Palestinian resistance shifts to hunger strikes

The New York Times reports: The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.

Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in.

The two longest-striking prisoners, who have gone without food for 66 days, appeared in wheelchairs before Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday morning, pleading for their release from what is known here as administrative detention — incarceration without formal charges. One of them, Bilal Diab, 27, fainted during the hearing.

“I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity,” the other man, Thaer Halahleh, 33, testified, according to an advocacy group that had a supporter in the courtroom. “No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason.”

As the strike has swelled, the prisoners’ names and faces have been plastered on protest tents in villages throughout the West Bank. With the peace process stalled and internal Palestinian politics adrift, many analysts here see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement, and the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank. [Continue reading…]

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