USPCN statement: Victory to the Palestinian Political Prisoners’ #DignityStrike
“They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.”
— Bobby Sands, Irish Republican leader who died in a political prisoners’ hunger strike in 1981
After 40 days of the Palestinian Strike of Freedom and Dignity, our political prisoners have suspended their hunger strike and declared victory! Over 1,800 prisoners participated in the open-ended hunger strike, consuming only salt and water; and many more tens of thousands in Palestine, other Arab states, and the rest of the world protested, fasted in solidarity, and supported the #DignityStrike. USPCN salutes the prisoners and everyone else who played a role in this historic victory!
The hunger strike began on April 17th, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners, when 1,500 original strikers representing all of the social sectors and political forces in Palestinian society, announced their basic and humanitarian demands, including the restoration of regular family visits, an end to solitary confinement, an end to administrative detention (imprisonment for months without trial or formal charge), the strengthening of medical care, and access to education.
When the prisoners declared victory May 27th, the only detail reported by any media was the restoration of a second monthly family visit, but today in a press conference, Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission, said that “80 percent of the demands” of the prisoners were won after 20 hours of negotiations between the committee in leadership of the prisoners and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS).
It should also be noted that the IPS claims that the agreement was not made with the prisoners themselves, but between Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Palestinian Authority (PA). We reject this boldfaced lie, and also condemn the role of the ICRC, which was responsible for cutting the second monthly family visit in the first place.
In addition, we will not allow the PA to take any credit for this hunger strike and the victory it brought for our prisoners and our people. As we have many times in the past, USPCN again demands that the PA, under its President Mahmoud Abbas, immediately halt “security coordination” with Israel. It cannot be more clear that this coordination plays a leading role in serving Palestinian organizers, activists, and resistance leaders to the Israelis. In fact, a number of the hunger strikers were originally jailed by the PA before being abducted and imprisoned by the Israelis.
This hunger strike was always about more than just visitation rights and better services for the prisoners. It was a fight for respect, dignity, and freedom. And it was won because of the steadfast strength of the hunger strikers themselves, who built a united front across the political spectrum, even when the enemy tried to isolate and marginalize the leaders and break the strike. The IPS had refused to negotiate with the prisoners until just two days ago, which means the strikers broke the Israelis instead.
The fight was won because of the brave family members of the prisoners, and the entire community of Palestinians in historical Palestine, who continuously lobbied and protested to pressure Israel to accept the demands, even under massive repression from both the Israelis and the PA. It was won also because it was a fight taken up by huge numbers of people across the world, who organized nonstop in solidarity and support. In the U.S., despite virtually no coverage at all from mainstream media, activists still organized protests, visits to legislators, and solidarity encampments.
As a reminder that the U.S. government and its elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, are complicit in Israeli crimes against Palestinian prisoners and our people in general, only one, Congressman Danny Davis of Illinois, wrote a letter supporting the strikers. (Coalitions of forces met with Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and, led by USPCN, with Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, and are hopeful to get positive responses, even though the strike is suspended.) And despite a meeting USPCN organized with the staff of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, one of the most powerful members of Congress, he has been mute.
Even with this incredible victory, we cannot forget that dozens of strikers have been hospitalized, and many more will take months to recover physically. They were and are ready and willing to give up their lives to win their dignity and respect, and they and millions of other Palestinians are also ready and willing to give up their lives for full liberation.
As the Irish martyr, Bobby Sands, suggested in the quote that opens this statement, the essence of our defense of Palestinian political prisoners is a defense of resistance, a defense of organizing for liberation. The criminalization of our organizers, protesters, and leaders by Israel, the U.S., and even the Palestinian Authority (PA), is a criminalization of resistance, an attempt to brand illegitimate our movement for our national rights to return home, to self-determination, to equality, and to freedom. Those of us who seek to secure those rights, from every social sector of Palestinian society, are always going to be subject to imprisonment, whether within the open-air prison of Gaza under siege, the walled-in West Bank, the jails of the occupation and those colluding with it, or even prisons inside the U.S.
We are proud to salute and celebrate our hunger strikers and all the prisoners, and remind all that this victory comes only with a “suspension” of the hunger strike, so we must make certain that the Israelis do not renege on the agreement, as they have so many times in our history.
Follow @uspcn, @Addameer, and @SamidounPP for updates, and stay tuned to #DignityStrike and #PalHunger on social media. Continue organizing until every single one of our Palestinian political prisoners is free, and until full Liberation and Return!
May 28th, 2017