It was only after the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradath, the violent demonstrations that erupted in its wake, and the fear that this could be the spark that ignites a Third Intifada that the Israeli media decided to expand its coverage of hunger strikes under way in Israeli prisons. Very few people in Israel, including senior figures in the political and security establishments, were even aware of the importance that Palestinians place on this issue. They did not know that as far as Palestinians are concerned, this constitutes the Achilles heel of any future peace agreement. But it has always been that way, and it will always be that way too.
The Palestinians’ deep sense of frustration began to intensify immediately after the signing of the Oslo Accord. Palestinians were convinced that all of the prisoners, whom they consider prisoners of war, would be released once the agreement was signed. Consider the following: Until the signing of the Oslo Accords at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993, there was hardly a single Palestinian boy in the territories above the age of 8 who had not spent at least some time in detention or in an Israeli prison. The Intifada was raging, and every Palestinian youth believed that participating in the uprising was both a personal and a national obligation, especially in an environment where failing to participate would raise suspicions of being a collaborator.