Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on May 20 to celebrate the release of Mohammed al-Qeeq by Israeli jailers a day earlier. Al-Qeeq, a 34-year-old Palestinian journalist and father of three, was freed after a record-shattering 94-day hunger strike protesting his “administrative detention.”
This Israeli military regulation allows the indefinite internment, without charge or trial, of Palestinians under orders by area commanders of the Israeli occupation forces. Israel currently holds around 750 “administrative detainees,” out of 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners overall, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah.
In New York, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network celebrated al-Qeeq’s freedom at a weekly protest outside the local office of British-Danish security company G4S. Samidoun had organized over a month of pickets demanding al-Qeeq’s freedom before he ended his strike on Feb. 26 in an agreement with his captors to secure his release.
G4S, the regular site of the protests, currently holds contracts to equip Israeli prisons and detention centers. It also operates private jails and services immigration facilities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the United States.
Following years of campaigns by both anti-prison and pro-Palestine groups, G4S said in March that it would end its operations in Israel and youth jails in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
On May 22, Israel’s public security and strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, told a conference in New York that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement had helped drive G4S from the Israeli market. “The company is now trying to convince everyone that BDS was not a factor,” Erdan said. “Don’t listen to them.”
The BDS campaign against G4S, the world’s largest security company and second-biggest private employer, will continue until the implementation of its March announcement. These efforts include Samidoun’s protests, on Fridays at 4-6 p.m., outside the company’s office at 19 West 44th St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Manhattan.
The gatherings currently highlight ongoing hunger strikes by other “administrative detainees,” including Fouad Assi and Adib Mafarjah, who will reach their 62nd day of fasting on Friday, May 25.
Another, Sami Janazrah, resumed a full hunger strike on May 18 after suspending it to consume only liquid foods during a one-week “investigation” by Israeli forces. Before that he held a full hunger strike for 70 days.
For news about struggles by these and other Palestinian political prisoners, as well as about worldwide activities to support them, visit Samidoun’s web site and subscribe to its emails at samidoun.net.
Catron is a member of Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition and an organizer with Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.