Hungry for freedom


On March 29, Palestinian political prisoner Hana Shalabi ended her 43-day hunger strike for justice. Shalabi had been held in Israeli “administrative detention” without charges since February.

Last month, Khader Adnan, another Palestinian political prisoner, ended his 66-day hunger strike against his unlawful imprisonment. Adnan had been held in detention since December.

Shalabi, Adnan, and hundreds of other Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons waiting to be fairly tried, but very few, if any, actually are. Israel has been using its corrupt and illegal administrative detention system on Palestinians for several years. Many Palestinians are labelled “security threats,” thrown into jail, and confined for months or years without being charged of any crimes or tried in any court of law. Kept in isolation from their families and the rest of the world, many of these prisoners have taken up hunger strikes as a form of resistance against their imprisonment.

Hunger strikes are often used by political prisoners and activists as a form of non-violent resistance and protest against a system of oppression. In an act of defiance against the Israeli detention and prison system, Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes as a method of raising awareness about their unlawful detention. Yet, despite countless hunger strikes across Israeli prisons over the past several years, Palestinian prisoners and their voices are often not heard.

How many of us have heard of Hana Shalabi, Khader Adnan, Bilal Thiab, Hasan Safadi, or Ahmad Qatamesh? How many of use know these prisoners’ names or their stories? The sad truth is that the Palestinian voice has been missing from our conversations and discussions.

We’ve learned to label Palestine as “disputed land” and Palestinians as “threats to peace.” Whenever Israel and Palestine are mentioned in the same sentence, the issue is declared “too complex” and discussion is halted. Criticising any Israeli policies is deemed “anti-Semetic.,” and the list goes on, as barriers to the conversation are built by the same individuals who would rather see Shalabi and Adnan disappear than give them a platform to voice their struggles.

However, the Palestinian voice will not be silenced. The cold and dark Israeli prisons and detention centers house many Palestinian men and women fighting for the freedom of their people and their land. While their bodies may be imprisoned, their minds are free to dream of the day when the world will finally recognize their right to self-determination. They show no weakness from the torture, hunger, or brutality. For these prisoners, food and water is nothing compared to freedom.

For too long, we’ve dismissed the Palestinian voice as irrelevant, and for too long we’ve ignored the Palestinian people’s right to live with dignity and respect. We’ve all heard that one can live weeks without food and only days without water, but how long can one live without freedom? Let’s not use Palestine as an experiment to find the answer.

Taouba Khelifa

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