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Israel able to detain former hunger-strikers due to international silence

Palestinian students gather to show solidarity with hunger striking prisoners n Ramallah, West Bank on September 19, 2016 [Anadolu]
Palestinian students gather to show solidarity with hunger striking prisoners n Ramallah, West Bank on September 19, 2016 [Anadolu]

Israel’s tactic of repeatedly detaining former Palestinian prisoners who went on hunger strikes has this time targeted Muhammad Al-Qeeq, following his participation in a protest organised by national organisations in Bethlehem demanding the return of the bodies of Palestinians murdered by Israel since October 2015.

According to Ma’an news agency, news of his detention triggered the organisation of another protest calling for his release. Al-Qeeq was detained with other relatives of murdered Palestinians who were present during Sunday’s protest. Following interrogation, the others were released while Al-Qeeq is reported to have been taken to a detention facility at the Beit El settlement. Ma’an has also reported that Al-Qeeq declared the commencement of another hunger strike protesting his recent detention.

It is clear that disrupting every form of Palestinian resistance is high on Israel’s agenda, always within the parameters of using incitement as an excuse which is only contested by Palestinians themselves.The international community and its institutions have never bothered to construct a coherent narrative about all the related violations, thus allowing Israeli incitement against Palestinians to flourish unhindered.

If Al-Qeeq’s case will traverse the usual generalised approach to reporting the detention of former hunger-striking prisoners, it is only because of the glorification of his previous hunger strike which catapulted him into a temporary limelight. With every subsequent arrest of the same hunger-striker, Al-Qeeq’s popularity will be diminished and the heroic veneer as applied to the individual by international organisations and activist groups will dissipate.

To a certain extent, hunger strikes and the hunger-strikers’ narratives are being dominated by self-serving temporary choices, particularly when it comes to international organisations. Palestinians, however, had intended hunger strikes to constitute a form of resistance that resonates within history and the present, not a form of macabre entertainment that is guaranteed visibility according to the availability of sensationalist footage.

Al-Qeeq’s arrest should provoke debate at an international level on various grounds. The context within which the arrest happened – a protest which called for rights to be respected and granted – should form part of the equation. As a Palestinian and a journalist, Al-Qeeq’s participation in the protest ought to at least serve as a necessary introduction if, or when, the international community decides to voice a sliver of regurgitated displeasure.

Israel does not need a pretext to detain former Palestinian prisoners, or any Palestinian for that matter, since it assumes a false stance that a Palestinian presence is tantamount to incitement. There has been no opposition to this false position by the international community and it is unlikely there will ever be anything resembling a furore.

Secondly, it is clear that former Palestinian prisoners are a sought-after target by Israel – the reason being the slight possibility that recurring arrests will dent Palestinian resistance. This is unlikely to happen. However, the international community has facilitated the practice by its failure to legislate clearly against administrative detention, as well as its acceptance of Israeli colonialism to the point of normalisation. No matter how many Palestinians remain incarcerated in Israeli jails, the international response is unlikely to veer away from its current oblivious posture.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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