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Sunday June 10, 2012 5:43 PM (EST+7)
VIEWPOINT: Inside the Palestinian prisoners' strike

Read more: Ameer Makhoul, prisoners, detainees, leadership, governance, hunger strike, non-violent resistance, solidarity

RAMALLAH, June 10 (JMCC) - Palestinian prisoner and activist Ameer Makhoul describes at Electronic Intifada what he believes were the strengths of the recent hunger strike by over a thousand prisoners in Israeli jails.

There is a difference between achieving specific matters within a wider set of demands and achieving all the goals of a decisive act of struggle. There is also a difference between a clear victory and a case in which each side thinks they’ve won. The outcome of the strike, as expressed in the agreement, is clear — there is only one victorious side, the prisoners.

This was the first time that negotiations were carried out directly with those involved in the case. It is also the first time a decision has been made by the occupier — the General Security Service (Shabak or Shin Bet) — not the Israeli Prison Service, which in the scale of Israeli oppression is just a subcontractor of the Shabak and the security services.

The strike neutralized the Israeli Prison Service and the longer it went on the more direct the dealings with the principal player, the Shabak, became. This is because of the strength of the strike and its solid basis. It forced the Israeli apparatus to reveal itself, because it limited its ability to manipulate and maneuver.

But the most important issue here is the success of the strike in removing the strategic oppression tools the Shabak has used for decades, particularly the laws of administrative detention and solitary confinement in prisons. In this way, the rules of a deeply rooted, coercive game were broken.

As a result of its strength, the strike also revealed the hostility and criminality of the Israeli judicial system, which since its conception has been an instrument to whitewash the racist colonialist project, the Israeli state’s crimes. It gave them legitimacy, justifying administrative procedures, the British mandate’s emergency laws, and continuous solitary confinement, all under the guise of security. And here we saw the Shabak forced to back down over some of them, confirming that the Israeli judicial system played and still plays the role of “palace guards” for the ruling security apparatus.

As for the popular international movement, which turned into official efforts, the Arab role, particularly the Egyptian, and the carrying out of multi-sided negotiations (the prisoners, Israel, Egypt and international pressure) — all these created a new atmosphere, an equation more akin to real negotiations than simply an occupying country dealing with its victims. The strike also confirmed that Israel’s power is not absolute, that its strength and sway can crumble in the face of targeted Palestinian efforts.
Dissolving divisions and boundaries

It is true that the strike was not comprehensive. It was Hamas who took the decision to launch it, along with Islamic Jihad, and with the support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Members of the Palestine Liberation Organization/Fatah took part in it. Those who initiated the strike kept their word when they guaranteed that all factions were represented in the authoritative body and leadership of the strike, each according to their role and numbers.

Although the strike included no more than a third of the prisoners, with Hamas being the most heavily represented, this in no way weakens its legitimacy. There might have been an argument prior to the strike about declaring it officially, but the moment it began, it became the prisoners’ strike. It became the responsibility of those prisoners taking part in it, and even those who were not, to make it succeed, support it, and share responsibility for it.

The strike proved that when our people or the prisoners’ movement engage in large-scale battles with the occupying oppressive state, the whole nation gets involved.







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