A fateful moment awaits as Israel is forced to choose how it will handle the Palestinian prisoner revolt.
In the next few days, something momentous will occur. A group of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike for over 60 days will either be released from incarceration in Israeli prison without charge or trial, or they will likely die.
And it will not end there, either. Many more have followed them down this perilous road of life, death and principle. In fact, thousands more.
Two Palestinians—Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi—have already crossed the finish line, securing their release from prison—through deals cut with the Israeli government. Yet will Israel release any more, and in so doing, allow the military justice system, in place in the occupied territories for decades, to crumble?
Know their names. Bilal Diab. Thaer Halahleh. Hasan Safadi. Jafaar Izzedine. These men and thousands more men and women—prisoners with no rights—have usurped some of the power from their jailers and are challenging the system of imprisonment that has been used to subjugate Palestinians for nearly half a century.
Under the radar, Israeli leaders are scrambling for a way out. All types of measures have been used to break the will of hunger strikers, including excessive bouts of solitary confinement and psychological pressure aimed at weakening their resolve. The tactics have not worked. As thousands have joined the hunger strike movement it appears it has gone well beyond Israel’s ability to stop.
The future remains uncertain. Will the death of prisoners in Israel jails ignite the occupied territories or will they simply fizzle out? Although very little seems capable of mustering mainstream Palestinian society these days, the reaction to this eventuality is unpredictable. Prisoners are a decisive issue for Palestinians (read here). Moreover, as the peace process comes to an inglorious end, the status quo is increasingly fragile. The political and economic horizons for Palestinians are beginning to close once again. Times are changing.
One reader pointed out the connection to Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger strikes of the early 1980s. This connection was pointedly made during the 66-day hunger strike of Khader Adnan (coincidentally Sands would die of starvation on the 66th day of his own hunger strike). @RichardL also gave a link to a Guardian piece on the impact of the IRA hunger strikes, which ended in the deaths of 10...Read More