Protests, hunger strikes in Palestine and Bahrain

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Every year on March 30, Palestinians and supporters rally to commemorate Land Day, the anniversary of the 1976 rallies inside the 1948 borders of Palestine in which the Zionist authorities gunned down six protesters fighting to save their land from ethnic cleansing. This year the demonstrations were coupled with a “Global March to Jerusalem,” a worldwide effort aiming to draw attention to the deepening ethnic cleansing in that city.

Marchers gathered in many locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in ’48 Palestine. Two young Palestinian protesters were executed in Gaza, and hundreds injured there and at other rally sights.
In addition, there were solidarity demonstrations around the world organized by Global March, which also sent contingents from other continents to countries bordering Israel. The GMJ was intended to be evocative of the spirit of last year’s “Marches for Return,” in which Palestinians marched right up to the borders demanding to be allowed back to their land (and in which dozens were gunned down in cold blood by Zionist soldiers). In the end the GMJ rallies mostly stopped well short of the borders.
These protests occurred two weeks after several days of attacks by Israel on Gaza had left at least two dozen dead, attacks which began with the assassination of two resistance leaders.
Meanwhile, throughout March activists around the world were publicizing the hunger strike of Palestinian political prisoner Hana Shalabi. As we go to press there is news that she ended the hunger strike after 43 days when Israel agreed to free her from administrative detention—the cause of her protest—and to deport her to Gaza. Addameer, the Palestinian political prisoner rights group, pointed out that Gaza has inadequate medical facilities to handle her now severely weakened body, and that in any case, her home is in the West Bank.
Supporters also noted that, as in the recent case of Khader Adnan, who ended his hunger strike after 66 days, Shalabi was released from administrative detention without any charges ever being filed against her and no evidence being offered of the alleged “terrorist” actions that she was supposedly jailed to prevent. This proves once again that administrative detention is simply a tool to intimidate political activists (a point made during protests against the Obama-approved indefinite detention bill recently passed in the U.S.).
Of particular note in the movement in solidarity with these hunger strikers have been statements from families of the martyrs of the H-Block hunger strikers in Ireland.
Meanwhile, at the end of March, Amnesty International issued a strong statement demanding the immediate release of jailed Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who began a hunger strike on Feb. 8. 
Al-Khawaja is protesting the life sentence he received in June for allegedly plotting against the state. The sentence in fact was meted out by the regime, a key U.S. ally in the region, simply for his exposure of human rights abuses in the context of a growing movement in the country against dictatorship and discrimination against its Shia citizens.
Al-Khawaja has suffered prolonged torture while in detention, and had his jaw broken in four places when police and masked men burst into his daughter’s home and seized him.
A little more than a month after his hunger strike began, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Bahrain against the regime. In a country of one and a quarter million, this may have been the greatest per capita turnout of any rally in the world’s history.
Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Naval Fleet, the base for all naval forces positioned to be ready for action against any country in the Middle East and East Africa. The fleet is also responsible for patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, and its commanders have repeatedly threatened Iran should the latter close the straits in retaliation for a possible attack by the U.S. and/or Israel.
A rally in solidarity with Al-Khawaja was held in Bahrain on March 31, but shortly before its scheduled starting time authorities arrested Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the country’s foremost anti-repression  organization.
As has been the case in each protest—which have been occurring every week, often more frequently, since the uprising began a year ago—security forces attacked marchers with tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades, lead pellet shotguns, and live ammunition. A Bahraini journalist was killed.
Supporters of the opposition are asking for calls to be made on behalf of Mr. Al-Khawaja and other victims of repression. See for ways to participate.
> The article above was written by Andrew Pollack, and first appeared in the April 2012 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.

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