The hunger strike being waged since April 16 by some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is being met with indifference in Egypt, an Egyptian activist lamented on Wednesday.Ahmed Maher, one of the leaders of the demonstrations that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, wrote on the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed website that lack of interest in the strike is a symptom that “the Palestinian cause has stopped being a central cause for the Arabs as it was in the past.”
The prisoners’ demands include an end to administrative detentions, an end to what they allege is negligence in health care, more family visits and use of public telephones. Israeli authorities deny there is maltreatment of prisoners.Maher is no stranger to prison. In 2014, he was sentenced to jail for three years by the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for defying a law banning unauthorized public gatherings. He wrote that Egyptians are inured to news about Palestinians.“The news such as martyrdom of Palestinians, arrests of large numbers of Palestinian youths or raids against al-Aksa [Mosque] have become routine like events anywhere. Internal affairs are seen as most important. The local affairs news coverage is the biggest.“The Palestinian cause has become marginalized for the Arab youth,” Maher wrote. “Even the news about prisoners and their struggle and their empty stomachs campaign only attracts the attention of a few individuals here and there. It is a catastrophe that millions of Arab youth see any attention to Palestinian news as abnormal and have been influenced by Egyptian official media which justifies the warm relations with Israel by saying that Palestinians are the ones who sold their land voluntarily to the Jews and that the goal of Hamas is to destroy Egypt.”Maher wrote that Israeli and Egyptian prison authorities are alike in that they “harass prisoners and don’t care about prisoner rights and international law.”But, he added, “What makes us more sorry is to know that what’s happening to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons is more merciful than the Egyptian treatment of prisoners.”In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, speaking in a televised speech on Tuesday, criticized Arab leaders for ignoring the strike. “Palestinian hunger strikers are only demanding their basic rights as prisoners in Israeli jails. Where are the Arab leaders and Muslim organizations to see the situation of Palestinian hunger strikers?” he said, according to Iran’s Press TV.Meanwhile, the Arab48 website, citing the National Committee for Jordanian Detainees Affairs, reported that three Jordanian prisoners have joined the hunger strike. The three were identified as Riyad Saleh, Abdullah Abu Jaber and Rafat al-Sous. It could not immediately be determined what crimes they were imprisoned for, but each is serving a 20-year sentence, according to the committee.There has been active support of the strike by Jordanian Facebook users with many people videotaping themselves drinking salted water, the only thing the prisoners ingest, The Jordan Times reported.
Palestinian prisoners in Israel prepare for a massive hunger strike. (Reuters)