Not Forgetting Palestine 139

Once you have been active in politics for a few decades, you get used to the popular convulsions of support for Palestine every few years when Israel military action against Gaza becomes particularly intense. Then follows a ceasefire, the media move on and Israel resumes the daily routine of low level evictions, destruction of tree crops, imprisonments and murders that accomplishes the gradual extinction of the territories that the Western powers pretended to intend for a Palestinian state.

For the media, 50 Palestinian children killed in a week has been a story. The regular killing of 50 a year is not; and anybody who thinks it is must be labeled an anti-semite and hounded from political life.

As a young man, the two great injustices we campaigned on were South Africa and Palestine. I never dreamt the latter abuse would possibly outlast me. These two issues resonated so much because they were both remnants of European colonial arrogance, founded on racism and a sense of cultural superiority. Nowadays I cannot even think myself into a mindset that says that for the greater good of the United Kingdom, it is OK to deport the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for a military base. But that was the view not just of governments, but of Labour governments, inside my own lifetime.

I should like to think that the undeniable openness of Israeli apartheid rule has made a fundamental shift in thinking towards Palestine, but I do not think much has in fact changed, and the media and political class remain bought and paid for on the issue.

The general British population may return to slumber until the next major bombings, but one man who will not forget is Richard Barnard of Palestine Action. Incredibly, Barnard has been charged by police and the Crown Prosecution Service with blackmail for proposing to hunger strike until the Israeli Elbit weapons factories in the UK are closed down.

That is not a mistake; he really is charged with blackmail for a proposed hunger strike. I have been trying to find precedent for this and while I can find examples of the argument being made that hunger strike is emotional extortion, I certainly cannot find any example, anywhere in the world, of actual prosecution. The International Committee of the Red Cross has considered the ethical argument with relation to prisoners:

Hunger strikers are often criticized for using their physical welfare as an instrument of protest, the (debatable) argument being that this constitutes a form of blackmail. It is inappropriate to assert, however, that hunger strikers should be placed in the same category as persons intending to commit suicide. This is a simplistic approach to the issue which wrongly reduces it to purely medical terms: namely, that since any doctor would come to the assistance of someone who attempts suicide, so hunger strikers should be „assisted“ (i e force-fed) to prevent them from „killing themselves“.

This is certainly a misconception. Someone who attempts suicide is either appealing for help, as in the majority of cases, or he truly wants to end his life. (The “black-and-white case” often cited here is that of a general, found guilty of treason, who prefers to blow his brains out rather than face a shameful court-martial. Although some doctors would even argue for a case of acute and severe depression, it can be claimed that not all suicides are necessarily to be “medicalized”.) The clear-cut case of a politically motivated hunger striker is different. The striker does not want to die: on the contrary, he wants to „live better“, by obtaining something for himself, his group or his country. If necessary, he is willing to sacrifice his life for his cause, but the aim is certainly not suicide. (Soldiers charging a heavily defended enemy position also run the risk of dying. Are the suicidal too?} All too often hunger strikers who fast up to or beyond the limits of irreversible physiological consequences are labelled as suicidal. This naturally gives any prison or judicial authority the perfect excuse for ordering doctors to intervene forcibly.

As I am shortly likely to become the first person in the UK – and so far as I can tell, the first person in the world – to be jailed for supposed “jigsaw identification” of witnesses, I accept I have a jaundiced view of the novel abuse of law against dissenters. Having witnessed and reported day after day after day of abuse of process in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange, I have entirely lost any faith in the justice system where it collides with the wishes of government. But the persecution of Richard Barnard for his calling out the UK’s role in the manufacture of instruments for the death and maiming of Palestinians takes things to a whole new level. The law is twisted by power to make all dissent criminal.


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139 thoughts on “Not Forgetting Palestine

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  • Edward

    ” I can find examples of the argument being made that hunger strike is emotional extortion”

    It sounds similar to the treatment of hunger strikers at Gitmo. For a while the Bush administration called the people at Gitmo killing themselves “Terrorciders”, alleging suicide was being weaponized. How did they know this? Anyway, the expression didn’t catch on.

  • Tom Welsh

    What is blackmail under UK law?

    The criminal offence of blackmail under the s 21 of the Theft Act 1968 (TA 1968) is the act of making an unwarranted demand with menaces with a view to making a gain or causing a loss.
    What elements need to be established to prove blackmail?

    “To prove blackmail it must be shown the defendant did the following things:

    made a demand;
    with menaces;
    that the demand was unwarranted; and
    that the defendant has a view to make a gain for himself or another or have intent to cause a loss to another”.

    It’s obvious to any reasonable person that “menaces” to oneself are not what the law means. That seems to be the crucial point, as all the other factors can be made out to be satisfied.

    But of course people are continually making demands of one another, usually with a view to making some gain for themselves.

    Of course, there is a huge loophole in the definition above: “that the demand is unwarranted”. That begs the question. Unwarranted in whose opinion?

    Applying this to the case of Mr Barnard, it seems that “unwarranted” must mean that the UK government does not allow its citizens to make requests of it.

    That would make us slaves.

  • glenn_nl

    The Yanks accused Guantanamo hunger strikers of “waging asymmetric warfare” against the US. Surprised they didn’t prosecute these people for their deadly “asymmetric warfare”… unless they realised it would be laughed/thrown out of court?

    • Wikikettle

      The Cretins have taken over and even subverted language and the meaning of words.

  • remember kronstadt

    Hebrews 11:13-16
    King James Version
    13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

    14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

    15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

    16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

    Atheist 1-1-0

    Sneaky God didn’t mention throwing in a curved ball Survivor Trauma and an obsessive test of being. Ever taunting the abyss.

  • remember kronstadt

    Thank goodness that white folks generously made Africa the runaway success it is!

  • Calgacus

    It seems the British legal system is dissatisfied with merely converting the courts into kangaroo courts making kangaroo judgments. To complete the mockery the “crimes” charged now must be kangaroo charges.

    • Spencer Eagle

      It’s far far far worse than kangaroo courts. The British police and judiciary has long been operating a two tier system for those charged under the terrorism Act 2000, going as far as manipulating the true extent of the so-called threat of right wing extremism for political expediency, as this excellent piece demonstrates.

  • M.J.

    The author of “To Sir, with love”, the late great Edward Ricardo Braithwaite, made a journey to apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and wrote of his experiences in the book “Honorary White”. Also worth reading is Donald Woods’ book “Biko”.

  • Crispa

    A google search using “Richard Barnard of Palestine Action” shows no msm reporting of the group’s activities and repeated arrests. Only home news outlet is Morning Star. There are various accounts including interviews given to “sympathetic” organisations such as Peace News and Open Democracy, the latter in detail relating how they were interrogated under Terrorism laws. Middle East monitor gives it coverage as significantly do various Jewish sites that describe Palestine Action as “Jew Haters”, and whose members are obviously tracking their actions very closely. This article can now be found from the same search on p3.

    • fonso

      Says it all about this country really. Compare with the routine headlining of every utterance by a Labour Friend of Israel or some ‘mainstream’ (Likudite) Jewish organisation. All the countries on the planet and our media and politicians most identify with and want to arm the biggest sicko / sadist.

  • Rupert Whitty

    “Having witnessed and reported day after day after day of abuse of process in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange, I have entirely lost any faith in the justice system where it collides with the wishes of government.”

    Could have just asked any black teenager.

  • Peter

    I listened to R4’s World Tonight coverage of Netanyahu’s (or Bibi’s, as Mark Urban likes to call him) removal last night and then to Newsnight’s coverage of the same. There was not one single mention throughout of Netanyahu’s corruption charges and the whole thing was reported as if it was from a normal, democratic, problem-free country (previously) lead by a great man.

    • Wikikettle

      Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson former chief of staff to Secretary of State, explains that the Joint Chiefs of Staff in US post WW2 saw the creation and support of Israel as a liability to US interests in the Middle East. However the project of a Greater Israel rolled and crushed Arab resistance. His outlook now is that the Project will within twenty years be a disaster for the Israelis themselves. If Pan Arabism was halted then by the West, Israel is doing everything to re ignite not only the Arab street, where both Sunni and Shia are walking the same direction, but also the Persians. In my view the new Ottoman Sultan, as the Great Robert Fisk called him, is all mouth and won’t help the Palestinians. The most eloquent and justifiably experienced critics of Israel are not Gentiles but Jews themselves. While others shout from the hill tops, Gabor Mate’ with his gentle voice seeps deep into the hardened souls of his own people, warning that what they are doing is wrong.

      • Laguerre

        “In my view the new Ottoman Sultan, as the Great Robert Fisk called him, is all mouth and won’t help the Palestinians.”

        In that case, you would be going against all the evidence. He has intervened – acted, not mouthed off – a lot. The last one was Libya. Those interventions may not have been to your liking, or even necessarily successful, but action there has been. Even quite successful. The Azerbaijanis have got back their land round Nagorno-Karabakh with Turkish aid. Anyway Fisk was out of date. There was a point where there was probably but not certainly an Ottoman policy, but it was soon dropped and replaced by a strictly Turkish/Muslim line.

        • Giyane

          If Sultan Googoogaga thinks he can restore the Caliphate through doing the bidding of NATO, in Libya, Syria and Armenia, or Palestine, then he doesn’t understand what NATO stands for.

          Turkish Nationalist Attaturk promised that Turkey would re-invade all of its neighbours it had lost in 1920, and it has fulfilled that nationalist oath and simultaneously lost all influence over those neighbours that it acquired by trading with them

          When someone loses something because of tyranny, re-acquires it through fairness, and then re-loses it through oppression, you would think the penny would drop that oppression is a stupid idea.

          Try telling that to the failed British Empire, the failed Mughal Empire, the failed Chinese Empire, the failed Ottoman Empire. As soon as they achieve success through fairness some cow like Mrs Thatcher asks, “Why are we being so namby-pamby and fair? Why don’t we just use our superior position in would opinion to oppress people again?”

          Them, they lose everything. Because they failed to learn the lessons of history.
          Has Egypt ever returned to Empire after Moses pbuh? Hubris Nemesis Ate.

          Britain is on the cusp of Ate, destruction, because it thinks it can oppress the Middle East again under Empire 2 Torydom. Instead it will lose its United Kingdom, its place in the EU, its seat in the UN, its City of London, and its technological supremacy.

          The only person who could have retained our position was Jeremy Corbyn who alone in the Westminster bubble understands that our post-Empire prosperity comes from international rule of law and co-operation.

        • Wikikettle

          Laguerre. Yes, Turkey has invaded Syria and armed and supported extremists now left in Idlib. Flown them out to Libya etc..yet he is losing the economy and votes back home in Turkey, which has a huge trade with Israel. I specifically said he will not help the Palestinians despite his rhetoric, and there is no evidence he has or ever will to date.

          • Wikikettle

            Turkey a NATO member, uses its geographic position and the Bosphorus to play off both US and Russia. Unashamedly using actual terrorists as its proxy mobile army. The day will come soon when Russia will have had enough of its support of neo-fascists in Ukraine and Islamist extremists in the Caucusus.

  • Thom Williams

    Most importantly, good Sir, be safe and hopefully the absurd unjust sentence that you have been subjected to will be recognized and repealed for what it is, a wanton miscarriage of justice.
    The charging of Richard Barnard with blackmail by the Crown Prosecution Service for threatening a hunger strike, within his effort to prevent government/corporate collusion in aiding the committing of murderous international violence, appears to be the most recent example of the last vestiges of willful systemic corruption.
    As Usual,
    Thom Williams

  • Anthony

    The journalism industry is steadfastly silent on all this criminalization of dissent. Indeed it is itself a major arm in the effort to squash dissent, as evidenced by its demonization of Corbyn and Assange. Dissenting truthtellers are so incredibly scarce and they are ruthless in their determination to discredit and silence them.

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