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Fighting media silence on the Palestinian hunger strike

Trump’s visit to Israel is just the latest thing to keep the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike — already largely ignored by the media — out of the headlines.

By Tanya Rubinstein

Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Haifa, May 22, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills.org)

Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Haifa, May 22, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills.org)

Donald Trump’s arrival in Israel on Monday filled social media with mockery and resentment, surrounding everything from ministers’ ridiculous statements and road closures to bizarre conversations and more.

The media also had a field day with Likud MK Oren Hazan’s selfie with Trump, and with the politics of who’d get to shake hands with whom during the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport.

During the reception, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Trump that a Monday morning traffic accident in Tel Aviv may well have been a terror attack – despite the police having stated well over an hour beforehand that it had been an accident. But, as we all know, much of the internal security minister’s role these days involves wanton incitement and fabricating terror attacks, as we saw following the killing of “terrorist” Yaqoub Abu al-Qi’an in Umm al-Hiran.

But what’s happening behind all the media spin?

Only one Israeli media outlet, Haaretz, reported on how the ramping up of security for Trump’s visit — mostly based in Jerusalem — involved the deployment of around 11,000 additional police officers and the issuing of administrative orders against citizens who it was thought “may interfere with the visit.” Aside from the blocking of roads and traffic jams that inconvenienced everyone, we must also think about those whose own security and daily routine were affected because it was feared they might disrupt Trump’s visit.

Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Haifa, May 22, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills.org)

Protest in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, Haifa, May 22, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills.org)

Nir Hasson, writing in Haaretz, described how American and Israeli security services teams had descended on Jerusalem’s Old City ahead of Trump’s visit, describing “shops being searched with the help of a dog, before being shuttered and a blue security services sticker being placed over the lock, so that it couldn’t be opened without tearing the sticker.”

Hasson also described how surrounding roofs “had a camouflage net spread over them, while large temporary structures were erected wherever the president was expected to get out of his car.”

We were also told, one day prior to Trump’s visit, that the Israel Prison Service had started transferring hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, who were then on the 36th day of their strike. Are their claims, demands and deteriorating health of any interest to the Israeli public and the media’s agenda-setters? Of course not. In fact, it suits the Israeli government very well to push this struggle for improved prison conditions and human rights to the margins, and away from the public discourse.

But perhaps we don’t have to accept this state of affairs. Perhaps, even, we are obligated to reject the spin. Maybe the choice over what we will listen and pay attention to is in our hands — we can take the story that has been pushed to the sidelines and spread it around, and acknowledge the people hidden behind the words “administrative orders” and “security.”

In the world of activism and organizing we sometimes shelve an event because we know there’s little chance of media coverage — it’s just as Trump is visiting, or just as Gilad Erdan is busy demonizing the same people whose basic rights we’re currently fighting for, and his voice is louder than ours.

Nonetheless, demonstrations in support of the hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners took place across Israel and the West Bank on Monday, organized by the Jaffa Clock Square activists, because expressing support and solidarity is not a matter of spin. Let’s not allow ourselves to be spun as well.

Tanya Rubinstein is the Co-Coordinator at the Coalition of Women for Peace. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

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    1. Firentis

      I wish you the best of luck in supporting the terrorists currently on hunger strike. Make sure they keep their spirits up all the way to the end and do not let them surrender to the Zionist pigs! Those Zionists can not win! The hunger strike must go on even if it means that many of the hunger strike will die! Nothing else is acceptable! Do not give in! I am with you! Oh, and if you need any cookies or other delicious supplies to hand out to the hunger strikers I would be happy to help. Everyone knows that when you hunger strike you are allowed to reward yourself with a biscuit here and there. This hunger and wafer strike must go on until the end!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “How did we stoop so low? How did we become such a lowly people that celebrates after a person whose body is close to giving in after prolonged starvation stuffs a few crumbs into his mouth. The nation that goes out and barbecues outside a prison so that the smell of the meat reaches the nostrils of the hunger strikers? When did we turn into such repulsive people? When did we willingly choose ignorance, blindness, and deafness — to become such a stupid collective?”
      -Orly Noy

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kotaku

      Similar security measures are taken with every us president

      Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      Gee, is it any wonder that Israelis don’t have much sympathy for the hunger strikers? Unlike the way they are portrayed by the “progressive” media, such as in the Barghouti opinion piece in the NYTIMES, they are NOT “Gahdnian prisoners of conscience” or “political prisoners”. They are terrorists, many of them murderers. And while the initial claim of a terrorist attack in the Umm al-Hiran incident was incorrect, there have been too many real terrorist attacks which the writer seems to have forgotten. The Israeli public has NOT forgotten.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​Most of them are political prisoners. But, well, my goodness–who forgets anything? You think the Palestinians forget what Israel has done to them? People don’t forget the past but the salience of it for them in the present changes depending how life is for them in the present and how they see the future ahead of them.

        Ike52, you said to me somewhere that you didn’t get my focus on Feiglin these days (you called it an obsession). You said that you didn’t see what the fuss was about as Feiglin was no longer in the Knesset. But many another Feglinist is indeed in the Knesset. The Knesset is filled with them. Poster boy for them is Bezalel Smotrich.

        The Israeli Lawmaker Heralding Genocide Against Palestinians
        Deputy Speaker Bezalel Smotrich’s admiration for the biblical genocidaire Joshua bin Nun leads him to adopt values that resemble those of the German SS
        “Tomer Persico quoted remarks that MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) made recently at a conference of religious Zionists, where he presented his plan to offer the Palestinians three options: leave the territories, continue to live there with second-class status, or continue resisting, in which case “the Israel Defense Forces will know what to do.” These are chilling words that are liable to lead Israel into committing the horrific crime of genocide.
        It’s hard to believe that an elected representative of a party in the governing coalition could raise the option of genocide if the Palestinians don’t accept the terms he’s willing to offer them: either emigration, or life under an apartheid regime based on principles of Jewish law, which would be even worse than the one that existed in South Africa. Smotrich, a deputy speaker of the Knesset, is the most senior government figure to date to say unabashedly that the option of genocide is on the table if the Palestinians don’t agree to our terms – and it’s clear they won’t agree…..”

        One of the things that recalled Feiglin to me and opened my eyes was not just the crass Lewis from Afula but someone less blunt, more indirect and euphemistic but heading towards the same goal, I realized, while hiding it under the cover of pedantic history and civics lessons and approving references to the fate of French Huguenots, and shoutouts to Vlad Putin. One day he let it drop that all he in his innocence wanted to do was protect the Palestinians from genocide or mass transfer. It was a veiled threat.
        I have come to realize that most of the right wing commenters in these pages, no matter how they dress it up, can be best understood as being driven by the same “popular Jewish democracy” ideology of Moshe Feiglin and driving towards the same inevitable Feiglinist goal. Whether they understand it or not. Truly understanding this ideology and its place is illuminating.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          The terrorists have just given up their hunger strike without notable result. Our government was perfect.

          Reply to Comment