by Susanne Kemp
Today, Palestinian resistance fighter and political prisoner Bilal Kayed enters his 56th day of hunger strike, shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed by the Israeli au
throities. Bilal was imprisoned in December 2001, at the age of 19, and was due for release this year on June 13. Instead, he was kept in prison through the me
chanism of administrative detention. He is now one of 750 Palestinians held without charge or trial under this mechanism.
During his time in Israeli prisons he has been subjected to solitary confinement, disruptions and bans of family visits, and physical assaults, along with punitive prison transfers. Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, is demanding that he, and the other 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails be released. Bilal himself has pressed the issue by going on hunger strike. Now the hunger strike has been joined by 80 other Palestinian prisoners, including Ahmad Sa’adat, the general-secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the organisation to which Bilal belongs.
At present there are daily protests in Palestine in support of Bilal and the new group of hunger strikers. Around the world, progressive people are also mobilising in solidarity with Bilal and the other hunger strikers and to demand the end of administrative detention and the freeing of all the Palestinian prisoners. From July 20-30 protests took place in cities in Germany, Sweden, the United States, Britain, Italy, Egypt, Greece, the Philippines, Ireland, Morocco, Belgium and elsewhere. In Italy, the city council in Naples overwhelmingly passed a otion – there were just two abstentions – to make Bilal an honorary citizen of the city.
The annual anti-internment march in Belfast, Ireland, which this year took place on Sunday (August 7) incorporated solidarity with Bilal and his fellow hunger strikers. The march is organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association. The Irish revolutionary movement éirígí has been organising solidarity events across the island.
More protests are currently taking place and/or planned in different parts of the world, including a big public meeting in Sydney set for August 14, and protests in Denmark, South Africa and elsewhere.
In Latin America the Continental Bolivarian Movement, formed in 2009 by 950 activists from across the continent, has called for the release of Bilal, and all other political prisoners, in Zionist jails. In Brazil, 20 organisations, including trade unions,political parties, women’s and student groups and the Landless Workers Movement, have made a similar call.
One of the most moving acts of solidarity has come from political prisoners in several other countries who have gone on hunger strike to support Bilal and his comrades.
Meanwhile about 200 Hamas-affiliated hunger strikers ended a brief hunger strike over their conditions, striking a deal of their own with the Israeli authorities. The Israelis, who had been systematically brutalising the Hamas prisoners, offered a deal to Hamas to take some of the international pressure off themselves over the two sets of hunger strikes by the PFLP and Hamas, thereby breaking a united front of prisoners.
After eight weeks on hunger strike Bilal, reports the prisoners’ organisation Addameer, “is suffering from pain in the chest pain, kidney, jaw, eyes, ears, legs, as well as severe headache. He also suffers from blurred vision, numbness throughout the body, hair loss, as well as yellowness and peeling of the skin.”
Today (Tuesday, August 9) PFLP leader and Palestinian revolutionary icon Leila Khaled told Samidoun, Bilal “is determined to continue his battle for freedom and dignity. It is no longer a case of an ‘individual,’ Comrade Kayed today is a truthful and genuine representative of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and he is engaged in this battle based on his deep feeling of the responsibility that lies on his shoulders. This is the battle of administrative detention. . .
“It is so important to popularise the campaign to end this unjust law, used in particular against Palestinian youth and against Palestinian leaders, including journalists, for simply posting political opinions on websites or social media. Enough is enough! We must abolish administrative detention, torture, isolation. These are unjust laws that target the Palestinian people and the Palestinian prisoners collectively. This does not only affect prisoners themselves but their families and their entire communities. . .
“I urge all people of conscience to immediately get engaged in whatever capacity they have, including demonstrations, sit-ins, letter writing, phone calls, sending solidarity delegations, because of the urgency of this situation. We also must remember that Bilal Kayed is not the only prisoner who is on hunger strike. Today there are so many Palestinian prisoners backing Bilal and refusing food. It is important also for international institutions to live up to their responsibilities, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross. I have not seen a word from Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International on this case. No human rights organization that works on the case of Palestine can claim that they are unaware of this case and the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners. . .
“I urge all activists and organizations in the BDS movement to intensify their campaigns against G4S and for the boycott of Israel. The Zionists are lying and panicked – your movement is growing and we know that your commitment to Palestine is unshakeable.”
Leila also stated that “resisting imprisonment is the task of all revolutionary movements today. We must remember the movement that Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and his comrades in Lannemezan prison are leading in France and elsewhere. We join the call to free Mumia Abu Jamal, the MOVE 9 and all of the revolutionary prisoners. This is a link between the struggles of revolutionary prisoners from the United States to Ireland to France to the Basque country to the Philippines and elsewhere: today Bilal Kayed represents all of these struggles. He must be freed.”
We urgently need protests here in Aotearoa in support of Bilal and his comrades.