[May 24, 2014] Their tongues paralyzed, their bodies collapse. They have lost the ability to move or tend to their bodily functions and needs. Their eyes carry a thousand questions, their ears can only hear the loud noises of their jailors, the screams of torture.
The pain penetrates their empty bowels as death surrounds them, yet, their will becomes stronger each day.
Their spirit and determination are as high as skies filled with love for their homeland.
They resist their jailor, they continue their battle, and the news we hear on the outside is drumming in our ears, nearly burning our eardrums – this is the severity of their plight.
It takes us back to the long years we spent behind bars, sharing their pain and suffering, sharing their hunger – the times when hunger was forced upon us, and the times when we, too, held hunger strikes.
But we are never hungry for principles and steadfastness, not even once. We long for a cup of tea and a piece of bread, but we never bow, never retreat, and we continue to challenge our jailor with our hunger or thirst. Our bodies collapse, but our principles remain stronger than ever.
Detainees holding hunger strike are free despite their chains, revolutionaries despite the walls, the oppression and deprivation. Fierce despite their jailors, they become role models for steadfastness.
They hold battles of empty stomachs with pride and resilience, armed with determination and unbreakable will. They sacrifice, tolerating torture and ongoing suffering.
Many could die at any given moment, and join those who died before them without bowing down to the oppressors, keeping their heads high.
More than thirty days have passed since they started their open-ended hunger strike, known to the Palestinians as the “battle of empty bowels” and, despite the aggression against them, the violations, the physical and psychological abuse, the ongoing Israeli incitements against them, they remain determined to continue their strike.
They are up for the challenge. They face the crisis with determination; they are the ones who create victories under the most dire and harsh situations. They fill our hearts and minds with love and respect, their names became engraved in our memories.
It is an honor to support them, to stand by them, because they resist the jailor and the oppressor. They lose their freedom so we can live free, in dignity.
They resist the illegitimate Administrative Detention policy because they know that any Palestinian can be held and abused by it as long as the occupation is still practicing this outlawed policy.
On April 24, Administrative Detainees launched their hunger strike, and declared their rejection to the ongoing abuse, not because they wanted to strike, but because they refused to be abused and mistreated.
This strike is but one of so many strikes and protests held by detainees in the past.
And, despite our reservations, or objections from others, in regard to the timing, the causes and motivations of some of the strikers, they become a clear answer to a question raised by Palestinian author, intellectual and martyr Ghassan Kanafani, who asked at the end of one of his novels: “Why didn’t they knock on the walls of the container of the truck that hid them?”, in reference to three Palestinians who didn’t dare to knock, and died in the container, overheated by the desert sun, because they chose not to surrender.
No, the detainees respond to the shouts of Kanafani, and continue to knock on the walls, day and night. They did not die like the stars of Kanafani’s novel, “Men In The Sun”.
They said that “death with dignity is easier than living in humiliation, better than remaining imprisoned, forever, without charges or trial.”
This type of struggle is very important, very effective, and leads to more external support and solidarity; it is a struggle that, if continued and escalated, will lead to pressure on the occupation, but we need more support from within the prisons, from within Palestine, and throughout the world.
It is our national, legal, moral and humanitarian duty, as Palestinians, as Arabs and Muslims, as lovers of freedom and democracy, as human rights advocates from all over the world, to support the detainees and find the means to boost their steadfastness.
We need to support their strike, and its continuation. We need to support their strike, and to put an end to the illegitimate Administrative Detention or, at least, to impact and reduce Israel’s practice of this outlawed, illegal policy.
**** By Former Political Prisoner and head of the Census Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, Abdul-Nasser Ferwana.
His Website – Palestine Behind Bars: