Int’l Lawyer Raps Western Media’s Silence on Palestinians’ Mass Hunger Strike
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A senior international lawyer from Canada deplored the mainstream media’s silence on a continued mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners kept in Israeli jails, saying it proves that the media outlets are apathetic about the Zionist regime’s crimes.
“If a hunger strike of this scale was taking place almost anyplace else in the world, there would be daily in-depth media coverage of developments as they unfolded and a detailed public dissection of the prisoners’ complaints about their treatment and the wider issues,” Barry Grossman said in an interview with Tasnim News Agency.
“The fact that the world’s corporate media is entirely silent about this historic hunger strike makes it perfectly clear that the six media conglomerates (in the US) which account for roughly 98% of all news disseminated globally are both entirely beholding to the Zionist agenda and unwilling to challenge any policy position championed by the US establishment,” he noted.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: As you know, an open-ended mass hunger strike by some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has continued for several weeks, with Israeli prison authorities ramping up punitive measures in an attempt to pressure prisoners to break their strikes. Since the launch of the strike on April 17, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has continuously been transferring hunger strikers into solitary confinement and between different Israeli prisons in an attempt to separate hunger strikers from one another and break the strike, according to Palestinian media reports. In the latest developments, the Palestinian Health Ministry said recently that a Palestinian has been killed by Israeli fire during clashes at a West Bank rally in support of the hunger-striking prisoners. What is your assessment of the developments?
Grossman: Palestinians’ selflessly choosing to do what is within their power to resist the occupation and denounce the treatment of indigenous Palestinians is commendable and perfectly understandable, whether their efforts take the form of protest, hunger strike, sabotage or armed resistance, all of which are of course perfectly lawful under international law. It is also not surprising that the occupation forces, supported by the US-led Atlantic World, continue to trample the civil liberties and human rights supposedly guaranteed to all people by the same contrived international system that Israel and Atlantic World nations routinely invoke - typically on the strength of contrived facts and propaganda claims - to criticize Iran and other nations which do not fully submit to that same international system. That they can do so without cringing at their own hypocrisy demonstrates just how broken the supposedly system and its contrived concerns for human rights really are.
It is heartbreaking that Palestinian pleas for justice have come to this and at once outrageous that the world’s media are entirely silent about this historic protest that sees almost two thousand Palestinians improperly imprisoned in Occupation dungeons putting their lives on the line.
Tasnim: Many groups and political figures and activist across the world, ranging from a number of students in the UK to the 88-year-old former Lebanese prime minister Salim al-Hoss, have joined an international hunger strike in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners. Meanwhile, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Gregory III Laham declared a solidarity hunger strike in support of the prisoners. What do you think about such moves? Do they have any positive impact on the international community to understand the dire situation in the occupied territories?
Grossman: As people committed to Islamic justice and the Palestinian cause, we must, of course, applaud and support the sacrifices made by Palestinians who engage in acts of resistance. But we must also be very clear-minded about what the Palestinians’ cause is and is not while remaining vigilant about the growing tendency of people who identify with the Palestinian cause to overwhelm the legitimate voice of Palestinians and reframe what is at its core a territorial issue into a purely human rights issue.
While individual efforts to draw attention to this hunger strike are no doubt well intended, frankly, I am far from convinced that people who claim to join the hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinians prisoners are not diluting effect and political currency of the prisoner’s own efforts by inadvertently creating an impression in the public consciousness that hunger strikes are neither genuine nor particularly demanding of those who participate.
That said, my main concern relates to the growing tendency of people around the world, including soft Zionists and Israelis, to distort and overwhelm the Palestinian cause by embracing the “apartheid” and “human rights” rhetoric of Zionist dominated movements like BDS which have fabricated what they claim is a mandate to recognize Israel’s legitimacy within the 1967 borders on behalf of all Palestinians and who frame the Palestinians cause entirely in terms of human rights rather than the liberation and defense of Palestinian territory.
It is no coincidence that the error of perception such efforts create play directly to the agenda of both Israel and the US-dominated international system. Indeed, it almost inexorably follows from this realignment and distortion of the cause that justice demands only that Israel be a little nicer to Palestinians and, on the outside chance that genuine Palestinian autonomy is to be recognized by the international community, then their system of governance must be modeled after Atlantic World notions of democracy, social justice, and economy.
In that sense, the growing tendency to frame the Palestinian cause in terms of human rights ironically supports the Zionist agenda and works against Palestinians. Of course, most Palestinians are routinely abused and dehumanized by the occupation. But Palestine does not have a human rights problem; Palestine has a territorial and colonization problem. It is the occupation that has a human rights problem and correcting that problem will not in any way inevitably lead to advancing the Palestinian cause, even if the suffering of Palestinians may be ameliorated in the event the occupation starts to treat Palestinians as humans.
Equally important, it seems to be entirely lost on many liberals who denounce the occupation as an apartheid state, that the human rights narrative is increasingly an entirely impotent weapon when it comes to achieving change. In that regard, the Atlantic World has largely abandoned any commitment to treating human rights violations as a first order priority. That trend is evidenced both by Europe’s wholesale abandonment of its legal obligations under the International Convention on the Status of Refugees and by official moves in both the UK and the US to formally divorce decisions made about diplomatic relations, foreign policy, arms sales, and international trade from concerns about the human rights record of their regional allies who they engage in such matters.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have always been little more than window dressing since they have never included an enforcement mechanism. In short, there is no court that aggrieved individuals can turn to in order to vindicate their grievances. As for the Geneva Conventions, increasingly there is scant little scope for enforcing the rights and obligations it creates as the Atlantic World moves further and further away from any pretense of embracing the rule of law and instead now embraces a system of rule by policy in which individual rights are status based.
Europeans can, as individuals, of course, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to enforce their supposedly inalienable human rights, and countries like the USA and Canada have constitutionally enshrined human rights that can be enforced by individuals in their domestic courts. But the simple fact is that most of the rest of the world has no access whatsoever to a judicial enforcement mechanism. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that they’re called “rights” because they were never seriously intended to apply to anyone except “whites”! Frankly, the strategy of invoking human rights to advance the Palestinian cause is, in my opinion, about 30 years too late.
Meanwhile, it is a matter of long-standing policy that the United States opposes any and all recourse by Palestinians, either as individuals or as a nation, to courts or a legal process which impugns unlawful actions by occupation forces. By imposing that policy on the world at large, the great champion of liberty and the rule of law, is essentially saying that it will continue to support the Zionist cause regardless of what is done by the occupation and matters like human rights, civil liberties, and war crimes are niceties which do not extend to Palestinians.
Tasnim: According to media reports, Palestinian prisoners complain that they have been subjected to assault and torture at Israeli jails. What do you think about the human rights violations in the prisons?
Grossman: What is there to say that isn’t transparently clear? In the United States, people are criminalized and jailed for treating animals the way Israel routinely treats Palestinians. It is no secret that the occupation regime’s policy calls for subjecting Palestinians to collective punishment, torture, random preventative detention, and myriad rights abuses which violate the Geneva conventions. Then there is the matter of random, extra-judicial executions of Palestinian men, women, and children.
As for Israel’s legal system, not only are individual rights expressed in terms which make them contingent on an individual’s “status” but laws of general application are enforced in a manner that openly discriminates against Palestinians.
People can embrace whatever position they choose about the wider Palestinian issue but there is no way whatsoever to coherently counter the stark truth about Israel’s abuse of Palestinians in occupation dungeons. Arguing otherwise is like claiming the earth is flat.
Tasnim: According to the Middle East Monitor, before the strike was launched, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan ordered for the establishment of a military hospital to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals – which have so far refused to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. Why has the international community, particularly the Western mainstream media, made a muted response to the human rights violations so far?
Grossman: Let’s be clear about this. If a hunger strike of this scale was taking place almost anyplace else in the world, there would be daily in-depth media coverage of developments as they unfolded and a detailed public dissection of the prisoners’ complaints about their treatment and the wider issues. The fact that the world’s corporate media is entirely silent about this historic hunger strike makes it perfectly clear that the six media conglomerates which account for roughly 98% of all news disseminated globally are both entirely beholding to the Zionist agenda and unwilling to challenge any policy position championed by the US establishment.
Indeed, the wider public is, at last, coming around to recognize that it is delusional to think of the media as a Fourth Estate which keeps government honest. Indeed, the evidence is now overwhelming that mainstream media has become nothing more than an organ of the US policy-making and security apparatus establishment. People are at last starting to realize that relying on the corporate “infotainment” industry for information about both domestic and foreign political issues, is like treating advanced bowel cancer by wearing diapers. The deeper problem, of course, is that the ideology of self which underpins Atlantic World civilization means that a great many people are only political when they feel they personally have something at stake and, sadly, do not feel any great empathy for Palestinians or other people in foreign lands who are being oppressed by Atlantic World hegemony.