In their blind hatred, some Israelis have a tendency to score some spectacular own goals and I’d like to bet that the bizarre barbecue held outside a prison where Palestinian political prisoners are on hunger strike is one of them. Members of the far right party National Union said that the purpose of their rather pathetic stunt on Thursday was to taunt Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. It seems odd that grown men would invest so much of their time and energy to do this but those taking part said they wanted to “celebrate the hunger strike” and “break the spirit” of the strikers, in the hope that the smell of the meat would waft into the prison. Did they honestly think that prisoners who have taken the huge decision to go on hunger strike would abandon their protest just because they could smell some kosher lamb chops being done to a turn on the other side of the prison wall?
My guess is that the settlers’ efforts would simply have made the hunger strikers more determined in their heroic food boycott behind bars, which was clearly having the desired effect on their gaolers. As anyone who has ever organised a campaign knows, as far as an activist is concerned, the worst reaction towards their activism is complete indifference, so it is obvious to anyone watching that the hunger strike called and led by popular Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi is having a serious psychological impact on Israeli society.
The hunger strike has received widespread coverage within Palestine and around the world, with demonstrations and rallies of support. Lawyers acting for the Palestinian prisoners have also decided to suspend professional appearances in front of Israel’s military courts in solidarity with their clients.
International support for Palestinians is already increasing because of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which started with a 2005 call by Palestinian academics. Israel has poured millions of dollars and a huge amount of political capital into trying to crush BDS, but many of the western democracies targeted by the Israeli counter-campaign believe that its strong-arm tactics are designed to limit freedom of expression. It’s another epic fail by Israel.
Nevertheless, the right-wing Israeli activists went ahead and set up their portable grills outside the Ofer Prison to the west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and issued a press statement. Their barbecue, they declared pompously, would break the will of the prisoners as they breathed in the “smoke and suffer from the smell of the meat, and [we will] show them that we will not give in to their whims.”
Perhaps they should have invested more of their misspent youth reading Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra than frying chops, sausages and burgers. The men (and it was all men involved) might have realised that the stench of their hate revealed a lot about them and their mindset. “In time we hate that which we often fear,” says Cleopatra’s main lady-in-waiting Charmian in Act 1, Scene 3.
In other words, the settlers’ barbecue was a clear demonstration that what the Israelis really fear is that the Palestinians are right about the injustice and primitive nature of their treatment in the Zionist state’s prison system, which is part of the inhumane apparatus of Israel’s military occupation. The hunger strike is a protest against Israel’s indefinite detention of Palestinians with neither charge nor trial, under the British Mandate-era “administrative detention” law. This abuse of international law and human rights has been exposed yet again.
And that’s not all. Thousands of prisoners are denied visitors on security grounds. The ban includes parents, wives and other close relatives. There are also serious concerns about medical facilities, or the lack thereof, with prisoners being denied adequate diagnoses and potentially life-saving treatment. Palestinian prisoners are not allowed access to public telephones in prison; in fact, there are none in the prisons where they are held, so they can’t even communicate with their lawyers, never mind their relatives. Basic human rights afforded to most prisoners in the civilised world are denied to Palestinians detained by Israel. The political prisoners have also asked for educational courses to be reinstated and have called for a halt to the mistreatment and abuse of all Palestinian detainees, men, women and children; yes, Israel is holding at least 300 minors.
People around the world are learning about Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners and, thanks to the burning meat outside the brutal Ofer, we can also witness the burning hatred that some Israelis have for their fellow human beings purely because they are Palestinians. This sort of thing used to be called racism and was totally unacceptable. It still is in most parts of the world, except in Israel.
As the late, great Maya Angelou once observed, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Now there’s some real food for thought instead of the ersatz barbecue meat served up by Jewish settlers. If their spiteful juvenile prank encourages anything at all, it will be more non-violent resistance which reminds the world of the continued brutal Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands and people.
Such heroic resistance is now burning bright inside Israeli jails with 1,500 of the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. They now know that Amnesty International is supporting their demands by calling on Israel to end its “unlawful and cruel” policies. If the knowledge that death awaits long-term hunger strikers doesn’t deter such brave souls, how could those settlers think for one moment that barbecue smells would? Their hatred deludes them, and now the whole world knows it.