The Politics of Hunger

Jan 5, 2022

By Ethan Murphy

Sickening figures from Addameer reveal that as of last month, 4,550 Palestinian political prisoners are being held by the Israeli government. In 2021, over 60 of those prisoners fearlessly entered hunger strikes, in protest of the occupying forces and their policy of administrative detention. Father of five, Hisham Abu Hawash, continued his strike into 2022. Even as his health began to deteriorate 125 days in, Israeli courts refused to transfer Hisham into hospital. He lost sight and speech soon after, and on Monday, entered a coma. Following mounting international pressure and action, 141 days in Hisham won his battle against the Israeli courts and is due for release in February.

In the 1960s, Huey Newton, Black Panther Party founder, fought similar struggles in his time imprisoned. He came out of his time in the ‘soul breaker’ – solitary confinement, having reached a ‘higher freedom’. No fear could grip him, nor hold back his contribution to his people’s struggle. Similarly, “voice of the voiceless” and political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, persists. His campaign is decades long, and today, even in failing health, Mumia is denied release. The parallels with Hisham’s case are easily noted.

Though the details change, the story is the same; violent imprisonment meant to altogether break a person’s spirit. Yet in defiance of this, Hisham, Huey, Mumia, and countless other political prisoners – in all of them, a common desire for freedom. One that persists and refuses to be smashed – even in the face of death.

Present-day Palestinian prisoner and revolutionary, Ahmad Sa’adat spoke on the policy of imprisonment in a preface to Huey’s autobiography: “They (political prisoners) face repeated isolation, solitary confinement, cruel tortures of the occupier and jailer that seek to break the will of the prisoner and their deep connection to their people.”  Political prisoners fought and are fighting battles of hunger, not merely for bread, but for liberation. Their unshakeable commitment inspires us and reminds us that we’re not so helpless.

We mustn’t turn our back to these struggles, nor to the conditions that birthed them. They pose us questions; how many more lives will be lost or lived as half-lives, when there are currently 170 Palestinian child prisoners, and in Gaza, food insecurity is 68.5%? Most importantly, how many of these lives can we save if we take on their struggles as ours and refuse the role of complicity.

Assata Shakur said “It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” In Britain (home to Israeli arms company ‘Elbit Systems’) we have a special duty to our brothers and sisters in Palestine. What we have to offer to them, in their plight for justice, is the power we all have to take direct action, to shut Elbit down, and to starve the Israeli regime of weapons.

Join Palestine Action today.

Samidoun is a network of organisers and activists building international solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners

Free Mumia is the campaign for the immediate release and amnesty of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Baladna supports ’48 Palestinians, including children, charged for taking part in the Unity Uprising