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Palestinians continue nonviolent campaigns

83 hospitalised during hunger strike

Inside Israel-Palestine, nonviolent campaigning is increasingly repressed, even as the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign wins victories abroad.

The recent mass hunger-strike of Palestinian detainees ended on 24 June, when 80 of the prisoners reached a deal with prison authorities, winning only minor concessions. The main demand of the strike, an end to detention without trial, was not met.

The strike had lasted 63 days and it had been reported that as many as 83 of the strikers (out of about 100) were in hospital as a result of the strike. The Israeli knesset was about pass a law allowing force-feeding of hunger strikers, for, as Israeli public security minister tenderly put it, ‘the state’s interest is for no prisoner to die as a result of a hunger strike.’

June also saw set-backs for another major Palestinian nonviolent initiative – exercising a ‘right of return’ by Palestinians re-occupying the sites of villages from which their grandparents had been driven in 1948.

On 8 June, Israeli ‘land authority’ officials and several police arrived at the village of Iqrit after 22 months of re-occupation and began confiscating the occupiers’ belongings and destroying their garden.

The three young men present at the time, Walla Sbait, Nidal Khoury and Jeries Khiatt, were punched and kicked, arrested and taken away for interrogation, detained and banned from re-entering Iqrit. Three days later much the same happened at Kufr Birim, another Galilee village that had been re-occupied for 10 months. Here, tents and other structures were demolished.

G4S withdraws

Meanwhile, on 12 June, the international security company G4S announced it would end all its Israeli prison contracts within the next three years, after an AGM was severely disrupted by human rights protesters.

The news followed the decision of the Bill Gates Foundation to divest its $170m stake in G4S and the announcement that the largest mainstream Protestant church in the US, the United Methodist Church, had instructed the managers of its $20bn fund to sell all its shares in G4S.

Increasing numbers of academics, writers and sportsmen are being persuaded to refuse to take part in events in Israel.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. This is beginning to show a snowball effect worldwide, reminiscent of the boycott campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

David Polden is the news editor for Peace News.