Palestinian Hunger Strikers Appeal to High Court as Movement, International Support Grows

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Appeal to High Court as Movement, International Support Grows

by
Common Dreams staff

Israeli Arab protesters hold posters depicting Palestinian hunger strikers Thaer Halahla and Bilal Thiab during a protest outside Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem. (Photo: Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse)

Two Palestinians prisoners who have been on hunger strike over 65 days appeared before Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday -- the latest step in a growing movement of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli Prisons.

Arriving in the court room in wheelchairs, the two Palestinian prisoners, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, appealed for their release from 'detention without trial'.

Halahla and Diab, are two of between 1,500 and 2,000 Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike, refusing food in Israeli jails in a protest against so-called 'administrative detention'.

Halahla, told the three Supreme Court judges, "Administrative detention is a slow death," before Diab, 27, slumped unconscious and was removed from the chamber.

The court ultimately deferred a ruling on the two prisoners' petitions, essentially sending both back into detention.

The steadily growing hunger strike movement has been dubbed by Palestinian activists as 'the battle of empty stomachs' and has gained outside support from solidarity marches and rallies in the West Bank and Gaza, and have drawn a new wave of international criticism of Israeli policies, according to Reuters.

"As the strike has swelled, the prisoners’ names and faces have been plastered on protest tents in villages throughout the West Bank. With the peace process stalled and internal Palestinian politics adrift, many analysts here see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement, and the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank," writes the New York Times.

* * *

Agence France-Presse: Israel high court hears hunger striker appeals

Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla are protesting Israel's use of administrative detention, which allows military courts to order individuals held without charge for periods of up to six months, renewable indefinitely.

Jamil Khatib, who is representing both men, said his address to the court focused on what he called the "illegality" of administrative detention.

"The appeal focused on two sides, the illegality of administrative detention in general, in terms of why they are being held, and secondly why Thaer and Bilal took this step to shed light on administrative detention," Khatib said.

He said Halahla addressed the session, speaking "about his arrest and the violations that were committed against him and why he decided to go through with his hunger strike."

"He spoke about his right to a good life and his right to see his daughter, who was born while he was in administrative detention," Khatib added.

It was unclear when the court would issue a ruling on the appeal.

Judge Amnon Rubenstein "announced that the panel of judges would make a decision after reviewing the 'secret file,'" prisoner rights group Ad-Dameer said in a statement.

"But after the review (he) stated that the parties would be informed at a later time, without specifying when."

* * *

Reuters: Palestinian hunger strikers appeal to Israeli court

Thaer Halahla and Bilal Diab, suspected by Israel of security offences, are among at least 1,550 Palestinian prisoners refusing food in Israeli jails in a protest against so-called "administrative detention".

Among the prisoners currently on hunger strike, only Halahla, Diab and two other men have passed the 60-day mark. Ten stopped eating about 40 days ago while the others began the protest on April 17, Palestinian officials said.

Halahla, jailed for the past 22 months, told the three-judge Supreme Court panel hearing the appeal: "Administrative detention is a slow death."

"I want to live my life with dignity. I have a wife, and a daughter I never met. I am on hunger strike because there is no other way," he said.

A spokeswoman for Israel's Physicians for Human Rights said both Halahla and Diab, who live in the occupied West Bank, were in a "life-threatening" condition because of the length of their strike. [...]

"I am appalled by the continuing human rights violations in Israeli prisons and I urge the government of Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian prisoners," said U.N. official Richard Falk, who monitors human rights in the Palestinian territories.

* * *

New York Times: Palestinians Go Hungry to Make Their Voices Heard

The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons

Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in.

The two longest-striking prisoners, who have gone without food for 66 days, appeared in wheelchairs before Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday morning, pleading for their release from what is known here as administrative detention — incarceration without formal charges. One of them, Bilal Diab, 27, fainted during the hearing.

“I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity,” the other man, Thaer Halahleh, 33, testified, according to an advocacy group that had a supporter in the courtroom. “No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason.”

As the strike has swelled, the prisoners’ names and faces have been plastered on protest tents in villages throughout the West Bank. With the peace process stalled and internal Palestinian politics adrift, many analysts here see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement, and the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.

# # #

Share This Article

More in: