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The Freedom and Dignity hunger strike completes its first month

Demonstration outside the UN office in Gaza City on the 23rd day of the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike on 9 May 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Demonstration outside the UN office in Gaza City on the 23rd day of the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike on 9 May 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

While the Palestinian Nakba enters its 70th year tomorrow, the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike will finish its first month, after all the Israeli attempts to break the national prisoner movement’s will and fragment it failed. They have tried to spread lies about its leaders, using dirty means and tools that are not fitting for the human race and only used by a specific group of people who are full of hate, racism and contempt for “goys”.

Dozens of Palestinians in Gaza participated in a march today to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nakba on 15 May, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Dozens of Palestinians in Gaza participated in a march today to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nakba on 15 May, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Despite the increasing forms of popular solidarity and support for the brave strike in the prisons, and although this support echoes in the Palestinian streets, squares, cities and towns, the support has not yet reached the desired and required level. Even the prisoners who failed to join the strike are still hesitant and are perhaps waiting for orders and instructions from the leaders of their factions who are rivals and are in conflict amongst themselves.

The faction leaders in Gaza and Ramallah are competing to appear before the cameras in order to voice their support and solidarity. Some threaten Israel will doom and perseverance, while others issue warning after warning and set one time limit after the other, to no avail. However, what is actually required is much smaller than this. What is required is to say the word to the Hamas prisoners and to the rest of the prisoners affiliated with Fatah and other factions, to join their comrades and brothers on hunger strike; no more and no less.

Read: 1,500 Palestinian prisoners continue hunger strike

We do not need all of this “infamy” and we are no longer pleased by the inflammatory statements made by the muzzled mouths. All we want is a sign and a gesture, a signal to the security agencies in Gaza and the West Bank to take their hands off the Palestinian popular movement. We want a sign to the prisoners, from all the factions, to join their comrades’ strike of and work with them to ignite the uprising of the prisons against the apartheid system that manifests itself in the ugliest of forms behind the bars and in the cells.

Now is not the time to settle the score or for conflicts, neither within Fatah nor between Fatah and Hamas. Now is the time of pain and hunger, and it may become a time of blood overnight, and history is not merciful with the ineffective and inactive. The prisoners will not wait for Trump to crystallise his vision and make his first pilgrimage to the three holy cities, holy for the three

Monotheistic religions. The prisoners do not need missiles or tunnels; they need a comprehensive solidarity stance and popular support shaking the ground under the feet of the occupation and settlers.

Nakba journey - Palestinians fleeing during the Nakba in 1948
More than 1 million Palestinians were displaced in 1948
Relive the journey of Nakba refugees

Israel seeks to demonise the prisoners, as it has done historically with the martyrs of the Palestinian national movement, and it has found its partner in the Trump administration. Israel wants to tie Abu Mazen’s hands and back him into the tightest of corners by pushing Washington to pressure him to declare the prisoners “terrorists” and to cut off the salaries and aid to the bereaved families. The best response to this unprecedented assault on the symbols and icons of the Palestinian people is to support their struggle and their demands, as well as echoing their voices and the sounds of their empty stomachs that have filled our ears. The response to Israel’s arrogance lies in adopting the prisoners’ demands without hesitation, making their issue a top priority on the agendas, and doing everything we can to “internationalise” their cause, and spread it to the four corners of the globe. A nation without “symbols” and “icons” like these is a nation without colour, taste, or identity.

As for us, who are following the chapters of this heroic epic and who write poetry and prose in its honour, it is time for us to take small practical steps, starting with organising continuous protests and vigils, staging similar symbolic strikes and organising donation campaigns. A reader from Aqaba, who was burdened by the concerns of the prisoners and their families and tired of verbal and rhetorical games, suggested something to me; he wanted to start a campaign to raise money for the prisoners’ families through the telecommunications companies, sponsored by charities. This dear reader from Aqaba, who described himself as an ordinary citizen, no longer believes in statements and reports; he wants small practical steps that are possible and have significant moral and material effects.

It seems that our reader from Aqaba is sick of reading statements of solidarity that emanate from full bellies and is bored of seeing pictures of vigils that last only long enough to take pictures in front of various headquarters, including the Arab League headquarters. He wants tangible steps and firmer positions in order to face Israel’s arrogance, the Arab ineffectiveness and the international collusion, and he has the right to do so.

Translated from Addustour, 15 May 2017.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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