There is punishment; but there is also rising solidarity
It is not easy these days to overlook comparisons between Ukraine and the enduring suffering of the Palestinians. Ukraine does have a tough war to cope with and there is palpable suffering for those whose homes have been destroyed and others who had fled as refugees. The western media has gripped the mind of television viewers with horrific stories, some in the form of corporate- sponsored and goaded ‘paid news’. The military industrial complex ensures that 24 X 7 narratives on Ukraine are duly captured and exaggerated. Images are often drawn from other wars and are used because they convey death and destruction in the most horrifying ways.
This war has pressed Palestine into the shadows. Ukraine’s President Zelensky has struck militaristic chords and compared Ukraine’s situation with that of Israel. Almost a year ago, he scandalously suggested that Israel’s bombings of Gaza were imperative because Israel was a victim. The carnage against Palestinians did not affect his conscience; instead he dwelled on Israel as the injured party.
One is compelled to ask: What of the western conscience – large parts of it? How can the international community assess one people’s lives as lesser than others? Two faced and hypocritical is what it is. Will the chronicle of punishment in Israeli jails including horrific crimes such as sleep deprivation with its devastating psychological and damage to physical health awaken the western mind to the imperative for tough BDS measures against the apartheid Israel regime? And what does it feel when Palestinian preachers get to be threatened with “wide-scale attack(s) on them and spraying gas inside their cells.” The Palestinian Prisoners club has with regular frequency lifted up the predicament of prisoners. In the EU and the White House, someone probably scans them and sets them aside. By contrast, any kind of punitive action of Ukrainians upset them no end. The hypocrisy does not end there. The West is busy finalizing arms packages that enrich them, but will neither come up with ideas for pulling back NATO’s designs or hastening a fruitful dialogue for a settlement. That, one presumes, is not on the cards because the merchants of war machines want the war to go on. There are profits to be raked in. In the case of Palestine, it is about exterminating those who they deem to be mere ‘wretches’ not as another equitable part of human society who need their homeland back in a dialogue carried on a level playing field and which yields lasting justice.
All is not lost. News from the Massachusetts-based Harvard Law School is upbeat. They have called Israel by its name in no uncertain terms – an apartheid regime. This was done in conjunction with the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian non-governmental human rights civil institution that focuses on political and civil rights issues in occupied Palestinian territory, especially those of prisoners.
Elsewhere, the Organizing Collective for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has demanded steps to “to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education, free from duress, intervention, and political persecution”.
Indeed the struggle is long and arduous, but the redeeming feature is that solidarity is not merely growing; it is swiftly multiplying. Israel may soon find it has no place to hide in or run to. Before that a serious peace deal is the better option. Will Israel choose that? And will Israel’s allies see the light of day soon enough?
What’s Ukraine got to do with Palestine?
Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month; there has been no shortage of comparisons with the situation in Palestine. Campaigners for Palestinian rights have also noted the parallels – and the vastly different and hypocritical responses – to calls for boycotts of Russia and Israel, as well as the selective application of international law. While Russia has been virtually cut off from the world, Israel continues to enjoy impunity as it occupies and colonizes Palestinians’ land and imposes a brutal regime of apartheid on them. Of course, the identification of Ukraine with the plight of the Palestinians is one Ukrainian leaders insistently reject. They see themselves as Israel and their Russian enemies, presumably, as the Palestinians.
In December President Zelensky said that Israel is “often an example for Ukraine” and asserted that “both Ukrainians and Jews value freedom…We know what it’s like not to have [one’s] own state,” Zelensky added. “We know what it means to defend one’s own state and land with weapons in hand, at the cost of [their] own lives.” The Ukrainian leader, notoriously, portrayed Israel as the victim last May when its warplanes were bombarding Gaza, massacring entire Palestinian families in their homes. Before the Russian invasion, Ukrainian officials even complained that Israel was treating their country “like Gaza” by not giving them enough support – implying that such perceived mistreatment should be reserved for Palestinians, not Ukrainians. Ukrainian officials have pressed home this identification with Israel ever since the Russian invasion began.
Sleep deprivation among methods used to torture Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails
On the dawn of July 24, 2018, Israeli soldiers stormed the house of Palestinian writer Lama Khater in the city of Hebron, and arrested her in the presence of her youngest son, Yahia, who was less than 3 years old. Khater was transferred to Ashqelon interrogation center and there she was exposed to tough interrogation sessions by the officers of the Israeli intelligence for more than a month. During that time, Khater was forced to stay awake for more than 19 hours day after day to put more pressure on her, particularly after she refused all accusations made against her by the officers.
A mother of five children, Khater spent around 35 days in solitary confinement and she was exposed to daily interrogation sessions under the allegation of participating in social working with Hamas. She said the sessions were starting at 7 a.m and continued to 2.30 a.m. the other day, lasting for several consecutive days, and that she was not allowed to sleep more than three hours. “This torture (adversely) affected my health for a long time, even after the end of the interrogation time and leaving the jail.” The effects of sleep deprivation lasted during her time in jail and she could never have a deep sleep for more than three months after the end of the interrogation period, along with back and neck pains. “The sleep deprivation is no worse than the food deprivation. It’s causing serious psychological and neurological problems. At a certain point, I felt like I was unable to differentiate between coma and being awake,” she added.
Medically, sleep deprivation induces a sequence of disorders. According to Beesan Warasneh, a London-based medical doctor and researcher in neuroscience in King’s College, these effects are led by the disturbing of an individual’s circadian rhythm. “In the short term, it affects the processing of pain, anxiety, and the surrounding stressors. It also impairs memory performance and reduces functionality. Further, it increases the susceptibility to developing depression.” Warasneh highlighted that sleep deprivation in the long term had a proven link to multiple health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, lipid metabolism disorders, and diabetes. It also increases the vulnerability to develop cancer and gastrointestinal problems.
Palestine prisoners protest over preachers in solitary confinement
Palestinian prisoners at the Israeli Al-Naqab prison are angry with the Israel Prison Service after preachers were put into solitary confinement, the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC) reported on Friday. The preachers were put into solitary confinement after delivering Friday speeches during which they spoke about the planned hunger strike slated for 25 March.
The Israel Prison Service requested assistance from the Israeli Special Forces to crack down on the prisoners, who banged on their cell doors in protest, chanting “Allahu Akbar”. “The Israel Prison Service is threatening the prisoners with a wide-scale attack on them and spraying gas inside their cells,” the PPC shared.
According to the PPC, since Thursday, Al-Naqab Prison has witnessed tension that started when the Israeli forces raided two cells and attacked prisoners. The PPC said that the prisoners are preparing for a hunger strike on 25 March to protest the new restrictions imposed by the Israel Prison Service.
“In a joint report with Addameer, Harvard Law School recognizes Israel as apartheid regime”
The Massachusetts-based Harvard Law School has recognized Israel as an apartheid regime, joining an array of organizations labeling Israel as such for its practices in occupied Palestine. In a recent report to the United Nations, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School joined the international community by recognizing the apartheid character of the Israeli regime.
The 22-page joint report titled Apartheid in the Occupied West Bank: A Legal Analysis of Israel’s Actions, which was developed in collaboration with the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, found that the Israel regime’s practices in the occupied West Bank amounted to criminal activities in breach of the prohibition of apartheid. The report focuses on the legal regime enforced by Israel against Palestinians specifically in the occupied West Bank, and “finds that Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank are in breach of the prohibition of apartheid and amount to the crime of apartheid under international law.”
Last month, Amnesty International issued a “damning” report calling for Israeli authorities to be held accountable for committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians The Amnesty investigation detailed how Israel enforces a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinian people wherever it has control over their rights. This includes Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), as well as displaced refugees in other countries.
In support of Birzeit University, USACBI calls for action to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education
In a letter of support for Birzeit University and other Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank fighting a new repressive Israeli military regulation imposed on them, the Organizing Collective for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) called for action “to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education, free from duress, intervention, and political persecution,…“We invite you to join us in heeding their call to ‘Work with us to break the siege that these regulations impose on Birzeit and other Palestinian universities. Accept our invitation to teach and learn in Palestine. Help us exercise our basic right to education and to preserve the institutional autonomy that we built over the decades despite all obstacles,” said USACBI in a statement.
The call to action came after Israel’s most recent attempt to restrict Palestinian rights to education and to undermine the freedom and autonomy of Palestinian academic institutions. Scheduled to take effect in May 2022, the “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region” grants the Israeli military absolute powers to select which international faculty, academic researchers and students can be admitted to teach or study at Palestinian universities. Under this law, Israeli authorities will be in the position of determining which fields of study are permissible and what qualifications are acceptable. Further, it requires applicants to submit to Israeli investigation at diplomatic missions in countries of origin.