Stephen Lendman, Contributor
As they say, it’s not over ’till it’s over. Palestinian prisoners have been mass hunger striking since April 17. Others began earlier. Some haven’t eaten for two months or longer.
On May 14, a deal was announced. Egypt negotiated one with the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and striker representatives. Palestine Prisoners Society head Qadura Fares confirmed it. So did Israeli authorities.
Independent verification didn’t follow. Nor did full clarification of terms. Israel’s adept at creating considerable opt-out wiggle room. Deals aren’t always as they seem. Broken ones reveal charades.
Israel offered concessions. Prisoners agreed to terms. Some remain vague. The devil’s in the details. What’s ahead remains uncertain. Israel’s history reflects promises made and broken. Palestinians know well.
For decades, peace process hypocrisy betrayed them. Oslo was a Palestinian Versailles. Subsequent deals were one-way. Israel alone benefitted. Expecting hunger strikers to fare better is problematic.
Last October, Israel agreed to swap hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit. After release, many are repeatedly hounded, monitored, and threatened. Others were rearrested and imprisoned. No one’s safe in Occupied Palestine. It’s a militarized armed camp.
On May 14, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halehel reached hunger strike day 77. Early reports said they’d continue unless immediately freed. Updates said both agreed to resume eating in return for release when their current detentions end.
For Thaer, it’s June 5. Bilal will be freed in August. Both will receive public hospital treatment. It’s unclear if all prisoners agreed to terms. Some strikes have been long-term. It’s unknown if issues mattering most to everyone are resolved.
It’s uncertain if Jamil Khatib was present and agreed to terms. He represents Bilal and Thaer. Israel consistently denied prisoners attorney access. Instead Jawad Boulos represented them. He arranged deals for Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi.
Khader’s free at home in the West Bank. Hana was deported to Gaza. Boulos and PA authorities said she agreed to terms. She and her father challenged official reports. She demanded clarification of issues not explained. She never got them to her satisfaction.
Currently at issue is whether deal terms represent victory or betrayal. Bilal, Thaer, and others vowed to keep striking unless freed. They’re still imprisoned with no certainty what awaits them.
Moreover, thousands of Palestinians remain imprisoned. Virtually all are detained for political reasons. Among them are 220 children, seven women, and 27 Palestinian lawmakers.
Israel calls challenging occupation harshness illegal. So is belonging to the wrong political party. Virtually anything can be called terrorism. Life under occupation, in or out of prison, is cruel and unusual punishment.
Israel violates civil and human rights with impunity. Palestinians never got fair treatment, don’t now, and won’t easily ahead. Israel has contempt for anyone not Jewish. Even many Jews are treated harshly. Imagine how much worse Palestinians fare.
Israel wanted resolution before Nakba Day. Security force violence usually accompanies it. Concern reflected greater public passion if IPS authorities and prisoners remained deadlocked. Whether Israeli concessions match official reports remains very much uncertain.
Addameer was pleased with developments so far. At the same time, it expressed concern that Israel won’t implement policy changes.
According to Addameer attorney Ahed Abu Gholmeh, nine hunger strike committee members met Monday. The written agreement contained five main provisions.
Prisoners would resume eating after signing. Long-term isolation will end, including for security reasons. Nineteen isolated prisoners will return to the general prison population within 72 hours. Gazan families will have visitation privileges restored.
Israeli intelligence assures that a committee will be formed to facilitate meetings between the IPS and prisoners. Improving incarceration conditions will be discussed. Details on what this means, if anything, weren’t mentioned.
Current administrative detainee terms won’t be extended when expire, unless so-called secret evidence is serious. Of course, that’s in the eye of the beholder and Israel alone will decide.
“Addameer has observed that Israel has consistently failed to respect the agreements it executes with Palestinians regarding prisoners’ issues.”
“For this reason, it will be essential for all supporters of Palestinian political prisoners to actively monitor the events of the next few months to ensure that this agreement is fully implemented.”
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) expressed similar relief and concern about whether Israel will follow through as promised.
The fullness of time will determine what mass hunger strikes gained, if anything. Until then, be skeptical.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.