The world’s largest collective hunger strike is taking place, yet it took an trending challenge on social media in order for it to receive any proper attention.
On the 17th of April, an estimated 1,187 Palestinian detainees throughout various Israeli prisons began a mass hunger strike. This strike commenced in demand of better access to medical treatment, better accessibility to see family members and, above all, to protest Israel’s illegal practice of detaining Palestinians without trial or probable cause, amongst other pertinent issues.
We are now heading into the Day 16 of the strike and the number of hunger striking detainees has now soured to well above 1,600.
Issa Qaraqe, detainee affairs head for the Palestinian Authority (PA), threatened Israeli authorities with another Intifada upon the death of a single protestor and due to the implications of this strike, the measures of the protest finally seem to be turning a few heads, especially considering rumors emerging of Israel depriving the hunger strikers of the salt required to maintain their health.
Israeli far Right groups, as expected, made their way and showed up, cooking barbecues next to prisons in order to taunt inmates for their demonstration against Israel’s violations of various international laws and basic human rights. It emerged that individuals from Israeli settler communities (that number roughly 600,000 in total in the West Bank, against international law and directly violating three specific UN resolutions) showed up to fan the smoke generated from the barbecues in the direction of the hunger strikers.
With this in mind, we have also seen the development that emerged recently from the PA about its refusal to pay Israel for Gaza’s electrical supply. This will now mean an hour or two of electricity per day for the already suffering population of the strip which is now moving into its 11th year under Israel’s illegal siege. With the power out, the fuel cut, the water undrinkable, medical aid limited, all but seven hospitals non-operational and the sewage pumping plant beginning to overflow, perhaps the biggest blackout for the people of Gaza is the media blackout, meaning that not only do they suffer, nobody even knows.
All of this going on in Palestine and what was it that really started to get the attention of the corporate media outlets? Unfortunately it was not so much the situation itself on the ground, but instead a trend that has gone viral which entails drinking a cup of water, diluted with salt (the only thing the hunger strikers intake in order to stay alive). Aarab Marwan Barghouti, son of lead hunger striker Marwan Barghouti, was able to lead the charge in making the trend go viral and now it seems the media can no longer ignore the situation since so many have posted their videos up for their friends, family and the rest of the world to see.
However engaging the challenge on Facebook and Twitter may be, we should not get lost in all the hype, but rather ask the questions as to why this challenge was even initiated and what is happening in Palestine which has led to such a massive hunger strike.
So how deep does Israel’s violations of detained Palestinian human rights go? Well, let us start with something that is obviously inhumane.
Israel currently holds over 300 child prisoners and is the only state in the world that will prosecute a child in a military court, the courts are intimidating, many children are forced to sign admission papers in Hebrew (which they often cannot read) and can (for instance) be charged with twenty (20) years imprisonment for throwing a stone at an Israeli tank. Israel directly violates the UN convention on the ‘Rights of the Child’, a statement which can be corroborated by NGO’s such as ‘Military Court Watch’, which in its studies (2013 and 2016) found that at least 60 percent of children testify to experiencing harsh physical violence at the hands of their detainers.
This is but one of hundreds of examples of what is being opposed by the hunger strikers. Another example of injustice regarding children is Israel’s persistent martyrdom of Palestinian children which is perpetuated to the tune of one every three days (on average) ever since the inception of the Zionist state.
To support the protestors in a desperate call for basic human rights, a number of individuals such as Younes Arar (Palestinian activist) and Amirah Abu Rabi (Palestinian girl aged 16) have taken it upon themselves to also go on hunger strike. It is extremely important that this hunger strike does not go ignored and that activists continue to circulate information concerning it, as the action itself has no meaning outside the individual so long as Israel maintains its ongoing policies of absolute apartheid.
Some will try and claim that apartheid is perhaps just a buzzword or headline grabber if you will, but when taking a look at the oppression of the Palestinians by the Zionists things that suggest apartheid really do present themselves quite plainly. In the West Bank illegal settlers are charged in Israeli courts of law whilst Palestinians are charged and dealt with by a military court; this along with the countless cases of administrative detention serve as a staunch example of the injustice and anyone who looks at it can easily see that it is so.
Administrative detention for those who do not know is the practice employed by Israel of holding people in prison without any reason whatsoever, not giving a trial. Many people have been subjected to this brutal form of punishment, some spending up to 15 years in Israeli prisons for doing absolutely nothing.
With such injustice being carried out openly, it seems that in order for the truth to sink in in today’s world, desperate measures must be taken in proportion to the desperate situation at hand, as a Facebook trend can be the difference between apartheid laws being ignored and a public uproar.
What will be the fate of these protestors? Only time will tell. We know that Israel ignores all international condemnation, it ignores the petitions demanding their Prime Minister’s arrest and ignores the protests and seventy-eight (78) UN resolutions. So will it just ignore this? However, the bigger question now is, will this finally spark another Intifada to perhaps meet Israel with the only language it seems to speak – violence.