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Shared Struggle: Stories Of Palestinian & Irish Hunger Strike

New anthology shares the common experiences, and joint struggle, shared by Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers.

Irish (Palestine Online)- A Shared Struggle: Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers, published by the Irish publishing house An Fhuiseog (July 2021), came out at the perfect time, as six Palestinian prisoners tunneled out their freedom from Israeli jails, sending unprecedented waves of solidarity to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The book contains 31 stories of 31 prisoners, 24 Palestinian and 7 Irish, who went on hunger strike in Israeli and British jails for various reasons to improve their status and conditions. The book, which features an introduction by Danny Morrison and Asad Abu Sharkh, is the third in a series by Norma Hashim and Yousef M. Aljamal on Palestinian prisoners, following the publication of Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak (2016) and The Prisoners Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013).

A Shared Struggle reveals the inhumane conditions in which Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers lived under in British and Israeli jails. This includes long-term solitary confinement in Israeli prisons, the lack of medical care, the bad quality of meals given to the prisoners, the denial of family visits and many more. As the book is published at a critical time for Palestinian prisoners, it serves as a call for the international community and mainstream media to view the issue of Palestinian prisoners, especially hunger strikers, with the same solidarity that Irish hunger strikers received.

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As you read the book the similarities between Palestinian and Irish hunger strikers are evident. Irish prisoners went on hunger strikes mostly to win a political status, while Palestinian prisoners have gone on hunger strikes for an array of issues including the right to call their families, have family visits, allow visits from Gaza, have access to medical care and education, the ability to watch TV and read newspapers and books. The recent few years have seen a steady increase in the number of Palestinian prisoners — many times being held without charges or a trial — who have gone on individual hunger strikes in an attempt to win their freedom.

Many of the stories of the hunger strikers sound similar, and in some cases identical, which makes sense as the tactics used by the governments of Israel and the UK against hunger strikers were similar too. The Administrative Detention Law, for example, is a British law used by Israel against Palestinian prisoners. The same law was used in British Mandate Palestine and was used in North Ireland and is still used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory. Administrative law allows Israel to hold Palestinian prisoners indefinitely without a charge of a trial based on a secret evidence. Some Palestinian prisoners spent some 15 years in Israeli jails in total under administrative detention. Therefore, we can draw an analogy between Israel and Britain, not only in terms of general colonial policies but also with individual policies of intimidation.

The book reveals that similar policies of torture, ill-treatment and severe intimidation that Britain used against Irish prisoners are also now being applied by Israel against Palestinian prisoners. The very latest example being the reported barbaric torture practiced against the six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israeli jails and were recaptured.

The book was made possible by the contributions of activists and writers from different countries such as Palestine, Ireland, England, and Malaysia, which reveals once again the importance of international solidarity. The contributors to the book include Norma Hashim, Yousef Aljamal, Asad Abushark, Danny Morrison, Moaath Alamoudi, Fayhaa Shalash, Low Seong Chai and Richard Falk. The book includes some poems by Palestinian prisoner Khalil Abu Aram and iconic Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands, including the Lark and the Freedom Fighter, after which the publishing house is named. The cover of the book speaks to this solidarity too, a group of Palestinian women taking part in a solidarity sit-in in 1981 in support of Irish hunger strikers, by carrying a poster that reads: “Nafha, H-Block, Armagh: One Struggle.”

A Shared Struggle aims to openly inform and mobilize the public opinion about the inhumane practices that Palestinian prisoners are subjected to in Israeli prisons by building a bridge between Ireland and Palestine. The reader easily realizes that the struggle for freedom is worth all the sacrifices, despite all its painful consequences. As noted by Mahmoud Al-Sarsak, a Palestinian footballer and a former hunger striker in the book,

“My refusal to take food was not a suicide attempt as it was portrayed by the Israeli occupation media, but rather it was a legitimate defense tool in which I used my body to impose my demands and highlight my case as a political prisoner who has been stripped off his dignity and freedom. Despite my prior knowledge of the risk of going on a hunger strike and that I might lose my life the same as some Irish hunger strikers did, I decided to go on with my hunger strike because every martyr who falls on this path is a light to those who seek freedom.”

The book narrates the personal experiences of prisoners, which makes it of a special value and makes the reader associate with the experiences of the prisoners. It is an attempt to put the daily oppression and the unique resistance of Palestinian prisoners on the international agenda by all possible means. In a way, it indirectly tells us why Palestinian prisoners would dig a 25-meter-long tunnel to escape Israeli prisons using a spoon over the span of 9 months. It is a call to help these prisoners win their freedom. Palestinian prisoners are deprived of the most basic human rights and it is no surprise that Muhammad Al-Ardaa, one of the six escapees said that eating cactus in the mountains of Palestine meant everything to him and that he ran to hug a child he saw in the street because he has not seen a child in 22 years in jail.

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