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The Palestinian Hunger Strike: Let’s Look at the Positive Side…

What happens to the body when it’s in a state of starvation?  First, the body starts to break down any stored sugars.  After all the sugar is used up, it turns to the breaking down of stored fats as a secondary energy source. As a last measure, the body assists in the degradation of proteins. This, in turn, may lead to a coma and/or an encumbrance of death. Imagine the effect after 92 days, like the known Palestinian journalist Mohammad Al-Qiq, underwent!

It’s strange how reality can be intensified by the relations within your studies and how you can relate what’s in the classroom to the world surrounding you. In my Biochemistry lab the other day, we sought to test metabolic regulation and the effect of fasting on protein content for rats. Some rats were left without food for up to 96 hours and the others were properly fed. Though the difference in protein content was highly distinguishable between the normal and the fasting rats, what impacted me the most was the overall effect fasting had on the activity and bodies of the rats. The fasting rats were slow, barely moving and seemingly dead. The fed rats were active and (seemed to me) more satisfied.

Freed Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Qiq , who was detained by Israel last November and went on 94-day hunger strike to protest against his detention without charge, is embraced by his family upon his release in the West Bank town of Dura, south of Hebron May 19, 2016. Mohammed al-Qiq was released near the Jewish settlement of Beit Hagai, at the southern entrance to the occupied West Bank city of Hebron near his village. Photo by Flash90
Palestinian journalist Mohammad al-Qiq after being freed from his 94-day hunger strike back in 2016. 
A week after this experiment, the announcement of the 1,500 Palestinian prisoners for a hunger strike came out. Engraved in my mind were the rats and the outcome fasting had on their frail bodies after only four days.  What will happen to the Palestinians imprisoned by Israel? How can they bare such pain and mental degradation? Multiple questions kept arising in my mind, and the pain of the prisoners weighed on me.

History of the Hunger Strike

With un-rested thoughts of the prisoners gaining entry into my body, I turned in retrospect to the previous hunger strikes done by Palestinians. My goal was to find a glorified result of the past strikes which would succumb the daunting reflections that sunk into me, something to assure that everything would work out in the end. The first Hunger strike that occurred in the brazen Israel prisons was set back in 1969. However, after only a month of hunger, the prisoners were sent to confinement and tortured to degrade the rising screams of their little ‘bubble of hope’.  No good ending in that one, so I turned to another strike which took place in 1970, at the Neve Tirza (women’s prison). The women stayed fasting for several days until improvement in the living conditions of the prison was obtained.

As I searched about this specific strike, what grasped my thinking was the story of a woman (I personally knew) who was imprisoned by the Israeli militants back in the 1970’s. She was abused physically, sexually, and mentally in all aspects, one cannot possibly endure. Her story was portrayed to me the first year I came to Palestine. When she spoke, the hurt swollen in her words was audible, and when she finished, her smile was one of relief, a relief that it’s over. Looking back at her now, I realize that for these prisoners, whether it be back in 1970 or now in 2017, they would rather starve to death than die without a fight.

Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper
Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper

If I were to list all the hunger strikes done by Palestinians, and the stories of each prisoner submitted to the strike, this page would lead to a road of endless suffering. What can we say is actual suffering? Is it the images embedded in the minds of Palestinians, ones who live so close to the agony of the prisoners, the Palestinians who know fathers crying from the growing ache of their sons, or mothers hurting from the thought of burying their children?  They are real people and this is real suffering! Why is it that we are descended to a world of ridicule and think that maybe everything will have a happy ending? No matter what results from the pain, the scars are cut too deep and the bodies are bruised with the history of the battle. Just like those rats, they take us as animals, animals hindered to submit to their command! Thought after thought, the thinking bestowed upon me opened a door to questions I couldn’t possibly answer.  My thoughts kept expanding and when I sought to ease them, I made them worse.



But that’s when I turned to the overall symbolism this ”pain” overlaid. What is positive about all this, a new hunger strike with 1500 Palestinians, prisoners who have family, neighbors, and friends? Where is the goodness in all that hurt and anguish?  Though it all may seem depressing and melancholic, this Hunger Strike is our Strength. They (as Palestinians) are opening the eyes of millions and representing the fight we stand for against the Israeli oppression.  We are not rats, we are HUMAN!  WE ARE HERE!!… and that’s exactly what the prisoners were battling for; Awareness!

Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper
Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper

Just like Gandhi before, this fight represents peace and shows the strength Palestinians have always had.  People from all over the globe were supporting the strike and standing with the prisoners, opening their eyes to that which has been silenced by the same creators who made the bruises way back in 1948. From Europe to the States, supporters were rising and hearing the cries of the prisoners! It was a brutal 41-day strike and the prisoners, though belittled by every last affliction, kept their heads up high. They managed to get some of their mandatory rights and were able to (by this strike) silently and peacefully fight for the natural freedom they needed. Though no official documents were conducted, the prisoners most important demands  were achieved.

This is history made, the largest collective Hunger Strike ever done!  If this is what it takes to at least gain a bite of freedom, then so be it! Even if each inch of her body was bleeding with despair, and her mind was enriched with agonizing thoughts, this is Palestine and her heart never backs down!

Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper
Photo Credit: Rashed Wadi/Al Hadath Newspaper

So, let us all leave a smile for the symbolic positivity that Palestine will never lose, and the hope that comes hand in hand with Palestinian courage!

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