MS Risk Blog

A Brief History of Major Palestinian Hunger Strikes in Israel – When, Why and What They Achieved.

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More than 6,000 Palestinians are currently in prison for offences linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for charges ranging from stone-throwing to weapon possession and attacks that killed or wounded Israeli civilians and soldiers. Under international human rights law, prisoners must be guaranteed basic human rights, which include the right to maintain a family life and freedom from torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The First:

18 February – 1 March 1969

Ramle Prison

Prisoners were protesting against meagre portions and poor-quality food, alongside the policy of banning writing stationary and being forced to address their jailers as “sir”. The strike ended when prison authorities put the prisoners in solitary confinement, which has been classified as torture by several human rights treaties.

18 February – 26 February 1969

Kfar Yona Prison

At the same time, Palestinian prisoners protested similar conditions and called on the Israeli prison authorities to replace their plastic sleeping mattresses. They also achieved the permitting of stationary for writing letters to their families.

The First Death:

5 July – 12 July 1970

Asqalan Prison

During this hunger strike, Abdul Qader Abu al-Fahm became the first Palestinian prisoner to die during a hunger strike. Al-Fahm died as a result of force-feeding by prison authorities, who inserted a nasal feeding tube into his lungs instead of his stomach. Prisoners called for allowing stationery and clothes from their families, as well as increasing break time in the prison yard, but these requests were not fulfilled.

The Longest:

24 April – 26 June 2014

Multiple Prisons

About 90 administrative detainees launch a strike to protest their detention without trial or charges. Some 290 prisoners join, 70 of whom are hospitalised during the strike. The prisoners ended their strike after a deal was made with the Israeli Prison Service, however no solid promises were formed or upheld.

The Largest:

25 September – 14 October 1992

Most Prisons

Often considered one of the most successful hunger strikes in Palestinian history. Seven thousand prisoners stage the strike after the Labour Party wins the elections and amid speculations of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The strike results in major achievements, such as shutting down the isolation section of Ramle prison, stopping strip searches, increasing family visitation time and allowing cooking slates into the cells.

The Latest:

17 April – 27 May 2017

Multiple Prisons

Approximately 1,500 prisoners from across six jails participate in a hunger strike to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners Day. The strike is led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Prisoner demands include the installation of a public telephone in all prisons to allow communication with relatives, resuming bi-monthly family visits, allowing second-degree relatives to visit, increasing the duration of visits and allowing prisoners to take photographs with their families. The Israeli prison service said the inmates declared an end to the strike after Israel reached a deal with the Palestinian authority and the Red Cross for prisoners to receive a second family visit each month.