The Palestinian Hunger Strike Has Nothing to Do with Conditions in Israeli Prisons

April 25 2017

For over a week, Marwan Barghouti—a former leader of the Fatah faction’s military wing and a key figure behind the second intifada—has been engaged in a hunger strike along with hundreds of his fellow Palestinian prisoners. Ostensibly, the strikers are seeking better treatment from the Israeli prison holding them. Bassam Tawil argues that something else is at stake:

Barghouti has been in prison for fifteen years so far. Remarkably, despite his long-term imprisonment, this is his first hunger strike, despite the poor incarceration conditions that have supposedly driven him to this move. . . . [But] the hunger strike is, in fact, completely unrelated to conditions in Israeli prisons. Rather, Barghouti’s hunger strike is directly linked to a power struggle that has long been raging inside his Fatah faction. . . .

Last November, Barghouti emerged as the biggest winner in Fatah’s internal election. His status as a prisoner and his involvement in terrorism continue to be the main reason why he is so popular among Palestinians. Barghouti’s victory in the election means that he is now number two after Mahmoud Abbas, and many expected the PA president to appoint him as his deputy. This past February, however, the Fatah Central Council, a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, delivered a deliberate slap in the face to Barghouti, ignoring his landslide victory and appointing someone else as deputy chairman. . . .

Barghouti . . . presents Abbas with a [particularly serious] problem. The Palestinian on the street will not tolerate the defamation, at least not in public, of any Palestinian sitting in Israeli prison. Abbas sees Barghouti as a real threat, particularly in the wake of public opinion polls suggesting that Barghouti could easily win any presidential election. Barghouti at large would be a nightmare for Abbas.

[But] Barghouti . . . knows better than to air Fatah’s dirty laundry. What, then, is to be done? The traditional diversionary tactic: direct the heat toward Israel. . . . Barghouti knows opposing Abbas publicly would be an unpopular move. Similarly, Abbas is using the hunger strike to incite against Israel and demand that all Palestinian terrorists, including ones with blood on their hands, be released unconditionally. The hunger strike is a smokescreen for the real problems inside Fatah and has nothing to do with the conditions of prisoners in Israeli jails.

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More about: Fatah, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Marwan Barghouti, Palestinians

Zionists Can, and Do, Criticize Israel. Are Anti-Zionists Capable of Criticizing Anti-Semitism?

Dec. 12 2018

Last week, the New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg defended the newly elected anti-Israel congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ostensibly arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren’t identical. Abe Greenwald comments:

Tlaib . . . has tweeted and retweeted her enthusiasm for terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969. If Tlaib’s anti-Zionism is of the Jew-loving kind, she has a funny way of showing it.

Ilhan Omar, for her part, once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And wouldn’t you know it, just because she believes that Zionist hypnotists have cast global spells masking Israeli evil, some people think she’s anti-Semitic! Go figure! . . .

Goldberg spends the bulk of her column trying very hard to uncouple American Jewishness from Israel. To do that, she enumerates Israel’s sins, as she sees them. . . . [But] her basic premise is at odds with reality. Zionists aren’t afraid of finding fault with Israel and don’t need to embrace anti-Zionism in order to [do so]. A poll conducted in October by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a majority of Americans Jews have no problem both supporting Israel and criticizing it. And unlike Goldberg, they have no problem criticizing anti-Semitism, either.

Goldberg gives the game away entirely when she discusses the discomfort that liberal American Jews have felt in “defending multi-ethnic pluralism here, where they’re in the minority, while treating it as unspeakable in Israel, where Jews are the majority.” She adds: “American white nationalists, some of whom liken their project to Zionism, love to poke at this contradiction.” Read that again. She thinks the white nationalists have a point. Because, really, what anti-Semite doesn’t?

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, New York Times