Oberlin Students for a Free Palestine will be holding a solidarity fast from May 7 to May 11. This action is intended to raise awareness of the two thousand plus Palestinian prisoners who are currently on hunger strike in Israeli administered prisons.
Palestinian hunger strikers are refusing food in order to protest the Israeli government’s ongoing unjust practices and to focus international attention on these violations, including violent arrests, imprisonment outside of the occupied territories, solitary confinement, denial of access to medical care, torture, and the policy of administrative detention which enables Israel to hold prisoners indefinitely without a charge and without any access to a trial.
In particular two individuals have emerged as leaders of this movement, Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, both of whom have spent years of their lives in and out of Israeli prisons under the administrative detention policy. Neither were ever charged with committing a crime, yet they were both forcibly separated from their families and communities. Although they have both been released in recent weeks, hundreds of their fellow prisoners remain on hunger strike and even more remain in administrative detention, including two hundred and three children.
These hunger strikes are a part of a deeper history of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel’s occupation and appropriation of Palestinian land. This tactic was used widely during the first Intifada in concert with consumer boycotts, labor strikes, and popular demonstrations.
These hunger strikes are also part of a wider history of liberation struggles throughout the world. Many people are familiar with those carried out by Northern Ireland in the 1980s by IRA prisoners such as Bobby Sands, but hunger strikes have also been used in situations around the world, including detainees at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, prisoners in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay, California, La Mujer Obrera from El Paso, in addition to many other activists and prisoners whose efforts are less widely recognized. Currently this tactic is being used by political protesters in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in Bahrain who has been on hunger strike since February 8.
In solidarity with these prisoners, members of Students for a Free Palestine and other organizations, including Student Labor Action Commission, Filipino American Students Association, the Middle East Peace Forum of Northeast Ohio, Al-Awda of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Arab Americans Association, and many individuals have chosen to undertake fasts where they will not eat any food for a day. In an effort to educate and engage students in dialogue about this action, SFP will set up tables around campus to be available for conversation. We hope this initiative will give Oberlin students a greater awareness of the many instruments of repression Israel employs to suppress Palestinian freedom and to perpetuate the illegal occupation. We also hope to make people aware of some of the creative, resourceful and nonviolent ways that Palestinians have adopted in order to resist this oppression and demand their freedoms.
We would like to stress that in our position as student activists we do not claim to speak for Palestinians or share their struggle. Instead we aim to make their voices heard. Unlike the hundreds of prisoners who remain confined to Israeli jails, we have chosen to fast without facing any potential consequences to our health or freedom, and we would therefore like to acknowledge our privileged position. We also wish to emphasize that Palestinian hunger strikers are not victims; we fast in order to honor their act of resistance and steadfastness, an act which demonstrates their continued agency in the face of ongoing challenges to their basic freedom and dignity.