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Israelis simply don't want to know about Palestinian prisoners

The Israeli public doesn’t care about Palestinians on hunger strike, about conditions in prison, or what happens to a body after it is deprived of food for so long.

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti is escorted in handcuffs by Israeli police into Jerusalem's Magistrate Court, January 25, 2012. Barghouti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for organizing violent attacks during the Second Intifada in 2000 (Flash90)

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti is escorted by Israeli police into Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court, January 25, 2012. Barghouti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for organizing violent attacks during the Second Intifada in 2000. (Flash90)

Sometime in the ’90s, “Popolitica,” a popular political talk show in Israel, brought on a woman from Israel’s geographical periphery who could not send her child to school because she could not afford it. “There is a law in this country that mandates all parents send their children to school!” she said angrily. Tommy Lapid, the late father of Yair Lapid, who sat on the panel, cut her off: “My dear, the money you spent on your haircut could have been used to educate your child for a year.”

I recalled this story after watching Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and his doppelgängers celebrate the release of the video showing Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti eating a chocolate-coated waffle while on hunger strike. How low does one need to go to bait a hunger-striking prisoner and then celebrate it as a victory? But this is the way of the villains: to scorn a woman who cannot send her son to school over her hair color, in order to avoid a serious discussion about a system that leaves out her son, or to celebrate images of a prisoner eating during a hunger strike, instead of talking about the demands and conditions in which thousands of Palestinian prisoners find themselves.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan holds a press conference to discuss Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Tel Aviv, May 7, 2017. (Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan holds a press conference to discuss Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Tel Aviv, May 7, 2017. (Flash90)

In fact, until this moment I didn’t see a single media outlet, aside from Local Call, publish the hunger strikers’ full list of demands. Why have 1,600 prisoners refused to eat for 3 weeks? What do they want? Who are these people? The Israeli public doesn’t know. It doesn’t know what their conditions are in prison, or how much harsher conditions have become for them since they started their strike. Prisoners are prevented from meeting with their lawyers and are subject to solitary confinement, raids on their cells at all hours of the day, invasive body searches, confiscating salt, which forms the core basis of hunger strikers’ diet during their strike. The Israeli public neither knows nor has any desire to know.

After three weeks of hunger strike, the Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know what happens to a body after it is deprived of food for so long. How the hunger striker struggles to stand on his feet, suffers from severe dizziness, a dramatic decrease in heart activity, fatigue, tremors, and potential damage to his lungs and motor skills. As the days go by, prisoners will have a difficult time swallowing water and may lose their sight, their ability to hear, and will have a difficult time breathing. And all this without going into the psychological consequences. But the Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know.

The Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know about the enormous significance this strike has for the Palestinian people on the outside; about the solidarity protests and tent encampments erected in support in nearly every city across the West Bank; about the people who joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners; about the hopes among the hunger strikers that this will move forward an internal dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. It does not know about the “Saltwater Challenge,” in which Palestinians around the world film themselves drinking a cup of saltwater in solidarity with the prisoners. It neither knows nor wants to know.

What is the Israeli public interested in, instead? Marwan Barghouti’s chocolate-coated waffle.

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? In what way does this serve us? And why do the vast majority of media outlets play along? What kind of story will we tell ourselves after the Barghouti tabloid stories disappear, and the first hunger strikers begin to collapse — or perhaps are even sent to some field hospital where they will be force-fed by doctors brought in from abroad — yet another one of Erdan’s twisted ideas.

Paradoxically, as the Israeli public chooses stupidity and refuses to open its eyes and look at the other side, and as the regime manipulatively takes away its power to do so, it loses its ability to deal with the conflict, thus increasing the acute need for international intervention. When hundreds of humans bring themselves to the brink inside prison as the only act of protest left at their disposal, while others blow smoke in their face from the other side of the wall, it becomes clear that the latter have lost all sense of pragmatism or moral right to write the rules of the game.

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Firentis

      Why should we care about people sitting in prison because they tried to cause us harm?

      We don’t. Let them die.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Grandpa Frost

      Barghouti got caught sneaking food into his cell. So on top of being a vicious murderer, he’s a cheat too! Why does anyone think that these degenerates are entitled to even the slightest dignity?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Nice illustration of the point of the article.

        Reply to Comment
        • Grandpa Frost

          I’m not Israeli.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Firentis announces that he doesn’t care about (Arab) people sitting in Israeli prisons and wants them to die, as if this were a revelation that should surprise anyone, and will show his “toughness.” But everyone already knew very well that he did not and does not care, it is not new information, it is the baseline condition. It is built into everyone’s assumptions. And it is also irrelevant that the Israeli right wing wants them to die. A hunger strike is psychological and political warfare. What matters is what effect the hunger strike has on the costs and benefits the Israelis calculate for their occupation. Believe me, no one was under the misimpression or the hope that the Israelis “cared.” (Nor would I, were I an Israeli leader, hire Firentis as a strategic adviser.)

      “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?… How low does one need to go to bait a hunger-striking prisoner and then celebrate it as a victory?”

      Pretty low. Consistent with the cruelty, deviousness, amorality, and even sadism that characterizes the entire Israeli approach to the occupation. It also confirms to me the impression I have had for some time that Gilad Erdan is not very bright or sophisticated, has a limited mental and moral repertoire. A hunger strike is a time honored form of psychological and political warfare practiced by the powerless against the powerful. Remember Bobby Sands and the ten men of the ‘Roll of Honour’ who died with him. That the imprisoned leader of a hunger strike would try to take in a few crumbs of nutrition surreptitiously to try to prolong a little while longer his alertness and ability to function under pressure and lead, is not weakness or fakery, it is smart tactics. I admire Barghouti for it and it is to me consistent with his ability to be a smart leader. That of course is what Israel is afraid of. It is why they sentenced him on dubious charges in the first place and sentenced him so severely. So one wonders if Israel will take the hunger strike as an opportunity to kill Marwan Barghouti or whether Israel will calculate that Barghouti is worth keeping alive as the South Africans Boers calculated that it was worth it to them in the long run to keep Mandela alive.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        Your “Jewish Voice for Peace” honors and supports terrorist assassins like Rasmiah Odeh, and their “rabbinic adviser” Brant Rosen approvingly quotes a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (the main organization responsible for the suicide bombings in Israel, more than HAMAS) in his call for “uniting the resistance” which means the various terrorist organizations. Thus, we see that the anti-Israel “progressives” don’t care at all about the thousands of Jewish victims of terror. As I have said elsewhere, these various “peace” movements don’t really want peace, they work to keep the conflict going.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          That’s a strikingly unsubstantiated and illogical slander of Jewish Voice for Peace.
          There are many possible replies to this, which could fill volumes, but I think it best to let Marwan Barghouti’s own words suffice:

          “…Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.
          Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation…”

          Reply to Comment
      • Firentis

        Yep, I want to see terrorists like Barghouti dead. As leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade during the second intifada he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis. His organization competed with Hamas over the number of suicide bombers they sent to blow up Israeli civilians on buses and in restaurants. This is your hero. This is the face of the hunger strike. This is who Israelis are supposed to show compassion for and care whether he lives or dies. Seriously?

        If you define this as political and psychological warfare then you should expect it to be treated as warfare and not a “human rights issue”. As for the impact of this hunger strike thus far. I think minimal is generous. Zero external or internal pressure. Minimal political organization among Palestinians in support of the hunger strike. Obviously zero impact on Israeli society. The hunger strike is a failure. The most likely outcome is that the hunger strikers and the prisons services will agree to some minor changes. The next time the prisoners misbehave these will be taken away and they can start the hunger strike all over.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Like I said, no one is under the misimpression or the hope that Israelis show compassion or care here. We are far beyond that expectation. Waaaay beyond. Nor am I simply going to accept your characterization of Barghouti, however fervently you believe in it, have to believe it, refuse to believe anything else. Neither does Jeremy Hammond.

          The New York Times’ Prejudice against Imprisoned Palestinian Leader Marwan Barghouti
          By Jeremy R. Hammond | May 4, 2017 |

          And the thing that makes a hunger strike so bedeviling for authorities is that it is both asymmetric, political-psychological “warfare” i.e. protest (do not over-interpret the word “warfare” as you are doing) and a human rights issue. Irreducibly. Because these are defenseless prisoners. And even in true warfare the human rights of prisoners cannot be ignored. The Geneva Conventions mandate this. Moreover, the whole categorization of these prisoners and their detainment in the first place is suspect, tainted, dishonest. As Barghouti himself explains in the words he wrote that I just quoted above.

          Now, you are an inveterate oversimplifier and a very stubborn one and I don’t wish to get drawn into another intractable go around with you, so there you have it. You won’t be persuaded, I won’t be counter-persuaded, and we’ll both be happy. Adios.

          Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            You are not going to accept which fact?
            – That Marwan Barghouti was the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade
            – That Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade carried out numerous suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians

            Both of these are facts. Feel free to look them up.

            Now I am supposed to feel sorry for this animal because he is throwing a temper tantrum. Screw that. Let him die. The world will be a better place without him.

            As for your attempts to backtrack on the usage of the word warfare. You said it, not me. This is indeed how you see it. It is also how the Palestinians mostly see it – as a new tactic in their ongoing war against Israel. And as usual they are trying to sell it to the world on the basis of human rights. The only problem is that they chose the wrong figurehead. They chose a man with blood on his hands and regardless of how much pro-Palestinian people want to treat him as some sort of fuzzy Mandela, it is pretty easy to explain to people that this man is a murderer and that he is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israel. It is easy to explain it to people because it is true. At that point their compassion disappears and they stop caring.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The case against Barghouti was never given a fair trial.
            Read Barghouti’s description of the Israeli dual legal regime above on this page.
            Begin and Shamir and Sharon were murderers too. Look it up. And Israelis celebrate them and name streets after them.
            We’ve got I. G. Halevy here gleeful about suffering.
            The entire occupation is every day about the severe and cruel violation of human rights. +972 Magazine articulates this with great intelligence every day.
            Where did Israelis ever show compassion towards the Palestinians?
            “a fuzzy Mandela”: But you see Nelson Mandela was no fuzzy teddy bear, he used armed and violent resistance similar to that which Begin and Shamir used back when they were occupied by a vastly more powerful party. And he went on to forswear violence and make peace in South Africa. Barghouti is absolutely no different. You are much more similar to a white supremacist Boer during Mandela’s days of imprisonment than you care to imagine or will ever admit.
            You should read this to understand why what you are offering, behind the window dressing and the soft pedaling, is actually a version of Feiglinism, and to understand what the struggle today is really about:

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Yet more claims that the trial was not fair. However what was missing from your response was an actual answer as to which of these facts you are disputing.

            1) Marwan Barghouti was the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade

            2)Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade carried out numerous suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians

            If you can’t dispute either of these points and to be fair no one actually does then you are accepting that he is a terrorist. And now you have to convince me or anyone else to care about whether this terrorist lives or dies as a result of his voluntary hunger strike (when he is not eating cookies that is) . Best of luck.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Again (and this is at least the third time I have told you this) I never dreamed of convincing you or any other Feiglinist to “care.” It is simply not the point.

            Reply to Comment
        • Nas

          The courts prosecute between five hundred and seven hundred children each year — 79 percent, between 2010 and 2015, for stone throwing, which under the Israeli military’s own classification is only a “public order” offense.

          Several other offenses that the military courts process are also nonviolent in nature. Incitement — a catch-all crime that could include posting anti-occupation status on Facebook — increasingly appears on the docket. Infiltration — which involves Palestinians illegally entering Israel in order to work, usually as manual laborers — also accounts for a fair share of the men brought before military courts.

          A staggering 99.74 percent of the cases heard in military court end in conviction: once accused, a Palestinian has little chance of mounting a successful defense. Evidence, especially when it pertains to children, is often the result of coerced confessions — but exclusion motions throwing out such illicitly obtained evidence are rarely successful. The court proceedings are entirely in Hebrew — a language almost all defendants, and most of their lawyers, don’t speak. Translations are often inadequate, or sloppy: we witnessed a translator walk out of the court midway through a proceeding. Most cases are resolved through guilty pleas

          Palestinian prisoners, in short, are not just faced with harsh prison conditions, in prisons that their families have limited or no access to. They arrive in these facilities after facing a dehumanizing trial in a language that they do not speak, where the presumption of innocence does not apply, and where they face little chance of defending themselves successfully. When they put their bodies on the line with a hunger strike, they are doing so because the system offers them no other option.

          Read full article here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/palestine-hunger-strike-barghouti-israel-occupation

          But please, keep your eyes shut while you can.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Orly Noy is totally right. We absolutely do not care about the Arab terrorists. Their place is in jail. If they do not want to eat it is their problems. Meaner Barghouti eating cookies made us laugh a lot

      Reply to Comment
    5. eli

      Are you serious? lets start with the fact of why they are in there; most likely they tried to kill Innocent Israeli’s or managed to kill / plan such attacks. Secondly you are apparently forgetting they (the Palestinians) are the ones giving candy in the street and money to the murders family (for their kids to seat in jail for trying , or dying because they succeeded). Dont get me wrong there are some Israelis but they are the minority whereas on the other side they are the majority. they are prisoners , first check why they are there.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Lewis from Afula

      Barghouti does NOT belong in jail.
      Barghouti belongs in the Mediterranean – his ashes mixed with Eichman’s at some deep seabed.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Oh dear, it looks like Lewis from Afula, un-euphemistic, unabashed Feiglinist, does “care,” in his own way. And the next step after Barghouti? Well, let’s quote Tomer Persico:

        “…As someone who would probably be taken care of by the Ministry of External and Internal Security in the early days of the new regime, I am not likely to live to see this miracle.”


        Reply to Comment
        • Barry Meridian

          Mandela was campaigning for equal rights, Bargouti is a member of a racist organization that is worse than apartheid, for it enforces the Nuremburg race laws. Mandela used violence in order to get to negotiations – Bargouti was the instrument of Arafat’s war on peace
          Barghouti the head of Tanzim that was directly responsible for acts of terrorism that deliberately targeted and murdered many civilians. Same as Mandela,? I do not think so.

          Reply to Comment
          • Barry Meridian

            If Ben forgets, Barak offered the Palestinians a 2 state solution in 2000/2001 to Arafat and Barghouti. How did Arafat and Barghouti respond? By blowing up Israeli civilians on buses, shopping centers and Bat-mitzvah party’s in Haifa.
            Yet you take the side of Barghouti? You must be real sick.

            Palestinians don’t understand what is peace. They will never agree to peace. They teach their children that death is more then life. Their ultimate goal is to die for the course. They live a lie and die for a lie. They live to destroy Israel but in the end they will destroy themselves .

            The sad truth is that terrorists like Barghouti, Arafat and his corrupt, terrorist successor Abbas have never been interested in presiding over the 23rd Arab fascist state, so much as destroying the only Jewish one.
            Let them rot in their cesspool of hate, mediocrity and misogyny.

            Good article for Ben to read about Barghouti.

            Free a mass-murderer for peace?

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Barhouti does not deserve to be in jail.
            Barghouti deserves to be in a cemetery.

            Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben, Barghouti the mass murderer needs to be “Eichmanned off”, back to ashes and scattered in the sea. The same for all his friends like Abbas (of Holocaust Denial PhD fame) and all the murderous Sh*ts illegally squatting in Judea & Samaria.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Incitement Alert: Lewis from Afula is advocating the mass murder of the inhabitants of the West Bank. He is unmistakably advocating the murder of masses of people in order to fulfill his appetite for land. This of course goes beyond valuing the “wholeness of the land” above the “wholeness of the people,” it values land way above non-Jewish human life itself and advocates mass murder of non-Jews in the service of a Jewish supremacist ideology. This is where a Feiglinist ideology ends when carried to its logical extreme. All it takes is someone like Lewis to drop the euphemisms and say it out loud. And then someone willing to carry it to its conclusion.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Ben

      ​Well, as we might infer from the above, there are no Israeli De Klerks on the horizon. But lots of Feiglin enthusiasts and murderous outdoers of Feiglin.

      Nelson Mandela set up the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), in 1961 when he lost hope that non-violent resistance to the apartheid government would bear fruit. Umkhonte We Size killed at least 100 people and injured 483 in their bombing campaigns. Who thinks that if the Palestinians had never resorted to violence that the settlers and right wing fanatics who control the Israeli government (from the time of Labor and Shimon Peres, one of the first and most determined settlement campaign leaders) would have allowed the withdrawal from one centimeter of the West Bank? Ever? Or made a minimally decent and fair accord? Who thinks, on the other hand, that the Israelis would only have accelerated their land grab? Who thinks nonviolent action would have succeeded in South Africa, or will succeed in Israel-Palestine, without tragic memory of such violence in the background? This is the grim truth behind all the protestations about terrorism. There are too many “wholeness of the land” fanatics on the Israeli side to think that Israel will do anything unless credible outside pressure is brought to bear. No internal discussions between the Israeli right and left will do the trick. (It also quite ignores the fact that Begin and Shamir and others were terrorists.) It is very true that a return to large scale violence on the part of the Palestinians will be a tragedy and a disaster. But I think Israel is almost certain to deliberately provoke and engineer such tragic violence before it gives up any land. It is run by “wholeness of the land” fanatics. Just look at the preceding post to get a flavor. And fanatics cannot be reasoned with.

      Reply to Comment
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