I like to eat. I do it well. I like it too much and do it to well according to most doctors. Perhaps that is why the idea of a hunger strike carries such a fascination for me. Putting one’s body and life on the line by refusing to eat is an incredible nonviolent witness that has been used by many people through the years.
During a recent trip to Belfast, I recalled the example of Bobby Sands MP and the nine others who died in Northern Ireland on hunger strike in 1981. As expected, I saw murals of Sands and the Republicans. What I had not expected to find among the murals was this expression of solidarity:
This image stayed with me all day as I thought and wrote about the Palestinians on hunger strike today.
Amnesty International has issued a call for urgent action that asks people around the world to contact Israeli authorities on behalf of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, two Palestinian men who are at risk of death as they engage in the nonviolent action of a hunger strike. Both are being held without charge or trial by Israel.
They are not alone. Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons are staging a mass hunger strike to protest prison conditions and the practice of administrative detention. According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600 Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about 2,500 strikers are striking.
The hunger strike calls for an end to administrative detention (a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial). Additional demands are:
- An end to the policy of solitary confinement and isolation which has been used to deprive Palestinian prisoners of their rights for more than a decade.
- To allow the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit prisoners. This right has been denied to all families for more than 6 years.
- An improvement in the living conditions of prisoners and an end to the ‘Shalit’ law, which outlaws newspapers, learning materials and many TV channels.
- An end to the policies of humiliation which are suffered by prisoners and their families such as strip searches, nightly raids, and collective punishment.
General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are among those who have called for an end to the use of administrative detention and who have urged the use of nonviolence as the way to pursue peace.
I pray for those who place their lives on the line through their refusal. I pray for those who are held in prisons. I pray for those who imprison others. I pray for those who manage prisons. I pray that human rights are honored, justice is done, and peace rolls down for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
See you along the Trail.