No Basta Rezar


By Cygnus

No, no, no basta rezar,
hacen falta muchas cosas
para conseguir la paz

Y rezan de buena fe,
y rezan de corazón,
pero también reza el piloto
cuando monta en el avión
para ir a bombardear
a los niños del Vietnam


(No, no, praying is not enough
many things are needed
to achieve peace

And they pray with faith
and they pray with heart
even the pilot prays
as he boards the plane
to go and bomb
the children in Vietnam)

– Alí Primera

On Sunday, the 8th of June, Pope Francis hosted Israeli president and war criminal, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Authority president and collaborator, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to the Vatican Gardens. The purpose of this was a prayer as an “invocation for peace”, with the pope proclaiming: “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world.”[i] While these three elderly, wealthy men prayed to their respective Abrahamic gods, the human rulers over the Holy Land of Palestine continued their reign of racist oppression unabated and with impunity.

At the time of writing, an increasing number of Palestinians are taking to hunger striking as a method of resistance against Zionism. 125 prisoners began their strike on the 24th of April. This number has now swelled into hundreds. They are protesting the policy of ‘administrative detention’ – the incarceration of individuals without charge or trial, for an indefinite period of time. Most of those on strike are administrative detainees. Due to their deteriorating condition, 70 prisoners have been transferred to various hospitals. On Friday the 6th of June, the UN Secretary-General asserted publicly that all those on hunger strike should be released or charged with a crime.[ii] A lawyer who gained access to those imprisoned observed that all of them were cuffed at the wrists and ankles, and some of them were isolated in solitary confinement. When intending to visit six prisoners in a hospital in Ashkelon (former Palestinian village, Al Majdal), he was barred from visiting three of them.[iii] According to another lawyer, the conditions were inhumane. Some hunger strikers have lost consciousness, some have eyesight weakness, others suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding. The Israeli Prison ‘Service’ responded to the strikes by denying some men toiletries such as shampoo, razors and toothbrushes.[iv] The names of some of the hospitalised hunger strikers have been released (dated 9th of June)[v]:

Abdel Jaber Foqaha

Jawad Al-Jabri

Mahmoud Werdian

Mazen Alnatasha

Jamal Hamara

Mahmoud Shabana

Faraj Romana

Raed Hamdan

Tareq Ideis

Mohamad Jamal Natsha

Fayez Misk

Louay Ghaith

Salem Badi

Mahmoud Daoud

Mosab Alhimoni

The Israeli state is taking the next step to quashing nonviolent resistance: Netanyahu, upon the recommendation of Shin Bet director, Yoram Cohen, has driven a bill through the Knesset to legalise the force-feeding of hunger strikers.[vi] As they fully understand, this is a violation of international law.

This bout of resistance, through hunger, is not unprecedented, and in fact indicates a trend. Two years ago, hunger striker, Khader Adnan, was released in April after a 66-day strike against administrative detention. Following Adnan, Hana Shalabi went on hunger strike for 43 days and, upon her release in the same month, was banished to Gaza. Both received worldwide attention by grassroots groups, and demonstrations were enthusiastically held in many cities globally. On the 17th of April, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, around 2000 prisoners went on a mass hunger strike, inspired by Adnan and Shalabi.[vii]

Having been stripped of fundamental rights, and conventional arms, the use of the body as a weapon against oppression is the only option the incarcerated individual has left. Hunger striking – as well as a form of resistance – is symbolic of the structural violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people as a whole; it emerges only when all other methods of resistance have been exhausted. Those on hunger strike have been reduced to the elementals of existence: the sheer force of will and the human body. This is controlled starvation of the self by the individual; but co-ordinated, systematic and intentional moves to starve Palestinian populations has also occurred.

The story of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus is the most recent and horrific example of systematic starvation. After being shelled by Syrian state forces between December 2012 and July 2013, people fled for their lives, reducing the number of people living in the camp to 20,000 from 160,000. Those remaining were subjected to a siege in August. From then on, the number of deaths due to dehydration, malnutrition and lack of medicine increased. The siege was maintained by the Syrian army, its various militias, and Lebanese group, Hizballah. For one section outside the camp, a rebel group also worked to ensure the blockade of people and goods.[viii] Observing this, some Palestinians in Lebanon saw a macabre repeat of their own suffering. In the mid-1980s (during the Lebanese Civil War) the Shia militia, Amal – backed by Syria – besieged Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Like in Yarmouk today, some survived by eating grass, cats and dogs.

The Zionist desire to reduce the Palestinian population in Gaza is manifest. In 2007, in response to Hamas winning elections, the state put the coastal enclave under siege. In 2012, it was revealed that a document known as ‘Red Lines’ was drafted a year after the siege was imposed. This was a guidebook on how to starve Gaza. Health officials calculated the minimum number of daily calories for the inhabitants to eat in order to avoid malnutrition – in terms of truckloads of food, it was calculated that 170 trucks per day would be suffice. After the blockade started, only 67 trucks were allowed to entering daily; there were 400 before 2007.[ix] The intentional starvation of a people is a War Crime and a Crime against Humanity: it is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[x]

This history of hunger points to a history of imprisonment and isolation – whether in the camps, in Gaza or in the Zionist jails. An absence of legal, political and physical protection for Palestinians means that virtually all acts of oppression can go unpunished. Since the Nakba began in 1948, hunger has been found to have a twofold character: both as a form of resistance, and as yet another form of grotesque and unforgivable collective violence upon a people.













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