Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails have declared a mass hunger strike in solidarity with Bilal Kayed, who is today on his 50th day of hunger strike. Over 100 political prisoners have joined this act of protest against Israel’s use of administrative detention, holding prisoners without charge or trial.
Kayed’s case shows the arbitrary way that the Israeli government uses administrative detention as a tool of punishment and repression. Kayed had already been in prison for over 14 years, when he was put in isolation and under administrative detention on the very day his release was scheduled. This means that his sentence was effectively extended without any additional charge or trial.
Israel has been roundly criticised by human rights organisations for its use of administrative detention as a tool of political repression. Israel also routinely and systematically violates the Fourth Geneva Convention by transferring Palestinian political prisoners from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel.
Arbitrary arrest and detention is not only a breach of individual human rights; it is a part of the wider system of Apartheid and Occupation, under which Palestinians are denied even the most basic rights of freedom of movement and freedom to organise. Those who dare to protest are subject to arrest and violence, punishing them as individuals and sending a message to their families and communities that there is a ‘price’ for defending Palestinian rights.
Human rights defenders, especially those who fight for the rights of prisoners, are specifically targeted by the Israeli government. Hasan Safadi, the media officer of our Palestinian partner organisation Addameer, is a case in point; he was arrested in May 2016 and is still being held under administrative detention, without charges or trial, on secret evidence.
Addameer has put together a useful fact sheet on the history of hunger strikes and the wider context of the prisoners’ demands. Please do take a look to learn more about this issue and follow Addameer’s incredible work advocating for the rights of prisoners and their families.
Israel is currently holding 7,500 Palestinians as political prisoners; around 750 of them are in administrative detention, including several children. The UK government has noted these high numbers and has stated that it will continue to “lobby” the Israeli government on the topic. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also admitted recently that its attempts to press Israel on the issue, or even to investigate it, have been blocked by the Israeli government.
Despite this, the UK government continues to lend its overwhelming support to the Israeli government, most evident through its arms trade with Israel and allowing UK companies like G4S to profit through contracts equipping illegal Israeli settlements, the Apartheid Wall, and the Israeli jails holding Palestinian political prisoners.
War on Want continues to press for a two-way arms embargo on Israel, and for UK companies like G4S to stop profiting from human rights abuses. Find more about these campaigns and our other work towards Justice for Palestine on our website.
image credit: Carlos Latuff/Addameer