Mar15 Protesters in Ramallah's Manara Square end open-ended hunger strike

Protesters in Ramallah’s central Manara Square said they ended their previously open-ended hunger strike on Sunday, for two reasons: (1) because they were informed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had released 11 of the 23 political prisoners that the hunger strikers knew were imprisoned in PA jails in the West Bank, and (2) because Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had given an official order to “end media incitement” (mainly against Hamas).

On Monday evening, members of the group said they did notice a small change already in the media atmosphere.

However, they noted that they had not been given a list of the names of the 11 political prisoners reportedly released. Three of the released prisoners did get in touch with the protesters, they said. Then, they said, they made phone calls to contacts inside various West Bank prisons, and the contacts did confirmed that some other political prisoners had been moved out.

But, there is no confirmation of the names of those released (nor that 11 were indeed released…)

A week ago, one protester said, they had been called by Palestinian security officials to go and receive 18 freed political prisoners who were included on a list of 23 names the protesters had given to the office of President Abbas. But, when they arrived, there were no freed prisoners.

The list of 23 names was arrived at after consultation with the Independent Commission for Human Rights, based in Ramallah.

The hunger strike was only in Ramallah.

Why did the Palestinian security services agree to release some of the prisoners listed as political detainees, but not others?
Because some were “collaborators with Israel”, the Mar15 protesters were told, and the security refuse to release them, and others were at risk of being re-arrested or summarily executed by the Israelis. What did the Mar15 protesters think of these reasons? “We don’t believe them!”, I was told, with a wry smile.

UPDATE: Another protester noted that while the PA was releasing the 11 political prisoners, it arrested some 15 others…

The protesters say they are now re-evaluating their strategy in light of the experiences before, during and since their March 15 protest — held in Ramallah’s Manara Square and a few other cities in the West Bank as well as in Gaza and in Nazareth, Israel — calling for an end to Palestinian division, for an end to media incitement, and for the release of all political prisoners being held in PA jails in the West Bank as well as in Hamas jails in Gaza.

The next big actions being planned are demonstrations on May 15, which Palestinians mark as “Nakba [Catastrophe] Day”. t

That is the day that British troops finished their evacuation from Palestine in 1948 after an occupation that began in December 1917. It is also the day that the state of Israel was proclaimed in an announcement just after midnight from Tel Aviv — and, instead of simultaneous proclamation of a Palestinian State (as was envisaged in the 29 November 1947 UN General Assembly resolution that disposed of the League of Nations British Mandate for Palestine), there was an international war marked by the invasion of the armies of five Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) which ended with separate UN-negotiated armistice agreements whose 1949 lines are the borders of the Palestinian State claimed and proclaimed [and then endorsed] by the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat at a meeting of the PNC in Algiers in November 1988, and then again before the UN General Assembly meeting in December of that year which was, exceptionally, held in Geneva on that occasion [because the UN host country, America, refused to re-issue an entry visa for Arafat].

The Mar15 protestors now say they might have been naive to think that ending the division between the two parts of the occupied Palestinian territory would begin to solve their problems.

What’s needed now might be, they say, a way to show the Palestinian people how both leaderships — the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas leadership in Gaza — are avoiding their responsibilities and manipulating the situation.

One noted that PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad went to Brussels to tell donors that “our governing institutions have now reached a high state of readiness to assume all the responsibilities that will come with full sovereignty on the entire Palestinian occupied territory” — but he had not yet said this to the Palestinian people themselves.

And, he said, there was caution and concern about the possible impending decision to seek UN recognition for Palestinian statehood: “I am worried about what kind of state it will be — first, it is clear it will be a debtor state, dependent on donors. Second, but very importantly, will it be a police state? I do not want such a state.”

Nobody knows what will happen in September, he said. There has been no announcement. There is a complete absence of information.

Meanwhile, the proposal to hold elections — for the first time ever — to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO’s) Palestine National Council has now been tabled, he noted. It is now an official project. That means, he said, that the tough decisions are next, starting with the decision about who can vote in such an elections.

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