Hunger Strikes: Individual:

Subject’s Struggle might lead to Obhective One

Adel Samara

 Palestinians are not unique human beings, but events which challenge them might be different, special or unique. This uniqueness might or must breed unique and contrive forms of struggle/resistance.
Inside Occupied Palestine, and all over the world as well, we witness heated discussions, arguments, objections and even quarrels on the individual/subject hunger strikes of pioneered Palestinian heroes in the last three years, to witness few days ago the victory hunger strike of comrade Bilal Kayed.
It is highly important to note that while most of the ordinary people sympathize with hunger strikers, but did not do a lot to support them. Some people argue that solidarity with hunger strikers is worthless as long as the Zionist Ashkenazi Regime – “Israel” (ZAR) will never abolish the so-called law of administrative detention. Some believe that the strikers must ensure at least three factors in advance before deciding to start hunger strike which are:
·        Participation of most of the Palestinian prisoners
·        Solidarity of Palestinian masses in the Occupied territories (OT).
·        And a World support.
But, in the current individual hunger strikes those factors are not guaranteed despite of the participation of PFLP’s prisoners with the hunger strike of the brave comrade Bilal Kayed.
Some Palestinian political and intellectual elite including some leaders of Palestinian organizations were critical to hunger strikes, but their position had no base. Those elite argue that individual hunger strikers are selfish and individualist. I think that those elite end as Internalizes of Defeat and felt ashamed in the face of the brave challenge by hunger strikers against the ZAR and to a certain extent against them. The political/national ceiling of the elite is too low; they became part of the comprador class which was strengthened through the Oslo Accords. That is why they are in a terrible situation on how to deal with this just struggle.

 

Some, especially those who are in some position of power, avoid being frank to state, in some cases: Good, we are unable to practice the same level of sacrifice, good luck to the fighters.
It must be noted here that any strike is a full right of the prisoner. It is the sole effective weapon. It is shame that while hunger strike nearly costs prisoner his life, some people still oppose them pretending that it is a selfish decision.
When someone fights by his own soul and body, others must respect him if not support him. In fact, hunger strikers are challenging ZAR because it is part of Palestinian liberation struggle which activates the dialectical relationship between the prisoners’ movement and the masses on the one hand, and disseminates information which uncovers ZAR crimes at the global level.
The strike of comrade Bilal Kayed might lead to a turning point. While it started as individual case, the solidarity of the PFLP comrades expanded the strike to the level of the entire organization.

 

This is a new development. It is the transformation of the struggle to a higher level. This step is the beginning of a process of bridging the gap between individual heroes’ hunger strike and the strike of the masses. This step by PFLP’s jailed militants might lead to a new solidarity by most or all prisoners.
My point here is that the solidarity of PFLP comrades with  Bilal, uncovered the internal relationship, the connection, the complex of individual and subject, i.e. the individual never separated from being or develop to subject. Individual struggle, while aimed at releasing himself, it serves him as an individual, subject and even object. Individual/subject interaction contains the transformation of subject struggle to an objective struggle. By other token, hunger strike by individual, as his own right, to subjective one contains as well the possibility of transforming it to the mass or joint subject which is the people, the objective.
There is no clear cut between individual and subject. Individual’s struggle contains a subjective one especially when the person is part of a national or class issue or demand. The periphery of both individual and subject are connected with each other and the periphery of the subject is intermingled with the periphery of object.
In fact, the individual opens and possibly expands to the subject. Subject here is more abstract, but might crystallize materially and effectively. The individual/subject is open to expand to be object.
The learned lesson of the organizational participation of PFLP’s prisoners in hunger strike might be a preliminary step for all prisoners’ joint strikes.
If this takes place, it means that the prisoners’ movement which is a branch of Palestinian resistance movement, jumps now to the front, i.e. in the era of crisis and decline of the struggle of this movement, to be a support in reverse to the mother movement.
Another two points I might add here:
First, the strike of Bilal Kayed and his comrades as Marxists shows that people’s struggle is never limited to one ideology on the one hand, and shows that solidarity could take a joint manner.
Second, The new strike of the six young prisoners in PA’s jail started from its mere beginning as a group hunger strike, not an individual on the one hand, and in the jails of the PA which is the first of its kind. It is a dissemination of culture of protest against any form of repression, i.e. from national to local/class levels.
TWO STAGES OF HUNGER STRIKES
OR TWO STAGES OF NATIONAL STRUGGLE
 The Palestinian prisoners’ movement never was and will never be an independent movement from the Palestinian liberation movement. It is even a direct and clear reflection of the situation of the later.
The hunger strikes started in a simple and gradual manner as a natural and effective weapon in prisoners’ hands.
I divide the hunger strikes into two stages according to the situation of Palestinian national struggle:
First Stage started since few months following the ZAR’s occupation of the West bank and Gaza Strip.
The Second Stage started following the Oslo Accords.
Briefly speaking, in the first stage prisoners’ hunger strikes were empowered by the continued military struggle of PLO. The prisoners were expecting a national victory, a mass release from jail, a revolutionary court for those who cooperate with the enemy…etc.
That is why hunger strikes were offensive and optimistic ones. There were no strikes demanding release even in the case of military detainees.
The first limited strike was in Ramallah jail in February or March 1968 when we got out having breakfast in the Jail’s yard and we saw in a corner of the yard a Palestinian prisoner wrapped in a blanket after being harshly beaten and tortured. He wasn’t able to speak, but groaning. We decided not to eat and we left. The police took me to “Mar Manos” the leader of the jail as agitator. I told him that we will never eat under such conditions. They took the man to the hospital as the leader pretend, but they did not punish me.
The second strike was in Bait Lead “Kfar Yona” jail August 1968 where I led a strike for 7 days until the jail administration released the first detained book which my family brought me. It is “ The Political Parties” by Maurice De-verges. (See Assad Abdulrahaman’s book “Prisoner’s papers أوراق سجين”.
Following that, many mass and long hunger strikes took place, but all of them, including those which led to the fall of martyrs , for example Abdulkader Abu al-Fahm in Beir Shaiba’ prison, were for improvement of Jails  situation, treatment, food, books medicine…etc.
Oslo Accords was a turning point in all Palestinian people’s struggle including the prisoner’s struggle since it was based on the PLO recognition of ZAR. Oslo Accords were a moral shock for the prisoners because for two main reasons:
·        The decision of PLO leadership to gave up military struggle for the liberation of Palestine;
  • And Oslo Accords, did not include the release of prisoners.

 

This breeds a feeling of betrayal between the prisoners. As long as the collective goal of their struggle and sacrifice was ignored, they found themselves on the defensive to maintain the rights which they achieve and gain in a bitter, costly and long hunger strikes they endured for decades. The Zionist jail administration moved to the offensive trying to minimize prisoners’ rights gained through a long struggle.

Offensive is normal from a racist point view as an enemy. It must be noted that even the so-called peace outside jails, did not crystallize inside the jails. The enemy tried to destroy the prisoners’ spirit by asking them to sign petition and promise not to return to struggle if and when they released. In such situation, a new phenomenon of resistance took place in the OT including jails. In fact, it is a turning point in Palestinian struggle.
To explain more, while Palestinian struggle started in the OT directly after the 1967 occupation through underground military groups, i.e. the struggle of elite, it expanded to the struggle of masses in the first Intifada.
BUT, following Oslo Accords, the Palestinian struggle deteriorated to an individual, subjective one in many aspects.
On the military struggle level, we witnessed the martyrs’ operations, armed ambushes by individuals and especially the individual hunger strikers.
Those new forms of subjective struggle, especially hunger strikes are in fact an expression/reflection of the deteriorated political/national struggle, the mass struggle.
Here, as noted above, the subject fights first on behalf of himself and the people. In the case of individual hunger strikes, the prisoner is fighting for his freedom more than he is fighting for the national cause. But in the final analysis, he like other subjective forms of resistance, are indirectly encouraging people to resist.
While those new forms of resistance including individual hunger strikers are individual decisions, they might achieve two goals:
·        A direct one which is the release of the prisoner after a long and brave strikes;
·        It is a preliminary step towards an expanded resistance which confirms my above argument that individual strike is subjective and contains the seeds of developing to object.

Some people expect the prisoners’ movement to lead the Palestinian struggle. This is a wrong expectation and analysis. Prisoners’ struggle might encourage and charge people’s struggle, but can’t replace or lead it.

 

Note: In this article I benefited a great deal from discussions with Ashjan Ajour, PhD candidate in Golden Smith University-London. My deep thanks to her.