On 24 August, Bilal Kayed suspended his hunger strike after 71 days following a decision by the Israeli authorities to end his administrative detention (internment without trial or charge). Ruairí Gallagher reports.
During the hunger strike Kayed lost a large amount a weight, suffered several incidents of prolonged loss of vision, and was later arbitrarily shackled by foot to his prison hospital bed.
He received solidarity from Palestinian political groups and international organisations. 100 Palestinian political prisoners joined a rolling-system of collective hunger strikes in his support.
However, Since Israel’s decision to end Kayed’s administrative detention, the plight of Palestinian prisoners in occupied prisons has worsened. 2016 has been an annus horribilis for administrative detainees; the worst year since 2008. There are currently 700 Palestinians held under administrative detention (a 50 per cent hike on last year). Many administrative detainees are children and students not linked to political groups.
Recently, 25-year-old journalist student Malik al-Qadi, brothers Mahmoud (aged 21) and Muhammad (aged 26) al-Balboul have gone on hunger strike against their administrative detention orders. Both brothers began their hunger strikes on 5 and 7 July respectively, with al-Qadi embarking on his hunger strike on 16 July.
Mass hunger strikes began on 14 September in support of the Balboul brothers and, on 17 September, 100 Palestinian prisoners refused food in support of al-Qadi. The Electronic Intifada website reported that al-Qadi ‘suffered from a severe lung infection, low heart rate, urinary system complications and hearing loss’ whilst in a coma.
The family of Mahmoud and Muhammad al-Balboul have also been critical of Palestinian Authority (PA) leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose soldiers have acted violently towards demonstrators in support of the hunger strikers. On 21 September, the Balboul brothers and al-Qadi eventually ended their hunger strikes following a PA announcement that Israel had agreed not to renew their administrative detention. Popular legal and political efforts led to the release of Malik al-Qadi to a Palestinian hospital on 22 September and to the impending release of the Balboul brothers on 8 December (after serving their six months administrative detention).
When the three men were on hunger strike, Israel was criticised for making concerted efforts to further eradicate the rights Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikers. For example, on 11 September, Israel’s judicial system upheld the law permitting force-feeding of hunger strikers – a practice condemned by world medical bodies for contravening basic human rights. Israeli judges also rejected a number of petitions to release al-Qadi as he lay in a coma.
A growing number of Palestinians have been imprisoned under administrative detention for ‘alleged incitement’ on social-media websites. Palestinian journalist, Jamah Dweik (aged 25), was released on 20 September, after spending six months in detention for writing a status and sharing an image on Facebook in sympathetic support of Palestinians killed by Israel. According Addameer (the prisoners’ rights organisation), 200 Palestinians, including children, have been incarcerated for alleged incitement since October 2015. A secret Israeli military intelligence unit has also been tasked with spying on social-media websites and hacking telephones.
The prison situation remains far from resolved with new detainees embarking on hunger strikes each week. Samidoun – Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – reported on 6 October, that several Palestinian prisoners (all aged in their 20s and early 30s) have gone on hunger strikes in the Negev desert, Ofer and Ashkelon prisons in protest of administrative detention, arbitrary transfers and isolation.
The UN and humanitarian groups have described Israel’s use of torture and its incarceration of 7000 Palestinians as a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We send our solidarity to all Palestinians held unjustly in Israeli prisons, to those on hunger strike, and demand an end to the practice of administrative detention.