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Palestinians Still Demand Human Rights

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From Consortium News

On April 17, about 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launched a hunger strike that lasted well over a month, demanding basic human rights -- an end to the denial of family visits, proper medical care and treatment, access to higher education, and an end to solitary confinement, administrative detention, and imprisonment without charge or trial.

Israel continued to ignore prisoner demands while intensifying their abuse and collective punishment. According to the human rights group, Addameer, "Over the past five decades well over 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel, equivalent to about 40% of the total Palestinian territories male population."

Today about 6,500 people are still imprisoned, including some holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. In the words of Palestinian hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti, "Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation, and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace."

I interviewed Palestinian human rights activist, Arab Barghouti, about the recent hunger strike led by his father, Marwan Barghouti.

Dennis Bernstein: I understand you just met with representatives for congresswoman Barbara Lee. Tell us about the meeting. What was the purpose.

Arab Barghouti: I handed them a letter from me personally to the congresswoman, Barbara Lee. We are trying get attention of the American officials, of the American Congress, of any influential political high profile people who can help us raise the awareness and put some pressure on the Israeli government on this issue. The hunger strike has been going for long now.

DB: Tell us more about the the strike and the strikers, led by your father.

AB: This was one of the biggest hunger strikes in the modern history. Some 1,500 Palestinian political prisoners participated in it. My father, Marwan Barghouti, happens to be the leader of the hunger strike and he's a Palestinian political leader who has been in Israeli prisons for 15 years.

DB: Fifteen years. How old are you?

AB: I'm 26.

DB: You're 26, so your dad has been in prison most of your life.

AB: Yeah, more than half of my life.

DB: Did you see him arrested?

AB: I actually still remember when I was a little kid, 11 years old, the Israeli soldiers came to our house, took over the house, and put the Israeli flag on our balcony, put me with my two siblings and my mother in one bedroom. And we used to ask for permission to go to the kitchen to eat, or to go the bathroom. At that time the Israeli military was...

DB: Did they arrest your dad at that point?

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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