In early April, more than one thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, headed by leaders Marwan Al-Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Hassan Yousef and many others, began an open-ended hunger strike in defence of their own and their people's dignity, and to regain the rights that Israel has infringed upon.
In the manner of Hana Shalabi, Mohammed Al-Qeeq, Khader Adnan and Thaer Halahla, who fought with the only weapon they possessed in their prison cells — that is, going on hunger strike and refusing to have any dealings with the prison administration — hundreds began refusing food this month. They are striking to protest a series of bigoted Israeli laws which have exceeded all limits.
The hunger strike has drawn participants from a wide range of political factions.
Some of the laws they are protesting are soon to be enforced.
These laws include forced feeding of strikers, raising the legal sentence for children convicted of throwing stones to twenty years in prison, trying children under 14 years old, convicting Palestinians without witnesses and depriving prisoners of education.
This shameful administrative detention has become a weapon raised in the face of everyone expressing a will to freedom and even in the face of elected Palestinian representatives, 13 of whom languish in prison cells.
There are more than 6,500 male and female captives, including more than 300 children and 500 administrative detainees and 62 female captives including 14 minors currently being held in Israeli prisons.
Among them is the longest-held captive in modern history, Nael Al-Barghouti, who has spent more than thirty-six years in jail. There are hundreds of ill captives, including 21 patients suffering from cancer and life-threatening injuries. These prisoners die every day away from their relatives and loved ones.
There are 46 captives who were freed within the Wafa al-Ahrar (Loyalty of the Freemen) prisoner exchange, only to be detained once again and see their life sentences renewed. Then there is freed captive Mazen Al-Fuqaha, who was assassinated by treacherous hands in Gaza.
Every day the occupation army launches raids and detention campaigns, which haul in an average twenty new captives daily. In March alone, occupation forces detained 509 Palestinians.
There is not a single Palestinian home without a mam or woman held captive. Since the beginning of occupation in 1967, detention cases have exceeded 1 million.
If the Algerian people are called the one million martyrs then the Palestinian people deserve to be called the one million male and female captives.
If we wanted to be accurate, the majority of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza have been living under the occupation's captivity for the last 50 years. For Gaza is a prison besieged from land, sea and air. The West Bank is kept apart and surrounded by prejudiced occupation laws.
The valiant captives’ hunger strike will be the battle of all Palestinian people and will feed their energy for struggle.
It is the duty of all of us to side with them, support and back them in their cause. This isn't restricted to one faction, party or group. It is the cause of the entire captive Palestinian people.
Through their hunger strike, they prove that the Palestinian's will is stronger than all oppression, bigger than every prison, greater than every repression and more sublime than every dispute or division.
They deserve every salute and hope for victory, for they are the ones who sacrifice their freedom for their people's freedom.
The writer is Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative.