Zoabi: Israel will bear ‘total responsibility’ if hunger strikers die

The Prisons Service denies allegations that security prisoners are mistreated.

Palestinians hold rallies as hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails begin a hunger strike (credit: REUTERS)
Israeli authorities will bear “total responsibility” if a Palestinian prisoner dies during the hunger strike they launched Monday for better conditions and an end to administrative detention without trial, Balad MK Haneen Zoabit told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
In the first violence related to the strike, dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks at soldiers at the Beitunya checkpoint, the IDF said. “Security forces responded with means to disperse demonstrations and there were no injured on either side,” it said.
The Arab48 website reported that one Palestinian was wounded by a rubber coated metal bullet and dozens suffered from tear-gas inhalation during the incident. Meanwhile, Said Musallam, one of some 1,500 prisoners abstaining from food, was transferred to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon on Wednesday night.
“Musallam was transferred due to a medical situation that required care,” the Prisons Service said on Thursday, without elaborating.
Musallam, 44, suffers from heart disease and is the first prisoner participating in the mass hunger strike to be transferred to a hospital. He has had a number of medical complications since starting his 18-year prison sentence for attempted murder 15 years ago, according to Karim Ajweh, his lawyer.
Ajweh told The Jerusalem Post that Musallam underwent two cardiac catheterizations in the last nine months and frequently experiences chest and hand pains.
Zoabi said that Israel is “responsible for guaranteeing the rights of the prisoners and responsible for denying the legitimate rights of the prisoners and it is punishing the prisoners as an act of political revenge... it is violating [international] law.”
Zoabi added that Israel’s Arab citizens have an important role to play in backing the strike by “organizing demonstrations and keeping the issue on the agenda with public activities.”
Kadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, outlined prisoner demands to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He said that due to a restrictive policy adopted at the height of the second intifada, thousands of first-degree relatives are being denied prisoner visits on security grounds, including parents of prisoners in their 70s and 80s.
The prisoners want visitation rights expanded. There are health concerns, with prisoners waiting for years for operations and diagnosis being a protracted matter, he says. Prisoners are also demanding the installation of public phones, which Fares says could still be monitored and tapped by prison authorities. Another demand is to reinstate study programs for matriculation exams and correspondence courses.
The Prisons Service denies allegations that security prisoners are mistreated.
The strike was called by Marwan Barghouti, the Fatah leader serving five life sentences plus 40 years for five murders and an attempted murder.
He was reportedly put in solitary confinement in another prison last night.
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh met with Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, after the start of the strike in a show of support for the action.
In Zoabi’s view, the prisoners were forced into the strike by the authorities’ policies. She said they are struggling to regain rights they had already been granted but which were subsequently taken away from them. “If you compare with 10 years ago, you’ll see that their rights have deteriorated. Israel is not even keeping the status quo in the prisons,” she said.
She insisted it is possible for the strikers to win. “With an appropriate campaign, also internationally, Israel will be forced to accept these demands. I don’t know any occupier who willingly accepted demands of the oppressed, but this is the aim of any struggle – to make it so hard for the oppressor to continue his oppression. And in any struggle you can also pay the price of the struggle. This is how people get their liberation and their rights.”
She added: “The aim of the strike is to be successful, to reach their aims, not to die. The aim is to get their rights and live with dignity.”
A solidarity event is planned for the town of Arabe on Friday, while small rallies were held in recent days at road junctions and in Ara.