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.