South Africans have been called upon to participate in a 24-hour solidarity hunger strike, starting this evening, in support of Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike.
The 24-hour hunger strike will commence at 6pm on Tuesday, May 2 and end at 6pm on Wednesday, May 3. Participants, like Palestinian hunger strikers, are allowed to drink salt water during the fast. The hunger strike action will culminate with an event at 6pm at Constitution Hill, where participants are expected to eat their first meal for the day. Early childhood interventionist, Sadna Balton, who recently attended the 3rd International Prisoner Conference in Palestine, will speak at the event addressing the issue of child detainees in Israeli prisons.
A similar solidarity hunger strike, together with a national programme of action, will be hosted on May 15, commemorated as Nakba Day, marking the beginning of the mass displacement of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and occupation by Israel.
Neeshan Balton, the Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said that two 24-hour hunger strikes are symbolic acts of solidarity with the over 1000 Palestinian prisoners who stopped eating two weeks ago. “The 24-hour hunger strikes on May 3 and 15 form part of a range of activities taking place globally in support of Palestinian political prisoners. Various organisations, former detainees, and a range of other individuals will be supporting the mass action leading up to the 15th. We hope that ordinary South Africans will take up the call and embark on hunger strike action on both days.”
Balton encouraged those participating in the solidarity action to post pictures of themselves starting and ending their hunger strike with salt water on social media, using the phrase: “I #SupportPalestinianPrisoners”.
Kwara Kekana from Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, said that tomorrow’s programme aims to build momentum towards May 15, which will see demonstrations at provincial legislatures across the country, calling on public representatives to support Palestinian prisoners. “Organisations supporting the call for action on May 3 and 15 include the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Embassy of the State of Palestine, BDS South Africa, SA Jews for a Free Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Muslim Judicial Council, Al Quds Foundation, Ex Political Prisoners
Association of South Africa and the National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P) which includes more than 40 organisations, trade unions and political parties. Numerous other organisations are expected to come on board.”
Kekana stated that apart from pickets and other forms of campaign action planned in various provinces, organisations in the Western Cape had also mobilised 175 people to fast twice weekly in support of Palestinian prisoners.
“The demands being put forward by the Palestinian prisoners to the Israeli authorities are very basic and include calls for better medical treatment, humane transportation of prisoners, regular family visits without cancellation, access to education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention. It is shocking that the Israeli authorities are taking a heavy-handed approach in dealing with the matter,” Kekana stated.
“As South Africans, we have a practical understanding of apartheid policies such as detention without trial and using imprisonment to crush the will of those standing up against injustice. In light of this, we think that South Africans in particular, must support the Palestinian hunger strikers in their demands for basic rights,” Balton said.
Today marks the 16th day of the hunger strike, started by jailed Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouthi. In 2013, struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada and Barghouthi’s wife, Fadwa, launched an international campaign for the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners from Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island.