A hunger strike is the most powerful tool an activist has at their disposal. Hunger strikes have an exhaustive impact on the body and mind. Therefore, this type of strike takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and devotion on the part of the activist. The willingness of an activist to participate in a hunger strike demonstrates their conviction and highlights the importance of their cause.
Hunger strikes allow activists to directly engage their opponents in a nonviolent manner. This form of nonviolent engagement often leaves opponents isolated. As a result of their isolation, targets of hunger strikes are left susceptible to criticism and often feel pressure from outside sources to accommodate the requests of the activist. Although a hunger strike is not ultimately going to solve an issue, it is an effective part of the overall effort to realize social and political change.
Currently Samer al-Issawi, a 33 year old Palestinian, is conducting a hunger strike while being detained in an Israeli prison. Al-Issawi has been on strike for 189 days thus far, protesting against Israel’s acts of administrative detention. Administrative detention is the incarceration of individuals for an indefinite period without being charged or granted a trial. During their detention prisoners face torture and are vulnerable to inhumane conditions. Israel’s practice of indefinite detention and their acts of torture and cruelty are clearly in violation of human rights and international law.
The Israeli Ministry of Prisoner Affairs has stated that Samer al-Issawi may be released from prison if he accepts exile, however al-Issawi has rejected the offer. If he would have accepted the agreement then the power and influence of his strike would have slowly evaporated and Israel would continue their unlawful actions. By rejecting the offer of exile, al-Issawi displays his steadfastness and resilience. He is focused on justice and freedom for Palestinians. It is hopeful that his protest will continue to gather international attention and work to hold Israel accountable for their unlawful policies.
It is from Samer al-Issawi that we witness the power of a hunger strike. Hunger strikes are a forceful way to gather attention and support for a cause. The more an activist reveals the flaws and injustice in a system the more that system is targeted for change.