ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Hunger Strike Against…the PA 15.8.04

Hunger Strike Against…the PA

15 August 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

“They can strike until death,” explained Israel’s Internal Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, when asked about the first day of a hunger strike declared by 1485 of the 4000 Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel. The prisoners, many of whom had a direct hand in the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians over the past four years, are demanding improved conditions of incarceration. There are three basic demands: a halt to invasive body searches, the removal of the barrier between themselves and their families during visits and the insistence on the right to telephone usage.

All three demands are connected to the ability to receive and pass on information. Over the past four years 850 mobile phones were confiscated from security prisoners. The General Security Services link the phone communications with the murders of dozens of Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists who were given instructions by those already in prison. Intensive body and cell searches are thwarting the ability of the captured terrorists to communicate with the outside world while the barrier between them and their visitors prevents the passing of information in the form of small notes quite often not seen by the guards. Any form of telephone usage can lead to operations being directed through coded messages.

When pressed by interviewer Dan Margolit (Channel 1) over the issue of death through starvation, Hanegbi backtracked, emphasizing that prisoners are drinking water and when they collapse, they will be evacuated for medical treatment. Israel is not taking the hard line approach, as did British PM Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s when faced with the IRA insurgency. The British let the IRA starve themselves to death (remember Bobby Sands?).

Israel is only part of the issue, as the main struggle is in the Palestinian arena itself. Although there is a minister for prisoners (yes, such a position exists), he, the Palestinian Authority and even Chairman Arafat are accused of abandoning those jailed in Israel. With anarchy supreme and no negotiations in sight, prisoners will not be released. Relatives are furious and threatening disturbances in the PA areas, but no one seems particularly concerned to do anything such as ending the terror attacks against Israel, a prerequisite to solving the security prisoner issue. The PA of course, has announced its support for the hunger strike - as if they had a choice.

In essence, Arafat and the PA & Co. are quite happy to let everyone rot in Israeli jails, since the prisoners are the potential future leaders and challengers to the throne. The hunger strikers hope to do the expected media damage to Israel (and if the usual info campaign incompetence prevails they will succeed) but their second and more significant target is the corrupt Arafat regime. Hamas, Jihad, the Al-Aksa Brigades, etc. hope to force internal reforms and figure success will only come with massive street demonstrations and a dose of violence.

From the outset of the Palestinian violence in September 2000 the Islamicists in particular claimed they had two enemies, the Zionists and PA corruption. Unable to do serious damage to Israel at the moment, they will take on the PA through their well-publicized strike. After all, they have nothing to lose.