Abdul-Fattah Abu-Thahab – Hunger Striker in Jenin

The IMEMC conducted an exclusive interview with one of the five prominent Palestinian activists and academics currently on hunger strike in Jenin.  The hunger strike began on May 1, 2006.
Q. Mr. Abu Thahab – you are carrying out a hunger strike.  What are the aims of the hunger strike, and when did you start?

A. This is the seventh day of the hunger strike.  The main aim is to break the siege being imposed upon the Palestinian people.  It is a siege against children, against all the people here.  And it is a siege imposed upon us because we as Palestinians decided to practice democracy.  We aren’t with Fatah against Hamas, or vice versa.  This strike is to end the suffering of the Palestinians because of the siege.  The second reason is because, as a result of the current bad situation, we are lacking internal unity, and so we are calling for an internal dialogue among the Palestinian people.  We woke up today and we were surprised to see on television incidents of Palestinian internal violence in Gaza, and we denounced these incidents in the media, and by making phone calls to our contacts in Gaza to publicly condemn such internal violence.

Q. Hunger strikes depend on media coverage.  In your opinion, how has the local and international media responded to this hunger strike?

A. Media coverage is very weak on all levels.  This is not our first hunger strike – in prison or outside – and we feel that media does not do good coverage when the hunger strikes first begin, only after the fifth or sixth day.  The day before yesterday Al-Jazeera phoned, and said they wanted to send a reporter, but nobody came.  In general, local media is not providing good coverage of this strike.  And if the local media doesn’t cover it, how can we expect that international media will cover it?  

Q. How far are you ready to go with this strike?

A. We are ready for this strike – we didn’t specify any time limit.  We will continue — we started with one, and then three, and yesterday one more.  We hope this strike extends to the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Hopefully, it will have an effect.

Q. Hunger strikes are part of the Gandhian-style non-violent resistance.  In your opinion, what is the importance of hunger strikes, and other non-violent resistance, in this situation we are living in here?

A. In this situation we are living, sacrificing ourselves and our health is the very least we can do.  Since we are forbidden from expressing our solidarity using other means, we have to resort to expressing our solidarity with our people through hunger strike.  Other people express their solidarity through other means, but I use hunger strike as my method.  This is a powerful weapon – to sacrifice myself for my people.  I am willing to sacrifice myself for my people, because my people are suffering so terribly from the siege, from hunger, from many types of misery.

Q. Are you trying to address the question of Palestinian internal unity through this strike?

A. This is the second aim of this hunger strike.  There should be real unity, which we achieve by organizing ourselves from within.  There should be real national unity.  Not only through words.  There should be actual steps on the ground.  There should be people who are aware of the interests of the Palestinian people.  When other countries throughout the world see that we are united, that we present one position as a people, that our people are in solidarity with each other, this will give us more power and legitimacy.  Therefore, we call on all Palestinian people and parties to have one position against this unjust siege on the Palestinians.  This siege doesn’t differentiate between political factions – it is a siege against all the Palestinian people.  Those internal conflicts that are shown on television and seen around the world are just giving Israel more excuses to continue their unjust siege on our people.  We were worried, and expecting such internal violence, because of the hostile statements issued between the political factions.  We appeal to our brothers in Gaza and in all the political factions to unite, to not give these countries who are imposing a siege on us any reason to continue their siege.

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