24 April 2017
Below is a press statement from today’s press conference at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
Who we are
Under the banner “Free Palestinian Political Prisoners,” we gather here today as representatives from an array of South African civil society organizations including 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, Ex Political Prisoners Association of South Africa and the National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P) which includes more than 40 organizations, trade unions and political parties.
We have formed an initial campaign committee in support of the hunger strike led by #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners. The supporting organizations are to increase as the solidarity activities grow and the hunger strike itself widens among #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners. We are also humbled to have been joined in this initiative by former anti-apartheid activists and political prisoners, some of whom have themselves participated in hunger strikes during the 1980s.
We are also honoured to receive a special message of support from and the backing of former Ant-Apartheid icon and former Rivonia Trialist Denis Goldberg who, as a Jewish person, has specifically called on Israeli Jews to support the plight of #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners. In a message received today he states:
“I call upon Jewish Israelis to support the call for justice for the Palestinian People. Silence in the face of the Administrative Detention of over 500 Palestinians is to be complicit in that injustice. Administrative Detention means that prisoners have not been charged or tried in the courts … and that the prisoners are held, possibly, on the basis of rumour or malicious gossip. Administrative Detention is a violation of the norms of a democratic criminal justice system. Israel shows, by the continued use of Administrative Detention over many decades, that it is not a democratic state but an authoritarian dictatorship…Israel shows once again that it is an Apartheid State; using laws and regulations in a racist oppressive manner against Palestinians.
We South Africans know from our apartheid past how laws and regulations such as Administrative Detention are used to bolster a racist, apartheid system. Over the past 50 years more than eight hundred thousand(!), I repeat: eight hundred thousand, Palestinians have been imprisoned by the Israeli State under many explicitly racist laws and administrative regulations under illegal military occupation of Palestine. I am disappointed that too many Jewish Israelis are silent in the face of Israeli state racism and the denial of justice. Silence in the face of injustice such as Israel’s Administrative Detention makes people complicit in that injustice. Therefore I believe that the hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners is justified and we say: End Administrative detention NOW! Release all Palestinian political prisoners NOW!” Click here for Denis Goldberg’s full message of support.
Why we are gathering
There are currently over 6500 #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners detained by Israel. Over the past 50 years, more than 800 000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel (about 40% of all Palestinian men living under military occupation have at some point been detained by Israel).
Presently, there are more than 500 Palestinians held under Israel’s “administrative detention” (equivalent of Apartheid SA’s “detention without trial”). 13 Palestinian parliamentarians are also currently being held by Israel. Israel is also holding 300 Palestinian children (some as young as 13 years old). In the last one year period Israel has arrested more than 400 Palestinians for social media posts. To members of the media, we draw your attention to the over 25 Palestinian journalists incarcerated in Israeli prisons.
On Monday, 17 April 2017, over 1500 #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners launched an open ended hunger strike across Israeli jails, detention centers and prisons. The hunger strike has the support of the virtual entirety of Palestinian political organizations as well as civil society bodies. Click here for infographics.
Plan of action and upcoming events
The hunger strike by #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners was called on Monday 17 April by Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti and others under the slogan “Freedom and Dignity”. The hunger strike highlights a number of key demands of #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners, including family visits, appropriate medical care, ending abusive conditions and stopping the use of solitary confinement and administrative detention (Israel’s imprisonment without charge or trial). As South Africans we unconditionally support these demands of the #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners.
As South African human rights activists we are, firstly, calling on South Africans to join us in a national one day symbolic 24 hour fast and day of action on the 15th of May. This will be preceded by a build up 24 hour fast on the 3rd of May 2017.
As part of our 24 hour fast and day of action on the 15th of May 2017 we will have events and actions at various locations including at Parliament and at provincial legislatures in all 9 provinces calling for, among others:
a) Israel’s release of all #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners and an end to its use of “administrative detention” (Apartheid SA’s “detention without trial”).
b) A South African government led solidarity delegation to #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners.
c) The South African government to support the demands outlined by the Palestinian political prisoners.
d) The South African government to commit to not using any international companies involved in the Israeli prison system as outlined by the BDS Movement such as G4S, HP etc.
e) The South African Parliament and all 9 provincial legislatures to have special sittings in solidarity with the plight of Palestinian political prisoners.
The 15th of May 2017 symbolic fast and day of action coincides with the Palestinian “Nakba day” (the day the modern state of Israel was established).
Neeshan Balton: 082 373 1143
Kwara Kekana: 074 054 3826
Free Palestinian Political Prisoners (South African Campaign)
South African organisations, political parties, trade unions, charities, human rights bodies and other groups are all invited to join this initiative. Either send an email to PalestinePoliticalPrisoners.SA@gmail.com or visiting www.nc4psouthafrica.com/free-palestinian-political-prisoners