Victory for Palestinian Prisoners as 80% of Strike Demands Met

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  • Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017.

    Palestinians celebrate after Palestinian prisoners ended a hunger strike over their conditions in Israeli jails, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 27, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

“We know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine,” stated a solidarity network.

After more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners staged a a mass, historic hunger strike for 40 days, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ officials confirmed Sunday that nearly 80 percent of the prisoners’ demands were met as the strike ended Saturday.

Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strike Ends After 40 Days

Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission, spoke at a press conference Sunday, declaring the victory “an important achievement to build on in the future on the basis of the protection of the prisoners’ rights and dignity.”

Among the many conditions prisoners wanted to be improved that the Israeli Prisons Service agreed to include expanding access to telephones; lifting the security ban on hundreds of family members of Palestinian prisoners, including the 140 children who were denied visits from parents; allowing distant family members to visit their imprisoned relatives; and improving the conditions of both women and children prisoners.

Other met demands include establishing in every prison department a separate kitchen area for the preparation of food; allowing photographs with parents once annually, or with a prisoner’s spouse; stocking prison stores with higher-quality goods, including fruits and vegetables; introducing modern recreational equipment in the recreation yards; and transferring prisoners to prisons closer to their families’ places of residence.

The end of the strike will also see the return of prisoners who were transferred to their original locations and the lifting of sanctions imposed on hunger-striking prisoners. Additional negotiations will be held around the prisoners’ other demands.

“On this occasion of the prisoners’ victory, we know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine. We urge all of the Palestinian communities, supporters of Palestine and social justice organizers who took to the streets, drank salt water, engaged in hunger strikes, expressed their solidarity and organized across borders and walls to celebrate the victory of the prisoners with events and actions on 4-6 June, in Celebrations of Dignity and Victory,” said the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in a statement Sunday.

‘Intifada ad Infinitum’: Palestinians Launch Second General Strike in Support of Prisoners

“In these celebrations, we will recognize the power of the Palestinian people to defeat the occupier and the colonizer, honor the prisoners and their steadfastness, and emphasize the ongoing struggle,” the group added.

After 40 days, the health of many prisoners was deteriorating rapidly, with 182 striking political prisoners having been hospitalized.

The strike was met with solidarity demonstrations throughout occupied Palestine, and around the world, with near-daily demonstration, rallies, protests and strikes.


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Donald Trump arrives in Bethlehem for talks with Abbas

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Donald Trump arrives in Bethlehem for talks with Abbas

Visit comes after US president failed to explain how to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks after meeting with Netanyahu.

Trump is welcomed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem [Mussa Issa Qawasma/[AFP]

Donald Trump has met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank as the US president seeks to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope the region and its people,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Abbas on Tuesday.

“If Israelis and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace throughout the Middle East,” he said without elaborating on any plans to restart talks.

Abbas said Palestinians “are committed to working with [Trump] to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel,” adding that the “main problem is with the occupation and settlements”.

READ MORE: Palestinian basic rights ‘not on the agenda’ for Trump

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Bethlehem, said Trump’s remarks regarding the link between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stability in the rest of the region was significant, adding, however, that many Palestinians will be disappointed by what Trump did not say.

“Trump didn’t speak of their right to self-determination. he didn’t speak of the two state solution … and they will probably be disappointed that Trump did not say what his plans were or his vision was,” Abdel-Hamid said.

The short visit in Bethlehem came a day after Trump met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as Palestinians held a general strike in support of hundreds of hunger-striking prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Meetings between Trump and Netanyahu concluded on Monday with Trump promising to help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but gave little indication of how he could revive negotiations that collapsed in 2014.

“It’s not easy. I have heard it is one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we are going to get there eventually. I hope,” Trump said after the meeting, without elaborating.

Abbas said he was committed to working with Trump to reach a “historic peace deal” [Mandel Ngan/AFP]

The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.

One point of contention is the fate of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

During his presidential campaign, Trump advocated breaking with decades of precedent and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

READ MORE: How Israel is targeting Palestinian institutions

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, says Trump’s comments about striving for a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians are not promising.

“The time is now for the world to end Israel military rule,” she told Al Jazeera. “It’s not going to come through negations; it’s only going to come through exerted efforts to hold the Israelis accountable by boycotting through sanctions and bringing them before the international criminal courts.”

“That Palestinians have to negotiate their freedom and prove ourselves worthy of freedom is repugnant,” Buttu added, arguing that Trump should use its multi-billion dollar financial support to Israel as weight to pressure it from ending its occupation of Palestinian territory.

“I have very little faith that he will be able to do anything with the Israelis to change their policy,” she concluded. “I don’t anticipate anything positive is going to come out.”

‘Day of rage’

The Palestinian prisoners’ affairs committee called for a “day of rage” on Monday for “the voice of the prisoners to be heard by the president”.

Tuesday marks the 37th day of a mass hunger strike inside Israeli jails. Palestinian news agency Ma’an estimates that more than 1,300 Palestinians are currently on strike behind bars in Israeli prisons, while Israeli outlets have placed the number in the high hundreds.

On Monday, Israeli forces shot and injured at least 11 Palestinian protesters who staged a general strike in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of those prisoners on hunger strikes.

In a separate incident on Monday, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager as he allegedly attempted to stab a border police officer at a checkpoint near Bethlehem.

In Gaza, Hamas organised a demonstration on Monday to denounce its labelling as a “terrorist” group by many Western governments, including the United States.

After talks with Abbas, Trump will travel to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and give a speech at the Israel Museum.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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Morgan Poll: Government Out of Touch on Israel/Palestine

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Morgan Poll: Government Out of Touch on Israel/Palestine, APAN, 31 March 2017

A Roy Morgan Poll released this week revealed that the Australian public is much more sympathetic toward the Palestinians than the Turnbull government.

An overwhelming majority of survey participants expressed support for the recognition of Palestinian statehood: 73% (up from 62% in 2011), while a majority (55%) indicated that they regarded the Palestinians’ call for “a boycott of Israeli goods, services, companies and institutions profiting from the occupation of Palestine” as reasonable. Only 8% opposed recognition of Palestinian statehood, while 25% described the call for a boycott as unreasonable.

61% of those surveyed opposed the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and 53% said that they opposed the Turnbull government’s rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed the UN’s opposition to settlements and called upon Israel to halt settlement activities in the Occupied Territories. Only 17% of those surveyed indicated support for Israeli settlements, while 29% supported the government’s rejection of UNSC Resolution 2334.

Despite extensive media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, only 44% of poll participants indicated that they knew either “a lot” or “a fair amount” about the issue.

“Australians might not feel particularly well-informed about the conflict but they’re not stupid,” noted Bishop George Browning, the President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network. “They understand that colonising someone else’s country is always wrong. They support the United Nations in its opposition to Israeli settlements. They also understand that recognising Palestinian statehood and boycotting institutions that profit from the Occupation are both reasonable and non-violent means of promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

Apart from Israel, Australia was the only country to reject UNSC Resolution 2334, which was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council on 23 December 2016 (with the United States abstaining). The Turnbull government opposes recognising Palestinian statehood. The Greens support recognition. Labor has indicated that it might recognise Palestine if there is no progress in the peace process. Although individual parliamentarians have expressed support for a boycott of Israeli institutions profiting from the Occupation, no Australian political party supports a boycott.

“The poll indicates that the Australian public is way out in front of the major parties on the issue of Palestine,” noted Browning. “In this regard, politicians need to listen more to their constituents and less to Australia’s Israel lobby in formulating policy.”

34% of those surveyed expressed greater sympathy for the Palestinians, while 26% indicated greater sympathy for Israelis. Only those aged 65 years and older were more sympathetic towards Israelis (37%) than Palestinians (32%). Sympathy for the Palestinians was particularly strong among those with a tertiary education, standing at 41%, as opposed to 23% who indicated a greater sympathy for Israelis.

The poll was commissioned by the following Palestine advocacy organisations:

  • The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network
  • The Australian Friends of Palestine Association
  • Australians for Palestine
  • The Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine
  • Friends of Bethlehem.

View poll results here >


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Duchess of York Visits Bethlehem, Stresses Support to Palestinians

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Duchess of York Visits Bethlehem, Stresses Support to Palestinians
International Middle East Media Center
April 12, 2017 4:44 PM

Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, as a part of her charity and human rights work, visited Bethlehem on Tuesday, notably in the healthcare sector, where she met with Palestinian personalities and visited different sites.

Sarah Ferguson, from 2014 (Image Source)

The visit included a tour of the Nativity Church and the Old City district of Bethlehem, in addition to the wall that divides the Cremisan Valley.

Moreover, according to the PNN, the visit also included the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation where she met the medical crews, patients, and stressed she wanted to support the people and th e society build a heart hospital.

In an interview with PNN at BASR, the duchess said that her mission in Palestine is to support Palestinians and the people in the area to be able to build a hospital with the medical crews at BASR, where she praised the doctors and the nurses team, especially Dr. Edmund Shehadeh and Ramzi Khamis.

Duchess of York visits Bethlehem, stresses support to Palestinians, PNN, Published on Apr 12, 2017

For his part, General Director of BASR, Edmund Shehadeh said that the duchess’s visit to Palestine, and to Bethlehem in specific, carries many messages on many levels, especially the human and health sectors.

The Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun expressed her delight to meet the duchess, pointing out that she is carrying a humane message from Palestinians to the world, to highlight the reality in Bethlehem and Palestine.

Baboun also thanked the duchess for meeting Palestinian women who are well achieved and to honour their hard work.

Post script (by Stewart Mills)

Sarah Ferguson Twitter

Curiously Sarah Ferguson, on 12 April, tweeted :

“For Harry Sadler from the birthplace of #Jesus in #Bethlehem. RIP and with love for an exceptionally brave man @TeenageCancer #Israel”

Whilst this is a beautiful sign of respect and awareness raising for Harry Sadler and for Teenage Cancer, it would also help if Ms Ferguson included the hashtag #Palestine (as well as Israel, given Bethlehem is technically in Palestine i.e. beyond the 1967 Green Line).


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