Palestinian Prisoners Plan Hunger Strike
Palestinian prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are planning to start a hunger strike on July 3, according to news coming out of Ramallah from the Palestinian Prisoners Club. They are protesting 'harsh' changes in Israeli government policy toward their living conditions.
At the close of last Thursday's Presidential conference, PM Netanyahu announced that his government has decided to toughen the conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. "Israel is taking a series of steps to change the prisoners' conditions. We will stop among other things, the absurd practice in which Palestinian prisoners enroll in academic studies. The celebration is over.... There will be no more doctorates of terror."
This refers to the former generous policy that prisoners are able to advance their education while serving out their sentences.
These new actions are all being proposed in direct response to Hamas' continued rejection of the International Red Cross demand to allow them to visit Gilad Schalit, the prisoner Hamas kidnapped five years, and their complete refusal to bend under international pressure to release him.
The Palestinian prisoners are responding to 'normal, everyday' human rights that they have enjoyed and grown accustomed to, treatment they had been receiving that is in direct contrast to the horrendous and inhumane treatment Israelis receive in Palestinian prisons. So, now they have grievances and they want the rest of the world to know it.
In an answer to a member of the Knesset, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch responded about prisoner privileges by stating: "Security prisoners, unlike criminal prisoners, are not entitled to vacations, conjugal visits, the use of cell phones, education and the services of a social worker.... In terms of visits they are entitled to one 45-minute visit every fortnight from immediate family with a partition present." He also added "that visits will be held only once a month in the Keziot Prison. As for academic studies, prisoners were previously given the opportunity to enroll in classes in the Open University. In recent years I have taken a number of steps to reduce studies and was instructed last month to altogether cease the option of studies."
The new policy conditions include putting hundreds of Palestinians prisoners in solitary confinement and isolation, and at least one third have been denied family visitation rights, with only the immediate relatives of the ages of 70 and over or 14 and under able to apply for this benefit. The families of these prisoners have been officially told that they will not be permitted to visit their children in Israeli jails, just as Noam and Aviva Schalit have been denied visitation rights to see their son, Gilad.
And in reaction to the threatened hunger strike Aharonovitch remarked: "They can strike all they want, nothing will deter myself and the Prison Service.