After considerable negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) security apparatus, and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency the Shin Bet, a deal was reached on ending the mass hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails on the eve of Ramadan.
Despite the Israeli authorities stating that they would not negotiate with the hunger strikers, who were protesting the inhumane conditions of their incarceration, Friday night’s deal brought an end to the 40-day strike as the health of dozens of the strikers rapidly deteriorated in Israeli hospitals.
But just what did the hunger strikers achieve with their mass display of civil disobedience? An Israeli and a Palestinian analyst weighed into the debate.
“The details of any arrangement that would induce the prisoners to call off their strike were crystal clear: The key issue for them was the restoration of family visits to the previous number — twice a month. The Red Cross had halved this a year ago. An agreement on this matter was reached on Friday,” said Israeli analyst Amos Harel in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
However, further demands including ending administrative or detention without trial and solitary confinement, the resumption of academic studies, the right to public phones in jail, and the provision of adequate medical treatment were not met.
From the get-go, the strike, which was organised by Marwan Barghouti, a leader of the PA-affiliated Fatah movement, faced difficulties.
Many Fatah prisoners who supported other leaders didn’t take part in the strike. Neither did the leaders of the opposition movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, encourage their incarcerated followers to take part in the strike.
The Israeli authorities also placed a media blackout on developments, while subjecting the strikers to tough reprisals including solitary confinement, the confiscation of personal items including clothing, and relocating them to other jails in an endeavour to break their spirit.
But Palestinian analyst, Jack Khoury, opined in Haaretz that in addition to the restoration of bi-monthly family visits, the mass hunger-strike did achieve other results.
These included bringing the prisoner issue back to the consciousness of Palestinians, from across the political spectrum, who showed their solidarity in mass protests across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, leading to serious clashes with Israeli security forces, resulting in numerous injuries and several deaths.
There are reportedly over 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
“Among other things, the protesters sent a message that the prisoners’ status cannot be ignored – particularly that of strike leader and leading Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti,” said Khoury.
Additionally, the Israelis dodged a bullet in that the successful conclusion of the strike prevented another Intifada, or uprising, had one of the hunger-strikers died from starvation or had the Israelis resorted to force-feeding.