hunger strikers

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This just in from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Act Now to Save Akram al-Rikhawi’s life!

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Akram al-Rikhawi has now been on hunger strike for 95 days. He is the longest serving hunger striker anywhere in the world.  He is suffering from numerous medical conditions, including diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, glaucoma, kidney problems and immune deficiency. Addameer reports that “Prior to his arrest, Akram received injections of Kenacort to treat his asthma, but following his arrest, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) did not allow Akram to take this injection. Instead, it was replaced with injections of cortisone, which is most likely the cause of severe complications, resulting in additional chronic illnesses such as diabetes and osteoporosis, from which Akram now suffers.” Take action today to call for the immediate release of Akram al-Rikhawi!

Akram began his hunger strike on April 12 of this year to demand his early release due to his heath circumstances. He also has eight children, and he and his wife are also responsible for the care of the five children of his late brother. Despite his severe health circumstances and his difficult family and economic straits and responsibility for 13 children, his appeals for early release in 2012 and on June 5, 2012 were both rejected.

He did not stop his hunger strike on May 14 at the time of the agreement between prisoners and the Israel Prison Services because his unique circumstances were not addressed – namely, early release on medical grounds. Physicians for Human Rights were denied access to Akram for nearly two months, until June 6. He has lost 26.5% of his body weight – and was already very unhealthy. Akram has been refusing medical examinations since mid-May – and in response, the cortisone injections have only increased. PHR has stated that he must be transferred immediately to a civilian hospital in order to receive proper medical care, and filed suit to demand he be transferred – which was denied by an Israeli District Court on June 14. Since June 16, he has been refusing supplements and other forms of artificial nourishment that the Israeli prison hospital has attempted to impose on him.

He has now been on hunger strike for 95 days. He is in severe danger. International action is urgently needed to save his life! It is urgent that we act now to free Akram Rikhawi and secure his much-needed medical care.

Akram al-Rikhawi is not the only Palestinian prisoner currently on hunger strike:

  • Samer al-Barq has now been on hunger strike since May 22, for 55 days, protesting Israeli violations of the agreement with the prisoners – after his own administrative detention, rather than expiring as agreed by the Israelis at the end of the strike, was renewed for an additional three months. Samer al-Barq is now on hunger strike until his release is secured.
  • Hassan Safadi, a long-term hunger striker who had been striking for 71 days at the time the May 14 agreement was concluded, had his administrative detention order renewed by the Israelis on June 21, despite the explicit agreement that the long-term hunger strikers such as Safadi serving in administrative detention without charge or trial would not have those orders renewed. Safadi is now on his 25th day of hunger strike and plans to continue until he is released.

The Israeli Prison Services have continued to violate the May 14 agreement in numerous ways – Dirar Abu Sisi remains in solitary confinement and another prisoner was recently moved to isolation. Although family visits to Gaza prisoners have now been announced, they will be “experimental,” apply only to 25 of the 479 prisoners and will exclude prisoners’ children from visits.

After his 96-day hunger strike, Palestinian soccer star Mahmoud Sarsak returned on July 10 to his home in Gaza to a hero’s welcome. It is urgent that we act now for all Palestinian prisoners to return to their families and homes like Sarsak. Administrative detention, mass roundups, and military trials are continuing in Palestine.  International solidarity and action is needed to hold the occupation accountable for its ongoing imprisonment and abuse of the people of Palestine!

TAKE ACTION!

1. Sign a letter demanding the Israeli state transfer Akram Rikhawi, Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi immediately to hospitals and release them. Tell the Israeli Prison Services that the world is watching! Click here to sign.

2. Sign this letter, circulated by UFREE, to members of the European Parliament and demand action to save the life of Akram Rikhawi.

3. Join a protest or demonstration outside an Israeli consulate for Palestinian prisoners. Many groups and organizations are holding events – join one or announce your own. Organizing an event, action or forum on Palestinian prisoners on your city or campus? Use this form to contact us and we will post the event widely. If you need suggestions, materials or speakers for your event, please contact us at samidoun@samidoun.ca…(The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has great materials, available at www.ipsc.ie/the-issues/factsheets…)

4. Contact your government officials and demand an end to international silence and complicity with the repression of Palestinian political prisoners. In Canada, Call the office of John Baird, Foreign Minister, and demand an end to Canadian support for Israel and justice for Palestinian prisoners, at : 613-990-7720; Email: bairdj@parl.gc.ca…. In the US, call the office of Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (1.202.647.7209). Demand that Elizabeth Jones bring this issue urgently to his counterparts in Israel.

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Sonja Karkar, of Australians for Palestine, writes:

Below is another extraordinary speech given by Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan, daughter of a general in the Israeli army and a granddaughter of a signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence.  Nurit lost her daughter in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, but even in the face of such a personal tragedy, she has never hesitated to speak out passionately about the terrible injustices suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of her government and its leaders.  Like her charismatic brother Miko Peled who came to speak in Australia last year, Nurit speaks from firsthand experience of Israel’s true intentions to take all of the land and gradually expel the Palestinians from their homeland.  In the meantime, Israel has instituted the worst of apartheid policies and practices against those Palestinians under its military occupation, as well as Israel’s own Palestinian citizens.  As the world remains mute and unhearing at the incredible bravery of the Palestinian hunger-strikers, Nurit’s cries from the heart are her effort to break that silence.  We ignore these pleas at our peril.  Israel’s efforts at normalisation are failing and it will only be a matter of time before the ugly face of Zionism will be fully exposed .  Please take a stand now before more people suffer and die, particularly for the three hunger-strikers to whom Nurit refers below.  Protests have taken place across Europe and more action is urgently needed.

Sonja Karkar

The 45th birthday of the Occupation

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by Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Occupation Magazine

9 June 2012

I dedicate my words this evening to three hunger-strikers. Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been striking for 83 days. An excellent football player from Gaza, he was arrested three years ago under the Law against Illegal Combatants, which permits him to be imprisoned for life, without a trial and without charge. Akram Rikhawi, who has been imprisoned since 2004 and has been on a hunger-strike since 12 April, in protest against his not being released despite the fragile state of his health. And Samer al-Barq, who renewed his hunger-strike after he had stopped it, with the signing of the agreement,

because like many who were released, he got a new administrative detention order. Those prisoners are still alive because “when freedom takes hold of a person’s soul, even the gods cannot touch him.” (Jean-Paul Sartre) Not the god of Zionist power and not the Israeli angel of death. Those prisoners, and thousands more like them, including more than twenty Members of Parliament including the Chairman of the Parliament, Dr. Aziz Dweik, are being held without justice or trial, under humiliating conditions, for years, without visits or hope. They are the freedom fighters of this country who remind us again and again that we all live under occupation and that only their liberation will restore our freedom to us.

Arab citizens of Israel have been living under occupation for nearly sixty-five years now, and the Jewish citizens of Israel are living under a siege that they have imposed on themselves. We are all subjects of a colonialist regime that includes the appropriation of lands and water resources, ethnic cleansing, destruction of the landscape and destruction of the human spirit. A language and culture of which they have no need except to express their being conquered has been imposed on the Arabs whose language and culture has been deliberately and institutionally removed from the lives of the Jews, so that we cannot teach our children and remind their children that `there can also be a love story between an Arab poet and this country.` (Mahmoud Darwish). Thus since its establishment Israel has been perpetuating, in the manner of oppressive regimes, an alienated society and a culture cut off from this place, its residents, its aromas and its tastes. Even the trees and the flowers in our gardens are alienated, foreign, and do not belong. This alienation testifies again and again that on the day of its founding Israel emblazoned on its flag the symbol of apartheid and racism, and eschewed the symbol of freedom and brotherhood that ensures democracy.

This year the apartheid regime of the State of the Jews proved its complete loyalty to racism and the principles of racism. Twenty-five racist bills were submitted and more than ten racist laws have been passed this year, and hardly any Jewish citizens went out onto the streets. More than three hundred people imprisoned without trial launched a hunger strike to the death for two months and more, and hardly any Jewish citizens went onto the streets. Thousands of children are not going to school in East Jerusalem because the Jewish ministry of education does not allocate classes or because the racist Citizenship Law makes them the citizens of no-place and no one is going onto the streets. The separation of families, the expulsion of residents, the confiscation of lands, children abducted from their beds and cruelly interrogated, families evicted from their homes out onto the street, farmers tortured by kippa-wearing bullies under the protection of the army and on the orders of the government  and hardly anyone goes out onto the streets. That is the peak achievement of the Zionist movement.

The State of Israel, which was officially declared as an apartheid state, is distinguished by what has always been the most typical and successful method of racism: the classification of human beings. The Hebrew language that keeps getting uglier under the auspices of the army of Occupation and the bureaucracy of Occupation, is full of classifications: there are people who are a cancer in the heart of the nation and there are people who are a security danger, and there are people who are a plague or a demographic nightmare and there are people who are a health risk, all of them classified and categorized in such a way that even the most ignorant and boorish of Israel’s ministers manage to learn this categorization by heart.

We are all subject to classifications. We are all controlled by the racist laws of this place, and voluntarily placed into ghettos. The Zionist ghetto has learned not to see and not to hear anything beyond the walls that surround it: the real walls made of concrete, and the imaginary walls made of obedience, hate and terrible fear. We do not dare protest against the racist laws, we do not dare to defy racist signs, we do not dare to defend tortured children, we do not dare to break the walls of Gaza, and we do not dare go to Hebron and Deheisheh, to Jenin and Ramallah to ask after the neighbours. That is the great victory of the Occupation. Under the cover of the Occupation, we choose again and again to fold under the rule of criminals of every kind, war criminals, ignoramuses and boors. Thus do we punish ourselves for our helplessness and the withering of our spirit. Year after year we take our children to the gates of the schools, let them learn in an education system that burns books of history and citizenship and authorizes books that incite the murder of children. We abandon them to brainwashing and lies about the War of Liberation we won and Jerusalem Day that signifies our conquests, and the parade for Samaria, which is ours, we let them be taken to Hebron, the City of our Patriarchs, and to the City of David who is not alive and not well. The teachers in that system do not flinch when they are called upon to poison their pupils’ minds with mendacious stories about our historical rights to the neighbours’ lands, about heroism and victory when it was really ethnic cleansing, inspired and planned by the institutions of racism. The entire purpose of Israeli education is to prepare children to be obedient soldiers of the Israel Occupation Force.

We bow our heads when the most institutionalized terrorist organization in the world takes our children from us and enlists them into its ranks and teaches them how to classify people, how to classify children, how to classify babies, how to classify pain and how to classify the dead. All that, in order to harden their hearts and to dull their senses so that they can abuse, destroy and kill with a clean conscience. We are occupied to such a degree that even when the human being turns into blood we continue to classify without understanding that all of us, the dead and the living, are victims of the corrupting Occupation.

We feel the pain of the parents of one captive Jewish soldier and do not let the pain of the parents of thousands of abducted Palestinian children penetrate through to us, parents who are not allowed to visit their incarcerated children for years because the price demanded of them for the visit is collaboration with the oppressor. We ignore the sufferings of the children of Gaza who are living on the margins of death, victims of malnutrition and lack of medical care, without electricity, without the right to education and livelihood, without a chance and without hope.

As everyone knows today, the 1967 war was not a war of no choice. It was a bolting from the corral by young generals, hot-blooded colts who had sprouted and grown up in the Zionist ghetto and learned to dream of conquest. They trained and trained until they could do so no longer and then took advantage of a moment of stupidity on the part of the neighbours to breach every obstacle, to cast off all restraints and to conquer and expand and destroy joyfully, with intoxicated senses, with a feeling of omnipotent supremacy but without any plan for the future, without any thought for the day after and the millions of human beings who became subjects overnight. In order to justify the devastation and the destruction, the official mythologists were mobilized to affix a scriptural verse to every profane killing and an entire nation was swept into the stream of plunder and exploitation, surpassing themselves every year, because the Jewish genius, from the moment it was enlisted for the task of ruin and devastation, destruction and killing, has not stopped taking out ever more patents.

Today, when the Occupation is beginning to show its effect on the quality of life of the ruling nation, they are rising up and demanding social justice. But social justice too is classified. Social justice is for residents of this ghetto, not of that ghetto. Residents of that ghetto will only spoil our social justice if we include them in our demands, if we give them a forum, if we let their voices be heard in demand of what is theirs. Because that ghetto is there for security reasons and its residents are not victims of injustice and racism but are a security problem, each and every one of them. And when they are killed it is not from racism but from political considerations and we don’t get involved in politics. Therefore that movement for social justice, the failure of which was written on the wall upon its inception, is the most spectacular product of the Israeli education system.

Woe to us that the criminals of the Occupation today are our children, woe to us that we have so succumbed to racism, that we have thus permitted the apartheid criminals to occupy our spirits and to cut us off from everything that is human, from everything that is just, from everything that is peace and quiet, good neighbourliness, love of humanity, mercifulness and compassion, in order to achieve their base objectives. The spirits of the hunger-striking prisoners in their cramped cells are breathing freedom and liberty, and our spirit is oppressed and expiring.

We are living in a ghetto that has no city and no homeland, the language of which is not the local language, a ghetto that has no place to open onto except the bypass roads that pass by everything that is alive.

The time has come when we must join our neighbours all over the Middle East, to sing the praises of the true rebellion, to declare the opening of the borders and the breaking of the barriers, to break down the doors of the prisons, to return the olives and the vineyards to their owners, to return the Children of Palestine to their borders and their land and to try to recover what was lost and trampled under the hobnailed boots of the fat bullies. Only then, if the true children of this country will permit us to learn how to live in it, we too may be able to liberate ourselves from the Occupation and be free from fear, because as Menachem Begin said:  “The essence of freedom is freedom from fear, because fear is no less terrible a ruler for its being concealed.”

Among us the fear is overt; among us fear is the motivating force behind every action. Fear of refusal to serve in the Occupation army, fear of supporting a justified boycott of the produce of the settlements, fear of visiting the neighbours. Kindergarten children who arrived here from Ethiopia a few months ago already know whom to hate and whom to fear. They are struck with terror and fear of ‘the Arabs’ they have never seen in person. They are sure that it was the Arabs who burned the Temple, who murdered Jews in Germany, who detained them in Gondar, who are lying in wait for them on all sides. We must liberate our children from the walls of fear and teach them the bases of liberty and responsibility, and explain to them and to ourselves that a person who obeys restrictions that prevent him from going wherever he wants, even if it is Hebron or Jenin or Ramallah, is not a free person but a conquered person. A person who invents laws that restrict the ability of their neighbours to get an education and make a living is a repressed person, a person under siege. That siege can be lifted only by resistance of the type that we see in Bil’in and Ni’lin, Babi Salah, Maasara and through courageous civil disobedience, with a blanket “no” as our neighbours are doing.

I will conclude with a few lines written by Almog Behar, who wrote the following to Mahmoud Darwish:

To my brother Mahmoud Darwish:
who made our history conflicted
And placed me among the high towers
Standing watch over the heavy gates of Gaza
Observing the windows of houses through the sights of rifles?
Who erected between us walls of concrete and iron and the eyes of cameras
And divided us into conquerors and conquered
When we should be brothers?

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

AFP link: www.australiansforpalestine.net…

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Thank you, Father Jim, for letting us know about the Palestinian Mother’s Day march.

It seems that when Palestinians protest the Occupation with violence they are condemned. When they protest peacefully, they are ignored!

For more of Jim’s wisdom, see his blog – Wallwritings

Your Hard-Earned US Tax Dollars and Church Pension Funds at Work for Israel

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by James M. Wal

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Mass demonstrations in support of 2500 Palestinian hunger strikers swept through the West Bank this weekend.
Marchers moved through the streets of Hebron, Kafr Qaddoum, Nablus, Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin, Ramallah, al-Walaja and outside of Ofer prison. The picture here was taken in Hebron.
It shows an Israeli soldier with his knee firmly planted on a young Palestinian’s neck.
The picture also shows how American tax dollars and church pensions are at work on this Mothers Day weekend, a commercially-driven event in which American teenagers and their families annually  honor mothers with gifts and family meals.
On this particular American Mothers’ Day weekend, a large contingent of  Palestinian teenagers joined their mothers and other family members to offer their support to prisoners on lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes.

Laura Kacere wrote in A Nation of Change, that Mothers Day had a different meaning when it was initially launched.  In fact, the Palestinian mothers who marched this weekend in support of hunger strikers, some of whom may have been their children, are demonstrating in a manner more akin to the original purpose of Mothers Day.

Mother’s Day began in America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.

Amira Hass, the Ha’aretz columnist who has watched Israeli duplicity at work for decades, explains how Israel makes use of  ”administrative detention”:

Administrative detainees have been held without trial for years under emergency regulations inspired by the British Mandate. It’s not important. Hundreds of prisoners from the Gaza Strip haven’t seen their families for six or more years. Why should anyone care?

American tax-payers and church members should care. But do they?  The record is not good.

The Methodist General Conference ended its once-every-four-years confab in Tampa last week with a small step toward caring. They will not have this opportunity again for four years in a governance system first established in the early 1800s by John Wesley.

In their 2012 Conference the Methodists voted to call for a boycott of US companies supporting the occupation. They failed, however, to pass a specific divestment resolution removing church pension funds from three US corporations, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Systems.

Why did the 2012 Methodists only hit .500?  The Methodist Board of Pensions and their allies roamed about the floor of the conference spreading the lie that divestment from these companies would threaten Africa University’s funding. Those prefabrications were aimed at Central Conferences (overseas) delegates, who are very protective of their continent’s Methodist University.

There were even reports that some Methodist delegates were told they could be sued if they voted for divestment. Would church leaders act in this manner? Hard to imagine, but then, there have also been reports (a tape recording to be exact) that Mitt Romney cannot recall a teenage incident which his classmates insist involved young Mitt cutting the hair of a classmate suspected of being gay.

Now it is the Presbyterians’ chance to divest from three US corporations that support the Israeli occupation. Will they join the Episcopalians and urge tea and cookies with their local rabbis, or will they look more closely at how the Israelis are spending their pension funds?

Meanwhile, the Palestinian hunger strikes continue.

Why hunger strikes?  How else does a prisoner reach the outside world, at least that part of the outside world willing to look up from its tea and cookies long enough to notice?

There are currently 2,000 Palestinian inmates on a mass hunger strike in the Nafha, Ashkelon, Gilboa and other prisons around Israel. Amira Hass writes that it is “the very fact of their decision to refuse food and their willingness to risk being punished by the authorities [that] stands as a reminder of their humanity”.

The US public remains blissfully ignorant during this Mothers Day weekend that 2000 Palestinians hunger strikers, some near death, are refusing food to protest their treatment and their unfair and unjust incarceration.

The bulk of the Israeli public, safe and secure behind a massive Security Wall, remain largely indifferent to the strikers.

Amira Hass explains:

The Israel Prison Service does not have to make much of an effort to conceal this mass action from Israeli eyes. The great majority of Israelis label all incarcerated Palestinians as conscienceless murderers or common terrorists, at the least. They have little interest in acts of personal or collective courage on the part of Palestinian detainees that serve as reminders that they are human beings.

Richard Falk and Noura Erakat have written about the history of the Israeli use of administrative detention, which in case you have not noticed, is a practice the US Congress is currently planning to add to the American legal arsenal against its own citizens.

Administrative detention has constituted a core of Israel’s 1,500 occupation laws that apply to Palestinians only, and which are not subject to any type of civilian or public review. Derived from British Mandate laws, administrative detention permits Israeli Forces to arrest Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, and without any show of incriminating evidence. Such detention orders can be renewed indefinitely, each time for another six-month term.

Ayed Dudeen is one of the longest-serving administrative detainees in Israeli captivity. First arrested in October 2007, Israeli officials renewed his detention thirty times without charge or trial. After languishing in a prison cell for nearly four years without due process, prison authorities released him in August 2011, only to re-arrest him two weeks later. His wife Amal no longer tells their six children that their father is coming home, because, in her words, “I do not want to give them false hope anymore, I just hope that this nightmare will go away.”

Twenty percent of the Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories have at one point been held under administrative detention by Israeli forces. Israel argues these policies are necessary to ensure the security of its Jewish citizens, including those unlawfully resident in settlements surrounding Jerusalem, Area C, and the Jordan Valley—in flagrant contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 49(6), which explicitly prohibits the transfer of one’s civilian population to the territory it occupies.

And how does the US government view the hunger strikes?

When one persistent journalist (identified as “Said”) demanded, politely, that US State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, answer a question about the Palestinian hunger strikes, this is how Nuland handled his query, according to the transcript from the State Department:

QUESTION: Okay. And one – a couple more. On the Palestinian prisoner issue, I wonder if you are aware of the situation of striking – hunger striking Palestinian prisoners?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have anything for you on that, Said.

QUESTION: Well, do you have a position on the hunger strike of prisoners who have not been charged with anything and they have been held for a long time? They’ve gone today – their 70th day of a hunger strike. Thaer Halahla and many others, five others, are probably – are likely to – they could face – I mean, they could die in the next day or so. Would the United States Government take a position on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me take the question, Said, because frankly, I don’t have anything one way or the other. I don’t know if we have a comment on it.

QUESTION: Because, lastly, I mean, it – if something happens to these prisoners, it could be a flashpoint between Israelis and the Palestinians.

MS. NULAND: No, I understand the question. Let me take it, okay?

QUESTION: Thank you.

If, or when, a hunger striker dies in an Israeli prison, the US State Department will have an answer ready to go. It will express regret at the death and urge “all parties involved” to resolve their differences.

One “party” involved is the IDF, shown in action at the pictures above and below. In this picture, smoke makes it difficult to determine if the IDF vehicle is a Caterpillar product. Perhaps not, since it is smaller than the Caterpillar tractors that built the Wall, and continues to demolish Palestinian homes.

But there is no question that the battle between the rock-throwing teen aged Palestinians and their IDF enemy serves as a metaphor for a US and church supported occupation force and a defiant civilian population.

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Karl-John N. Stone and Thomas A. Prinz have just written an article for The Christian Century magazine, “Invest, Not Divest” which argues just what the title suggests it would argue, a misguided solution which embraces a market faith rather than a religious faith.

Stone is assistant to the bishop in the Upper Susquehanna Synod (ELCA) in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Prinz is pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Leesburg, Virginia. They ask:

What better way for the church to act as peacemakers than to engage in actual investment, building up Palestinian society and infrastructure, thereby helping to ensure a sound and viable sovereign state when a political solution is found and potentially hastening that political solution?

Stone and Prinz close their argument for “hastening that political solution” with this bit of capitalist stock market cheer leading:

The New York Times reported in February that the Palestinian Stock Exchange has been one of the best-­performing markets in the Arab world in recent years. In 2011, a year marked by great political upheaval in the region, the Palestinian exchange was second only to that of Qatar, falling only 2.58 percent over the course of the year.

The Times quoted Fayez Husseini, manager of Abraaj Capital’s $50 million Pales­tine Growth Capital Fund, as saying: “Strong stock market performance proves that these Palestinian companies are well managed, resilient and adaptive.”

They conclude their market-driven argument:

Investment moves churches beyond a black-and-white concept of justice and a conflict model of advocacy toward a model of empowerment and reconciliation. This move represents the best hope for churches to contribute to long-term peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

Give our Lutheran brothers credit, they do offer us a choice between “a black-and-white concept of justice”, and “a model of empowerment and reconciliation”.

Prinz and Stone may think they are channeling Reinhold Niebuhr with that division. I suspect they are really channeling the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop quoted in their piece.

Speaking of quoting, there is no sign that Prinz and Stone discussed this matter with any Palestinians under occupation, unless you count the New York Times‘ quote from Fayez Husseini, manager of Abraaj Capital’s $50 million Pales­tine Growth Capital Fund.

Next time Prinz and Stone offer advice to Palestinians, they might want to talk with Palestinian Baptist pastor, Dr. Alex Awad, who told Methodists when they were debating their divestment resolution:

“We are asking for divestment for our freedom, not investment to improve our lives in prison.”

The picture at top is by Mussa Qawasma. It was used in a Mondoweiss article by Allison Deger. The picture of the teen agers confronting IDF fire power is by Jaafar Ashtiyeh. It is from Agence France Presse  (AFP)

Original post: wallwritings.me/2012/05/12/your-hard-earned-us-tax-dollars-and-church-……

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Apparently over 2,000 Palestinian prisoners are participating in an open hunger strike and are now in their third week! Two detainees – Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab – on the brink of death. How is it that the Western media have ignored this?

Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 by Foreign Policy Journal

The Massive Palestinian Hunger Strike: Traveling below the Western Radar

by Richard Falk

Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,300 hunger strikers in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? It would be featured day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food. At this time, two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance, Thaer Halaheh and Bilal Diab, entering their 64th day without food, are reported by the prisoner protection association, Addameer, and the NGO, Physician for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Despite this dramatic state of affairs there is scant attention in Europe, and literally none in North America.

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A handcuffed Palestinian prisoner appears from behind the bars of a prison bus. (AFP)

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has devoted to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing a few days ago and find a safe haven at the U.S. Embassy. This is an important 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 these thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system? Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box ever since 1967, are denied protection, exist without rights, and cope as best they can without even the acknowledgement of their plight.

There is another comparison to be made. Recall the outpouring of concern 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 ground was organized, and received constant reinforcement in the media. World leaders pleaded for his release, and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008, which killed more than 1,450 Palestinians, that their real mission was to free Shalit, or at least hold accountable the entire civilian population of Gaza. When Shalit was finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago, there was a brief celebration 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. Not surprisingly, Shalit, instead of being revered as an Israeli hero, has quietly disappeared from public view.

This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17th, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the 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 is validated by secret evidence 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, and sentenced once again to a term of confinement for four months. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, eight times subject to administrative detention for a total of six and a half years.

Both Mr. Adnan and Ms. Shalabi were released by deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not want to risk a third intifada resulting as a reaction to such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating, 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. The current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it led to deportation or exile. At this time it is unclear how Israel will respond. There is a fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities, between those with hard power of domination and those with the soft power of moral and spiritual courage. 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 intensifying the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, denial of examination by humanitarian NGOs, and a hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions require.

The Israeli response to the hunger strikes is shocking, but hardly surprising, within the wider setting of the occupation. Instead of heeding the moral appeal implicit in such extreme forms of resistance, there are widespread reliable reports of punitive responses by Israeli prison authorities. Hunger strikers have been placed in solitary confinement, held in shackles despite their weakened conditions, denied family visits, had personal belongings confiscated, and subjected to harassing comments by guards intended to demoralize. Israeli media has generally taken a cynical attitude toward the strikes, suggesting that these hunger strikers are publicity seeking, aiming to receive ‘a get out of jail free’ card, and deserve no empathy even if their life is in jeopardy because they voluntarily gave up food by their own free will, and hence Israeli prison authorities have no responsibility for their fate. Some news reports in Israel have speculated about whether if one or more hunger strikers die in prison, it will spark an uprising among the Palestinians, but this is less an expression of concern or a willingness to look at the substantive issues than it is a source of worry about future stability.

Broader issues are also at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were covered to bring out 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 blind eyes, or worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict the particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to destroy the state of Israel. All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, being in the process of being retroactively legalized. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not an iota of good faith when it continues to tell the world that it is dedicated to negotiating a 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 calls of the Quartet for a resumption of direct talks. It is long past time to crumble bridge to nowhere.

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 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 are 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. Shame on you, Mr. Friedman!

Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained 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 certainly, 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’s constant 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, since any informed and objective observer would know that the U.S. Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

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 as an expression of extreme frustration or acute deprivation. It is not 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 during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, but to maintain the discipline and strength of will to sustain such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Only specially endowed individuals can adopt such a tactic. For a hunger strike to be done on such a scale of collective action not only 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.

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 recall that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22% 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 to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and a practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has not taken note of either development, and has instead continuous thrown sand in Palestinian eyes. The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restrain 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 intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One dimension of this oppressiveness is the 50% 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.

© 2012 Foreign Policy Journal

Richard Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. An international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years, since 2002 Falk has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Read more articles by Richard Falk.

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