The Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights (CMPR) held their “Hungry for Justice” dinner and discussion in CAIR-Chicago’s Gallery on April 17th to commemorate Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. To show solidarity with all of the prisoners on hunger strikes, guests fasted throughout the day and broke their fast at sundown.
Putting faces to names, prisoner profiles were exhibited throughout the gallery. Moving photos of the prisoners and their families spoke to their struggle. The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has been the drive for many to begin hunger strikes in protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention.
Bekah Wolf, a Jewish-American activist and co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Project spoke to the audience via Skype and elaborated on the situation with Palestinian prisoners. Wolf is married to former Palestinian prisoner Mousa Abu Maria, lives in the town of Beit Ommar and has worked in the West Bank since 2003. Wolf explained that although massive amounts of attention has been given to recent hunger strikes. This form of resistance is not new and has gained traction now because of the strong prisoners’ rights movement in Palestine. She also explained that administrative detention which involves indefinite detention without charge or trial is used to suppress voices of protest for adults and children alike.
Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military and are frequently and unjustifiably denied family and lawyer visits. Wide-ranging and collective punishments, including prolonged periods of isolation, attacks on prisoners by special military forces and denying access to education are used against Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to suppress any form of civil disobedience within the prisons.
The event was organized in response to a call issued by Khader Adnan to make April 17, 2012 a Day of International Action. Adnan himself was released after completing a historic 66-day hunger strike that mobilized people of conscience around the globe. Since 1974, April 17 has been commemorated annually as Palestinian Prisoners Day. Solidarity activists have responded to his call and events are taking place today around the globe. Demonstrations in Vancouver and Brussels. Rallies in Glasgow and Amman. Teach-ins in Pisa, Italy and Perth, Australia. Thousands also marched and showed their support across cities and villages in Palestine.
The audience also viewed the short film “Palestinians Behind Bars: Prisoners without Rights” created by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights who released it the same day. The film highlighted prisoners stories with moving interviews and included Hana Shalabi one of the hunger strikers who was recently released to Gaza who ended her strike after 43 days.
The total number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons stands at 4610. Today, 1200 Palestinian prisoners are reported to have begun a mass hunger strike for an indefinite period in addition to at least 8 others already engaged in an open hunger strike. 2300 more prisoners participated in a 24-hour hunger strike and refused all of their meals throughout the day.
As Wolf pointed out, prisoners who were released resulted in individual agreements but Israel and the Israeli Prison Service’s policies remain unchanged and are now aimed at containing the hunger strikers through punitive measures as well as cutting off their contact with lawyers and family. The total number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons stands at 4610. Today, 1200 Palestinian prisoners are reported to have begun a mass hunger strike for an indefinite period in addition to at least 8 others already engaged in an open hunger strike. Additionally, 2300 more prisoners participated in a 24-hour hunger strike and refused all of their meals throughout the day.
Everyone participated in writing a message of hope and solidarity to prisoners in Palestine on a large banner which CMPR will be shipping to Beit Ommar, Palestine.
CAIR-Chicago along with the PSG-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and the US Palestine Community Network co-sponsored the event.