Palestinians in Israeli jails launch mass hunger strike

The Public Editor of the New York Times took the newspaper to task for failing to identify Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti as a convicted murderer of Israeli Jews.

"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the worldwide law requires", he told Israel's Army Radio, adding that under the ministry's policy, "you can't negotiate with prisoners such as these".

Marwan Barghouti, the leader of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, has been moved to solitary confinement amid warnings by Israeli officials that they will not negotiate with the striking detainees.

In the West Bank and Gaza, thousands staged solidarity marches to mark Prisoners' Day in the Palestinian areas.

A day before the strike began, Barghouti had described his personal experience in Israeli prisons, speaking of "inhumane" treatment and "humiliation" when explaining the reasoning behind the protest.

In an interview on Monday on Israel's Army Radio, Oren said that the New York Times should be "held accountable" if someone at the paper had helped Barghouti to smuggle out the op-ed.

Unprecedented in scale, the protest action involves a reported number of 1,500 prisoners. Hundreds of other civilians in solidarity with prisoners have taken to the streets to demand basic rights for the inmates and bring to light the hard conditions people have to face when behind bars. "Palestinian prisoners have been demanding these basic rights for years", said Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.

Starting Sunday, numerous more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons declared that they were on a hunger strike, which prompted demonstrations of support Monday in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority's de facto capital, and elsewhere in the West Bank. The global community, it insisted, should bear its "legal and ethical responsibilities" to oblige Israel to respect worldwide law by dealing with the Palestinians it is holding as prisoners of war.

The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement: "The Palestinian prisoners are not political prisoners".

Barghouti was arrested in 2002 during the violent Palestinian uprising and convicted on multiple counts of murder. "They were brought to justice and are treated properly under global law". An Israel Prisons Service spokesman said some 1,100 inmates at eight jails had joined the strike.

Israel has denied suggestions that Palestinian prisoners have been left in poor conditions. The hunger strikers' immediate demands included better conditions, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel's practice of detentions without trial.

The open-ended strike of Palestinians is in response to the poor conditions and the Israeli policy of detention, in which they are being jailed since the 1980s without any trial.

Graffiti showing the iconic image of his cuffed hands raised above his head flashing a peace sign while being led away by Israeli authorities can be seen in the West Bank.

Now 500 Palestinians are being held in this way, according to Mr Fares. The goal of the strike is ostensibly to protest prison conditions, to receive more visitation time with family and to end detention without trial, but a number of observers see the effort as part of a Barghouti run for PA leadership.

  • Leroy Wright