FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

For Israel, Punishing Palestinians is Not Enough

by AMIRA HASS

In faraway, frozen Finland – otherwise known as the infirmary of Ramle Prison – the lives of four detainees who have been on a hunger strike for at least 60 days hang in the balance. Nearly 2,000 inmates in the Nafha, Ashkelon, Gilboa and other prisons around Israel have been on hunger strike for two weeks. The very fact of their decision to refuse food and their willingness to risk being punished by the authorities stands as a reminder of their humanity.

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.

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?

When Gilad Shalit was in captivity in Gaza, the cancelation of visits for Gazan prisoners in Israel was presented as “proportionate pressure.” After his release, Israelis don’t care that this sort of proportionality goes on, and that family visits were not restored. So what? Why should we care that Palestinians are kept in isolation for years on end and barred from seeing their families for three, five or 10 years? Any normal prison administration would welcome prisoners’ demand to go back to studying through the Open University. Studies reduce stress and tension levels in prison. But the name of the game here is submission.

Palestinian prisoners are given names and faces in the Israeli news media only if they can demonstrate their “contemptibility.” Their names and faces are not mentioned in the context of their personal, family and national history for more than 60 years: expulsion, exile, destruction of their homes, the injury and killing of friends and family members by Israeli soldiers, or trifles such as beatings by soldiers or expropriation of their land by government officials.

Palestinian prisoners are mentioned in terms of the number of life sentences they are serving. But Israel’s revered army generals, retired and on active duty, are responsible for killing many more Palestinian (and Lebanese ) civilians than the number of Israeli civilians killed by the Palestinian prisoners.

History – praise be to Clio, the Greek muse of history – is no longer written only by the victors. But the conquerors still decide who is the hero, who is the soldier who acts as the judge and who is the defendant who is declared a terrorist even before he is convicted. The Palestinians are not recognized as prisoners of war whose weapons are less advanced, less sophisticated than those of their jailers.

Israelis are not satisfied with the various measures to worsen their prison conditions. When it comes to Palestinians, punishment is not enough. Prison must also be never-ending revenge that extends what Israel tries to do outside its walls as well: to break up the collective, to weaken the individual, to deter others from resistance to the foreign regime.

The hunger strike is, in effect, a protest against these goals. Not all of the Palestinian prisoners have joined it. In prison, as outside of it, Palestinian political and social cohesion has declined, and many of the inmates lack the cultural and social awareness of their predecessors. Nevertheless, the hunger strike underlines the fundamentally political nature of the collective of Palestinians incarcerated in Israel.

Amira Hass is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza. She writes for Ha’aretz, where this column originally appeared.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail