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ask­ing for the right to com­mu­ni­cate with their fam­i­lies, such as re­sum­ing bi­monthly vis­its, al­low­ing sec­ond-de­gree rel­a­tives to visit, and in­stal­la­tion of tele­phones to con­tact their fam­i­lies.

The cur­rent prison sys­tem for Pales­tini­ans in Is­rael is said to be dou­ble-stan­dard and racist.

For ex­am­ple, a Pales­tinian child un­der age 18 can be sen­tenced to 12 years’ im­pris­on­ment for “throw­ing stones”, while an Is­raeli sol­dier is not pun­ished for killing an in­jured Pales­tinian ly­ing on the road.

The liv­ing con­di­tion of pris­on­ers is also un­bear­able. Since 1967, ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, there are more than 50 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers who have died be­cause of poor med­i­cal care.

“Some peo­ple wait four years to get surgery. They’re call­ing for an end to this de­lib­er­ate med­i­cal neg­li­gence,” said Amina alTaweel, a spokesman for the Pales­tinian Pris­on­ers Cen­tre for Stud­ies in He­bron, in an in­ter­view with Al-Jazeera re­cently.

“The health­care in prison is re­ally poor, it’s usu­ally one of the pris­on­ers that end up treat­ing the sick be­cause Is­raelis just sim­ply don’t care,” said Sam.

A call to end the fam­ily visit re­stric­tion is the cen­tre of the hunger strike.

Af­ter the sec­ond In­tifada be­gan in 2000 and the Gaza block­ade in 2007, fam­ily vis­its for Pales­tinian pris­on­ers have be­come worse.

It has been re­stricted to first­de­gree rel­a­tives like chil­dren, spouse, par­ents, sib­lings and grand­par­ents.

All fam­ily vis­i­tors need to ap­ply for a per­mit to go into Is­rael. Al­though by law, fam­ily mem­bers are en­ti­tled to two vis­its a month, “it never hap­pens. Or just once, if it hap­pens”, laments Sam.

Male vis­i­tors of­ten fail to ob­tain per­mits be­cause of “se­cu­rity con­cerns”.

The pris­on­ers get pun­ished for any kind of rea­sons, and it al­ways comes with pro­hi­bi­tion of fam­ily vis­its for weeks or months.

More­over, pris­on­ers are iso­lated from com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the out­side world. Tele­phone calls are for­bid­den. Let­ters are al­lowed, but al­most never or rarely re­ceived by the re­cip­i­ent, ac­cord­ing to Ad­dameer (Pris­oner Sup­port and Hu­man Rights As­so­ci­a­tion).

Hunger strikes are noth­ing new to Pales­tinian pris­on­ers. It is con­sid­ered the most peace­ful re­sis­tance around the world, which was also put into use by In­dian in­de­pen­dence leader Ma­hatma Gandhi, and sev­eral times by Ir­ish po­lit­i­cal par­ties. It is a method of non-vi­o­lent re­sis­tance to put pres­sure on, or pro­voke feel­ings of guilt, in others.

In 2012, some 1,500 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers launched a sim­i­lar hunger strike. And, in 2014, 800 pris­on­ers joined another strike to end the mis­use of ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tion. Both hunger strikes ended with a deal.

Ac­cord­ing to Ad­dameer, there are more than 6,300 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in Is­raeli pris­ons to date. Of that, around 500 are un­der ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tion for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod, and 450 Pales­tini­ans serv­ing life-time sen­tences.

More than five per cent are chil­dren un­der 18 years old, and one per cent are women.

Is­rael is the only state that pros­e­cutes chil­dren in a mil­i­tary court, in­tim­i­date them through­out the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and charge them with up to 20 years’ im­pris­on­ment. Even though it has al­ready vi­o­lated the United Na­tions con­ven­tion on the “rights of the child”, world pow­ers have all but turned a blind eye on Is­rael’s ac­tions.

Two ma­jor Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal par­ties, Fatah and Ha­mas, have pledged sup­port for the hunger strike. There is nei­ther telling when the strike will end, nor does it ap­pear to be any pos­si­ble deals with the Is­raelis.

On the con­trary, Is­raeli author­i­ties have be­gun forcibly mov­ing many pris­on­ers to dif­fer­ent sec­tions, re­port­edly con­fis­cat­ing their clothes and per­sonal be­long­ings, and pro­hibit­ing fam­ily vis­its and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the out­side world.

Lawyers who vis­ited the pris­on­ers also said the Is­raeli Prison Ser­vice has in­creased cell raids and the use of soli­tary con­fine­ment. The lat­est let­ters re­leased on May 8 from the pris­on­ers de­scribed their high morale of not giv­ing up their fight for hu­man rights, and a vow to carry on de­spite grow­ing vi­o­lence and suf­fer­ing.

The writer is a Tai­wanese jour­nal­ist based in Ra­mal­lah, Pales­tine. She has a re­search in­ter­est in the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict and ob­tained her grad­u­ate de­gree in me­dia, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and de­vel­op­ment, and po­lit­i­cal science at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics

Jailed Fatah leader Mar­wan Bargh­outi has led 1,500 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers on a hunger strike against Is­raeli treat­ment of Pales­tinian pris­on­ers for four weeks.

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