In a recent announcement by the Public Secretary Minister Gilad Erdan, a new flashpoint has developed in the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to Al Jazeera, the Minister has plans to make conditions for Palestinian prisoners more severe, using methods like rationing water supplies, reducing family visits, removing cooking rights and blocking funds to the Palestinian authority. Palestinian prisoners promise if these new measures are implemented, they will be met with a hunger strike. This announcement is seen as a further violation of Palestinian human rights and is already being heavily criticized by activists.
In 1947, the United Nations proposed a resolution to create separate Jewish and Arab states in modern day Israel and Palestine. The tension between the groups erupted leading to two wars over who has rights to land including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These wars and land disputes have set the stage for the current Israel Palestine conflict. Numerous acts of violence have been committed by both groups, with at least 99,968 Palestinians and 11,949 Israelis injured by someone from the other side since 2000 according to the Israel-Palestine timeline website. Amidst this continued violence, countries are calling for investigations into the violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights. This summer, the United Nations Human Rights Council gathered to hear countries voice their concerns about these violations and Israel’s role in them. With little follow-up action taken, the announcement of Israel further decreasing rights for Palestinians is distressing to those who have already been voicing their concerns.
Palestinian prisoners came out with a joint response to Erdan’s announcement, stating that they plan to launch a massive hunger strike in response to increased Israeli oppression. The statement, reported by Al Jazeera read, “These measures are a declaration of war that marks a new phase of our struggle.” Despite the prisoner’s affirmations of plans to fight back, Public Secretary Minister Erdan established that the government would not back down. In a press conference, Erdan said that these hunger strikes would not prevent these the implementation of these measures and that the prison service was ready to deal with unpleasant situations. Erdan declared that “[Israel] must make conditions worse [for prisoners] to fulfill our moral duty to terror victims and their families.” In light of these statements, activists are calling more strongly for higher powers to take action against Israel. Palestinian National Initiative party leader, Mustafa Barghouti, told Al Jazeera, “Israel is behaving as if it is above international law and this must change… The only way to force Israel to abstain from this behaviour is to impose sanctions on Israel.”
Though violence is being perpetrated against both Palestinian and Israeli people, Israel continually promotes institutional policies that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people. Erdan’s announcement has been called a propaganda tool by prisoners who say that he is using these prison policies to make himself more popular among constituents. The common desire for the punishment of those on the other side has made this conflict distinctly long-lasting and violent. Israeli people need to speak out against this hateful rhetoric from their leaders. In turn, leaders should be focusing on solutions to end the violence, instead of focusing on bonding people together in the hatred of the other. The United States, who withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, needs to examine the methods of the Israeli government and no longer blindly support them during their efforts to deny Palestinian prisoners human decency. While changing attitudes of cooperation and a focus on peace-building amongst the Israeli government and citizens would be ideal, this will not happen naturally. Powerful countries need to take a stand to protect the rights every human should have.
Erdan’s announcement of worsening prison conditions will only continue to fuel the flame of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With a promised hunger strike and prison workers prepared for anything, increased violence and confrontation can be expected. Hopefully, this blatant recognition by Israel of their desire to severely punish Palestinians will be the push that other countries need to start taking action. When other countries decide to stop tolerating these violations of human rights and change the culture of punishment, then the hatred on both sides will cease and the atmosphere will become conducive to a long term solution.
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