Palestinian and international rights groups have condemned the Israeli government’s failure to live up to the agreement made one month ago in order to end the month-long hunger strike of over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners.The promises made by the Israeli government in order to end the hunger strike included an end to solitary confinement, improved living conditions for prisoners, proper medical care and increased family visits. A month after the hunger strike was declared over, however, the Israeli authorities have yet to implement these agreed-upon terms.
The one item that Israeli authorities did carry out was the return of 91 bodies from the so-called ‘Numbers’ cemetery in Israel – a cemetery made up of Palestinians who died or were killed inside Israel. Although Israel has always denied the existence of this cemetery, mocking those Palestinians who insisted that it did exist, the release of the bodies constituted an admission by the Israeli government that the Numbers cemetery does exist. Those 91 bodies are not all of the Palestinians buried in the Numbers cemetery, but no one on the Palestinian side knows how many bodies remain, and Israel has refused to release any data.
Some prisoner rights groups are blaming the Palestinian Authority for giving in to easily during negotiations with the Israelis regarding the hunger striking prisoners, and for failing to pressure Israel to live up to its end of the bargain.
In fact, there is no mechanism by which the Palestinian Authority can force Israel to carry out its promises regarding prisoners, as Palestinians have no legal recourse to take the Israeli government to court.
One of the promises made by the Israeli government was hailed at the time as a success for prisoners, but prisoner rights groups including Addameer have cautioned that it does not constitute a real change in policy. That is the decision to not extend so-called ‘administrative detention’ orders under which Palestinians are held without charges. The caveat, however, is that Israel can extend those orders if there is ‘new information’ in the case. Since the charges and trial in these cases are held in secret, with no possibility of mounting a defense, this caveat makes the change in policy virtually meaningless.
One representative of Addameer, Mourad Jadallah, told reporters with the Ma’an news agency, ‘Israel also does not want Palestinians to feel they reached something with the hunger strike or let the prisoners movement feel like they reached their demands. They want to say: We can control everything.’