Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stolen Lives

We've been hearing a lot about Israel's Palestinian prisoners lately - but only as bit players in the much-hyped Gilad Shalit Show. With no international propaganda machine behind it, and virtually zero ms media focus (not even on the Palestinian hunger strike currently underway in Israeli prisons), their story is as mysterious to us as the dark side of the moon. Thankfully, however, at last there's a book out which focuses exclusively on the circumstances and experiences of the Palestinians - men, women and even children - who inhabit Israel's Gulag. Here's a slice of the preface:

"The 'security prisoner' rubric has become a code of identification for Palestinian prisoners in general... Applied in a blind, categorical manner, without distinction, it transforms thousands of Palestinians as they are seized, interrogated, detained and imprisoned in Israel into a single group that poses, as such, an identical level of danger which justifies special treatment: brutal arrest, prohibition from meeting a lawyer, torture and illegal interrogation methods, arrest without trial, lack of due process, disproportional sentencing, stricter living conditions, isolation, and also poor prospects of early release and parole. In contrast to the general approach towards prisoners, which is based on an individual assessment of a person and the extent of the danger he or she presents, the attitude of the State of Israel toward these 'security prisoners' is based on their group identification as 'threats'. This is true of Palestinians - of all ages, including children - arrested and incarcerated in Israeli jails, independently of their alleged offence or their sentence. Administrative detainees and prisoners serving life sentences, prisoners sentenced for organizing or participating in demonstrations, for being active in political movements declared 'illegal' by the occupying forces, for possessing ammunition, and for planning suicide bombing: all are categorized, en bloc, as 'security prisoners', as threats.

"What is resounding in its absence from this 'security' discourse is its background: the long years of occupation of the Palestinian Territories, the prevention of livelihood, of freedom of movement, of personal and community development, of education, of autonomous economy; in short, of self-determination and national independence. It is inconceivable to examine the issue of Palestinian prisoners without keeping this background constantly in mind." (Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel, Edited by Abeer Baker & Anat Matar, 2011, p viii)

And yet, it is precisely this background that is missing in the ms media's coverage of the latest Israel-Palestinian prisoner swap.

In today's typically clueless Israel-centric Sydney Morning Herald editorial, Palestine's political prisoners, all of whom have been thrown into Israeli dungeons for resisting in one way or another the incursions and depredations of an illegal and utterly ruthless occupying power, are essentially just criminals: "1027 Palestinian prisoners convicted for specific crimes including multiple murders." (Israel's joy, and foreboding)

Needless to say, Murdoch's dyed-in-the-wool Zionist rag, The Australian reliably smears them as "notorious terrorists" and "villains," while concluding on this nauseating note: "We hope, perhaps in vain, that this [Israeli] lesson in the sanctity of life is not lost on the Palestinian prisoners as they, too, return home to their families." (Israel places high price on life)

But, where Israel and its chosen are concerned, The Australian just keeps on giving. Hilariously, Israel's release of the Palestinian hordes had one particular letter writer on the edge of his nineteenth nervous breakdown:

"What have we learned from the return of Gilad Shalit, imprisoned for 5 years in contravention of international agreements? We learn that Palestinians treat prisoners with disregard for conventions of humane behaviour. Is there any chance they would have made any concession to Israel to save the life of one of their own? They have shown that they care nothing for the lives of their people. They murder their own political opponents. They detonate themselves in missions to kill innocent Israelis. They place no value on life as they are fixated on hatred of Israel and its supporters. What the world has seen for more than 60 years is the struggle of a nation under siege. Israel is a fair and civilised nation. There would be no problem if Palestine was also. Please keep my name and address confidential because I no longer feel safe writing about Israel. I no longer have faith in Australians accepting views opposing their own. I have, at least temporarily, lost my nerve. Name and address supplied"


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