DURA, West Financial institution — Within the Israeli jail the place Kayed al-Fasfos spent 9 months with out cost or trial, a handwritten ebook hidden from the guards provided some steering on a doable method out.
The ebook, “Experiences of the Strike,” is a private account of 1 Palestinian prisoner’s starvation strike, offering insights for would-be emulators like Mr. al-Fasfos planning to wield what they see as their handiest weapon for securing their freedom.
“We think about it a battle, however you battle along with your abdomen,” mentioned Mr. al-Fasfos, a 33-year-old Palestinian accountant who went on a 131-day starvation strike final 12 months.
A weakened Mr. al-Fasfos was launched on Dec. 5 and carried atop a stretcher throughout his homecoming within the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution city of Dura, by cheering crowds acclaiming him as a victor in a recurring battle between Palestinian prisoners and Israel.
Palestinians dwelling underneath Israeli occupation and army rule have had few means to fight what’s a significant energy imbalance between the 2 sides. For the reason that Arab-Israeli battle of 1967, when Israel occupied the West Financial institution, together with East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Israel has incarcerated hundreds of Palestinians, lots of them political prisoners held underneath what is named administrative detention, with out fees or trial primarily based on secret proof.
To battle again, lots of these detainees have turned to starvation strikes — a tactic lengthy adopted by determined prisoners around the globe, in locations like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or Northern Eire.
The starvation strikes have left the Israeli authorities in a bind, largely unable to behave in opposition to the prisoners or cease the pictures of emaciated strikers from publicly circulating. This has rallied help amongst Palestinians and drawn criticism of Israel from around the globe, together with the United Nations. The destiny of 1 starvation striker was mentioned as a part of a deal to finish a short battle between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza over the weekend.
“Israel at all times claims they’re combating in opposition to people who find themselves militants,” Mr. al-Fasfos mentioned, “however when it battles a prisoner and he fights with starvation, then it places them in a troublesome place.”
There are at present about 500 Palestinian prisoners being held underneath administrative detention, in response to Palestinian rights teams. Israel doesn’t reveal data on the variety of individuals held or what they’re accused of, and says that the executive detentions are obligatory for stopping assaults in opposition to its residents.
Palestinian prisoners have lengthy responded with starvation strikes, both collectively with dozens or a whole bunch participating, or individually, to protest jail circumstances and get primary facilities, or as protests in opposition to the open-ended detentions themselves.
“There’s a very lengthy historical past of starvation strikes within the prisoner’s motion in Palestine,” mentioned Sahar Francis, a director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group.
Each enchancment “within the circumstances of the prisons was reached after a collective starvation strike, particularly within the first years,” Ms. Francis mentioned. “To ensure mattresses, they had been compelled to make use of starvation strikes, for a pen they starvation struck, virtually all the things.”
Constructing upon many years of prisoner experiences, generally handed down in books such because the one Mr. al-Fasfos learn, particular person strikes can now prolong for effectively over 100 days, prolonging harmful standoffs between prisoners and the jail authorities. The strikers devour solely water, usually with small quantities of salt and sugar.
In January, a 141-day starvation strike by Hisham Abu Hawash, who was accused by Israel of being concerned in plans to assault Israelis, got here near inciting a battle between Israel and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the primary militant teams within the blockaded Gaza Strip. An Islamic Jihad chief warned that if Mr. Abu Hawash died, his group would think about it an Israeli assassination and retaliate. Mr. Abu Hawash, a 41-year-old building employee, finally ended his strike after Israel agreed to launch him.
One other administrative detainee, Khalil Awawdeh, 40, is at present on starvation strike. He has gone greater than 150 cumulative days with out meals since March 3, ending a short pause after 111 days, when he was informed he had been granted a deal, which by no means got here by. Mr. Awawdeh, whom Israel accuses of being concerned in terrorist actions however who has not been charged, is being held in a jail infirmary. On Thursday, his lawyer mentioned he was little greater than pores and skin and bones, and Israeli information media reported that jail docs warned he was vulnerable to mind injury.
As a part of an settlement to finish three days of airstrikes between Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Israel this previous weekend, Islamic Jihad officers mentioned the deal was conditioned on the discharge of Mr. Awawdeh. However Israeli officers have mentioned they didn’t conform to his launch.
The Israeli authorities have lengthy struggled to handle the starvation strikes.
In 2015, Israel’s Parliament handed a regulation permitting putting prisoners to be drive fed in excessive circumstances, over the objections of the nation’s medical affiliation, which described the observe as torture. The Israeli Jail Service, nonetheless, says the regulation was by no means put in impact.
Throughout debate in Parliament over the invoice, the Israeli minister of public safety on the time, Gilad Erdan, forged it as a matter of nationwide safety.
“Safety prisoners are all in favour of turning a starvation strike into a brand new kind of suicide terrorist assault by which they are going to threaten the State of Israel,” he mentioned.
The Israel Jail Service, responding to written questions from The New York Occasions, mentioned that starvation strikes had been a hazard to the well being of prisoners and the safety of the state, including that it tried “to forestall starvation strikes on the whole,” together with “through the use of varied operational and intelligence instruments.”
Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of Parliament from Israel’s Palestinian minority, mentioned such efforts by Israel had been aimed toward undermining one of many few weapons that prisoners had at their disposal.
“They’re scared that the picture they current to the world of being a democratic nation could possibly be tarnished if one of many prisoners loses his life due to the starvation strike,” she mentioned, referring to Israel.
In 2011, a 66-day strike by Khader Adnan, whom Israel accuses of being a frontrunner of Islamic Jihad, helped usher in an period of particular person starvation strikes to protest the observe of administrative detention.
A number of the techniques he used to maintain the strain on the Israeli authorities have been adopted by different prisoners, together with a refusal to take meals dietary supplements or nutritional vitamins, and to get medical checkups.
Sharing such experiences was essential to underscoring how necessary the strikes are for the Palestinian individuals and their resistance to Israeli occupation, he mentioned.
“It is a weapon for our individuals, and we have to protect the standard of this weapon,” Mr. Adnan mentioned in an interview.
The strike final 12 months by Mr. al-Fasfos, the accountant, was the second time he had resorted to such drastic measures to protest being held with out fees. The primary strike, in 2018, lasted 25 days. He had been positioned underneath administrative detention in each circumstances, accused by Israel of being a safety menace.
“It shines a lightweight on a observe that’s oppressive,” Mr. al-Fasfos mentioned. “Even when I had died, I might think about it a victory as a result of in the long run I left the jail.”
Mr. al-Fasfos was additionally imprisoned in 2008 after being convicted, amongst different issues, of hurling an explosive gadget at a passing car. He was sentenced to 3 years.
For 2 weeks after Mr. al-Fasfos started his strike, guards introduced him three meals a day, which he refused. On Day 15, they started bringing him salt and sugar, which starvation strikers use to maintain their electrolytes up.
Mr. al-Fasfos would take a fingertip of salt, principally to assist him drink extra water, whose style he quickly started to hate. By the tip of his strike, he mentioned, water smelled like gasoline to him.
Mr. al-Fasfos is an newbie bodybuilder, and his muscular construct helped him throughout months with out meals. Even nonetheless, he quickly started struggling. First the complications started. Round Day 60, he may not stroll. His bones and joints ached. It felt as if his physique was feeding on his organs, he mentioned.
“The final 10 days had been actually exhausting to be trustworthy,” he mentioned. “I referred to as my household and mentioned I’m making ready to die.”
After his launch, he was summoned for questioning by Israeli forces. He informed them that if he was arrested once more, he would begin one other starvation strike.
“I’ll wage the battle anew,” he mentioned, sitting in the lounge of his residence in Dura, wearing black denims and a leather-based jacket.
His spouse, Hala Nummora, 30, appeared over at her husband.
“I can’t see him undergo that once more — I noticed loss of life in his eyes,” she mentioned. “I informed him by no means do that once more.”
Myra Noveck and Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.