinian workers on nationalist grounds, is entitled to holidays from prison, regular phone calls with relatives and even a place of work outside the prison.

Palestinian security prisoners are not entitled to any of these. Since 2011, they have been deprived of the right to study at the Open University, because they are not Jewish.

This follows a cynical measure of collective punishment imposed as a means of exerting pressure on Hamas (the right-wing Islamist Palestinian organisation that controls Gaza) to release the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

The policy remained in place even after the prisoner exchange deal that was eventually conducted in the same year.

The prisoners' main demand is for public telephones to be installed in their prison wings so that they can talk to their relatives. Not only does such an arrangement exist in the criminal wings, but also the most famous Jewish security prisoner, Yigal Amir (who assassinated Israeli prime minister Rabin in 1995), is allowed to talk to his family by telephone. Palestinians are forbidden from doing so.

The current action is the largest hunger strike since 2012, when about 1,500 prisoners went on hunger strike for nearly a month and achieved some improvement in conditions.


A series of hunger strikes by administrative detainees managed to bring about the release of detainees without an indictment, which only proved the claim that they were arbitrarily detained and refuted the claim of their alleged danger.

But the Israeli establishment continues to view hunger strikes among Palestinian prisoners as a threat.

The forced-feeding law approved by the Knesset (Israel's parliament) in 2015 is designed to help the state subdue hunger strikes.

The Israeli Medical Association (doctors' trade union), as part of the policy of the World Medical Association, issued a vocal criticism against the law and ordered doctors not to cooperate with it. The lack of collaborationist doctors who would agree to break the hunger strike has now led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's officials to consider flying doctors in from abroad to do so.

Most of the hunger strikers are identified with Fatah (the biggest faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation). Additionally, hundreds more prisoners identified with Hamas and PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) are taking part.

The most prominent leader of the current strike is Marwan Barghouti, one of 13 Palestinian MPs (members of the Palestinian Legislative Council) imprisoned by Israel and considered the most popular Palestinian leader today - sometimes called the 'Palestinian Nelson Mandela'.

Barghouti, who was one of the leaders of the militias affiliated with Fatah - the Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - survived an assassination attempt in 2001 ("targeted prevention") by the Israeli military.

He was arrested during a military raid on Ramallah the following year and convicted in a civil court for responsibility for approving terrorist actions against civilians on both sides of the Green Line (the political border between Israel and the occupied territories), in which five people were murdered. Barghouti denied the allegations, gave up legal defence as a protest against the trial, and claimed he was opposed to harming innocent people.

It should be emphasised that the socialist left opposes the use of terrorist methods in struggles. Contrary to the propaganda of the Israeli establishment, not every person who wages an armed struggle against the occupation is a terrorist.

And isn't Netanyahu responsible for issuing instructions for actions, such as the bombing of highly populated areas in the Gaza Strip, in which many Palestinian civilians died?

Barghouti's popularity is a cause for concern for the Israeli establishment. While Palestinian Authority President Abbas continues to maintain full arrangements with the occupation regime, Barghouti corresponds with the public rage against the Palestinian president, who is reaching the end of his road.

Barghouti attacks Abbas's authoritarian rule, explains that the negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic campaign on the international level have failed, and demands that the Palestinian Authority ends the 'security coordination'.

In recent years he has called for a new popular intifada. His challenge to Abbas' leadership is also the reason why, despite coming first in the election in December to the Fatah central committee, Abbas refused to appoint him to the position of deputy chairman of the Fatah movement.

Abbas has paid lip service in support of the hunger strike, but has no interest in it. He does not want Barghouti to profit politically from the hunger strike or the development of a popular protest movement around it - at the time when he puts his trust in Donald Trump and wants to show he has control on the ground in the Palestinian Authority enclaves.

Many thousands took part in protest marches held on Prisoner Day throughout the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.


The protests in the West Bank are facing military repression, which could worsen later. During the first two weeks of the hunger strike, the highest number of Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2017 was recorded, with 191 injured, including 45 minors (OCHA figures).

Solidarity demonstrations have been held in several countries around the world, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), of which the Histadrut (Israeli trade union organisation) is affiliated, published a solidarity statement.

As usual, the Israeli government and the tops of IPS declare they have no intention to negotiate with the prisoners.

Nevertheless, according to reports, negotiations between the prisoners and the IPS took place during the weeks leading up to the strike, and if the strike intensifies, they will probably be renewed.

More protest actions, of Palestinians and Israelis, to support the hunger strike represent a potential threat to Netanyahu's fanatical right-wing government.

Israeli demonstrators must stand alongside Palestinian demonstrators. And the Israeli Medical Association is, on this issue, an example to other trade unions.

It is necessary to rebel against draconian legislation and attacks by the right-wing government. The prisoners' protests should help to build a stronger movement against the occupation and perpetuation of the national conflict, against the war on workers and poor, and for peace, equality and socialist change.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 17 May 2017:

Kick out the Tories! Corbyn can win

Kick out the Tories: For a Corbyn-led government

Tories out! Corbyn can win with socialist policies

Corbyn's manifesto: An important step in the right direction

TUSC confirms no candidates in June

Suprise rally with Jeremy Corbyn in Morley

Corbyn's alternative for young people

Corbyn could re-win Scotland with a socialist approach to independence

Socialist Party news and analysis

One in three borrow for rent, Corbyn pledges housing revolution

Tories escape election fraud charges

NHS cyberattack: budget cuts and spy agency to blame

31,000 more kids at risk of abuse or neglect

Socialist Party workplace news

PCS election: Increased majority for Democracy Alliance

Support Corbyn's call to renationalise Royal Mail

CWU walkout wins large concessions

Blackpool deserves better - anti-austerity rally

Unison must back Corbyn's pledge to abolish zero-hour contracts with action

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Socialist ideas are energising young people

Fund the fight against the Tories

Packed meeting sets out socialist policies needed to defeat the Tories

International socialist news and analysis

Palestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

Brazil: General strike against Temer regime

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Barcelona May Days 1937 - a civil war within a civil war

Hull workers who fought in the Spanish Civil War

The Socialist inbox


Home   |   The Socialist 17 May 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleSocialism - the podcast of the Socialist Party

triangleThe ongoing capitalist crisis and the struggle for a socialist world

triangleAhed Tamimi - worldwide symbol of self-esteem in face of oppression

triangleAntisemitism smears against Corbyn are battering ram of the right

triangleIsrael - Protest rally against the Nationality Law


triangleStriking Brum home carers reject 'final' pay cut offer

triangleSouth Western rail workers launch five-day safety strike to save guards

triangleCable makers' pay strike bites as production falls 33%

triangleGrimethorpe dinner ladies stage all-out strike against redundancy


triangleBirmingham home carers' protest demo

triangleLeeds protest against NHS treatment cuts

triangleFracking companies backed by government and courts


triangleEyewitness report from Gaza: "Razan was killed in front of my eyes"

triangleYes to the struggle to lift the siege


trianglePalestinian solidarity: "We are not victims. We are freedom fighters."


triangleSocialists fight for Palestinian liberation and workers' unity


triangle100 years since police went on strike: "never nearer to Bolshevism"


trianglePOA walkout over government failure to make prisons safe


triangleTrump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict


triangleEnfield North Labour Party votes 'no confidence' in its MP


triangleJordan: Workers and youth remove prime minister and demand end to austerity


triangleExclusive interview with Gazan activist: "The more they kill us, the more the anger increases"


triangleTrump's tariffs raise international tensions


triangleLibres y Combativas: striking for women's rights in the Spanish state





Libres y Combativas: striking for women's rights in the Spanish state



Ireland: 10,000 march for homes in Dublin



US: #CancelKavanaugh



Polarisation, risks and resistance in Brazilian elections



Mexico: socialists violently attacked by gangs - urgent solidarity needed



Indonesia tsunami - a disaster compounded by capitalism



USA: crisis follows Supreme Court justice nomination



Trump's tariffs raise international tensions



Catalonia: 'Diada' 2018 an immense show of strength for republic


South Africa

South Africa: new workers' formations herald fightback against Ramaphosa's capitalist agenda


Jeff Bezos

Bezos housing hypocrisy



Ireland housing occupations



Sweden: left and far right gain as establishment parties falter



Support for Putin's regime dips over major attacks on state pensions



Nicaragua: With the people against the Ortega government and imperialism

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018