Beware of my hunger

Write down!
I am an Arab
And my identity card number is fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth will come after a summer
Will you be angry?

Roughly 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are on hunger strike. Just over a week ago, one of them collapsed during his court hearing after going for sixty-six days without food. He is Bilal Diab, and today marks the seventy-fourth day of his fight.

This wave of resistance from within the prison system itself began with Khader Adnan, a baker from the West Bank village of Arrabeh who started to refuse all food after he was arrested by the military and placed in what is euphemistically known as administrative detention. Prisoners are held without charge or trial, and their detention can be renewed indefinitely. Adnan had already been imprisoned multiple times. In a letter he gave to his lawyers during his hunger strike, he wrote, “The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of administrative detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey.” His case captured international attention, with a close friend and co-activist of Bobby Sands writing from Ireland to offer support and call for Adnan’s immediate release.

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What ‘retards’ have taught me about peace work (and people)

“Are you mentally handicapped?”

“He’s too low IQ to give a proper response.”

“I’m sure you’re retarded.”

The use of cognitive disability as an insult has always bothered me. It’s demeaning and hurtful to people who have such disabilities, and it shows a lack of understanding of how these conditions actually affect a person. When these insults are flung about in a discussion on the conflict in Palestine and Israel, my usual distaste is tinged with a sense of something very like irony as well.

Before I started work in Bethlehem, I had a job in a residential college for young adults with learning disabilities. Most of the students were eighteen or nineteen when they came to us, although the college could accept any student between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. It was a marvellous place, set in one of the wildest and most beautiful counties of England, with a river flowing beneath it and a ruined castle in the grounds. Also dotted about were several little cottages (once the houses of farmhands) where the students lived together in groups of half a dozen.

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