Israel treats Palestinian
prisoners horrifically. Cruel and unusual punishment is policy. Detention
conditions include torture, intimidation, and other abusive practices.
Hunger strikes first began in 1968. Nablus Prison detainees initiated
them. Numerous others followed. At issue is abusive treatment and appalling
Medical neglect causes sickness, disease and death. Last summer, the
Palestinian Center for Defending Detainees (PCDD) reported hundreds
of seriously ill prisoners. They're affected by heart disease, cancer,
kidney failure, pleurisy, chronic pain, and other illnesses too grave
Prison conditions cause them. Medical neglect exacerbates them. Palestinians
complain they lack access to hospitals for tests, treatment and surgery.
It's unavailable in prison medical clinics.
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) delays and obstructs until illnesses
are too advanced to treat effectively. As a result, Palestinians suffer
Last summer, the European Network to Support the Rights of Palestinian
Prisoners (UFree) demanded international bodies enforce international
law provisions protecting their rights and health.
Deep concern was expressed following reports of medical neglect causing
slow, painful deaths. Sixty-five World Health Organization (WHO) member
countries supported a resolution condemning how abusively incarcerated
Palestinians are treated. They urged intervention to help them.
Nothing followed. Prison abuses continue unaddressed. This among other
issues launched hunger strikes.
On May 10, Addameer said lawyer Mona Neddaf visited four strikers in
Ramleh Prison's medical clinic. Thaer Halahleh was among them. May 11
marked his 74th day without food.
Death could be imminent. His vital signs are dangerously weak. He's
vomiting blood. His gums and lips are bleeding. His upper body's infected.
IPS officials cancelled a scheduled a family visit.
Neddaf also saw strikers Mohammad Taj (on day 55), Jaafar Azzedine (on
day 51), and Nidal Shehadeh (on 25).
Strikers are isolated. IPS authorities threaten them. Even if too weak
to stand, they're ordered to do so for daily counts. Otherwise lawyer
visits are denied.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) stressed the urgency of transferring
prisoners without food for over 40 days to private hospitals for care
unavailable at Ramleh.
In a letter to Netanyahu, Israeli health ministry officials, IPS authorities,
and the Israeli Medical Association, PHR-I's Anat Litwin, Director,
Prisoners and Detainees Department, said prison doctors have conflicts
of interest. They yield to "demands of security" over patient needs,
health and well-being.
Medical ethics breaches are common. Prison doctors are complicit in
abusive treatment. They ignore serious health issues. They deny vital
care. Their negligence risks lives.
"There is thus grave concern that irreparable damage to hunger strikers'
health and/or life threatening conditions are not addressed."
"PHR-Israel is deeply concerned that the IPS uses its medical system
to exert pressure on hunger strikers, violating medical ethics, and
endangering their health and lives."
"We are concerned that efforts to prevent visits by independent doctors
and lawyers are aimed at isolating hunger strikers and avoiding transparency
in prison conditions."
Litwin requested an immediate response "before we turn to legal measures."
Bilal Diab was transfered to Assaf HaRofeh Hospital, then returned to
Ramleh on his 71st hunger striking day. He's now on day 74. Denying
him vital treatment is criminal and unconscionable. The clinic holds
other long-term strikers.
At least eight refused food for 45 or more days. Hassan Safadi reached
day 68. Omar Abu Shalal's on day 66. Their health significantly deteriorated.
Urgent private hospital care is needed. IPS officials refuse transfers.
On May 11, the International Middle East Media Center headlined "No
Deal Reached With Hunger-Striking Detainees," saying:
The Palestinian Center for Defending Detainees (PCDD) refuted media
reports about agreement between strikers and IPS officials. The "battle
of empty stomachs" continues.
Other reports about Mahmoud Issa and Waleed Khaled removed from isolation
are untrue. They remain abusively confined in tiny cells.
Only strike leaders may negotiate and speak on behalf of others. IPS
and Shabak officials met with unauthorized detainees. At issue was preventing
more strikers joining them. False reports followed. Doing so mocks prisoner
Unverifiable claims harm strikers. PCCD and other organizations hold
Israel fully responsible for appalling life-threatening treatment.
Prisoners won't accept cosmetic changes for real ones. They listed demands.
All must be addressed. International law supports them. Israel spurns
them unaccountably. Weaseling around them is rejected.
Reports suggest from 2,500 to 3,000 prisoners refuse food. Their ranks
grow daily. Israeli attempts to stop them failed.
Striker representative Tawfiq Abu Naim said Israel's response to prisoner
demands is too demeaning to consider. He stressed that only authorized
striker committee members may negotiate on behalf of others.
On May 10, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that hunger
strikers exist. A weak-kneed statement on his behalf said in part:
He "continues to follow with concern the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian
prisoners in Israeli custody, in particular those held in what is known
as administrative detention."
He added that "those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial
guarantees, or released without delay. (He) urged all concerned to reach
a solution without delay."
He stopped short of denouncing abusive Israeli practices and holding
responsible officials fully accountable. He avoided what most needs
to do done. His statement lacked teeth and conviction. He did too little
too late to matter. He showed whose side he's on.
On May 10, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA)
issued a statement quickly removed from its site.
Commissioner General Filippo Grandi "expressed his grave concern about
the current medical and health conditions of the thousands of Palestinian
political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons."
He "appealed to the Israeli government to find an acceptable solution,
noting that the hunger strikersí demands are generally related to the
basic rights of prisoners, as stipulated in the Geneva Conventions."
He "reiterated the call of the Secretary-General of the United Nations
that those under administrative detention be brought to trial or be
set free, noting that two of the administrative detainees are in serious
condition after more than 74 days, and are in imminent danger of death."
Again, it was too little, too late, then quickly removed without explanation.
Perhaps UNWRA's indifference to Palestinian suffering was affirmed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also acted largely indifferent.
On May 9, he said striker deaths could trigger harsh backlash responses.
They could spin out of control. "It is very dangerous," he said.
He's done pathetically little to help. He talks but won't act. So do
others who matter. Israel takes full advantage.
Strikers show undaunted courage despite appalling conditions and abuse.
They've come too far to yield now. They attracted world attention. Western
media acknowledge them. Israel's image is further blackened.
Palestine's elected prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, read aloud their
statement at a May 11 demonstration. They vowed to escalate their struggle
for justice, saying:
"We swear we will not retreat. We are potential martyrs. Either we live
in dignity or die."
Some West Bank strikers refused Gaza deportation for freedom.
Who knows what's needed to break Israel's chokehold on injustice. Perhaps
martyrs will hasten the time it comes. Palestinian suffering won't end
until then. Liberation is worth the price it costs.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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