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Palestinian journalists launch campaign to support hunger striker Omar Nazzal

Aug. 4, 2016 8:43 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 7, 2016 6:20 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A representative for the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) announced on Thursday that the group would organize a solidarity sit-in to support prominent Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal, who began a hunger strike on Thursday in protest of being held by Israeli authorities without charge or trial.

Nasser Abu Bakr announced at the PJS office in Ramallah with Nazzal’s wife and lawyer that scores of Palestinian journalists, alongside human rights activists, would stage a solidarity sit-in in front of UN offices in Ramallah and in cities across the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday.

The sit-in is set to be held on August 8, the same date as Nazzal’s appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court, according to Bakr.

Bakr added that PJS would take steps to support Nazzal and all Palestinian journalists held in Israeli custody, while protesting Israel’s policy of administrative detention -- Israel’s controversial policy of detention without charge or trial, almost exclusively used against Palestinians.

According to Bakr, a letter signed by all Palestinian journalists participating in the action would be sent to UN officials, demanding that they take responsibility for the plight of Palestinian journalists held in administrative detention across Israel's prisons.

Members of the International Federation of Journalists have also declared their support for journalists held in administrative detention, Bakr said, and have plans to officially demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu release all Palestinian journalists held without charge or trial from Israel’s prisons.

According to Bakr, more than 650,000 journalists and 185 PJS members have declared their support for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, calling Israel’s detention of Palestinians a violation of international law.

Nazzal’s wife Marilyn also announced on Thursday that Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred Nazzal to solitary confinement, a common tactic used by IPS officials when Palestinians declare hunger strikes in order to force them to end their strikes.

Nazzal’s lawyer, meanwhile, said of Nazzal’s appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court that “it is already known and expected that Israeli courts will never be fair, but it is my duty to try and defend Nazzal.”

Nazzal, a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was detained by Israeli forces in April and put in administrative detention.

Nazzal said his decision to begin a hunger strike was to protest his own administrative detention, as well as that of fellow prisoner Bilal Kayid, who entered the 50th day of his hunger strike on Wednesday and has reportedly been near death.

Brothers Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul have also been on hunger strike for some 30 days to denounce their own administrative detention.

Since Kayid began refusing food, prisoners have launched solidarity strikes on a rolling basis to support Kayid and demand an end to Israel’s use of administrative detention. The hunger strikes quickly spread across Israeli prisons, with more than a hundred Palestinian prisoners joining from various political parties.

The large-scale solidarity movement amongst prisoners has resulted in an equally massive crackdown on mostly PFLP prisoners by the IPS, which has conducted multiple raids, cell block closures, confiscations of personal property, and transfers of detainees in attempts to quell the strikes.

Israel has stepped up a crackdown on Palestinian journalists and media organizations since a wave of unrest increased in October. While the Israeli authorities have said those targeted were responsible for incitement against Israel, rights groups argue the crackdown is a blatant violation of media freedoms.

Israel’s policy of administrative detention, almost exclusively used against Palestinians, has been widely criticized by rights group which have accused Israel of using the policy to erode Palestinian political and social life by detaining scores of Palestinians without proof of wrongdoing.
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