Ahmad Sa’adat, the general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Jamal Abu Al-Haija , a leader of Hamas in the West Bank, are being punished for organizing a prisoner hunger strike to protest Israeli prison conditions.On Saturday, the two prisoners were placed in solitary confinement in Israel’s Nafha prison, where they are being held.
Israel kidnapped Sa’adat from a Palestinian prison in Jericho in 2006, and he is currently serving a 30-year sentence. Abu Al Haija, who was arrested in May 2007 for his role in the resistance in the Jenin refugee camp, is serving 9 life sentences and an additional 20 years.
The men are being held in Nafha, a maximum-security prison located 70 km south of Beersheba, which opened in 1980. In the past, there have been many hunger strikes in response to inhumane prison conditions. Prisoners are kept in cramped, hut-like buildings, and prison guards monitor activity from two watchtowers.
Israeli prisons and detention centers holding Palestinians have some of the lowest prison standards in the developed world. Many of the prisoners that were once held in facilities in the West Bank are now held inside Israel, across the Green Line. This is in fact violates provisions from the Fourth Geneva Convention, which holds that detained persons have the right to remain in occupied territory in all stages of detention, including the serving of sentences if convicted.
This is the second hunger strike in recent months. In August 2010, around 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, participated in another hunger strike. Prisoners being held in 26 Israeli jails and West Bank detention centers rejected food in response to abuse by Israeli guards, poor treatment, and the escalation of arbitrary procedures carried out by the Israeli prison administration.
Palestinian prisoners have been protesting poor treatment and living conditions through hunger strikes since Israel began its occupation in 1967.In 1970, Abdulqader Abu Al-Fahem became the first Palestinian prisoner to die after a 15-day hunger strike at the Ashkelon prison.
During a hunger strike at the Nafha prison in 1980, all 74 prisoners refused food. Some of the prisoners were force-fed because it is against the law in Israel to permit prisoners to die by their own doing. “A long tube was pushed down their throats into their stomachs while they sat on chairs. In three cases, the vitamin-and sugar-reinforced milk drink accidentally entered the lungs. As a result, two prisoners died of pneumonia, and a third became critically ill,” reported TIME magazine in 1980. As a result, prisoners Rasim Halaweh, Alial-Ja’fari and Ishaq Maragheh died in the Nafhah prison after 32 days of a hunger strike.
In 1998, there were nine hunger strikes conducted by Palestinian prisoners in different prisons in Israel, according to the Palestinian Yearbook of International Law 1998-1999.
On 1 May 2001, almost 1,000 of the 1,650 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons at the time participated in a month-long hunger strike, in protest against ‘arbitrary treatment by prison officials, substandard prison conditions, prohibitions on family visits, use of solitary confinement, poor medical care, and Israel’s refusal to release all the categories of prisoners specified in its agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO),’ according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2001.