by Mahmoud Mahdy and Liam O’Hare
On Palestinian prisoners day, Tuesday 17th of April, the Palestinian prisoners movement will launch the Karamah (Dignity) hunger strike. They will place the true oppressive nature of the Israeli state under the spotlight once again. In a courageous move, highlighting the steadfastness of Palestinian resistance to occupation, 2400 prisoners will embark on an indefinite hunger strike demanding their basic rights as political detainees.
This call has echoed far beyond the walls of the occupation’s prisons. Shaking off the cobwebs of division which have long suppressed the liberation struggle, the potential of a new Palestinian movement directly challenging the Israeli occupation is now foreseeable. There have been two statements released from the prisoners movement expressing the conscious effort and organisation that has provided the framework for this historic hunger strike.
One of the central demands of the hunger strike is for Gazans to be able to visit their relatives in prisons, a right denied to them for six long years. Now thousands of families from the Gaza strip are preparing to rally behind the movement. In the West Bank there have been several demonstrations outside prisons with a call for mass action on the 17th, both in Palestine and internationally.
This prisoners movement has not appeared from nowhere. It was sparked by the 66-day hunger strike of administrative detainee Khader Adnan, and then led by Hana Shalabi. Hana’s courage was a catalyst. Soon more than 30 prisoners joined the strike, and pioneered a new movement of hunger strikers capable of challenging the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. Those at the forefront of this movement are now Bilal Thiab and Tha’er Halahleh who are on their 46th day of hunger strike.
Uniting many diverse currents within the Palestinian movement, this call for the Karama hunger strike signals a break from previous divisions which have hampered the Palestinian people in their fight for liberation. With the involvement of the membership of Hamas, PFLP, Islamic Jihad and the DFLP, this represents a unique moment of unity which challenges the injustice of the occupation and puts the prisoners at the forefront of the struggle.
The magnitude of the 2400 Palestinian prisoners embarking on the Karamah hunger strike must be met with a significant international response. This means mass mobilisations to question the impunity of the Israeli state and our own governments involvement.
Thousands of internationals activists are flying into Tel Aviv airport demanding the right of travel to the West Bank to take part in educational and cultural activities. They are demonstrating that all of Palestine is effectively a prison with Palestinians refused the right to receive visitors.
Several weeks ago in Scotland, hundreds of people demonstrated at the BBC to protest their complicity through silence of the Israeli treatment of Hana Shalabi. As the resistance of the prisoners escalates, our actions in turn must escalate. The intifada that is stirring in the Zionist jails must resonate beyond the prison walls.