Palestinian Hunger Strike Ends With Two Steps Forward, One Back
1,500 Palestinian hunger strikers ended their protest against prison conditions after the signing of an intensely negotiated agreement between the Israeli Prison Services and the prisoners themselves, with the mediation of Fatah, Egyptian intelligence sources and Jordanians.
As is normal in these situations, the proof will be in the execution. Such agreements have a long history of being disregarded, especially by Israel, when the moment suits. Here is how the Guardian describes the deal:
Under the agreement, which was signed following mediation by Egypt and Jordan, Israel will end solitary confinement for all prisoners and allow around 400 prisoners from Gaza to receive family visits. It agreed to discuss improvements to prison conditions, such as access to televisions and telephone calls.
Prisoners on administrative detention orders – Israel’s term for imprisonment without charge or trial, the key issue behind the hunger strike – will not have their terms renewed without fresh information or evidence being brought before a military judge.
The first two items are clear victories for the non-violent strikers. Israel had removed family visits during Gilad Shalit’s capture as a form of collective punishment/retribution. At least one Palestinian detainee had been in solitary confinement for ten years.
But administrative detention is a thornier issue. I can’t see that Israel has given up much, if anything on that score. The issue isn’t so much what evidence is used. Israel always claims it has evidence to justify administrative detention. The problem is that there is no real judicial process of review which allows the defendant to challenge or even see the evidence. This agreement seems not to have changed the worst aspects of this system.
That means that I predict that the next administrative detainee whose sentence is renewed without proper review will start another hunger strike. If Israel is smart (which it invariably isn’t) it will use this procedure sparingly, if at all in the future. We’ll have to see whether it’s learned any lesson from this. It’s doubtful, but wonders never cease.
As for what the prisoners have given up, I don’t see much if anything:
Palestinian prisoners’ leaders have “signed a commitment to completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons”, including recruitment, practical support, funding and co-ordination of operations, according to a statement released by the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet.
These prisoners have to be among the most closely and intrusively monitored prisoners in the world. I don’t see how any prisoner could engage in any of the activities listed without it being exposed and frustrated by prison authorities. Which means, this is a face-saving gesture from the Shin Bet which needs to appear to have wrung a meaningful concession from prisoners.
I don’t see any of the liberal Zionists who bitched and moaned “if only the Palestinians embraced non-violent resistance” clamoring in support of the hunger strikers. As I wrote yesterday, not a word that I’ve heard from Peter Beinart or Gershom Gorenberg on this issue. Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi, Gershom? He was on death’s door yesterday after 77 days of fasting in which you could’ve made a statement of support. Where were you?
3 thoughts on “Palestinian Hunger Strike Ends With Two Steps Forward, One Back – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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At least one member of the Knesset has referred to the hunger strikers who are under administrative detention as “killers.” Of course, it just begged the question of why those prisoners weren’t charged with murder if they had indeed killed anybody.
You’re correct, Richard – because the evidence used as justification for keeping a prisoner in admin detention is generally “secret,” there will never be any way of knowing what that evidence is or whether it even exists.
Which of course is why administrative detention is in violation of the Geneva Conventions and must end. And which is why the prisoners really didn’t win anything at all.
One may ask why a state that has kangaroo courts also needs administrative detention. One scenario when the kangaroo court is inadequate is when charges do not pass a laugh test, as it happens in the case of Dirar Abu-Sisi. Or there is nothing. As we see in Abu-Sisi case, Israel can make an accusation and with no proof keep a person for years. So why a need to keep a person with no accusation at all? There is always “membership in a forbidden organization” that allowed to detain Hamas legislators.
For example, in Stalin’s system people had relatively speedy trials. Not necessarily fair trials, but I guess people were accused of something.
If Israel’s “evidence” were ever exposed to scrutiny, it would no doubt show there was nothing more than a rumor, or hearsay, or the finger-pointing of another Palestinian under threat, which in no-man’s-land passes for “evidence.” Because such evidence is not collected for the purpose of prosecuting any defendant in a court of law, the standards are very low. I’m sure something as nebulous as an anonymous phone tip in the Orwellian State of Israel is sufficient to get an innocent Palestinian locked up for 6 months. This is life under occupation, and it will persist until the occupation is ended.