Friday, 5 May 2017

Artists organize to support striking Palestinian prisoners / Salt Water Challenge

The more than 1,500 hunger strikers include circus trainer and performer Mohamed Abusakha, who,  has been held without charge or trial for the past 16 months.
Speaking from the West Bank, British writer and comedian Mark Thomas calls on artists to support the Palestinian prisoners: “I want my fellow artists and comedians, and all artists of every country, to show solidarity. If you’re politically engaged, you have to be aware of what is happening here and you have to support.”  (Full report Wafa Palestinian News Agency).
The New York based artist/activist initiative Decolonize This Place, that organizes around indigenous struggle, Black liberation, Free Palestine, workers and de-gentrification, launched a #Dignitystrike initiative. The Dignity Strike solidarity project, “Visibility Sustains the Struggle,” brings together artists, writers and other cultural workers to raise the profil of the strikrs, and expose the truth about the denial of their basic rights. See the report in art magazine Hyperallergic.
UK Artists: organise in support of Palestinian Hunger Strikers and let Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network know! For basic information about Palestinian political prisoners, read this briefing by War on Want.
The occupied territories of the West Bank, and Gaza especially, are often referred to as open-air prisons, but Israel’s own detention facilities are the most extreme examples of colonial subjugation. Information about the colonial and apartheid conditions in these prisons (where Palestinians are treated entirely differently from Israeli prisoners) is not widely accessible. And for good reason, because they involve violations of the basic rights of incarcerated persons, as they are recognized worldwide. Among the thirteen demands of the strikers are calls for improvements in conditions and an end to solitary confinement, heavy restrictions on family visits and administrative detention – prolonged imprisonment without charge.
 The Palestinian prisoners stand in the lineage of hunger strikers throughout history; Cesar Chavez, Alice Paul, Bhagat Singh, Bobby Sands ( who died on 5/5/81,) the Tiananmen students, and countless other, less famous, movement figures. Their strike for dignity and freedom calls on all of us--including cultural workers--to amplify their struggle in confronting the tyranny of jailers. Today, we begin the work of supporting them through art and action in all their forms.
Since 1967,  more than  800,000 Palestinians  has been detained  under Israeli military orders. This number  constitutes approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian  population in the Occupied Palestinian  Territories. Virtually  every Palestinian family has been subjected to having on or more members incarcenated, subjecting the Palestinian people to the highest rates of incarcernation in the world.
Human  rights organisations such as Amnesty International have called  on Israel  to end 'unlawful and cruel' policies towards Palestinian prisoners. This includes the use  of torture during interrogation, solitary confinement, numerous cases of acute health issues, alongside the routine denial of visits.
On May 6th as the strikers enter the 20th day of the strike a day of solidarity with the prisoners,is taking place across the UK. Join us outside the Israeli Embassy in London as we stand up for the rights of the Prisoners in an act of solidarity.

Salt Water Challenge

Palestinians take on' Salt Water Challenge' to draw attention to plight of more than 1,500 prisoners on hunger strike.
A social media campaign highlighting the plight of more than 1,500 hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has gone viral, with people from across the world posting videos of themselves on social media drinking salt water in solidarity.
Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014, the Salt Water Challenge sees supporters of the hunger striking prisoners drink a mixture of salt and water. The participants then challenge others to do the same.
Since April 17, Palestinian Prisoners' Day, many prisoners in Israeli jails have been on an indefinite hunger strike protesting prolonged imprisonment without charge, medical negligence, administrative detention and limited family visits among other charges.
The prisoners have refused to eat food until their demands are met and they are only consuming salt water as a means to steady their health.
The salt water campaign was launched with a video by Aarab Marwan Barghouti, the son of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences over his role in the second Intifada against the Israeli occupation.

Barghouti has spent nearly two decades of his life in Israeli jails, and spent almost three years in solitary confinement. According to a 2013 interview, his tiny windowless cell denied him aeration or direct sunlight and was infested with cockroaches and rats.
"My father, along with 1,700 other political prisoners started the Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity in demand for human rights and humane living conditions in the prisons," Aarab Marwan Barghouti said in the video.
The clip then ends with Barghouti nominating 'Arab Idol' winner Mohammed Assaf and others to take part in the challenge.
Hundreds of Palestine supporters all over the world, including journalists, activists and students, even celebrities among others, have joined the trend and taken the challenge in order to bring attention to the striking prisoners. Many Palestinian, Arab and international celebrities and public figures have shown solidarity with the prisoners by taking the challenge.
British theatre director Joe Douglas and pro-Palestine English comedian and political satirist Mark Thomas accepted to be a part of the challenge during their visit to the city of Ramallah. Thomas argued that world activists, comedians and artists should join the fight against Israel’s illegal policies against Palestinian prisoners. He said it is important for the whole world to know about Palestinians, because Israel, an apartheid state as he described it, is yet to treat people like human beings.

UK Comic and cultural boycott supporter Mark Thomas takes Salt Water challenge for Palestinian Political prisoners.

Spearheaded by Marwan Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Fatah Central Committee, as well as Karim Younis and Maher Younis, the oldest and longest serving detainees held since 1983, and Diaa al-Agha, held since before the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, the strike has been joined by prisoners from all Palestinian political factions and, according to sources, will continue to attract more prisoners who are expected to join the strike.
The prisoners are demanding to be moved to prisons in the occupied territories as per the Fourth Geneva Convention, which would make it easier for their families to visit them, as well as lifting restrictions on family visits and better treatment at military checkpoints.
Other demands include: An improvement of access to medical care; increasing visit duration from 45 to 90 minutes; families of women prisoners meet without glass barriers to allow mothers to hold their children; an improvement in detention conditions including easing restrictions on the entry of books, clothing, food and other gifts from family members; restoring some educational facilities; and installing phones to enable prisoners to communicate with their families.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, since the start of Israel's occupation 50 years ago, more than 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israeli forces.
About 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, 300 are children.
Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel's refusal to negotiate with the hunger strikers, warning of a "new Intifada" if any of them die.
Demonstrations have been held in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to support the prisoners, with Israeli forces firing tear-gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at protesters.

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