A social media campaign highlighting the plight of more than 1,500 hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has gone viral, with people from across the world posting videos of themselves on social media drinking salt water in solidarity.
Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014, the Salt Water Challenge sees supporters of the hunger striking prisoners drink a mixture of salt and water. The participants then challenge others to do the same.
Since April 17, Palestinian Prisoners Day, many prisoners in Israeli jails have been on an indefinite hunger strike protesting prolonged imprisonment without charge, medical negligence, administrative detention and limited family visits among other charges.
The prisoners have refused to eat food until their demands are met and they are only consuming salt water as a means to steady their health.
The salt water campaign was launched with a video by Aarab Marwan Barghouti, the son of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences over his role in the second Intifada against the Israeli occupation.
Barghouti has spent nearly two decades of his life in Israeli jails, and spent almost three years in solitary confinement. According to a 2013 interview, his tiny windowless cell denied him aeration or direct sunlight and was infested with cockroaches and rats.
“My father, along with 1,700 other political prisoners started the Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity in demand for human rights and humane living conditions in the prisons,” Aarab Marwan Barghouti said in the video.
The clip then ends with Barghouti nominating “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf and others to take part in the challenge.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, since the start of Israel’s occupation 50 years ago, more than 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israeli forces.
About 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, 300 are children.
Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel’s refusal to negotiate with the hunger strikers, warning of a “new Intifada” if any of them die.
Demonstrations have been held in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to support the prisoners, with Israeli forces firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at protesters.