A Reflection on The Palestinian and Irish Republican Hunger Strikes.
By Jim Bonner.
I worry that the deal reached, with the help of Egypt, might not be the end of the Palestinian Prisoners hunger strikes. We have seen concessions from Israel before which have turned out to be nothing but weasel words.
I see striking parallels between the hunger strike just ended and The First Hunger Strike of Republican Detainees in Long Kesh (The Maze) in 1980. If you consider The Five Demands below
- the right not to wear a prison uniform;
- the right not to do prison work;
- the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
- the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
- full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
which were the core ideals of the prisoners you see echoes of the Palestinian demands as stipulated in the press release of 27 September 2011.
Both hunger strikes began as a demand for basic human rights within prisons holding political prisoners. In Northern Ireland the detainees were stripped of their ‘Political Status’. The result was the beginnings of the Dirty Protests and the rise of The Blanketmen. These were the precursors of the hunger strikes in Long Kesh.
In Palestine jails many of the ‘prisoners’ are not convicts but internees, again an echo of Northern Ireland. Will we see another wave of protests if the deal is not honoured?
The next few months will be crucial in seeing if Israel is going to keep it’s word. The politics of the Jewish State is littered with back room deals, every player in the governing Coalition, headed by Netanyahu and The Likud Party, seems to want something for their own constituents rather than solve the Palestinian-Israeli impasse, ignoring any chance of a just cessation of hostilities.
What happen if there is a break from good faith?
History shows what will occur if this happens. In The Fast To The Death lives were lost, but the aftermath was a resurgence of Republican sentiment. In those deaths the seeds of the Peace Process was begun. Bobby Sands MP, with his election to the UK Parliament and the election of Kieran Doherty in the Dail Eireann whilst they were dying reignited in the Irish Republican communities a hope for a better future.
The people overcame the intransigence of successive Governments from both sides of the border, a new politics was created by the voters, not by those who sought to rule. From the embers of the hunger strikes Sinn Fein was reborn as a political entity and, in time, the Provisional IRA and the INLA moved away from the bullet and embraced the ballot.
It is this spirit which will allow the Palestinians to overcome. Unity is strength. Internationally their has been a coming together to support the Palestinian Prisoners. Our job now is to channel this support into a worldwide movement to support all Palestinians, and not only The Men Behind The Wire.