On 24 April 2014, over 120 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons launched a hunger strike to protest Israeli violations of an agreement made with the Israel Prison Service in May 2012 to end a previous hunger strike. In that agreement, the prison service had promised to restrict to exceptional circumstances its use of administrative detention, a practice in which suspects are jailed without trial indefinitely, pending renewals ordered by a military court every six months.
Following the 12 June kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers from an Israeli settlement bloc in the West Bank and the ensuing Israeli crackdown on Hamas, who were presumed to have abducted them, the number of Palestinians jailed under administration detention had risen to 363 by 30 June (from 196 on 31 May).
On 25 June, 63 days after the start of their protest, the almost 300 participants announced they were ending their hunger strike. This was attributed to the bad political timing of the strike, given the Israeli public’s much broader support of administrative detention following the kidnapping of the three settlers. Although there was no formal agreement to that effect, the prisoners received assurances from the prison service that that Israel would restrict administrative detentions to six months, with the possibility of only one six-month renewal.
At the height of the hunger strike in early June, a group of the detainees were able to smuggle a letter out of prison. It was read by Allam Kaabi, himself a former administrative detainee, on 8 June during a press conference before the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Khan Yunis, Gaza.
The letter, which was identified as a will or testament, calls on Palestinians and people throughout the world to support the hunger strikers and continue to resist. Shahd Abusalama translated the letter on his blog at www.electronicintifada.net and the full text is presented below with edits for language and clarity.
Despite the chains, prison bars and walls, this is a will from those standing on the verge of death to the guardians of our homeland, Palestine.
After leaving the isolation cells which can no longer bear our suffering, illnesses, and corroded bodies, from our hospital beds to which we are shackled by chains and guard dogs, from amidst the jailers who keep watching the heart monitors that might announce our death at any moment, from the very edge of death, we send out this call, which could, for some of us, be their last. It may be time to unveil our will and testament before embracing our people as honorable martyrs. This call is our voice, our cry, our will. We are the administrative detainees now heading towards immortality, towards embracing the light of dignity which may simultaneously mark the end of the battle for dignity.
We raise our voice, hoping that it will reach our revolutionary people, [to say]:
First, we call upon you to intensify your support for the hunger strikers who are still alive, for the soldiers in body-to-body combat with the fascist enemy deserve the loyalty that will end the hemorrhage of blood that will continue unceasingly until our just demands are met.
Second, starvation has damaged some of our organs but others remain intact. As death awaits us, we declare that nothing will stand in the way of our sacrifice, not even death. Therefore, we donate our functioning organs to those in need of them, whether fighters, or the poor and downtrodden, and we await a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross to approve the organ donations.
Third, we call on you to remain loyal to the blood spilt, ours and that of all martyrs who gave up their lives over the course of the Palestinian struggle. Loyalty is not a mere matter of words, but a revolutionary practice that knows no hesitation or weakness.
Fourth, hold fast to our historical and legitimate rights and do not give up an inch of Palestine, from the river to the sea. The right of return is the stepping-stone from our current objectives to our historic rights, which cannot be restored without the use of force—the only language our enemy understands.
Fifth, don’t fail those prisoners who remain alive after we have gone. Those who forsake their freedom for their people’s freedom deserve freedom rather than death.
To our dignified people in Palestine and in the diaspora, to the free people of the world, and to freedom fighters everywhere: our cries will be heard beyond the darkness of the grave and (. . .) our Palestinian people will uphold their compact until victory. We bid you farewell with smiling faces (. . .)
Signed: The hunger strikers on their 46th day, June 8, 2014.