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Between the «Jalame» Prison and Washington
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
May 2, 2017

The «strike of the Palestinian prisoners» in the occupation prisons , enters its second week. The scene has been marked in the first week with signs, each one indicates a specific policy adopted by the parties that are involved in the strike.

• The prisoners are determined to continue the open strike, without setting a specific time limit, and they are adhering to their positions and demands that are promoted to the level of national dignity for them and their people in all places of their existence. The signs of the second week suggest that new groups of prisoners have begun to participate in the strike, in a clear determination to continue the battle, whatever the risks that threaten their lives. The strike of "water and salt" has already begun to show its negative consequences on the prisoners' lives. Which reminds us of the legendary strike committed by prisoner Samer Issawi (9 full months) in a formidable challenge to the occupation authorities and the prison authorities.

• The prison authorities, and the Netanyahu government, have taken a stubborn position from the prisoners' strike, their slogan is "Let them die of starvation". The far- right government refuses to respond to the minimum demands, especially as it believes that it is fighting a battle against the prisoners, in a political situation, in which the concerned parties are working, regionally and internationally, to develop a "deal" for the region, so It doesn’t want to look like a weak party neither in the eyes of American and Europeans allies, nor the Palestinian and Arab enemies, a party who was forced by a strike of prisoners to retreat and respond to pressure.

Therefore, it is expected that the Netanyahu government will become more stubborn, and that the prisoners will be more cohesive and insistent on their heroic positions. We believe that the martyrdom of one prisoner, in the battle of the empty intestine, would ignite the occupied territories.

• The reaction of the Palestinian street, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and in the diaspora, was fast, so the sit-in tents were held in which the families of the prisoners played before the others ,the role of the crane. If the forces and activists have issued enough statements to support the prisoners in the media, but the movement in the street still requires more momentum, and development, up to the daily collision with the occupation authorities. The clash here does not take the form of "violence" at the checkpoints only. But it must takes other forms. Such as calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, demanding that Palestinian businessmen to respect the national sentiment and stop dealing with Israeli businessmen, and press the PA to stop its security cooperation with the occupation authorities. In addition to that calling the PA to internationalize the prisoners cause before ICC and the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations, and not to bow to the American pressure that called on the Palestinian leadership to stop its diplomatic moves as a condition for "completing" the elements of the political deal with the Israeli side.

• The youth movement was the most responsive to the prisoners. Since our prisoners have declared hunger strike, it is hardly a day to wetness without a clash situation occurred with the occupation authorities or with the settlers, in which there is a Palestinian martyr or wounded. With an objective look at the youth Intifada, we must recognize that it has not stop, but it has taken the form of successive waves. But we must also admit that the embrace of the Palestinian political forces of this movement, and the mobilization of the popular forces to support this movement, is less than required. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority did not neglect its "duty" to besiege the Intifada, chase its heroes, and detain them "in reserve" to keep them out of the street, with the in close cooperation with the occupation authorities.

• The cold reception of the Palestinian Authority, for the prisoner revolution in prisons is clear and does not need much work to be emphasized. We are not revealing secret if we say that the PA does not see the prisoners' strike as a step that serve its political movement at this stage, especially in light of its open consultations with the US side to clarify the mechanisms and bases for resuming the negotiations with the Israeli side.

The PA believes that the strike would disrupt it, as It wants to be free from all pressures, and the strike would weaken its political discourse towards the political process. The most important, is that the PA looks with concern at the popular movement, and fears any sudden developments that may explode the situation inside the occupied territories, so that it will be considered as incapable of controlling the security in the eyes of Israelis and Americans.

There is no doubt, that the PA looks with concern at the leading role played by Marwan Barghouthi, the leader of the youth current in Fatah and it is afraid of that the prisoners movement will become the leader of the popular movement and that things are going in ways that are contrary to the political strategy of the PA and its leadership.

• It is known that there is a lack of confidence in the relationship between Barghouthi and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leadership since Arafat left. Barghouthi nominated himself as a rival to Mahmoud Abbas for the presidency of the PA Authority, which embarrassed Fatah, prompting the secretary of its Central Committee (then) Farouk Kaddoumi to threaten to discharge of Barghouthi and his friends from Fatah. In a certain deal, Barghouthi retreated from his candidacy, in return for promises to head the Fatah list in the legislative elections.

Barghouthi's surprise in the «legislative» elections (2006) that he was able to from within the prison, a list that ran against the list formed by President Abbas. So after bitter negotiations, it was agreed to merge the two lists under Barghouthi leadership , and to exclude certain nominators after the request of Barghouthi (some of these figures were elected to the Fatah Central Committee at its last conference).

At the last Fatah conference, Barghouthi won the highest votes in the Central Committee, but the "shock" which surprised his faction, is that he was excluded from any positions within the Central Committee. So, he became the only member of the Fatah leadership without specific tasks, with a pretext that he is a prisoner, which aroused the anger of Marwan and his group, declaring their explicit criticism of this overtly excluding step, in a press conference held by his wife Fadwa.

The leadership of Marwan to the prisoners' strike inside Fatah, and considering him by the media, as the leader of the new revolution, provoke the anger of the Palestinian Authority, especially as it looks at it, as a dispute within Fatah and a political conflict that undermines the credibility of its political strategy, as this would provide the elements and possibilities for a qualitative step in the popular movement, from solidarity with the prisoners, to ignite a new intifada, that opens a path to another stage of popular resistance.

The prisoners' battle is an articulated moment:

• From their side, they are calling for escalation and turning to the second week of strike into a more widespread clash, with the hundreds participations of new strikers, putting an end to the hesitancy of some parties that are still waiting for the results of the first week.

• The street, from its part, raises the slogan of the challenge to the occupation authorities and it pushes more popular forces to engage in the battle of solidarity with the prisoners considering their battle as a national battle of the first order, that should not stand within the limits of their legitimate demands.

• Meanwhile the PA does not hide its desire to end the strike, and the fact that President Abbas's trip to Washington to meet President Trump must take place in an atmosphere of calm. As the revolution in the prisons, the movement in the street, slogans calling for the Intifada and the resistance, the cessation of the security coordination, the boycott of the Israeli economy, and internationalization of the national cause. All of them are elements that weaken the position of President Abbas and cause confusion on his discussions with Trump, especially as the subject of the meeting, will discuss new negotiations without conditions, no stopping for the settlement, developing security cooperation, developing economic relations, stop working in international forums and considering negotiations as the only way to resolve, halting the salaries and allowances of prisoners, martyrs, wounded and missing. This means a political strategy against the popular movement strategy.

In this decisive week, all side conflicts are supposed to be stopped, and efforts should focus on more support for prisoners, and on the effectiveness of the popular movement.

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by: Rawan Albash
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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