A glass of water, a shot of salt and a spoon are all what it takes for many Palestine supporters around the world to show support for the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, in what is now has spread as the “Salt Water Challenge.”
The “Salt Water Challenge” was meant to be a symbol of solidarity with prisoners who have been feeding on water and salt as the only source of nourishment since April 17, the day the mass hunger strike started. Participants film themselves mixing water with salt and drinking it, and, similar to the 2014 ASL Ice Bucket Challenge, they pass the challenge to somebody else to do it.
After Aarab Barghouti, son of imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, filmed himself drinking salt water in support of his father and other Palestinian political prisoners, the challenge campaign has gone viral on social media sites.
Hundreds of Palestine supporters all over the world, including journalists, activists and students, even celebrities among others, have joined the trend and taken the challenge in order to bring attention to the striking prisoners. Many Palestinian, Arab and international celebrities and public figures have shown solidarity with the prisoners by taking the challenge.
Challenged by Barghouti, Palestinian singer and former Arab Idol title holder Mohammad Assaf was the first Arab celebrity to take the salt water challenge. He posted a video of himself drinking the salt water, saying that what Palestinian prisoners are going through is a righteous humanitarian battle. He later met with the Barghouti family to show support.
Assaf passed the challenged to fellow Lebanese singer Melhem Zein, who accepted the challenge and filmed himself drinking the salt water. Zein commented that he stands with the Palestinian issue.
Lebanese TV personality and Group TV Director of MBC, Ali Jaber, and Egyptian actor Ahmad Helmi, both judges on MBC’s talent hit show “Arabs Got Talent”, agreed to take the salt water challenge during the live filming of the show. Jaber said that he supports Marwan Barghouti before he proceeded to drink the salt water.
Yacoub Shaheen, the Palestinian contestant who recently won the title of Arab Idol, took the challenge after he was invited to do so by Ashraf Barghouti. Fellow Palestinian Arab Idol contestants Ameer Dandan and Manal Mousa have also agreed to take the challenge.
Emirati singer Ahlam tweeted that she gladly accepted Shaheen’s invitation to take the challenge. She responded to Shaheen’s tweet saying “I’m with you,” and added the hashtag “#DignityStrike.” She has yet to take the challenge.
Palestinian-American comedian and academic Amer Zahr also accepted to take the challenge. He dedicated the video he filmed of himself drinking salt water to Marwan Barghouti and the rest of the prisoners, saying “I’m with you.”
British theatre director Joe Douglas and pro-Palestine English comedian and political satirist Mark Thomas accepted to be a part of the challenge during their visit to the city of Ramallah. Thomas argued that world activists, comedians and artists should join the fight against Israel’s illegal policies against Palestinian prisoners. He said it is important for the whole world to know about Palestinians, because Israel, an apartheid state as he described it, is yet to treat people like human beings.
Almost 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have been on an open-ended hunger strike since April 17. The strike, widely known among Palestinians as “The Freedom and Dignity” strike, was started to protest the difficult humanitarian conditions in Israeli jails.
Spearheaded by Marwan Barghouti, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Fatah Central Committee, as well as Karim Younis and Maher Younis, the oldest and longest serving detainees held since 1983, and Diaa al-Agha, held since before the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, the strike has been joined by prisoners from all Palestinian political factions and, according to sources, will continue to attract more prisoners who are expected to join the strike.
The prisoners are demanding to be moved to prisons in the occupied territories as per the Fourth Geneva Convention, which would make it easier for their families to visit them, as well as lifting restrictions on family visits and better treatment at military checkpoints.
Other demands include: An improvement of access to medical care; increasing visit duration from 45 to 90 minutes; families of women prisoners meet without glass barriers to allow mothers to hold their children; an improvement in detention conditions including easing restrictions on the entry of books, clothing, food and other gifts from family members; restoring some educational facilities; and installing phones to enable prisoners to communicate with their families.
The total number of political prisoners currently held in Israeli jails has reached 6500 prisoners, including 500 administrative detainees; 300 children; and 57 females.
By Khaled Tayeh
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