- Published on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:14
On Palestinian Prisoners Day, April 17th, five British women imprisoned by the Israeli government for their part in 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' are refusing food in support of the demands of Palestinian political prisoners. Some 3,500 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel started a hunger strike on Tuesday, April 17th, demanding rights to family visits and education, an end to isolation and an end to administrative detention, a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial.
Khader Adnan, who ended his protest hunger strike in February after 67 days, has been released. There are currently three Palestinian political prisoners who have been striking for more than 40 days.In total Israel holds 4,610 political prisoners, including 6 women and 203 children.
International actions are started to take place on Tuesday, including a march in Glasgow and protests in Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Yesterday's morning, students in Glasgow occupied BBC headquarters to highlight lack of media coverage of the Palestinian hunger strikers and international support for their cause.
The five women, from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dumfries and Glasgow, were taken to Givon prison on landing at Tel Aviv airport on Sunday. They were amongst 1,300 international participants of the 'Welcome to Palestine' initiative that sought to highlight Israel's blockade of the West Bank and attempts to isolate Palestinians. The visit is supported by the Mayor of Bethlehem and over 25 Palestinian civil society organisations. Before departure from Manchester airport Joy Cherkaoui, who works for Dumfries and Galloway Council, explained that "the goal of the initiative is not to demonstrate at Ben Gurion Airport but to proceed peacefully to Bethlehem, where our Palestinian hosts are waiting to greet us. There is no way into Palestine except through Israeli-controlled airports or checkpoints."
Lynn Leitch, 61 year old retired teacher said that it was important for her to participate in the initiative to "challenge the actions of the Israeli Authority and bring its actions to the attention of people and governments around the world". Midlothian Trades Union Council, for whom Lynn is due to represent at next week's STUC Annual Congress, published a statement supporting the participants and condemning the "actions of the Israeli government in effectively imprisoning an entire nation". Today Aberdeen Trades Union Council also sent a message of support for local doctor, UCU member and Aberdeen University lecturer Karolin Hijazi. Nurse and UNISON member Terri Mclaughlin from Glasgow and humanitarian peace activist Paveen Yaqub from Manchester are joined by French women imprisoned by Israel in refusing food in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.
In addition to the five women, four British men are being held at Givon prison near Tel Aviv. Anthony Radcliffe, 69-year old retired teacher from Chesterfield, said he "become more aware of human rights abuses since retirement and have become more politically active since then". Jim Henry, retired nurse from Ayrshire, Rob Redford from Chesterfield and Arif Shah from Birmingham were all taken by Israeli police to prison on Sunday.
None of the internationals detained have been told what laws they have broken and the reasons for their treatment. On Sunday Israel deployed 650 police officers at Tel Aviv airport and sent instructions to airlines to blacklist and deny boarding to hundreds of 'Welcome to Palestine 2012' participants flying from Canada, Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Istanbul, London and Manchester. Fourteen participants from the UK were denied boarding while others from Scotland and Wales have already been deported. An official from Israel's Foreign Ministry admitted yesterday that Israel had "given the other side a victory on a silver platter" and that "direct damage has been done to tourism and to Israel's good name". Uri Avnery of Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, some of whose activists were arrested on Sunday as they waited to welcome participants, said "had the government set out to exhibit to the world the image of an ugly Israel - oppressive, aggressive, nationalistic, tolerating no criticism - then today was a huge success".