Lisa Gleeson

If we are serious about using International Women’s Day, held annually on March 8, to campaign for the freedom and equality of women and girls, then we should not ignore Palestinians.

As 17-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi remains in prison awaiting trial for slapping a soldier who invaded her family’s yard, three 17-year-old Israeli girls are at the centre of a lawsuit over the decision by New Zealand singer Lorde to cancel a planned Tel Aviv concert.

Every Friday for nearly a decade, the villagers of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank have gathered to walk across a road to a water spring.

The water spring has long been a part of Palestinian life, but the villagers of Nabi Saleh are prevented from accessing it by illegal Israeli settlers, who take more and more land every year.

As the water spring is now for settlers only, every Friday the soldiers prevent the villagers from walking across their own land to access what was their own water.

Israel’s fight against the global boycott, divestments and sanctions campaign (BDS) has taken another turn with its attempt to prevent the publication of a database of companies operating in its illegal West Bank settlements.

A member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) for the ruling Likud party, Anat Berko has presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with plans to change the status of 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem.

If implemented, Jerusalem would be formally divided and a group, similar in number to that of Wollongong would suddenly find itself stripped of permanent residency within Israel’s formal borders, as well as associated rights. The 300,000 would instead be considered residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.

Australian surf life savers once used the beach in Gaza to put on an impressive display of their skills for soldiers serving in Palestine. Surviving British footage from about 75 years ago shows a pristine and spectacular setting which could be any beach, anywhere in the world.

But now Gaza, subjected to a near-total blockade by Israel since 2007, is best described as the world’s largest, open air prison.

Israel’s “security measures”, including installing metal detectors at Haram Al Sharif — which contains the Al Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites — were finally rescinded on July 27 amid growing protests. But Palestinians continue to face unprecedented levels of surveillance and harassment.

On the night of July 27, Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians who returned to the site to pray for the first time in nearly two weeks since Israel shut down the mosque.

The hunger strike launched in April by more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners ended on May 27 when the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) agreed to key concessions to improve the prisoners’ conditions.

The announcement of the end of the 41-day hunger strike, coinciding with the start of Ramadan, was greeted with relief and joy by prisoners’ families and supporters across Palestine and the world. By the time the deal to improve conditions to end the hunger strike was struck, about 800 prisoners were still participating.

The demands of the hunger strikers are for basic civil rights. There are 6500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including 300 children. About 500 are being held under “administrative detention” — meaning they are held without trial by court orders that can be renewed indefinitely.

Despite the scale of the hunger strike and huge popular support enjoyed by the prisoners and their campaign for “freedom and dignity”, Israel shows no signs of acceding to any of the prisoners’ demands to end their ill-treatment.

Support for the more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which began on April 16, continues to grow across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, despite the more than 1500 prisoners on hunger strike getting almost no reaction from mainstream media.


Subscribe to Lisa Gleeson