Pales­tini­ans di­vided over mer­its of hunger strike

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

OVER 1,000 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers in Is­raeli jails be­gan a hunger strike on Sun­day.

The ac­tion is be­ing lead by Mar­wan Bargh­outi, a se­nior Fatah leader serv­ing five life sen­tences for his part in di­rect­ing ter­ror at­tacks in which ci­ti­zens were mur­dered.

While the hunger strike is — of­fi­cially — over de­mands for greater visi­ta­tion rights and the installation of pub­lic tele­phones in the pris­ons, it is also seen as an at­tempt by Mr Bargh­outi to as­sert him­self as one of the main lead­ers of the Fatah move­ment.

Sources in the Is­raeli pris­ons ser­vice said this week that the level of sup­port among Pales­tinian pris­on­ers for the hunger strike was lower than ex­pected. A hunger strike is a for­mal pro­ce­dure un­der which the striker is iso­lated from other pris­on­ers and put un­der spe­cial ob­ser­va­tion and reg­u­lar med­i­cal check-ups. Hunger strik­ers con­tinue drink­ing and con­sum­ing min­er­als.

There are 6,300 Pales­tini­ans cur­rently in Is­raeli pris­ons; around half af­fil­i­ated with Fatah, a quar­ter with Ha­mas and the rest with a range of other Pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions, as well as a rel­a­tively small num­ber who are not con­nected to any group.

Is­raeli se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said the fact that only around 1,000 jailed Fatah mem­bers — less than a third of the to­tal — had joined the hunger strike was an in­di­ca­tion that Mr Bargh­outi’s in­flu­ence within Fatah and among his fel­low pris­on­ers was not as high as many ini­tially be­lieved.

While the Pales­tinian Author­ity is of­fi­cially sup­port­ing the hunger strik­ers, Mr Bargh­outi’s ri­vals within the Fatah lead­er­ship have been urg­ing their fol­low­ers in the pris­ons not to join in.

Mr Bargh­outi has been push­ing in re­cent years for a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Fatah and Ha­mas and is known to be close to the move­ment’s lead­ers. A hun­dred Ha­mas pris­on­ers, as well as mem­bers of other or­gan­isa- tions, have also an­nounced they are join­ing the hunger strike.

“For now it seems that the dif­fer­ent Pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions are hedg­ing their bets,” said an Is­raeli se­cu­rity of­fi­cial.

“This isn’t the largest hunger strike we have dealt with and for now ev­ery­one is wait­ing to see whether it will con­trib­ute to un­rest out­side the pris­ons, in the West Bank, be­fore de­cid­ing whether to jump onto Bargh­outi’s band­wagon.

“On the one hand, none of his ri­vals want to strengthen him, but if there is wide­spread protests in the West Bank, they will have lit­tle choice but to join in.”

Ha­mas pris­on­ers will not join the strike

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Pales­tini­ans rally in sup­port of Bargh­outi dur­ing a rally in Ra­mal­lah

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