Nakba Day: Hunger Strike as Non-Violent Protest in Palestine and Around the World

Published May 15th, 2017 - 07:47 GMT

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On the 15th of May, Palestinians commemorate the Nakba or ‘catastrophe’ of 1948, when 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes as a result of the war and the creation of the state of Israel. 

Since then, Palestinians have used different forms of resistance to fight against Israeli oppression. Around 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israeli authorities throughout the years and 6,500 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails. 

In 1969, Palestinian prisoners started to engaged in hunger strikes to pressure Israeli authorities to improve conditions in Israeli jails, guarantee fair trails as well as provide an end to solitary confinement. 

As we observe the annual Naqba day and the Palestinian freedom and dignity hunger strike entering its 5th week, we have a look at the use of hunger strike as a non-violent form of resistance in Palestine and other parts of the world during the 20th and 21st century.

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1300 Palestinian political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails, demanding better communication with family members, better medical treatment and the provision of air-conditioning. Prisoners also request the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention, under which Palestinians can be hold without charges for years.
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Image 1 of 12:  1 / 121300 Palestinian political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails, demanding better communication with family members, better medical treatment and the provision of air-conditioning. Prisoners also request the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention, under which Palestinians can be hold without charges for years.

(Source: AFP)

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Historically, hunger strike was prominently used as a non-violent form of resistance in Ireland. Irish republicans including Terence MacSwiney gained world-wide attention when going on hunger strike in British prisons protesting British rule of the Republic and demanding their release. MacSwiney died in 1920 following 73 days of fasting.
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Image 2 of 12:  2 / 12Historically, hunger strike was prominently used as a non-violent form of resistance in Ireland. Irish republicans including Terence MacSwiney gained world-wide attention when going on hunger strike in British prisons protesting British rule of the Republic and demanding their release. MacSwiney died in 1920 following 73 days of fasting.

(Source: File photo)

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Inspired by the Irish republicans, fasting became widely used by the Indian independence movement during the 1920s and 1930s. Mahatma Gandhi and other activists engaged in hunger strikes to protest British rule of India and more rights for political prisoners. Some of the strikes were able to gain concessions from British authorities.
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Image 3 of 12:  3 / 12Inspired by the Irish republicans, fasting became widely used by the Indian independence movement during the 1920s and 1930s. Mahatma Gandhi and other activists engaged in hunger strikes to protest British rule of India and more rights for political prisoners. Some of the strikes were able to gain concessions from British authorities.

(Source: File photo)

Enlarge
In Palestine, fasting was used for the first time in 1969, when Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli Ramle and Kfar Yona prison protested against bad food conditions and a ban on writing equipment. In Ramle, strikers were put in solitary confinement as a result, while in the Kfar Yona prison, some concessions were gained.
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Image 4 of 12:  4 / 12In Palestine, fasting was used for the first time in 1969, when Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli Ramle and Kfar Yona prison protested against bad food conditions and a ban on writing equipment. In Ramle, strikers were put in solitary confinement as a result, while in the Kfar Yona prison, some concessions were gained.

(Source: AFP/Jack Guez)

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During the 70s, Palestinian women were engaged in hunger strike in the Israeli Neve Tirza women only prison. The prisoners demanded better conditions inside the prisons, better ventilation, longer time in the yard and sanitary products. Israeli authorities responded to the strike by placing the strikers in solitary confinement.
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Image 5 of 12:  5 / 12During the 70s, Palestinian women were engaged in hunger strike in the Israeli Neve Tirza women only prison. The prisoners demanded better conditions inside the prisons, better ventilation, longer time in the yard and sanitary products. Israeli authorities responded to the strike by placing the strikers in solitary confinement.

(Source: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Enlarge
The engagement of female prisoners in hunger strike dates back to the British and American suffragettes in the early 20th century. As prisoners, the women demanded better conditions in the jails and to be recognized as political prisoners. Many were subjected to force feeding and several died as a result.
Reduce

Image 6 of 12:  6 / 12The engagement of female prisoners in hunger strike dates back to the British and American suffragettes in the early 20th century. As prisoners, the women demanded better conditions in the jails and to be recognized as political prisoners. Many were subjected to force feeding and several died as a result.

(Source: KVINFO Copenhagen)

Enlarge
Major concessions were achieved as a result of Palestinian hunger strikers during the 1980s. A strike of 800 Palestinian prisoners led Israeli authorities to allow for radios and TVs in the Nablus prison and provide better clothes and food. A second hunger strike during the same decade improved the conditions in the Israeli Nafha prison.
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Image 7 of 12:  7 / 12Major concessions were achieved as a result of Palestinian hunger strikers during the 1980s. A strike of 800 Palestinian prisoners led Israeli authorities to allow for radios and TVs in the Nablus prison and provide better clothes and food. A second hunger strike during the same decade improved the conditions in the Israeli Nafha prison.

(Source: AFP)

Enlarge
Far-reaching attention was gained by hunger strikers in 1981 in Ireland. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners launched two hunger strikes demanding the reinstatement of the special status of paramilitary prisoners. The death of 10 prisoners on strike and public disorder led the British government to give in to some of the demands.
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Image 8 of 12:  8 / 12Far-reaching attention was gained by hunger strikers in 1981 in Ireland. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners launched two hunger strikes demanding the reinstatement of the special status of paramilitary prisoners. The death of 10 prisoners on strike and public disorder led the British government to give in to some of the demands.

(Source: AFP)

Enlarge
The 90s saw another successful hunger strike by around 700 Palestinian prisoners across different Israeli jails. The 19-day strike was able to achieve the closure of the isolation section of the Ramle prison, stopped strip searches, increased the time of family visits and allowed the use of cooking slates inside cells.
Reduce

Image 9 of 12:  9 / 12The 90s saw another successful hunger strike by around 700 Palestinian prisoners across different Israeli jails. The 19-day strike was able to achieve the closure of the isolation section of the Ramle prison, stopped strip searches, increased the time of family visits and allowed the use of cooking slates inside cells.

(Source: AFP/ Jack Guez)

Enlarge
In contrast to the gains achieved in the 80s and 90s, the two Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2000 and 2004 were less successful. While the first were able to improve the conditions in Israeli jails slightly, the situation was reversed by the outbreak of the second intifada and the second strike was met by punishing measures only.
Reduce

Image 10 of 12:  10 / 12In contrast to the gains achieved in the 80s and 90s, the two Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2000 and 2004 were less successful. While the first were able to improve the conditions in Israeli jails slightly, the situation was reversed by the outbreak of the second intifada and the second strike was met by punishing measures only.

(Source: File photo)

Enlarge
The hunger strikes of Guantanamo Bay during the 2000s also proved to be unsuccessful in achieving the demands. While authorities agreed to meet the conditions set forth in the Geneva Conventions following the strikes, these concessions never materialized. As a result, 166 detainees started another strike in 2013, many of whom were force-fed.
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Image 11 of 12:  11 / 12The hunger strikes of Guantanamo Bay during the 2000s also proved to be unsuccessful in achieving the demands. While authorities agreed to meet the conditions set forth in the Geneva Conventions following the strikes, these concessions never materialized. As a result, 166 detainees started another strike in 2013, many of whom were force-fed.

(Source: AFP)

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Force-feeding hunger strikers was prohibited by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1975 and more recently has been classified as inhumane and degrading treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also warned Israel to engage in force feeding as it could amount to torture.
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Image 12 of 12:  12 / 12Force-feeding hunger strikers was prohibited by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1975 and more recently has been classified as inhumane and degrading treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also warned Israel to engage in force feeding as it could amount to torture.

(Source: AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Enlarge

1

1300 Palestinian political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails, demanding better communication with family members, better medical treatment and the provision of air-conditioning. Prisoners also request the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention, under which Palestinians can be hold without charges for years.

Image 1 of 121300 Palestinian political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails, demanding better communication with family members, better medical treatment and the provision of air-conditioning. Prisoners also request the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention, under which Palestinians can be hold without charges for years.

(Source: AFP)

2

Historically, hunger strike was prominently used as a non-violent form of resistance in Ireland. Irish republicans including Terence MacSwiney gained world-wide attention when going on hunger strike in British prisons protesting British rule of the Republic and demanding their release. MacSwiney died in 1920 following 73 days of fasting.

Image 2 of 12Historically, hunger strike was prominently used as a non-violent form of resistance in Ireland. Irish republicans including Terence MacSwiney gained world-wide attention when going on hunger strike in British prisons protesting British rule of the Republic and demanding their release. MacSwiney died in 1920 following 73 days of fasting.

(Source: File photo)

3

Inspired by the Irish republicans, fasting became widely used by the Indian independence movement during the 1920s and 1930s. Mahatma Gandhi and other activists engaged in hunger strikes to protest British rule of India and more rights for political prisoners. Some of the strikes were able to gain concessions from British authorities.

Image 3 of 12Inspired by the Irish republicans, fasting became widely used by the Indian independence movement during the 1920s and 1930s. Mahatma Gandhi and other activists engaged in hunger strikes to protest British rule of India and more rights for political prisoners. Some of the strikes were able to gain concessions from British authorities.

(Source: File photo)

4

In Palestine, fasting was used for the first time in 1969, when Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli Ramle and Kfar Yona prison protested against bad food conditions and a ban on writing equipment. In Ramle, strikers were put in solitary confinement as a result, while in the Kfar Yona prison, some concessions were gained.

Image 4 of 12In Palestine, fasting was used for the first time in 1969, when Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli Ramle and Kfar Yona prison protested against bad food conditions and a ban on writing equipment. In Ramle, strikers were put in solitary confinement as a result, while in the Kfar Yona prison, some concessions were gained.

(Source: AFP/Jack Guez)

5

During the 70s, Palestinian women were engaged in hunger strike in the Israeli Neve Tirza women only prison. The prisoners demanded better conditions inside the prisons, better ventilation, longer time in the yard and sanitary products. Israeli authorities responded to the strike by placing the strikers in solitary confinement.

Image 5 of 12During the 70s, Palestinian women were engaged in hunger strike in the Israeli Neve Tirza women only prison. The prisoners demanded better conditions inside the prisons, better ventilation, longer time in the yard and sanitary products. Israeli authorities responded to the strike by placing the strikers in solitary confinement.

(Source: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

6

The engagement of female prisoners in hunger strike dates back to the British and American suffragettes in the early 20th century. As prisoners, the women demanded better conditions in the jails and to be recognized as political prisoners. Many were subjected to force feeding and several died as a result.

Image 6 of 12The engagement of female prisoners in hunger strike dates back to the British and American suffragettes in the early 20th century. As prisoners, the women demanded better conditions in the jails and to be recognized as political prisoners. Many were subjected to force feeding and several died as a result.

(Source: KVINFO Copenhagen)

7

Major concessions were achieved as a result of Palestinian hunger strikers during the 1980s. A strike of 800 Palestinian prisoners led Israeli authorities to allow for radios and TVs in the Nablus prison and provide better clothes and food. A second hunger strike during the same decade improved the conditions in the Israeli Nafha prison.

Image 7 of 12Major concessions were achieved as a result of Palestinian hunger strikers during the 1980s. A strike of 800 Palestinian prisoners led Israeli authorities to allow for radios and TVs in the Nablus prison and provide better clothes and food. A second hunger strike during the same decade improved the conditions in the Israeli Nafha prison.

(Source: AFP)

8

Far-reaching attention was gained by hunger strikers in 1981 in Ireland. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners launched two hunger strikes demanding the reinstatement of the special status of paramilitary prisoners. The death of 10 prisoners on strike and public disorder led the British government to give in to some of the demands.

Image 8 of 12Far-reaching attention was gained by hunger strikers in 1981 in Ireland. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners launched two hunger strikes demanding the reinstatement of the special status of paramilitary prisoners. The death of 10 prisoners on strike and public disorder led the British government to give in to some of the demands.

(Source: AFP)

9

The 90s saw another successful hunger strike by around 700 Palestinian prisoners across different Israeli jails. The 19-day strike was able to achieve the closure of the isolation section of the Ramle prison, stopped strip searches, increased the time of family visits and allowed the use of cooking slates inside cells.

Image 9 of 12The 90s saw another successful hunger strike by around 700 Palestinian prisoners across different Israeli jails. The 19-day strike was able to achieve the closure of the isolation section of the Ramle prison, stopped strip searches, increased the time of family visits and allowed the use of cooking slates inside cells.

(Source: AFP/ Jack Guez)

10

In contrast to the gains achieved in the 80s and 90s, the two Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2000 and 2004 were less successful. While the first were able to improve the conditions in Israeli jails slightly, the situation was reversed by the outbreak of the second intifada and the second strike was met by punishing measures only.

Image 10 of 12In contrast to the gains achieved in the 80s and 90s, the two Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2000 and 2004 were less successful. While the first were able to improve the conditions in Israeli jails slightly, the situation was reversed by the outbreak of the second intifada and the second strike was met by punishing measures only.

(Source: File photo)

11

The hunger strikes of Guantanamo Bay during the 2000s also proved to be unsuccessful in achieving the demands. While authorities agreed to meet the conditions set forth in the Geneva Conventions following the strikes, these concessions never materialized. As a result, 166 detainees started another strike in 2013, many of whom were force-fed.

Image 11 of 12The hunger strikes of Guantanamo Bay during the 2000s also proved to be unsuccessful in achieving the demands. While authorities agreed to meet the conditions set forth in the Geneva Conventions following the strikes, these concessions never materialized. As a result, 166 detainees started another strike in 2013, many of whom were force-fed.

(Source: AFP)

12

Force-feeding hunger strikers was prohibited by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1975 and more recently has been classified as inhumane and degrading treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also warned Israel to engage in force feeding as it could amount to torture.

Image 12 of 12Force-feeding hunger strikers was prohibited by the World Medical Association (WMA) in 1975 and more recently has been classified as inhumane and degrading treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has also warned Israel to engage in force feeding as it could amount to torture.

(Source: AFP/Mohammed Abed)

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