The world has never known a power greater than that of the media in our time. Countries are becoming stronger with media serving their interests and policies; there is no championing or victory of any cause, regardless of how just it is, without a strong media behind it.
It is for this reason that Israel fears the Palestinian media and its important role in documenting incidents, reporting news and broadcasting images of its occupation, ugly actions, blatant violations of human rights and heinous crimes. Israel is also afraid that the media will have an impact on the renunciation of the Palestinian, Arab and international public opinion. Hence, it intensifies its violations against all Palestinian journalists, regardless of their affiliations and the media outlets they work for, either Arab or international. They are all considered equal in the eyes of those targeting, oppressing, injuring, killing, arresting or exiling them.
Yes, this is the situation of the media and journalists in Palestine. The Israeli occupation is chaining down the outlets and handcuffing the journalists. Not only this, but the Israelis also utilise their various security agencies, armed forces and so-called judiciary to serve its policies of persecution, harassment, confiscation of equipment and breaking the cameras of journalists in order to take revenge and evoke fear in an intimidatory atmosphere. They want to neutralise the media, block the images and assassinate the truth.
In this context, since the outbreak of the Jerusalem Intifada on 1 October last year, and after the remarkable success of the journalists in documenting Israel’s crimes against our people, exposing its arbitrary and oppressive measures against helpless citizens, the occupation authorities have intensified their targeting of Palestinian journalists in an unprecedented manner. Israel has also committed more crimes and violations against them, injuring and killing many, as well as questioning and detaining dozens under the pretext of their alleged “incitement”. So far this month, the Israelis have detained 18 journalists, the most prominent of whom is Muhammad Al-Qeeq, a correspondent for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Majd TV Network.
Al-Qeeq is a 33 year-old Palestinian journalist who has a family, a wife and children. He was arrested at his home in Hebron on 21 November last year for portraying the Israeli occupation in a manner consistent with the best standards of media professionalism, ethics and customary practice. However, Israel regards this as “incitement” against its security, so they locked him up under “administration detention”, a means by which it arrests and detains people indefinitely, with neither charges nor a trial.
What incitement are the Israelis referring to? If delivering the truth is incitement according to Israeli standards, then not only journalists but also the rest of us should be proud to be “inciters”. If the occupation authorities do not want us to be “inciters”, then they should change their behaviour and actions which form the image portrayed so accurately by Al-Qeeq and his colleagues. However, Israel has not done this, and will not do so, because that is not its typical approach towards dealing with the Palestinians over decades. If it was the case, then the journalists would use the same approach and work professionally and transparently in order to report news and stories in a responsible manner and with utmost objectivity. They would also continue to portray the image that reflects the truth as it is captured by their camera lenses, documented by the testimonies of the victims and written by the pens of the honourable.
When all of the legitimate, peaceful means fail to defend freedom of opinion and speech; fail to protect journalists; and fail to get rid of “administrative detention”, then other means are used. Thus, we see Muhammad Al-Qeeq who is, although imprisoned, acting on behalf of all of us and using the harshest and most painful of weapons, the last resort of legitimate and peaceful resistance: the open-ended hunger strike. He has declared his revolution against his jailers with his hunger in rejection of Israel’s denial of his right to report the truth and in protest against his continued arbitrary detention. Administrative detention is resorted to by the Israelis as a convenient alternative to the due legal process required by international law; the latter only allows such arbitrary detention as a last resort in emergencies and exceptional circumstances. Israel uses it routinely to detain Palestinians without the need to collect and provide evidence for an independent court to judge.
The Israeli authorities have issued over 50,000 administrative detention orders since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967; some of these were and are new orders, some will be renewals of existing orders. At the moment, around 700 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention orders; male and female, young and old.
Muhammad Al-Qeeq started his hunger strike on 25 November last year; he is refusing to take any nutrients or tonics and insists on continuing his protest until his arbitrary detention is ended and his legitimate rights and freedoms are restored. His sacrifice is added to those before which continue to earn our respect and admiration for their legendary perseverance the likes of which has not been witnessed much in Israeli prisons.
The Palestinian journalist is following in a line of courageous individuals who have written inspirational pages in the history of legitimate peaceful resistance behind bars and achieved many successes. Al-Qeeq forces us to relive our personal experiences with mass hunger strikes in order to live and share his bitter and torturous situation, with all its meanings and implications. We are then able to connect with him more, with all of our emotions and feelings until the end and he achieves victory, God willing.
Regardless of any affiliations that he might have with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, the PFLP, the DFLP or any other faction, and regardless of which area he comes from, we are proud that he is a Palestinian living on Palestinian land. We are also proud that he decided to represent us all and ignite a revolution in the face of his Israeli jailers.
Muhammad Al-Qeeq: we apologise if we have fallen short in our support for you, or if we were late in participating in events and activities organised to support and back your strike. We apologise if we were silent in moments when we should not have been silent in the face of your hunger for the sake of a dignified life. However, you must be certain that we are standing by you in your battle and are making every effort possible to ensure your victory. Rest assured that we will always support anyone who wields the weapon of an empty stomach in the face of the Israeli jailer in order to defend the dignity of Palestinian prisoners, defend freedom of opinion and speech, to protest against poor conditions and treatment, and to reject the policy of arbitrary detention.
Translated from Palsawa, 15 February, 2016.