Thirty Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli jails have begun an open-ended hunger strike to protest their administrative detention – a policy that means they are being held without charge or trial.
Israeli authorities have been using this obscure legal procedure for more than half a century, basing it on secret evidence, to imprison people without charge or trial for an indefinite amount of time.
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Israel’s policy allows the detention of Palestinians for renewable intervals usually ranging between three and six months. Their imprisonment is based on undisclosed evidence that even a detainee’s lawyer is barred from viewing.
Israel claims the policy is necessary for security reasons and allows the government to hold “dangerous suspects” without revealing intelligence information.
Amnesty International has described Israel’s administrative detention policy as a “cruel, unjust practice which helps maintain Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians.”
The 30 prisoners in question released a statement stating that their collective detention amounted to 200 years, according to Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
“Hundreds of years, during which the occupation prevented us from embracing our families or seeing our children as they were born or growing up. We never celebrated their birthdays, we did not accompany them on their first school day,” the statement said.
There are currently more than 743 Palestinian prisoners jailed under administrative detention orders out of a total of approximately 4,650 total Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group.
The last high-profile hunger strike that took place concerned Khalil Awawdeh, who went without food for 172 days. He ended his strike only after a written agreement was inked with Israeli authorities to set a limit for his administrative detention and for him to be released on October 2.
According to the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Former Detainees Affairs, 80 percent of administrative detainees have already spent time in detention.
On 21 September, former administrative detainee Hisham Abu Hawash, who was released in February 2022 after a lengthy hunger strike, was incarcerated once again by Israeli authorities.
Ayman al-Tabeesh and Adel Hreibat, two other former long-term hunger strikers who were released from administrative detention, have also been detained again.
The detainees going on hunger strike also include French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights activist Salah Hammouri, who is facing a revocation of his permanent residency status in Jerusalem based on a “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel”, according to Addameer.
The first time he was arrested was in 2001 for five months when he was only 16 years old. In 2004, he spent five months in jail under administrative detention. His third arrest was in 2005, when he was imprisoned for seven years. He has been in administrative detention since March 7, 2022.
Chairman of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, Qadri Abu Baker, told the WAFA new agency that a new group of 50 prisoners will join the hunger strike next Thursday.
According to Addameer, Israeli authorities issued 5,728 administrative detention orders against Palestinians across the Palestinian territories between 2017-2021.
In 2021, there was a surge of 1,695 orders, which were tied to a campaign of mass arrests by Israeli authorities during weeks of violence in May and June.
“For decades, Israel has intentionally used administrative detention to detain individuals, including prisoners of conscience held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, to punish them for their views and activism,” Amnesty said.