By Niyati Agrawal
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is dated back to the 20th Century. Palestinians have been fighting for a long time to attain independence. The struggle has been long and has used many means which have been both violent and non-violent. The recent being hunger strikes.
Many revolutionary hunger strikes trace their inspiration to the Indian freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi. Hunger strike for the longest time known is a non-violent way of protest, which will compel the authorities to succumb to your demands. After all which establishment wants their reputation to suffer? To add on to the seriousness of it, the World Medical Association has termed force-feeding as a degrading and inhumane practice during a hunger strike. While the hunger strikes of Palestinian prisoners may not be directly be instigated by Gandhi, the agenda and the driving force remains the same. Freedom.
The hunger strikes for the first time in Israel prison were recorded in the year 1998, when the protest was simultaneously carried out in nine different prisons of Israel. The month long strike was backed by a mass protest in areas of Palestine, where 7 Palestinians were killed, 1000 wounded and around 60 Israelis were also injured. The strike ended after the Israeli authorities agreed to review the complaints of the prisoners. In April 2012, a prisoner Khader Adnan was released from the Israeli prison after fasting for sixty six days.
February 2012 saw a huge mass hunger strike when approximately 1800 prisoners went on fast to protest against the “administrative detention”. Israel has been carrying out the atrocity of “administrative detention” for quite some time now. In this practice Palestinians are captured and detained without trial on the grounds of threat to security. The prisoner can also be sent into solitary confinement and restrictions can be put on family visits.
This fast was however ended in May 2012, when it was reported that the prisoners have reached a deal with the Israeli prison authorities. According to the deal, the detention can extend only up to tenure of six months. After which if evidence and crime not proven, the prisoner needs to be set free. Also the conditions of the inmates of the prisoners were to be improved.
The most recent example of the positive outcome of these non violent protests is when two prisoners called off their hunger strike on 27th February 2013. They were a part of a group four prisoners who were on strike. The other two prisoners are now admitted in medical care as their health was deteriorating. The hunger strike of these two prisoners had also given rise to a violent protest resulting in the death of six Palestinians. The Israeli authorities have promised to release these them by the 21st May 2013.
This brings us down to the observation that need freedom, need change – hunger strike is the way. But should that be the case? Is barring oneself from the human right to food the only path to attaining other human right of freedom from torture and the right to free trial? Or will there be a sustainable solution?