Don’t Fall For Character Assassination – Marwan Barghouti is a Man of Peace

Read the article by Palestine’s most prominent woman politician Dr Hanan Ashrawi in Newsweek Thursday April 27th 2017:

Hanan Ashrawi

“When 1,500 Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike to struggle for their rights, the jailer will use every diversionary tactic in the book to ensure that nobody asks the only relevant question: are their demands just and justified? Let me be the voice of the hunger strikers now, since many of them are in solitary confinement as punishment for having protested their detention conditions peacefully.”

Read more

Read more about the hunger strike:

  1. Don’t Fall For Israel’s Character Assassination—Marwan Barghouti Is A Man Of Peace, By Hanan Ashrawi  April 27, 2017 http://www.newsweek.com/marwan-barghouti-man-peace-israel-apartheid-591021
  2. Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz, April 19, 2017. “Palestinian Hunger-striking Prisoners’ Lawyers Call Boycott of All Israeli Court Sessions.” Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-1.784148
  3. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, April 17, 2017. “Demands of the Strikers.” available at: http://samidoun.net/2017/04/1500-palestinian-prisoners-launch-largest-collective-hunger-strike-in-years-take-action-in-support/#demands
  4. Ma’an News, April 19, 2017. “Palestinian women join hunger strike, lawyers declare boycott of Israeli courts.” Available at: https://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=776498
  5. Marwan Barghouthi, New York Times, April 16, 2017. “Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons.” Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/opinion/palestinian-hunger-strike-prisoners-call-for-justice.html
  6. Ma’an News, April 19, 2017. “Activist group cries foul over Israeli outrage at Marwan Barghouthi op-ed.” Available at: https://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=776504
  7. Chaim Levinson, Ha’aretz, November 29, 2011. “Nearly 100% of All Military Court Cases in West Bank End in Conviction, Haaretz Learns.” Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/nearly-100-of-all-military-court-cases-in-west-bank-end-in-conviction-haaretz-learns-1.398369. Some sources cite the US State Department figure of an approximately 90 percent conviction rate. See: https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2015/nea/252927.htm In either case, the conviction rate reflects the lack of a fair trial process for Palestinians under occupation. Lisa Hajjar, “Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza.” University of California Press, 2005, p. 59.
  8. Defence for Children International – Palestine. “Issues – Military Detention.” Available at: http://www.dci-palestine.org/issues_military_detention
  9. United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the second to fourth periodic reports of Israel, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-third session (27 May – 14 June 2013).” Available at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC-C-ISR-CO-2-4.pdf
  10. Defense for Children International – Palestine, No Way to Treat a Child: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Detention System, 2 (2016), http://bit.ly/29W41mB.
  11.  Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, 2012. “Eyes on Israeli Military Court: A collection of impressions.” Available at:
  12. http://www.addameer.org/sites/default/files/publications/eyes_on_israeli_military_court-_a_collection_of_impressions.pdf
  13. International Court of Justice. 9 July 2004. “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
  14. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), art. 14, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/ccpr.pdf; UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32, Article 14: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial, ¶ 22, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/32 (Aug. 23, 2007), http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=CCPR/C/GC/32.
  15. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Administrative Detention. December 2015. Available at: http://www.addameer.org/israeli_military_judicial_system/administrative_detention
  16. UN News Centre, “Solitary confinement should be banned in most cases, UN expert says,” October 18, 2011. Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40097#.WPjiBtKGNPY
  17. Defense for Children International – Palestine, Palestinian children held in solitary confinement for longer periods, April 17, 2017. http://www.dci-palestine.org/palestinian_children_held_in_solitary_confinement_for_longer_periods
  18. Defense for Children International – Palestine, Palestinian children held in solitary confinement for longer periods, April 17, 2017. http://www.dci-palestine.org/palestinian_children_held_in_solitary_confinement_for_longer_periods
  19. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Family Visits.” http://www.addameer.org/publications/families-family-visits-0
  20. Amnesty International, “Israel must end ‘unlawful and cruel’ practices towards Palestinian prisoners.” April 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2017/04/israel-must-end-unlawful-and-cruel-policies-towards-palestinian-prisoners/

 

 

Israel tries to steal Bethlehem’s tourist industry

Friday May 5th 2017

Israel is making a blatant attempt to steal Bethlehem’s tourist industry by forcing tour groups to sign a form promising not to book hotels in the occupied West Bank.

Travel agents were informed in a letter from the Interior Ministry that from May 15 their groups will not be allowed to stay in Bethlehem hotels. There has now been some delay, but the change is still going ahead.

The letter includes a “clarification” stating that the groups are permitted to visit Bethlehem and are only being blocked from spending the night there.

An estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in Bethlehem every year, including overnights by independent travelers. Most are three-star hotels that charge about $22 to $25 per person a night, which is 25% to 50% of what a three-star hotel in Jerusalem costs.

The form relates primarily to groups of Christian tourists that visit Israel who also spend nights in Bethlehem, and not individual tourists, who are not required to receive entry permits in advance.

Trump the unpredictable promises Abbas: “We will get this done”

Thursday May 4th 2017

To say it sounded surreal would be an understatement.  Trump was not just meeting the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, but was sounding positively effusive.

“I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate, anything they’d like to do,” he said. “I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator and we will get this done.”

He went on: “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”

Abbas, seasoned diplomat that he is, may have thought to himself: “I can’t believe this will  happen, but we’d better do everything we can to encourage him just in case it does.  You never know.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “the Palestinians have put Trump’s ego in their crosshairs, and they are emptying their entire arsenal of fawning phrases to hit their target. Everyone is in on the act, from Abbas all the way to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who also paid tribute on Wednesday to Trump the almighty.”

Trump has already laid claim to being the most unpredictable president ever, so it is no surprise that he is blowing hot and cold on the Israel-Palestine issue. He could switch back tomorrow to being the most pro-Israeli president of all time.

He may just be unrealistic about what he could persuade the Palestinians to accept. But what is clear is that he wants to try. According to Haaretz again, “in all the conversations that Netanyahu and Abbas’ advisers have had these past weeks with senior White House officials they were told the same thing – that the issue is a top priority for the president.”

Day of solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers

Twelve things you should know about the strike

Over 1,100 prisoners have been on hunger strike for better prison conditions since April 17th. Marwan Barghouthi’s health is already in serious decline. He is taking only water and salt and refusing medical treatment.

Prisoners are demanding regular visits and an end to deliberate medical negligence, solitary confinement, administrative detention, and a long list of other demands.
hunger strike protest
Israeli prisons have punished hungers strikers by suspending family visits, preventing lawyers from visiting and putting leaders of the strike in solitary confinement.

Barghouthi has been threatened with prosecution for publishing an article in the New York Times setting out the prisoners’ demands. Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Minister for Intelligence, has called for his execution on Twitter.

In the article Barghouthi describes hunger striking as, “the most peaceful form of resistance available – it inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells”.

Some members of Israel’s government have also suggested shutting down The New York Times bureau in Jerusalem as a punishment for publishing his article.

According to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population.

Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners – over 30 years.

According to the US State Department, these prisoners face harsher conditions than Israeli criminals, including increased use of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for parole and solitary confinement.

Israel labels the prisoners as “terrorists” but their former prime minister Menachem Begin is regarded as a hero for his role commanding the militant Irgun movement which carried out the 1949 bombing of the King David Hotel that left 91 dead.

The Israeli court service boasted in its annual report that the conviction rate for Palestinian suspects charged in its military courts in the West Bank is 99.74 per cent – without explaining that suspects stay longer in jail if they plead not guilty than if they plead guilty.

The UK media has met the strike with an almost total news blackout. Even the Guardian has not reported on the strike since the day it started – April 17th.

On May 6th as the strikers entered the 19th day of the strike a day of solidarity was be marked by vigils and demonstrations in 20 cities across the UK, including the one pictured next to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, London.

 

Why we are on hunger strike in Israel’s prisons

barghouti wall 2By MARWAN BARGHOUTI

APRIL 16, 2017

from the New York Times

HADARIM PRISON, Israel — Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.

Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.

Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.

I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.

A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.

The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.

Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.

Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.

How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?

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.

Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

The Israeli authorities and its prison service have turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including those painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges they decide to grant us or deprive us of. Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.

Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.

Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.

Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian

 

Barghouthi prepares for hunger strike over prison conditions

Israel’s brutal treatment of its 6,000 Palestinian conflict prisoners – largely ignored by the media – will be forced into the headlines by Marwan Barghouthi’s threat to go on hunger strike on Easter Monday if the prisoners’ demands are not met.

Marwan Barghouthi (right) was the general secretary of Fatah during the second intifada when he was abducted from the streets of Ramallah obarghouthin April 15 2002 by Israeli secret servicemen and sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli court.

He remains the most popular politician in Palestine according to the opinion polls despite spending the last 15 years in jail.

He has been wary of using the weapon of hunger strikes in the past, but now feels the deterioration in the way Palestinian prisoners are treated leaves no option.

The prisoners’ first demand is the reinstatement of fortnightly visits from their families after they were reduced to just once a month.

Israeli prisons fail to provide adequate food and shelter for Palestinian prisoners forcing them to rely on food and clothing brought by relatives. As the Jerusalem-based civil rights organisation Addameer says: “The military prison authority provides detainees with basic food rations. The provided rations do not meet necessary daily requirements, both in terms of quality and nutritional value.”

Prisoners also want an end to solitary confinement and ‘administrative detention’ – effectively internment without charge or trial, plus a resumption of the Hebrew Open University program allowing Palestinian prisoners to access education and to take school exams while in prison.

Medical issues are also central to their demands. They call for the closure of Israel’s Ramla prison hospital where many Palestinians are treated, due to its “inadequacy in providing medical care,” and quick and urgent surgery when needed.

Barghouthi believes the Israeli government is using the distractions of Trump, Syria and the Fatah-Hamas conflict to engage in a one-sided war against Palestinian prisoners.  Despite attempts to dissuade him, Barghouthi, who is 57, believes he has a responsibility to resist repressive measures against those who have no protection. Hundreds of prisoners will join the hunger strike alongside him.

According to the latest figures from the Israeli Prison Service, there were 5,988 Palestinian conflict prisoners in Israeli jails in August 2016, including 644 jailed without charge, 335 under 18, 57 women and two under the age of 14.  Some have been in prison more than 30 years.

Read Foreign Office questions

Foreign Office questions, House of Commons, March 28 2017

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) What representations he has made to the Israeli Government on that country’s ban on visitors who have advocated boycotts of Israeli settlement goods.

Secretary of State Boris Johnson: The British deputy ambassador met Israel’s Europe director on 13 March to discuss the new immigration rules, and we continue to push for clarification from Israel on the impact on UK nationals. We have updated our travel advice for Israel.

Andy Slaughter: UK citizens such as Hugh Lanning, the chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have already been refused entry because of this ban, which has been widely condemned, including within Israel itself. The advice on the Foreign Office’s website says that people should contact the Israeli embassy. Should not the Foreign Secretary be contacting the Israeli embassy to say that people should not be restricted from travel to Israel and Palestine simply because they wish to enforce international law due to the ban on goods from settlements?

Boris Johnson: We have of course offered to provide consular assistance to Mr Lanning. He did not in fact request our support, nor did he seem to need it. Israel’s immigration policy is a matter for Israel. We firmly oppose boycotts—the boycott, divestment and sanctions approach—against Israel, as I am sure that he does too, although clearly it is a two-way street.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary says that he is seeking clarification from the Government of Israel. What questions is he actually asking them? In particular, has he asked what kind of activity would lead to someone being denied entry, particularly given that the Foreign Office’s own website discourages financial and commercial dealings with settlements? Is he saying that someone who advocates that is likely to be denied entry to Israel? Has he asked that question?

Boris Johnson: We are of course seeking clarity about exactly how the law would be applied in practice, although, as he will appreciate, the Israeli Government, like our Government, already have very wide discretion about how to apply their immigration laws.

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): What is our policy on goods and services produced in the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Boris Johnson: Our policy is that consumers should have the right to judge for themselves whether they wish to purchase them. That is a policy that this Government have pursued for many years.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): A Foreign Office Minister has previously described the situation in Hebron as apartheid and settlement endorsement as a form of extremism. Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the Deputy Foreign Secretary Sir Alan Duncan would fall foul of the new law if he attempted to travel there?

Boris Johnson: I do not believe he has said anything of the kind or called for any such boycott, and nor do I believe for a second that he would be interrupted if he chose to go to Israel. I must stress that the policy of the Government is unchanged. We remain opposed to illegal settlements and we believe that they are an obstacle to peace. I have said that many times already in this House, but I am happy to repeat it to her.

Mrs Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con): The main aim of the boycott movement is to delegitimise the state of Israel, so will the Government continue to strongly oppose it?

Boris Johnson: We certainly shall.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Has the Foreign Secretary had any indication that such a ban might be extended to those who advocate a ban on goods from the occupied Golan Heights? Does he agree that the UK Government’s refusal to support a resolution at the UNHRC condemning the occupation of the Golan Heights increases that likelihood?

Boris Johnson: With great respect to him, I have made very clear what I thought was the profound absurdity of denouncing Israeli conduct in that region at a time when we are seeing absolute barbarism conducted by the Assad regime against the people of Syria.

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): Many  Members on both sides of the House have called for a ban on goods produced in the illegal settlements on the West Bank. Does the Foreign Secretary think that those Members should be banned from travelling to Israel?

Boris Johnson: I am sure that  Members who wish to travel to Israel will have absolutely no difficulties, but it remains up to the Israeli immigration authorities to decide whom they choose to admit.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): I want to go back to that meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last Friday and the rather petulant tirade by the British mission, which ended with the threat to “adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied…Palestinian Territories.”  Will the Secretary of State make it clear that it continues to be Her Majesty’s Government’s policy to oppose illegal settlements in the West Bank?

Boris Johnson: Yes.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Will the UK Government make representations to the Israeli Government, as we have seen an increase in demolitions, including of donor-funded structures; the land regularisation Bill; the possibility of construction in [planning] area E1 [in the West Bank east of Jerusalem]; and the travel bans imposed by the Israeli Government. If the UK is really committed to doing all it can to achieve a two-state solution, is it not time to recognise Palestine, before it is too late?

Boris Johnson: Both the Prime Minister and I have raised this issue specifically with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we will continue to do so. We are opposed to such demolitions and we continue to believe that continued illegal settlements are an obstruction to peace.