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Joe Catron in Gaza Talks to Salem-News About Hunger Strike and Prisoner RightsTim King Salem-News.com
Joe talked about this current effort that he and two other ISM activists are participating in.
(GAZA / SALEM) - A Palestinian hunger strike initially launched more than two weeks ago to call attention to deteriorating conditions in Israeli prisons, grew immensely this week. Around 2,000 prisoners held by Israel quickly joined the hunger strike demanding better conditions behind bars.
Human rights activists with a prisoners' rights group headed by activist Kadoura Fares, explained that the prisoners were seeking an end to the solitary confinement of 20 imprisoned leaders, while demanding that Israel allow prisoners to take university courses and provide access to Arab TV channels. These are privileges that the prisoners had, but lost in June during the fifth anniversary pf the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas.
YNET reported: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Palestinian prisoners' rights would be curbed until Shalit was released..
In a way the act is very stereotypical of Israel; that for the sake of one Israeli, it would strip rights of non-Jewish prisoners at large. The audacity of Israel is unlimited and the deprivation of the rights of these prisoners launched the current hunger strike that is gaining participants by the day.
One is Joe Catron, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which in our opinion, is one of the most important group of activists in the world. They place their lives at risk every day in order to bring justice to Palestinians by exposing and documenting their lives, and they labor endlessly with activists from the local areas, Israel and Europe and the USA, to raise public awareness of Israel's constant Human Rights violations.
Joe talked about this current effort that he and two other ISM activists have been participating in.
Joe, as you know, the winds of change are blowing in the US and the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to hundreds of cities. As an activist who has been in the trenches for a long time, do you feel like we are finally reaching a point when the years of efforts will lead to measurable change in Palestine?
I think so. A number of factors are rapidly reshaping the Middle East, including the Arab Spring revolutions, the massive resurgence of Palestinian popular resistance on Nakba Day and Naksa Day, the chilling of Zionist relations with Egypt and Turkey, the explosive growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and, as you say, economic crises and civil unrest within Israel's Western allies, as well as the decline of those country's influence in the region. Each of these shifts strengthens the position of the Palestinian liberation movement, while weakening that of the Zionist apartheid system it opposes. If current trends continue, we could very well see Palestinians fully exercise their rights to equality, self-determination, and return sooner than any of us would have thought to hope a year ago.
Joe, prison abuse and ciivil rights are issues finding their way back into the mainstream news, as they did in the 1960's and 1970's. Is there something in particular about this (We've seen the videos of armed Israeli officials actually attacking prison populations for 'training' purposes) that causes the public to react strongly?
These repressive systems reflect the contradictions in their societies. The separate and unequal police, judicial, and prison systems facing Palestinians in both the '48 and '67 territories demonstrate the apartheid inherent in a colonial project dedicated to the permanent rule of a favored ethnicity rapidly approaching minority status in historic Palestine (and that has, of course, always held minority status when one considers the refugees ethnically cleansed in 1948). Similarly, America's racial and economic disproportions in arrests, convictions, and sentences show the inequality still deeply ingrained in our society. Growing support for the hunger strikes of prisoners in California and occupied Palestine, as well as popular outrage at atrocities like the execution of Troy Davis, hopefully reflects awareness that, apart from the misery they inflict directly on their targets, these crimes also indict the states that perpetuate them at a deeper, structural level.
Joe, Can you talk about your role in the present hunger strike, explaining what it involves?
Silvia and I began our hunger strike on Friday, October 7; Vera followed a day later. At that time, we and the rest of the International Solidarity Movement - Gaza Strip were already supporting an encampment in and around Gaza's International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) compound, including a protest tent at its entrance and a permanent occupation of its courtyard, that had begun on Sunday, October 2, five days after the first prisoners started the hunger strike on Tuesday, September 27. When we began hunger-striking, we joined a determined group of Palestinian activists that has continued to grow; yesterday (October 12), I was told that the number of local hunger-strikers had reached 35. Unfortunately, five of our Palestinian comrades were also taken to the hospital for the first time yesterday! Our presence at the ICRC has included camping out to maintain constant pressure, participating in daily mobilizations by parties, popular organizations, and youth groups, and observing vigils by the families of prisoners who have protested there for years. I had the privilege of watching some of them receive news of their relatives' impending freedom yesterday, an experience my friend Shahd Abusalama has recounted more eloquently than I possibly can at this point.
Background on Joe Catron
Joe Catron is a resident of Brooklyn, New York and a current member of the International Solidarity Movement on the Gaza Strip. He writes in a personal capacity.
Salem-News.com Editor Tim King, says Joe and his fellow activists in Gaza are among the most important voices in raising awareness over what Gaza has become. "There is no question that the apartheid must end, the Right of Self-Determination; the Right of Return; these are treasured systems of honor that are guaranteed by the United Nations and if Joe and other activists, like Ken O'Keefe and the late Vik Arrigoni did not do what they did, if those steps were not taken, Israel would feel no resistance or exposure and that would be a damned shame. I applaud Joe's work in Gaza greatly and we're thankful that he contributes stories to Salem-News.com in a personal capacity.
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