A week ago today, a dramatic development took place in Israel/Palestine, almost unnoticed in the UK’s mainstream media. To mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day on April 17th, 1200 Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike in protest against the worsening conditions of their confinement. This is specially significant because it follows closely on two prisoner hunger strikes, that of the “administrative detainees” (the euphemism for people imprisoned without trial) Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, both of whom achieved significant concessions from the Israeli authorities, albeit almost at the cost of their lives. A further two administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Tha’ir Khekhle, have now passed nearly 50 days of their strike—human beings can rarely survive more than 70 days without food. The situation is very well described in this post (now a week old) on +972 magazine.
There is a demonstration this Saturday in Edinburgh in solidarity with the prisoners. SJJP stands in support of their action. But a much bigger confrontation is now coming down the line; given the determination shown by the first four prisoners it seems likely that within thirty days or so, many hundreds of prisoners will be nearing death. It’s hard to see how the Israeli prison authorities will withstand their demands, but the prisoners will need all the support we can give them.
If you haven’t yet seen the Young, Jewish and Proud declaration, you really should take a look. It was launched as counter-protest at the 2010 Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans, where a number of phenomenal young activists disrupted Netanyahu’s speech to shout “The Occupation delegitimizes Israel”. There’s lots more information at their site, but the statement is truly inspirational.
We exist. We are everywhere. We speak and love and dream in every language. We pray three times a day or only during the high holidays or when we feel like we really need to or not at all. We are punks and students and parents and janitors and Rabbis and freedom fighters. We are your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren. We embrace diaspora, even when it causes us a great deal of pain. We are the rubble of tangled fear, the deliverance of values. We are human. We are born perfect. We assimilate, or we do not. We are not apathetic. We know and name persecution when we see it. Occupation has constricted our throats and fattened our tongues. We are feeding each other new words. We have family, we build family, we are family. We re-negotiate. We atone. We re-draw the map every single day. We travel between worlds. This is not our birthright, it is our necessity.
Bolds original. Check it out.
On a very cold December evening in Glasgow over 70 people gathered to mark the 1st anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead – the 22 day assault on Gaza which resulted in the deaths of over 1400 Palestinians, thousand of injuries and the wholesale destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. The candlelit vigil was jointly called by the Scottish Islamic Foundation and SJJP and supported by many other groups and individuals. The day coincided with the Muslim festival of Ashura when Sunni Muslims believe that Moses freed the Jews from Egypt and is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Given the continuing oppression of Gazans through Israel’s blockade and Egyptian support, the symbolism (and indeed, irony) of the event was not lost on those present. In time honoured tradition, the Ashura fast was broken with the breaking of Samosas and Matzoh!
Speakers at the event included MSPs Sandra White and Pauline McNeil, both staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause alongside speakers from the Muslim community and support groups. Our own speaker rounded off the event and focused on the impact the war and blockade is having on children in Gaza – particularly relevant given the time of year when children are very much in our minds. This was a sombre and powerful event; and significant, perhaps not in terms of numbers, but both symbolically and practically. Joint initiatives like this involving Jews, Muslims and other sections of civil society demonstrate a number of things – that criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic as others would have us believe; that there is a joint will for peace and justice in the Middle East and that strong constructive relationships can be built here and now between our communities – a real building block for the future. We should actively pursue further opportunities to engage with the Muslim community and develop a real dialogue over how we can work towards a just peace. We can maybe sometimes underestimate the impact of our network and what our collective activity can achieve.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians published a full-page advert in the Times on Thursday, in a statement titled “What is Israel doing?”, expresses opposition to the Israeli response to the capture of Gilad Shalit, and which calls for opposition to the blockade. The statement was signed by 300 Jews in Britain, and you can view the formateed statement with a full list of signatories at their webpage. Here is the text of the statement.
See also Gideon Levy’s Haaretz op-ed piece, and the BBC article.
Technorati tag: Gaza