End of the Palestinian Hunger Strike: what they won, how it ended and what next?

FORTY days after the Palestine hunger strike began, negotiations between Marwan Barghouti and Israeli prison authorities, as well as the Palestinian Authority security apparatus and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, led to an agreement last weekend. This deal negotiated the end of the 1,800-strong mass hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails on the eve of Ramadan.

Despite Israeli authorities throughout maintaining publicly they would not negotiate with the strike — begun in protest against inhumane conditions of their incarceration — Friday night’s deal, announced the following day, brought an end to the 40-day period of saltwater fasting. Dozens of the strikers’ health began rapid deterioration inside Israeli hospitals. Marwan Barghouti, touted as a future presidential candidate for Fatah, was himself admitted into hospital before being released shortly after back into solitary confinement.

Another aspect that cannot be ignored is how the protests sent a message that the prisoners’ status cannot be ignored. Particularly that of strike leader and “Palestinian Mandella” Barghouti. Barghouti’s release is regarded as a key route for achieving freedom for Palestine. It’s for that reason Israel sought to jail him in the first place; and it still fears him.

As the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gains momentum globally, partly due to Israel’s increasing pariah status and otherwise thanks to the tireless work of political activists, it seems ever more pressing that a central demand for the global Palestine liberation movement must become Barghouti’s release.
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