One Palestinian child has been killed by Israel every 3 days for the past 13 years

Tuesday, 04 June 2013


Almost half of the Palestinian population is under 18Almost half of the Palestinian population is under 18

Official statistics from the Ministry of Information in Ramallah have revealed that 1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel‘s occupation forces from the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013. That’s the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years. The ministry added that the number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of the Second Intifada against Israel’s occupation has now reached 6,000. 

“The International Day for the Protection of Children is on June 1,” said a spokesman, “but Palestinian children are still subject to attacks by the Israelis and Jewish settlers on an almost daily basis.”

Noting that 2012 saw an unprecedented rise in the number of children arrested by Israeli forces, the report pointed out that 9,000 Palestinians under 18 years old have been arrested since the end of September 2000. Almost half of the Palestinian population is under 18. Almost two hundred and fifty Palestinian minors are being held in prison by Israel; 47 of them are children under 16 years of age.

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A thousand mirrors: Nakbas near home-their homeland, our homeland #Sundayreading

Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 5:00 IST | Agency: DNA

This 15th May, the Nakba was remembered in many parts of the world. It is the Palestinian day of catastrophe. Palestinians fled their lands in the wake of the 1948 war — never to be able to return.

They hold on to keys, real and symbolic, asserting their right to return to their lands, adding flesh to ‘the struggle of memory against forgetting’. Palestine has become a codeword for injustice to a people who had to flee their homes unwillingly. Most leading university campuses in the West have some form of Palestine solidarity activism.

The present author was denied a competitive position due to his involvement with such initiatives at one point. Palestine spills over to general activism against militarism and occupation. Activist forces, however marginal and removed from the Middle East, support Palestine. The Nakba was a time when millions were frantically trying to prevent knots from untying — ancient knots out of which selfhoods emerged and thrived. Leaving behind the land of ancestors is something subcontinentals know too well.

Once, I was chatting with a friend who is very passionate about Palestinian rights, their denied statehood and most importantly, their right to return to their ancestral homes in Palestine from their diasporic homes, including many in refugee colonies.  He is a Bengali baidya, born and raised in the CR Park locality of New Delhi. The discussion turned to ancestral origins and he revealed his family was from Dhaka. I asked him, so what about your right to return? He looked perplexed. I said, I am guessing your East Bengali family, like most others, did not flee Dhaka voluntarily.

Like Palestinians, their ancestral abode, even if razed or occupied, is as sacred to them. The Rs 20,000 per square foot property value of CR Park almost hid the earlier name of this ‘posh’ locality — East Pakistan Displaced Persons (EPDP) Colony. Most ‘EPDP’ colonies are not ‘posh’ — especially those inhabited by people from backward castes. Such colonies, authorised and unauthorised, have been the site of state repression, including large-scale massacres, as in Marichjhhapi in 1979. My friend answered ‘that is different’. Yes, there are differences from Palestine, but what prevents anyone from seeing the similarities?

Palestinians are not the world’s largest or longest displaced people. What determines its pre-eminent position in the ‘global’ mindscape? Imperialism, that unfashionable word, also determines the pecking order of resistances and solidarity causes, inside our heads. If the child of Bengali refugees cared only about Bengal and nothing about Palestine, that would be termed ‘insular’ and ‘inward’ looking. Our sensibilities are skewed indeed.

People who question such fundamental things as the nation-states in the subcontinent do not call for the right to return of Muslims who fled Ambala and Kolkata, or Hindus who fled East Bengal. What do these blind spots reveal? What is so natural about the displacement from Ambala to Multan that it merits no call for justice and the ‘right to return’? When did the national constitution become an excuse to suspend humanity, especially with regards to homestead connections that predate all sub-continental constitutions?

It is harder to confront one’s immediate surround. We know them — the university rebel who is a docile son at home, the fire-eating caste-hating savarna who predictably marries a savarna, etc. Distant ‘cause’-mongering helps preserve the semblance of an ethical pedestalled self, and hides disturbing mismatches between rhetoric and action.

Why not have this and that — a cafeteria choice of causes.  Because not all causes stand a crucial test: does it hit home? Is one directly affected by the consequences of one’s actions in the furtherance of a cause? It matters.

The writer is a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Crocodile tears on the West Bank #Palestine


Expressions of solidarity for the Palestinian people have little meaning unless they become a powerful collective voice that can build pressure on Israel

The day U.S. President Barack Obama came to Ramallah, I was supposed to go to Haifa. The plan was to see one bit of ’48 — the Palestine that Israel took over during the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948. But the roads closed in Ramallah and Jerusalem; the checkpoints were on high alert; my visit to Haifa was cancelled.

I walked around Ramallah, uphill, downhill. The police whizzed past in trucks and vans; several protests were to be held. I saw one of these. Many of the banners bore a prominent key: the key to return, the right of the Palestinian people to return home.

As the day wore on, Obama and Palestinian President Abbas stood stiffly next to each other on television screens. Unlike the official images of the day before in Israel, the Ramallah meeting showed the leaders cold and unsmiling. What they said officially, said little about the misery and hope of real people. Perhaps, leaders get used to talking about the people they speak for in people-less terms. But the Palestinians were not missing. Despite the official cacophony of speeches, the barricaded and gun-toting security, I had no trouble seeing the people who become phantoms in official meetings. I had already seen them in stubborn flesh and blood in the days leading up to Obama’s visit. I had been to Jerusalem, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, and several villages on the road between Ramallah and Nablus, and the road between Bethlehem and Hebron. I had seen what people wrote and drew on the illegal wall Israel has built through their land and lives. I had heard what those I met had to say.

Apartheid wall

Obama, like all tourists and pilgrims, went to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a church beautiful because it is simple. But the beauty that spoke to me was elsewhere — in, for instance, the brave hope of the key of return I saw everywhere in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (The giant key above the rough arch at the camp entrance says on it: Not for sale.)

But before that hope in the future can be stoked, the unfolding present intrudes. One of the inescapable images of the present, in Bethlehem and elsewhere, is the wall Israel has been building despite its being declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. This Separation Barrier, which Palestinians call the Apartheid Wall, snakes its way across, between and around hills, farms, groves, villages, roads and houses throughout the West Bank, separating people from their neighbours, their schools, their hospitals, their shops, their land, their trees, their crop, their wells and springs. The wall is made of concrete. In places it is supplemented by, or growing into a wall from, electrified fencing, deep trenches, roads for patrol vehicles, electronic ground and fence sensors, thermal imaging and video cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles, sniper towers and razor wire. The wall does not run along the Green Line; it runs through the West Bank, on occupied Palestinian land. The plan is for the wall to be as long as 650 km.

In Bethlehem, the wall blocks the old entrance to the city from Jerusalem. A house I visited used to be across Rachel’s Tomb, a shrine visited by different communities. The house is now walled in on three sides. The house is called Sumud House; sumud means steadfastness.

If a third Intifada is brewing, the wall is one of the faces of the enemy. The wall across the Aida Refugee Camp, which was set up in 1950, has rows of Intifada martyrs painted on it.

Part of the wall is burnt; a watchtower with sniper-windows stands charred, testimony to the anger of people in the camp. The graffiti on this part of the wall sends sharp and eloquent messages, and not just to the Israelis: “No one can talk about the camp better than the people of the camp,” says one. An activist spoke to me ruefully about the numerous delegations that visit the wall, spray-paint words and images of solidarity on it. “We tell them to speak to people first,” he said. But many come with their readymade messages; like other genuine causes, this last bastion of colonialism can also be turned into a solidarity cottage industry.

Najwan Darwish, a poet I was on a literary panel with in Ramallah, read a poem about the bleak situation in Palestine today: “I tried once to sit in one of the vacant seats / but the word reserved was lurking there like a hyena. / I did not sit. / No one did. / The seats of hope are always reserved.” Darwish added, “I hate the word suffering. Suffering makes me think of victims.”

He was also wary of the word solidarity: too many people use solidarity merely as a means of self-expression. But solidarity is important, of course; we have the South African model in relatively recent memory. We also have the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to build international pressure on Israel.

This is the way I unravelled this call to revisit solidarity. Having seen and heard what I did in Palestine, it would be impossible to shy away from solidarity. But my own little solidarity means nothing by itself; it can only mean something if it grows into an Indian solidarity. And Indian solidarity can only mean pressuring our government to end the deepening “strategic” relationship between India and Israel — an alliance that means the purchase of arms from Israel, joint investment and industry ventures, collaborative research and educational programmes, and cultural exchange. Israel the occupier spends a great deal on building Brand Israel that can be sold in countries like ours. Our solidarity with Occupied Palestine is only worthwhile if we make sure India does not contribute to subsidising the Israeli colonial war machine.

(Githa Hariharan is a writer.)


How Israel gets away with Torturing Palestinians To Death #humanrights

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By Charlotte Silver

26 February, 2013

Six days after Arafat Jaradat was arrested by the Israeli army and the Shin Bet, he was dead. Between the date of his arrest – February 18 – and the day of his death – February 23 – his lawyer Kamil Sabbagh met with Arafat only once: in front of a military judge at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility.

Sabbagh reported that when he saw Jaradat, the man was terrified. Arafat told his lawyer that he was in acute pain from being beaten and forced to sit in stress positions with his hands bound behind his back.

When it announced his death, Israeli Prison Service claimed Arafat – who leaves a pregnant widow and two children – died from cardiac arrest. However, the subsequent autopsy found no blood clot in his heart. In fact, the autopsy concluded that Arafat, who turned 30 this year, was in fine cardiovascular health.

What the final autopsy did find, however, was that Jaradat had been pummelled by repeated blows to his chest and body and had sustained a total of six broken bones in his spine, arms and legs; his lips lacerated; his face badly bruised.

The ordeal that Arafat suffered before he died at the hands of Israel’s Shin Bet is common to many Palestinians that pass through Israel’s prisons. According to the prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been killed as a result of torture and 53 due to medical neglect. Less than a month before Jaradat was killed, Ashraf Abu Dhra died while in Israeli custody in a case that Addameer argues was a direct result of medical neglect.

The legal impunity of the Shin Bet, commonly referred to as the GSS, and its torture techniques has been well established. Between 2001 and 2011,700 Palestinians lodged complaints with the State Attorney’s Office but not a single one has been criminally investigated.

Writing in Adalah’s 2012 publication, On Torture [PDF], Bana Shoughry-Badarne, an attorney and the Legal Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, wrote, “The GSS’s impunity is absolute.”

Israel’s High Court has been extravagantly helpful in securing the Shin Bet with its imperviousness to accountability to international law, and thus enabling widespread and lethal torture.

In August of 2012, Israel’s High Court rejected petitions submitted by Israeli human rights organisations Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and PCATI to demand that Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, carry out criminal investigations into each allegation of torture by the Shin Bet.

And in the first week of February, two weeks before Arafat was killed, the High Court of Justice threw out Adalah’s petition that demanded the GSS videotape and audio record all of its interrogations in order to comply with requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Israel is a signatory.

In May 2009, UNCAT condemned [PDF] Israel for exempting the Shin Bet’s interrogations from audio and video recording, noting that such oversight is an essential preventative measure to curtail torture. Yet despite this admonition, in 2012 the Knesset extended the exemption for another three years.

Rationalising its failure to comply with this most basic requirement of recording interrogations, the State maintains that it is in the interests of “national security” that its interrogation techniques not be made public.

Arafat was killed under torture. Torture is routine. But the following is not routine: upon the announcement of his death, thousands of Palestinians, already unified in solidarity with the arduous struggle waged by Palestinian hunger striking prisoners, responded in force. At least 3,000 prisonersrefused their meals; thousands poured into the streets of Gaza and impassioned demonstrations erupted across the West Bank. While the State of Israel continues to deploy its deadly arsenal of weapons to repress Palestinians, the banality of the evil of this regime is, as it will always be, eclipsed by the mighty Palestinian will for self-determination.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco and the West Bank, Palestine. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

Surfing Sisters in Gaza Hit Waves of Disapproval #womenrights

By Eman Mohammed

WeNews correspondent

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sisters Sabah and Shrouq Abu Gunaim are trying to carry their childhood passion for surfing into adolescence. The sport is a rarity in the Gaza Strip, and almost forbidden for young women in this conservative society.

Sisters Sabah and Shrouq Abu Gunaim surfing in the Gaza Strip
Sisters Sabah and Shrouq Abu Gunaim surfing in the Gaza Strip

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Two Palestinian sisters, Sabah and Shrouq Abu Gunaim, are struggling to hang on to their identities as active surfers despite cultural opposition to body-baring sports for girls and women.

When they were little girls they could surf with relative freedom. But now that they are teens, it’s different.

“My family encourages me, although the community thinks it’s shameful to do so,” says Sabah, age 14, as her mother braids her long ponytail.

For her older sister Shrouq, 17, the pressure is now particularly intense.

The Abu Gunaim family lives in a modest, thatched-roof house just across the street from the beach, in the windswept spot of Sheikh Ejleen.

For a while Sabah, as a younger girl, surfed openly on the beach. But now she avoids broad daylight. “Once I got older and became more of a woman, as they say, I had to surf when no one is looking, in the early morning and sometimes late at night,” she says.

Both sisters are careful not to go out alone anymore.

“I always surf with my father and brothers around now,” says Sabah. “I enjoy it; but not as much. But do I have any other choice?”

If their father is nearby, men on the beach are less likely to harass and scold them for flouting constraints on girls’ sports. But sometimes even if their father is there, a male passerby will threaten and harass him to get his daughters out of the water.

Still, Sabah remains committed to the sport. “The community might say it is ‘aib,’ a disgrace, for a girl to surf, but it doesn’t feel this way. I want to go to the Olympics with Shrouq and prove them wrong.”

Hurting Marriage Prospects

Their mother, a 35-year-old full-time homemaker who asked not to be named, worries that surfing could hurt her daughters’ chances at marriage.

“My daughters can’t draw attention to themselves anymore,” she says. “It will hurt them and ruin their small dreams. I only hope they don’t get hurt; it’s what they love to do and that’s all I care about.”

The sisters’ surf boards–one black and white and one blue–have been featured in a number of stories in the foreign press in recent years. But here at home the attention is beginning to work against them in a community where young women are expected to stay largely inside and wear modest attire.

Whether they will be knocked off balance by waves of public disapproval is a question as they are getting older.

The girls’ father, Rajab Abu Gunaim, helped pioneer the sport in the Gaza Strip and passed on his passion to his two daughters, the oldest of six children. Sabah and Shrouq in turn taught their younger brothers.

“I consider myself a self-taught surfer, a lucky one,” says Rajab Abu Gunaim “What I have learnt represents my heritage, one that I’m working on passing on to my children, both boys and girls.”

When the novelty of two surfing sisters in the Gaza Strip began to attract the media, their father worried the exposure might bring negative attention. At the same time, however, he thought it could also work to foster their talent and help the local community adjust to the idea of female surfing.

The sisters are breaking no laws in surfing, but girls and women are by custom expected to be accompanied by a male in public, to dress in modest attire and to exercise and participate in sports indoors. Outdoor sports, with body-revealing attire, are borderline taboo.

TV-Taught Skills

Rajab Abu Gunaim works as a full-time life guard during the summer and as a fisherman throughout the year. Much of his surfing skills, he says, came from watching the sport on TV. He learned how to swim at age 8 and at 17 began training others to surf.

Now about a dozen male surfers–ranging from 14 to 35 in age–are a common feature on the beach, all of them trained by him.

His daughters ride on boards donated by a cross-border cooperation organization, Surfing 4 Peace, which encourages surfers in Gaza and Israel.

Gazans’ use of the sea was limited to three nautical miles after the 2008-2009 war imposed a blockade that has made fishing and sailing nearly impossible. Israel says the blockade is necessary to stop the infiltration of militants into Israel and arms importation to Gaza.

Rajab Abu Gunaim, who says he has come under fire many times while fishing, condemns the blockade as a form of “collective punishment” that has hurt his livelihood and blocked the import of surf boards to the Gaza Strip.

“No surf boards are allowed to come in and of course none of us are allowed to get to the boarders to bring them in. It is hopeless. Although surfing is a joyful and challenging sport all over the world, apparently in Gaza it threatens Israeli security,” he fumed.

Sabah recounts the astonishment of her classmates the first time they saw her surf. “I once came back from school with some of my classmates and they saw my board. I tried to explain to them about surfing and my dad took us all on his boat into the sea. I dived into the water and when I looked back, they were all astonished.”

Eman Mohammed is a 25-year-old Palestinian photojournalist and reporter based in the Gaza Strip.



Starving for Recognition: The Plight of Palestinian Political Prisoners

Saturday, 15 December 2012 00:00 By Pam Bailey, Truthout | Op-Ed

In support of hunger strike prisoners.Palestinian and israeli protesters demonstrate in support of hunger striking prisoners. (Photo: Rina Castelnuovo / The New York Times)

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Earlier in the year, the US media extensively covered the 66-day hunger strike of a Palestinian named Khader Adnan, who risked his life to protest his detention without charge or trial. Today, there are five more prisoners protesting with their empty stomachs. Yet virtually no one is covering their cases. Why?

Early this year, the long-ignored population of Palestinians warehoused behind Israeli bars broke onto the global stage with the courageous hunger strike of Khader Adnan, who went without food for 66 days to protest his “administrative detention” – a limbo in which he had been held without charge or trial. His protest captured the attention of media around the world and inspired a rash of other strikes, culminating in a mass action by an estimated 2,000 other Palestinian political prisoners.

The dramatic tactics appeared to work: Adnan and the others were released, and the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) agreed “there would be no new administrative detention orders or renewals” (albeit with several caveats).

However, today, more than four months later, the IPS is quietly breaking its promises, and at least five prisoners are once again on hunger strike. Two of them – Ayman Sharawna and Samer al-Issawi – had been released in October 2011 as part of the agreement Israel signed in exchange for the freedom of its captured soldier, Gilad Shalit. They were re-arrested several months later, without any new charges or evidence, and have been on at least a partial strike since July and August, respectively. As this article went to press, their health was seriously deteriorating, with frequent loss of consciousness and muscle control, and calls by Physicians for Human Rights in Israel to allow visits by independent doctors have been ignored.

Another of the hunger strikers, Oday Keilani, has gone without food for more than 40 days, after his own administrative detention – under which he has been held since April 2011 – was extended for another four months, despite the IPS’ promises.

Even those who have merely rallied in support of the prisoners are now being targeted. In October, Ayman Nasser, a researcher with Addameer, was arrested in part for his active participation in solidarity demonstrations. To date, Nasser remains in Israeli detention. At 3 a.m. on Dec. 12, the offices of Addameer and several other Palestinian NGOs were ransacked, and their computers, files and video equipment stolen. Posters of prisoners and hunger strikers were ripped from the walls and strewn around the office.

You wouldn’t know any of this was going on, however, from the “mainstream” Western media. Despite the earlier rush of coverage, the hunger strikers today are starving in virtual silence.

Khaled Waleed, operations coordinator for the UFree Network, which advocates in the European Union for Palestinian political prisoners, believes media coverage isn’t typically what forces Israel to act. However, he is quick to add that it is an important influence on governments that can apply pressure. And Mahmoud Sarsak, the popular Palestinian soccer player who went on hunger strike for 96 days before he was finally released, is convinced that grassroots pressure was critical to his eventual freedom.

“People seem to have lost interest in the hunger strikes now,” laments Waleed, who adds that his organization focuses more on broad issues, like Israel’s growing pattern of “re-arrests.”

“We need a vision that unites everyone, and right now, it’s not clear where that will come from,” he said.

Experts, as well as former and current political prisoners, identify a variety of forces working against the sustained attention needed to bring about real and lasting change in the plight of Palestinian political prisoners: marginalization by the “Arab Spring,” global economic collapse, the Iranian “threat” and elections in several key countries.

Competing With World Events

As Salam Fayyad, prime minister for the Palestinian Authority (PA), told The New York Times earlier this year, “The biggest challenge we face – apart from occupation – is marginalization. This is a direct consequence of the Arab Spring where people are preoccupied with their own domestic affairs. The United States is in an election year and has economic problems, Europe has its worries. We’re in a corner.”

Although the PA managed to gain enough support to win observer status in the United Nations last month, the international “bandwidth” is just not sufficient to accommodate a host of other issues – especially those that require sustained attention – without a very focused, sustained campaign.

Even in the Palestinian Territories, where “solidarity tents” in support of the hunger strikers were constant and vocal for Khader Adnan and the others, there is only intermittent activity this time around. “I think people are just exhausted with the whole situation,” admits Malaka Mohammed, a young activist in Gaza who has been at the forefront of the protest movement there, and helped organize a solidarity rally on Dec. 13. “It’s hard to stay active on everything, especially after Israel’s latest attack on Gaza.”

Salem Hassan Khalil Abu Shab was imprisoned by Israel three times – the last for more than 18 years – and now is back home in Gaza, struggling to fit back into a family that had become independent without him. Twice, he participated in hunger strikes, which he recalls as “the worst thing to have to do, but the only thing we can do to fight back and keep our dignity.” Shab adds, however, that to be successful, strikes need “people on the outside keeping up the pressure.” When other, competing events occur, he acknowledged – like the UN bid and the Israeli attack – the strikes lose their impact. Israel, he believes, is aware of that.

Israel’s Control of the Message

Anat Matar, senior lecturer in philosophy at Tel Aviv University, observed in a report from the International Middle East Media Center that Western reporting is largely based on Israel’s perspective, in which Palestinians are portrayed as security risks rather than political prisoners, and as “militants” and “terrorists,” rather than resistance fighters. Because spokespeople for the Israeli government are easy to access, are relied upon by the likes of President Obama and Secretary Clinton and have 30-second sound-bites at the ready, this same language is repeated in Western media, which regularly describe Palestinian prisoners and fighters as “militants” (or worse yet, “Islamist militants”), rather than “the opposition,” as in Syria.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, writes in his blog: “Israeli hasbara has worked hard over many years to stereotype the Palestinians as ‘terrorists,’ and by doing so to withdraw any sympathy from their victimization, which is portrayed as somehow deserved.”


Khader Adnan’s hunger strike attracted attention in large part because he used Gandhian techniques to challenge the “system,” and no one knew how the story would end: Would Israel let him die? Would he wrest significant concessions from Israel?

However, Adnan didn’t die. He reached a settlement with Israel, dropping his protest in return for early release. Hana Shalabi followed, ending her own strike in exchange for release to Gaza, far from her home in the West Bank. Each of the rest of the hunger strikers followed suit, eventually ending their strike in return for a few weeks or months cut off their detention. The outcome became predictable, and the concessions given in return had plenty of loopholes built in. As Falk writes, “It needs to be understood that Israel retains all the prerogatives to rely on administrative detention in the future and continues to have unmonitored, exclusive control over prison life.”

After the novelty of Adnan, media coverage gradually tapered off as boredom set in. Shalabi, Bilal Diab, Thaer Halahla and the estimated 2,000 other prisoners who joined the hunger strike, mostly for a shorter length of time, continued to generate some attention. But by the time Sarsak upped the ante, it had started to lag. Google Akram Rikhawi, who lasted an amazing 102 consecutive days, and the current strikers Ayman Sharawna and Samer al-Issawi, and few mentions at all are found in “mainstream” American media. In part as a result, the Israeli military appears to have adopted a pattern of doing what it has to do to cut a deal to avoid revival of international attention, then reneging on virtually everything.

No Clear, Compelling “Public Face”

No centrally coordinated, highly visible vehicle exists for tracking who begins hunger striking, when and why, monitoring what Israel has promised and when those commitments are broken and then widely publicizing this information. Reporters interested in the issue must work hard – too hard – to find all the details. As a result, they don’t. Compare that situation to the sophisticated, “one-stop-shop” blog and companion Facebook page run by the Israeli military: Whatever “fact” you could want, it’s there, along with snazzy graphics.

Lack of Leadership

As powerless as Palestinians often feel, it’s a fact that international media attention often follows local coverage. Yet columnist Hussam Kanafani, from the newspaper Al Khaleej, wrote that after Adnan, even Palestinian coverage of the strikers began to decline.

The case of Sarsak is instructive. He was first imprisoned without charge in 2009 and began his hunger strike in March of this year, after his administrative detention was renewed for the sixth time. But the Palestinian football association didn’t raise its voice until June, when it became public knowledge that the once-star player, the youngest to have made it onto the Palestinian national team, had lost 33 percent of his body mass and was said to be suffering from spells of unconsciousness and severe muscle atrophy. Ayat Saafeen, head of the Palestinian Women’s Football Association, admitted that “support was slow on the uptake,” with the organization waiting for a build-up of international solidarity before acting.

Local media coverage lagged as well. Linah Alsaafin explained in Ceasefire magazine that an independent news outlet is still a rarity in Palestine – with most publications owned by political parties or wealthy individuals with political affiliations. The fact that footballer Sarsak did not belong to a political faction (not to Islamic Jihad, as Israeli authorities claimed), was the underlying reason, she wrote, for the half-hearted coverage of his hunger strike by Palestinian media.

“Prisoners have separated according to political party and religion,” Sarsak agreed at a conference on political prisoners in Tunisia, where he is now making his home. “This is very bad for the cause. We need to be acting as one.”

Unity of leadership is one of the key lessons learned by perhaps the most famous hunger-striking prisoners: Irish Republicans who fought the British state in the 1980s. Former hunger striker Pat Sheehan, who was slated to be the 11th political prisoner to die in the chain begun by Bobby Sands in 1981, visited Gaza recently with a delegation of European parliamentarians. He and his fellow former political prisoner Gerry MacLochlainn are very careful to avoid even the appearance of telling Palestinians what to do, or of drawing too close a parallel. Still, history has undeniably shown that some lessons are universal.

“Three factors were critical to our ultimate success,” recalled MacLochlainn. “Unity of leadership; realistic, concrete demands that we all bought into and insisted on as a group; and a willingness to ‘go the distance.’ When you start a hunger strike, participants must be totally committed to taking it to the final end. Otherwise, you won’t be taken seriously.”

To date, unity of leadership has been a challenge for Palestinians, as Sarsak noted. In fact, Addameer’s staff in the West Bank was reportedly told by the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority to stay home rather than attend the conference in Tunisia, due to the dominant role played by Islamist factions in organizing the event. There is cautious optimism, however, that the new sense of unity evident following the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, and the UN vote on observer status for Palestine, will be more than a “flash-in-the-pan.” It will, however, take time, cautions Waleed.

The other question Palestinians must answer is whether striking for individual release is their best strategy, versus negotiating for the collective good. According to Ashraf Hussain, director of international relations for the Ministry of Detainee Affairs in Gaza, the mass hunger strike that attracted more than 2,000 participants in the spring was called by a committee of prisoner leaders inside the system. However, the ongoing strikes by specific prisoners to protest their continuing detentions despite promises of release are actions taken individually.

“It is definitely more effective to act as a group, but how can we not support individuals fighting their own situations as well?” Hussain asked.

The danger, however, is that by doing so, the Palestinians play into the secret agenda of their captors. In the 2011 book, Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel, Walid Daka – currently serving a life sentence – observes, “Most of the problems presented and the solutions reached pertain to individual prisoners…. Meetings, study circles and ideological discussions about national problems are much less frequent. Indeed, there [are] an increasing number of prisoners who take up academic studies, but their motivation is self-development and preparation for their own future after their release, rather than collective values and national concerns.”

According to Addameer, more then 4,600 Palestinians remained in Israeli prisons as of Oct. 12 – including 210 who are under the age of 18, 250 who have never been formally charged or tried, and 23 who were democratically elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Israel is arresting 11 to 20 more Palestinians every day – up to 7,000 a year.

When the Israeli effort to focus prisoners on narrow personal needs is coupled with the increasing use of technology to separate them from each other and from their “keepers” (a trend chillingly documented in Threat), it’s clear that Palestinians are facing an existential challenge to their very identity as a people and a culture.

Pam Bailey is a journalist and social entrepreneur who reports on Palestine and other “targets” of misbegotten US foreign policy. She teaches journalism/social media & consults on communication strategies in the fight for peace & justice. She is based in Alexandria, VA, and blogs


India-Palestine Solidarity Takes A Leap Ahead At The Mumbai conference


By Bindu Desai

08 December, 2012

Firstly I must thank my friend Rupa for letting me know about this conference! It was held at the University Club House about 3 kms from my home. I was initially intrigued by the flyer of the ‘India Palestine Solidarity Forum’, which included these quotes:

Mahatma Gandhi (1946) :

But in my opinion, they (the Jews) have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism. Why should they depend on American money or British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine?

Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar (1949) :

The Zionists are a threat to World Peace

Nelson Mandela ( 1994) :

When the Palestinians are free, our struggle will be complete.

I quickly decided to attend and come December 1, made my way to the meeting hall. Scheduled to open at 10.00 am, I reached a little early. I was surprised to see the gate to the clubhouse building shut and a posse of policemen all around. I went up to the gate and said I was there to attend the conference, a lady signaled to the police to open the gate and I was soon at the meeting hall where only 3 people were sitting. I introduced myself to them. One was a distinguished elderly gentleman Maulana Azhari who was from Malegaon. He nodded vigorously when I mentioned Hemant Karkare’s and Teesta Setalvad’s name. I then went to meet the other 2: former Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and his wife Niloufer Bhagwat. We started chatting and were puzzled to find only the 4 of us there.

Soon Feroze Mithiborwala, General Secretary of the Forum, joined us and related that he had got a call from the Registrar of the Bombay University, as a letter had been sent to him from the Marine Drive Police station. The Marine Drive police station is in the same vicinity as the Israeli consulate and it appears that there are certain police officers who are beholden to them. The organisers received very good cooperation from the University, but due to the police letter stating that the conference organizers had not been granted the ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) the University would have to withdraw permission. The Registrar made it clear that if the police withdrew the letter, they will let the organizers proceed. Here Husein Dalwai (MP Rajya Sabha) & Additional Commissioner of Police Krishna Prakash supported the organizers. Thus when they finally got the police station to give us the letter, even though the police NOC was not really required. Feroze’s colleagues were awake till 1.30am sorting the NOC matter out. There was also an attempt by a certain rightwing teachers union to book the hall on those very dates, but even that attempt was foiled & dealt with. It seems the Israeli Consulate and their friends had exerted pressure to get the conference cancelled. Amazing how the Israelis monitor any activity that reveals the truth about Palestine.

Chatting with the Bhagwats, I recognized Niloufer’s name from her previous writings. Coming home that evening learnt via the internet that Admiral Bhagwat had protested the promotion of a communal minded officer to his staff and was dismissed by the then Defense Minister George Fernandes. Niloufer Bhagwat has been active for decades in defending the rights of minorities. The Bhagwats are determined and dedicated individuals who take the Constitution of India seriously.

Soon the hall filled. The organizers included Dalit leaders, active among them Kishore Jagtap. Many students from radical Dalit groups attended and the hall was nearly full. Later I read that Feroze and Kishore were detained for a day by the Mumbai police when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Mumbai on July 17, 2009. Apparently this was to prevent Feroze and Kishore from organizing a protest of US policies in Asia and elsewhere.

The curtain opened to reveal a ‘brick wall’ symbolizing the ‘Siege of Gaza’ and a banner that had photos of Indian and International leaders and heroes with Yasser Arafat’s photo in the centre. The conference was originally scheduled for 17th November but had to be delayed as the Government of India (GOI)’s bureaucracy moved slowly. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was very cooperative; the delay was bureaucratic and not political. Delegates from Pakistan & Iran were not granted Conference visas, though all the other Indian embassies cooperated. One Palestinian delegate Hisham Jamjoun was not allowed to leave Occupied Palestine (Israel) and enter Jordan to catch his flight to India & thus he missed the conference. As it happened the delay was fortunate as the weekend of November 17th Bombay was under lockdown (Bandh) due to the death of Mumbai’s right wing Shiv Sena’s ‘supremo’ Bal Thackeray.


Inaugural Session:

Feroze Mithiborwala gave the keynote address. Israel cannot subdue Gaza, he said, and called Israel an apartheid state which should be treated as such & called for the boycott of Apartheid Israel. He also stated that “the Israeli occupation of Palestine, is the central geopolitical crisis of our times & thus its both a moral as well as a political imperative for the Indian & Asian people’s movements to play a decisive role”.

There was a general mood of buoyancy in the audience as the UN resolution upgrading Palestine’s status had recently passed 138 to 9. Feroze rightly remarked that except for the US, Israel, Canada and the Czech Republic the other 5 states included some whose names were insignificant & one did not even know. Rather like Bush’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ I thought! He declared that the walls that divide us will break one day and that our goal was a free Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. He was happy to hear from the Palestinian Ambassador to India Adli Sadeq that India had co-sponsored the UN resolution and worked hard to lobby for votes. He felt the fight against Zionism was part of a larger struggle against US and Western Imperialism as well as Manuvad (the laws of Manu that serve to justify caste in India). The Palestinian resistance is the vanguard of the global struggle against Imperialism & Zionism & thus the struggle for the liberation of Palestine is a struggle for the liberation of the world. He also stated that the international scenario is changing rapidly & the Western powers are on the decline, as Asia & the other former colonized nations & continents continue to rise.

He lauded the help given by Dalits and Other Backward Castes to help organize this conference at every level. This is also due to the fact that now the Bahujan ideologues have understood the strategic alliance between Manuwad & Zionism, both of which are fascist religio-supremacist ideologies.

Advocate Niloufer Bhagwat was happy that the conference was being held in Mumbai as the city had always been on the side of the Palestinian people who she noted were determined to find new ways to attain their freedom.

Ambassador Adli Sadeq thanked India for its support for the Palestinian cause from the days of Mahatma Gandhi. He praised the Government of India for acting at the UN in concert with the spirit of the Indian people. He pointed out that Israel was guilty of preemptively bombing Gaza. Palestinians were to be assaulted and then blamed too!

Rabbi Weiss (USA) of the Neturei Karta who are religious Jews opposed to Zionism, declared that Judaism had been hijacked by Zionists into a base materialism. The Commandments of the Torah, clearly say not to steal or kill and Israel does both. He called Israel a “rogue state that had resulted in an endless river of blood”. Jews had flourished in every Arab & Muslim country prior to the formation of Israel and that Jews would not be destroyed no matter what happened to Israel. Israel was an impediment to peace, Zionism a racist & supremacist flawed ideology.

Paul Larudee (USA), one of the founders of the movements to end the siege of Gaza, described how Palestine has been home to people from all over the world through the ages. He declared that Jerusalem belongs to all of us. He urged India to be ‘an honest broker’ as the USA clearly could not be one. He was really enthused & buoyant at the fact that the Palestine solidarity movement was now breaking new ground, in a country as crucial as India.

Mr. Abdullah Abdullah of Fatah and the International Relations Commission thanked the GOI for sponsoring the UN General Assembly resolution. President Mahmoud Abbas had delayed this move at the UN till after the US presidential election but when Barack Obama’s stance was unchanged, President Abbas went ahead with the resolution. Most people on this earth supported the Palestinian cause. He pitied those who opposed the UN General Assembly resolution. Mr. Abdullah felt that in a unipolar world the US wanted global hegemony. But he differentiated between the policies of the US government and the people of the US, remembering & paying his tribute to Rachel Corrie who was murdered in Gaza. He felt the solidarity movement had to be rebuilt; Palestinians have to get their house in order and consolidate Palestinian unity.

Former Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat felt that super capitalism was the problem with petrodollars used to buttress Western banks.

Songs and Slogans:

A group of singers led by the famed cultural icon, Sambhaji Bhagat came on stage and sang songs in Marathi & Hindi about social issues. One dealt with the colonization of the mind by the US, no need for troops, or physical occupation of a country. They sang with fervour and the audience erupted with loud and enthusiastic slogans:

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

Palestine Zindabad! (Long Live Palestine!)

One Asia! United Asia!

As the hall reverberated with the force of the many voices that shouted in unison the Palestinian delegates were visibly moved. The slogan ‘Palestine Zindabad’ and ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ was repeated several times.

A little girl with a ‘hammer’ then proceeded to demolish the Apartheid Wall that besieged Gaza & all of Palestine to loud applause.

At lunch I met several remarkable individuals including Advocate Yusuf Muchala who had been very active with the Srikrishna Commission’s investigations of the 1992-93 massacres of Muslims in Bombay engineered by the Shiv Sena.

Session on the Colonization of Palestine

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bir Zeit University said there are two responses to discrimination: fight or flight. The Palestinian people were forced to flee in 1948-49 when Israel destroyed 530 towns and villages. Palestinians have a long history of resistance from 1891 till today with 15 major uprisings. The separation ‘wall’ that Israel has built is 767 kms long; 1.5 million trees have been uprooted. 87 % of the district of Bethlehem has been taken over by Israeli settlements. There is apartheid in the distribution of water, in the building of roads, in employment.

Israel is one of the largest supplier of arms to India. It has a well organised system to infiltrate Indian media and supply it with pro-Israeli stories. Bilateral trade was presently $5 billion and is expected to grow rapidly. Professor Mazin was much influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and reiterated that the conflict in Palestine was not a religious one but a struggle of an oppressed people regardless of religion. He was Christian and prior to the formation of Israel Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together without violence. He maintained that peace in Jerusalem is necessary for peace worldwide.

Dr Haider Dukmak, a Palestinian from Lebanon, spoke that in Al Quds (Jerusalem) the Judaisation had begun with stones and was now proceeding with increasing settlements to Judaisation of people. The area around the Al Aqsa mosque was being modified with tunnels being dug and access to the mosque being made increasingly difficult.

Session on Indo-Israeli ties, a betrayal of our anti-colonial legacy

Dr Tasleem Rehmani felt that the recent policies of the GOI were not so much anti-Palestinian but pro-Israeli as economic interests are paramount in this post 1991 unipolar world. Indian political leadership feels that Israel is helpful to them in this regard and in promoting Indo-US ties. A sea change from the days when Yasser Arafat was warmly welcomed by Indira Gandhi, he called her his sister and she had reciprocated those sentiments by calling him her brother. The present government would respond to public pressure, he gave the example of the statement of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) when Gaza was bombed. The MEA statement was full of pieties about both sides needing to show restraint and about peace talks. 2 days later reacting to public sentiment the Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid criticized Israel’s use of ‘indiscriminate force’ and reiterated India’s support for Palestinian independence with Jerusalem as its capital.

Dr Suresh Khairnar emphasized that the Palestine issue was not an Islamic issue but a human one. He had been to the Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria, so different from the areas of the cities that tourists frequented. The people living in these camps had been forced into exile. On Indira Gandhi he said that though he was jailed by her during the Emergency, he admired her stand on Palestine, her support for their cause never wavered. Dr Khairnar pointed out that Ayatollah Khomeini had also been emphatic in stating that the Palestinian issue was not an Islamic issue but a human one.

S S Yadav, a well known economist affirmed that Dalits were with Palestine as they too were suffering like the Palestinians, their land was taken away, and they too were humiliated and discriminated against.

Maulana Azhari a respected cleric from Malegaon, first addressed the guests from Palestine in Arabic. Switching to Hindi he related how India’s policies had been much appreciated in the Arab world. He was in Misr(Egypt) in the late 60s when Dr Zakir Hussain, President of India was warmly welcomed while General Ayub Khan though from a Muslim country, Pakistan, was not. He stressed that it was the policies followed by India that were respected, not the religions of a nation.

The speakers spoke from their heart, in Arabic, English, Hindi and Marathi. Sometimes translations were not provided but I sensed that our Palestinian guests got the gist of what the speaker was saying.

In the last session we had speakers from various political parties, namely Amil Patel (MLA, Congress), Abu Asim Azmi (MLA, Samajwadi Party), Ramdas Athawale (ex-MP & National President, RPI) & Com. Uday Choudhary (CPI). They all stated that India should once again take a clear position in their support for Palestine.

The next day, December 2nd.

The students set the tone for the second day by their enthusiastic slogans:

Palestine Zindabad!

One Asia, United Asia!

Struggle is our slogan! We will win!

Our wealth is our right! No one is handing it to us!

Before the session started Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh presented Jyoti Badekar and Kishore Jagtap with keffiyehs. They in turn took the keffiyehs and placed them on a small set of bricks adorned with the Palestinian flag and a banner of the India Palestine Solidarity Forum.

A short video was shown that conveyed the reality of Gaza. We were asked not to avert our eyes as for change to occur we had to know what happened repeatedly in Gaza. Jets flew in, bombs exploded, mayhem ensued. The plumes of smoke, the people running helter-skelter, then rescuers trying their best to get the wounded to hospital. Heartbreaking to see those jets deliver their ordinance on an unarmed , defenceless populace, their menacing sounds as they flew in, the loud explosion of bombs, the buildings going up in flames Our Palestinian guest stopped the video halfway stating he did not want us to see maimed and horribly injured children…

Session on the History of the Palestinian Resistance:

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh had worn a kurta today. He looked very dapper in it! He began his talk with a Namaste and a few words in Hindi which delighted the audience. He told us he was from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. He related that the first Zionist settlement was established in Palestine in 1880. The first resistance to it took place in 1881. In 1929 women led by Matiel Moghannam protested against British policies in Palestine. The protest was non-violent. Indeed Professor Mazin said Matiel Moghannam was called the Palestinian Gandhi. A more widespread protest took place in the mid-30s. Armed resistance was used. Prof Mazin said that an oppressed people have the right indeed an obligation to resist including armed resistance.

Displaying a chart which detailed the structure of the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) he pointed out that the PLO had many wings including Labour, Women, Child Welfare etc.

He described how in the 1987 Intifada 12 children were taken to a nearby valley where Israeli soldiers broke their arms and legs. They left one child’s leg unbroken so he could walk to the nearest village and get help. “To exist is to resist” he said. All simple acts of day to day life like farming, going to school, as well as arguing with soldiers, climbing the ‘separation wall’, sitting in front of a bulldozer constituted such acts. He told us that an activist who had founded the International Solidarity Movement was not allowed to come to India by Israeli authorities. Professor Mazin, though holding an American passport could not go to Jerusalem while an American Jew could go anywhere in Palestine. He urged us not to get disheartened by the inaction of governments. People change first, governments are the last to change he declared.

Basel Mansour (Palestine) displayed a map of Palestine which showed us how relentlessly Israel had expropriated Palestinian land. He spoke about the wall and settlements which are illegal according to International law. The wall isolates 29 Palestinian areas and takes 13% of the 5600 square kms that form the West Bank. When the wall on the border with Jordan is completed 37% of the land will be stolen as settlements grow.

There are officially 300 Israeli check points in the West Bank. In some areas additional check points are erected every 100 meters and these are not included in the total of 300. A hundred kilometers of roads have been constructed in the West Bank for exclusive use by settlers. The wall cuts villages in half, and destroys the local economy. Non-violent resistance is an imperative as the Israeli military is very strong. He continued” We try to keep them ‘busy’ by creative non-violent resistance. In Bil’in with international support creative acts occur every week with different themes. For instance one week we put mirrors in front of the soldiers so it appeared as though they were carrying our protest signs. We have tied ourselves to olive trees, used as a float a model of the Marmara (the ship on its way to help Gaza which was stormed by the Israeli soldiers resulting in many deaths). We have played tennis using a tear gas canister as a ‘ball’. We have used cyber media. Our protest has been partially successful in that some of the wall around Bil’in has been removed, the land reclaimed. We bring diversity of ideas to our protest. Some Israelis also support us. We use Israeli law though we do not trust their legal system. We use it to show how the system functions. We have been called the new ‘Gandhians’ because of our non-violent resistance. The Israeli military has used many weapons and ways to deter us: nightly raids, burning houses and farms, collective punishment, arresting people including children.”

Maysoum (Palestine) began with leading us in cheering: Palestine Zindabad! Yasser Arafat Zindabad! She spoke about those imprisoned by Israel, at present 4700 individuals; 185 under the age of 18; 470 from Gaza, 534 from the West bank. 200 have spent more than 20 years in prison. Prison thouh functions as a ‘university’ where prisoners learn of the history of the area, the many past struggles, the ideas with which to confront Israel etc. Apartheid exists in prison between Palestinian and Israeli detainees. Hamas and Fatah prisoners are also segregated. Since 1967 800,000 Palestinians have been jailed by Israel. Upon release prisoners are often deported, they cannot visit their families, not many countries want them as they are considered ‘dangerous’. She moved many in the audience to tears when she said she could see in our eyes the love we had for Palestine and she therefore felt that she was in Palestine!

Saeed Yaqin (Palestine) whose village was destroyed by Israel in 1984 said that yesterday he felt he had a home again in India. He was clearly touched by the warmth and affection of the attendees to the conference. He remarked on the ‘order’ in Israel’s ideology, “ to kill our smile, our people, our livelihood”. He warned that all religious sites in Palestine were in a precarious state due to Israeli neglect and their policies. The ‘Bantustans’ in Palestine were worse than in South Africa…

Vida Warde, a Palestinian who lives in Beirut spoke eloquently about the “Right of Return” & said that one day soon, all the millions of Palestinian refugees will march back home & brave the Israeli bullets, but will never give up their struggle & soon one day, Palestine will be free.

There was also ceremony where all the international delegates were feted with well crafted mementoes as a token of our affection & respect. The words inscribed herein stated the following.

“We the people of India hereby honour your commitment & sacrifice for the cause of the liberation of Palestine. This is our common struggle against imperialism, Zionism & all forms of racism, oppression & exploitation. It is only then that we will achieve our common human ideal of a just & peaceful world”.

The house all rightly feted both, Feroze Mithiborwala with the title ‘Ibn-Palestine’ or the ‘Son of Palestine’ & Kishore Jagtap with ‘Bharat Gaurav’ or ‘Pride of India’. The house was up on its feet for both these organizers, who have succeeded in laying the foundations for the Palestinian movement in this generation.

I left the conference deeply impressed by the efforts of the organizers, the large and attentive audience, the passion and sincerity of the speakers. May the bond that Dalits and other oppressed minorities in India feel for the Palestinian people grow from strength to strength as both struggle to create a just society. Their identification with the Palestinian cause should act as a brake on the GOI’s headlong rush for closer ties with the Zionist state.

The degree to which Israel and its allies watch any dissent from their policies is sobering. Looking up Paul Larudee and Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh’s name on Google I was astonished by the vitriol that pro Zionist groups had poured on them. But these efforts to defame brave individuals who are not afraid of opposing unjust laws fail. Though the Mumbai meet was ignored by the English media, its message will spread by other creative means & the message has travelled & wide.

The indomitable spirit of the Palestinian people will prevail! They will succeed in their efforts to be treated as equals with the right to full citizenship, freedom for their land, with Jerusalem as its capital. It is a dream we all share and will work for from Bethlehem to Bombay!


Hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners succeeds

In the middle of April 2012, over 2000 political prisoners lodged in Israeli jails joined a hunger strike launched by a group of their compatriots nearly two and half months ago. The fasting prisoners were protesting against the brutal measures adopted by the Israeli state to persecute the Palestinian patriots in its jails.

Nearly a month after the 2,000 prisoners joined the initial group in the hunger strike, the Israeli government was compelled to allow family visits for prisoners from Gaza, end the policy of solitary confinement, and significantly reduce and limit the use of detention without trial, also known as “administrative detention”.

This struggle of the Palestinian prisoners was supported by justice and freedom-loving people all over the world, including organisations of Jewish people opposed to the racist, fascist and colonisation policies of the Israeli state. Just hours before the strike ended, Jewish peace organisations and the US Campaign to End the Occupation delivered over 8,000 signatures to the United States State Department asking them to force the Israeli state to relent.  Several thousands of people around the globe had pledged to undertake a 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners on 17th of May 2012, which was called off in view of the Israeli governments acceding to the demands of the Palestinian prisoners.  The victory of the Palestinian prisoners coincides with the Palestinian commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the Nakba; the systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing that uprooted most Palestinians from their homeland around 1948.

The prisoners’ victory has heightened hope about the prospects for Palestinian freedom, justice, self-determination and the return of refugees. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar hails this victory of the Palestinian people incarcerated in the jails of Israel and reiterates the support of the Indian working class and people for the just struggle of the Palestinian people for their national rights.

Palestinian hunger strikes: Media missing in action

Is the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike the beginning of the Palestinian Spring?

Richard Falk,United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 
Last Modified: 07 May 2012 0

‘The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence [has been to increase] settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing… and a 50 per cent increase in [arrests]’ [GALLO/GETTY]

Santa Barbara, CA Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,500 prisoners engaged in a hunger strike in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? Such an obsession would, of course, be greatest if such a phenomenon were to occur in an adversary state such as Iran or China, but almost anywhere it would be featured news, that is, anywhere but Palestine. It would be highlighted day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food, with respected doctors and human rights experts sharing their opinions.

At this time there are two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance to the practice of administrative detention, Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab, enduring their 70th day without food. Both men are reported by respected prisoner protection association, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Examining doctors indicated recently that both detainees were reported to “suffer from acute muscle weakness in their limbs that prevents them from standing” and are under the “dual threat” of “muscle atrophy and Thromohophilia, which can lead to a fatal blood clot”.

Despite this dramatic state of affairs until today there has been scant notice taken by Western governments, media and even the United Nations of the life threatening circumstances confronting Halalheh or Diab, let alone the massive solidarity strike that is of shorter duration, but still notable as a powerful expression of nonviolent defiance.

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has been devoting in recent days to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing, find a safe haven at the US Embassy, arrange a release and then seek an exit from China. This is an important and disturbing international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system, and by extension, the oppressiveness of an occupation that has gone on for 45 years?

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in Israeli jail.

Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box for over four decades, are denied international protection, exist without rights of their own, and cope as best they can without even a proper acknowledgement of their plight. There is another comparison that comes to mind. Recall the outpouring of concern, grief and sympathy throughout the West for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured on the Gaza border and held captive by Palestinians for five years. A powerful global campaign for his release on humanitarian grounds was organised, and received constant reinforcement in the media.

World leaders pleaded for his release, the UN Secretary General exhibited concern and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008 that killed more than 1,450 Palestinians that the real mission of the Operation Cast Lead campaign was to free Shalit or at least inflict pain on the entire civilian population of Gaza for his capture, a grotesque instance of unlawful collective punishment.

When Shalit was finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago there was a joyful homecoming celebration in Israel that abruptly ended when, much to the disappointment of the Israeli establishment, Shalit reported good treatment during captivity. Shalit’s father went further, saying if he was a Palestinian he would have tried to capture Israeli soldiers.

Hunger strikes, administrative detention and Palestinian witness

This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the earlier recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures. It should be understood that administrative detention depends on accusations contained in secret evidence not disclosed to the detainee or defense lawyers and allows Israel to imprison Palestinians for six months at a time without bringing any criminal charges, with terms renewable as they expire.

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in an Israeli jail. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, although only 33 years of age has been eight times placed in administrative detention for a total of six and a half years, despite the absence of any signs that he was involved in any violent activity.

Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger… the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments... “

Both Mr Adnan and Ms Shalabi were released through last minute deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not then want to risk a agitating Palestinians by such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating under pressure, or draw into question its reliance on administrative detention and imprisonment. Israel has refused, until the present, to examine the grievances that gave rise to these hunger strikes.

In Hana Shalabi’s case her release was coupled with a punitive deportation order, which cruelly confines her to Gaza for the next three years, away from her family and the familiar surroundings of her home village of Burqin near Jenin in the West Bank. There are some indications that Ms Shalabi was not fully informed about the deportation feature of her release, and was manipulated by prison authorities and the lawyer representing her interests. It may now be with the continuation of the hunger strikes, and their rapid expansion to a majority of those imprisoned, and even to Palestinian civil society, that Israel has altered its calculations, thinking that deaths among such fear into the Palestinians as to lead those still alive to abandon their hunger strike. It is difficult to assess the direction of the Israeli response at this stage.

There are reports that some of the current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it means deportation or exile. A fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities is underway, between those with the advantages of hard power domination and those relying on the soft power resources of moral and spiritual courage, and societal solidarity. As the strikers repeated affirm, their acts are not meant for their own release alone, but on behalf of all prisoners, and beyond even this, in support of the wider Palestinian struggle for dignity, self-determination and freedom from oppression.

The torment of these striking prisoners is not only a consequence of their refusal to accept food until certain conditions are met. Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including constant taunting, solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, disallowance of examination by humanitarian NGOs and hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions urgently require.

‘When Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes’ author argues [GALLO/GETTY]

There are also broader issues at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were widely covered by dwelling upon their sensationalist aspects, but when Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes. Worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict a particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to subvert the state of Israel by drawing its legitimacy into question.

All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with more than 100 settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, in the process of being retroactively legalised. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not one iota of good faith when it continues to claim that it seeks to negotiate a conflict ending peace treaty with the Palestinians. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has not yet had the diplomatic composure to call it quits when it comes to heeding the hollow calls of the Quartet to resume direct talks with Israel. It is long past time to crumble this long bridge to nowhere.

Liberal hypocrisies

That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity would surely yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times were unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation and imprisonment weeks after the seminal events associated with Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi had ended their hunger strikes. Not until the 65th day of the strikes of the continuing strikes of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, along with the 1,500 or so Palestinian prisoners who commenced their refusal of food on April 17 or later, did the Times report on the strikes.

“[A hunger strike] is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve.

Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained in offering Palestinians advice than Friedman, suggests that any sustained display of Palestinian nonviolence if met with Israeli violence would be an embarrassment for Washington. Malley insists that if the Palestinians were to take to the streets in the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Israelis responded violently, as the Netanyahu government could be expected to do, it “would put the United States in an… acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.”

The dilemma depicted by Malley derives from Obama encouragement of the democratic aspirations of a people who he has repeatedly said deserve their own state on the one side and the unconditional alignment with Israel on the other. Only a confirmed liberal would call this a genuine dilemma, as any informed and objective observer would know, that the US Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order, and even more assuredly during a heated presidential campaign. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be once more disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

Self-sacrifice and the Palestinian search for peace

Let there be no mistake about the moral and spiritual background of the challenge being mounted by these Palestinians. Undertaking an open ended hunger strike is an inherently brave act that is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and is only undertaken in situations of extreme frustration or severe abuse. Of course, others have engaged in hunger strikes in the past to protest prison abuse, including the 2011 strikes in California prisons that lead to the death of Christian Alexander Chavez, a 27-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence for a murder he may never have committed. A prison hunger strike is never an act undertaken lightly or as a stunt.

For anyone who has attempted to express protest in this manner, and I have for short periods as a free citizen during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Very few individuals have the psychological makeup needed to adopt such an extreme tactic of self-sacrifice and witness, especially when the ordeal is aggravated by punishments and tauntings by prison officials.

For a hunger strike to be done on this current scale of collective action underscores the horrible ordeal of the Palestinians that has been all but erased from the political consciousness of the West in the hot aftermath of the Arab Spring. It also suggests that a new Palestinian uprising may be in the offing, which would present Washington with the dilemma Malley worries about. The world has long refused to take notice of Palestinian one-sided efforts over the years to reach a peaceful outcome of their conflict with Israel.

It is helpful to keep reminding ourselves that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within its 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22 per cent of historical Palestine on which to establish an independent and sovereign state. In recent years, the main tactics of Palestinian opposition to the occupation, including on the part of Hamas, has been largely to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has refused to take note of either development, and has instead continuously thrown sand in Palestinian eyes.

The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence have been to embark upon a program of feverish settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing, reliance on excessive retaliatory violence as well as an various forms of intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One expression of this oppressiveness is the 50 per cent increase in the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention during of the last year, along with an officially mandated worsening of conditions throughout its prison system.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 

Follow him on Twitter: @rfalk13

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Joint Statement–Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeli prison contractor G4S

The postage stamp of United Nations, Inalienab...

The postage stamp of United Nations, Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (1981) Русский: Почтовая марка Организации Объединённых Наций, неотъемлемые права палестинского народа (1981) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

17 April 2012–“Joint Statement: Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeli prison contractor G4S

17 April 2012—Today, on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we the undersigned Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations salute all Palestinian political prisoners, especially those engaging in brave civil disobedience through ongoing hunger strikes in protest to the ongoing violations of human rights and international law. Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, we call for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system [1] , for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.

Imprisonment of Palestinians is a form of Israeli institutionalized violence encompassing all stages of the incarceration process. Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military and are frequently and unjustifiably denied family and lawyer visits. Wide-ranging and collective punishments, including prolonged periods of isolation, attacks on prisoners by special military forces and denying access to education are used against Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to suppress any form of civil disobedience within the prisons. As of April 2012, there were 4,610 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including 203 child prisoners, 6 female prisoners and 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. 322 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.[2]

The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has been the drive for many prisoners to begin hunger strikes at different intervals in protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention. While the recent hunger strikes of Khader Adnan, who ended his hunger strike after 66 days, and Hana Shalabi, who ended her hunger strike after 43 days, resulted in individual agreements, Israel and the Israeli Prison Service’s policies therein remain unchanged and are now aimed at containing the hungers strikers through punitive measures as well as cutting off their contact with lawyers and family. Today, an estimate of over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners are reported to have joined in an open hunger strike in addition to at least 8 others already engaged in an open hunger strike, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, on hunger strike since 29 February 2012.

In light of this increasing campaign of civil disobedience from within the prisons, we demand accountability for all corporations that both enable and directly profit from Israel’s continued violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights being committed with impunity. Specifically, we call for action to hold to account G4S, the British-Danish security company whose Israeli subsidiary signed a contract in 2007 with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems for major Israeli prisons.[3] G4S provided systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention of international law.[4] The company also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners.[5] G4S continues to provide equipment to Israeli prisons.[6]

Moreover, G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid and occupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.[7] A panel of legal experts concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal Wall and other violations of international law.[8]

We welcome the news that the European Union has announced that it has not renewed its contract for security services with G4S [9] following pressure from groups campaigning for Palestinian rights, and salute the previous decision of the Edinburgh University Student Association to block its contract with G4S.[10] We call upon other public and civil society institutions and also on private companies to follow suit and end their relationships with this company that acts in service of Israeli apartheid and other violations of international law. We demand that the Palestinian leadership bans G4S from private and public tenders, and ask for the strict application of the boycott legislation in the Arab world against companies cooperating with the Israeli prison system.

We also note that G4S is being actively opposed by other civil society groups elsewhere in the world for its role in controversial deportation and imprisonment regimes, abuse of workers rights, violations of universal human rights standards and its involvement in the privatisation of public services. Let us work together to expose not only G4S, but also the roles of imprisonment and private security companies as political tools to silence and intimidate communities all over the world.

Amid hunger strikes and the highly publicized prisoner exchange deal in October, Palestinian prisoners’ issues have gained recent attention in international spheres. However, despite this increased focus and the criticisms of these practices by United Nations bodies, there has been no institutional changes made by Israel in regard to the human rights violations being committed against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees.[11] In an attempt to counter Israel’s unwillingness to change its policies and the lack of accountability for its countless human rights violations, alternative measures such as preventing participation by companies such as the G4S proves to be one of the few remaining effective steps towards pressuring Israel to comply with international law. It is time overdue to break this chain of international complicity.



[3], p.7

[4] Article 77 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory to the occupying country.

[5], p14-15

[6], p.135

[7] Ibid.

[8], p.18

[9] (registration required)


[11] Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Israel, CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16, 9 March 2012; Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Israel CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3; Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture, Israel, CAT/C/ISR/CO/4,14 May 2009; See “Statement by Robert Serry UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Palestinian Prisoners, 10 February 2012; “Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights.

issued by-  Al Mezan center for human rights  

download orginal statement here

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