Around 7.30am local time a group of Palestinian youth activists arrived at the gates of the main UN building in Ramallah, put up signs declaring UN Office closed and blocked access to and from the building.
As Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh reach their 73rd day the activists had decided something needed to be done to highlight their plight and demand of the UN they fulfil their mandated role and speak out against Israel and initiate sanctions. PA police were quick on the scene and although the PA outnumbered the activists to begin with and the commander initially attempted to intimidate the activists they were resolute and soon began jokingly tweeting about how confused the PA were that there were no leaders, which is something I told them we can relate to here in Scotland! It was clear to see through the camaraderie with international activists on twitter that they were in great spirits and would hold out until the press arrived and the more people they hoped would join the protest arrived. This was aided in no small way by a morale boosting phone call from Khader Adnan (conveyed to everyone over a loud hailer) who saluted them and their action.
The hashtag #UNclosed began trending as news of this brilliantly coordinated action spread quickly around the global networks and the Sixteen Minutes To Palestine blog reported how after 3 hours the demonstration had grown as prisoners families had come to swell the ranks. Someone must have brought some stickers as the UN building was soon decked-out in hunger strike stickers!
The activists had composed and sent a letter to Ban-Ki Moon and the UN and posted on the ArabAgenda blog, the letter in full:
May 10, 2012
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
We, Palestinians for Dignity, represent a network of movements and individuals united in the struggle to achieve equality, justice and freedom for the Palestinian people wherever they reside. In your capacity as the United Nations Secretary General and in support of the rule of International law, we are writing to urge you to take urgent action to stop Israel’s continued violations of the rights of the over 4,600 Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails.
Over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners initiated on April 17th an open-ended hunger strike to protest abuse at the hands of the Israeli Prison Service and to demand that their basic rights be respected. Hundreds more prisoners joined the hunger strike since then bringing the number of hunger strikers up to an estimated 2,500 prisoners. Their plight has become even more urgent with the deteriorating health condition of eight prisoners, five of whom are held under the illegal practice of administrative detention, and some of whom have been on hunger strike for over two months.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said yesterday that the lives of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla are in danger, and demanded that Israel transfer them to a civilian hospital, without moving them back and forth to the prison. Israel has thus far refused to do so, highlighting Israel’s disregard for the lives of Palestinians. The cruel, inhuman and degrading practices that Palestinian prisoners are subjected to include denial of access to medical care, torture, solitary confinement, limits to family visitation, violations of children’s rights and bans on education, not to mention hundreds of them were never charged or given legal due process and are being held in Administrative Detention..
We note with disappointment your silence ever since this protest movement began in December 2011 with Khader Adnan’s arbitrary arrest and subsequent hunger strike. This stands in stark contrast to your vocal and persistent remarks in support of formerly incarcerated Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Though Shalit has been released, Palestinian prisoners are still suffering under the so-called “Shalit Law”, which imposed harsher measures on their conditions of detention.
We remind you of your responsibilities as Secretary-General of the UN. We invoke the norms of international law that guarantee basic rights to Palestinian prisoners, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention Against Torture and the World Medical Association Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers.
We urge you to take a firm and vocal position in opposition to Israel’s abuse and violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights and encourage, through UN mechanisms at your disposal, measures of accountability for these violations. We urge you to take an official position in linewith the Palestinian prisoners’ demands and to encourage member states to stand against these gross human rights’ violations. We await your urgent response.
Palestinians For Dignity
Already there are reports on twitter that activists in Switzerland are heading to the UN in Geneva to close it down! In Gaza, the hashtag #ICRCclosed is circulating on twitter as calls go out to target them for their woeful and shameful efforts on behalf of the hunger strikers.
*UPDATE: Protesters are now outside the UN in Amman, Jordan!
The activists in Ramallah are aware that activists in Scotland are reporting on their action, and thank us for the messages of solidarity. However, any solidarity without action is empty and meaningless.
We Are All Hana Shalabi have been active from the beginning and will continue to be. The campaign has initiated a Global Fast for the hunger strikers on Nakba Day:
As well as the fast, there will be events in Edinburgh and Glasgow on Tuesday evening. The hunger strikers have inspired a new wave of young people coming out in support of the Palestinians. We welcome this new energy, and warmly invite anyone who has attended a demonstration or followed the campaign online to become more involved with the running of the campaign!
Who knows, the action going on right now in Ramallah may just be another small sign that the intifada stirring inside the Zionist jails is indeed beginning to resonate beyond the prison walls, how much that is the case we can’t know but what we do know is that things are going to begin moving very fast in Palestine and things are about to intensify.
When that happens we need to be in a position in Scotland to respond quickly and in a manner that does justice to the towering and inspiring bravery of the Palestinians.