[Boycott - Other News]
Protest at BBC's Israel lobby appointment and reporting blackout on hunger strikers
10 April 2013
On Sunday 7th April 2013 around 20 human rights activists protested outside the BBC, Broadcasting House in Portland Place, demanding the BBC break its silence and lift the broadcasting blackout on covering the plight of Palestinian hunger strikers. One of the hunger strikers - Samer Issawi is now on his 260th day of his hunger strike. Barely alive, a skeleton of a man weighing just 45kg he is struggling to breath on a ventilator with an average heart beat of just 24 beats per minute (a healthy persons average heart rate is over three times this). Yet despite his physical frailty Samer Issawi's spirit is unbreakable and he has recently reiterated: "I reaffirm for the thousandth time that I continue my hunger strike until either freedom and return to Jerusalem or martyrdom!"
The BBC still blocking coverage of Samer Issawi and the other Palestinian hunger strikers
The protesters also questioned the BBC's claim to impartiality with its recent appointment of James Purnell to one of the most powerful positions in the BBC - that of Head of Strategy. James Purnell was the chairman of the Israel Lobby group Labour Friends of Israel for two consecutive years. The apartheid wall, which the International Court of Justice ruled ILLEGAL built on stolen Palestinian land, is described on record by James Purnell as "a doveish move which recognizes the legitimacy of two states". He also equated left wing criticism of Israel to antisemitism. How can a person who rejects the findings of the International Court of Justice because it goes against Israel and then silences any criticism of Israel by accusations of antisemitism be given charge of BBC's policy and strategy? James Purnell's powerful position is one of the most highly paid jobs in the BBC with a salary of £295,000 per year, and yet there was no open selection process - no other candidates were considered or interviewed - it was a done deal, Israel's man gifted the position.
Biased BBC gives top strategy job to Israel lobby
The martyr Maysara Abuhamdia died in Israeli custody on 2nd April 2013. This being the first protest after his death, we showed our solidarity with him by carrying his placards. Maysara spent his entire life resisting the occupation of his land, in return in 2005 he was sentenced to 99 years in prison by the Israeli occupation forces. In prison, Israeli doctors cruelly delayed his treatment for cancer for 7 months until it was too late. They then transferred the dying patient to hospital in a windowless metal box van which has no seats - the patients are just thrown on the metal floor in the back where they stay shackled for the long journey. In hospital the doctors kept Maysara shackled to his bed where he died, photos of his dead body still show him shackled to the bed.
We also remembered Arafat Jaradat who was recently tortured to death in a G4S secured Israeli prison.
The action was part of the Palestinian Prisoners Campaign launched by Innovative Minds (inminds.com) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (ihrc.org) on Al-Quds Day 2012. The campaign aims to raise awareness for the plight of Palestinian prisoners and build solidarity for their struggle and work towards their freedom.
Maysara Abuhamdia died in Israeli custody on 2nd April 2013
Stop the silence..
On Sunday 17th March long term Palestinian hunger striker Ayman Sharawna won his freedom after 8 months on hunger strike. On the verge of death after 261 days without food, Ayman was finally released but still not able to go home to his Hebron for another 10 years. In contravention of the Geneva Convention Israel placed conditions on Ayman's release of forcible deportation to the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Some have suggested its a hollow victory, in line with Israels policy of ethnic cleansing the West Bank of its Palestinians. Whilst this is true it does not diminish in any way Ayman's personal victory of winning his release after a record breaking hunger strike. It does however call in to question the effectiveness of the solidarity movement around the world.
Ayman gave us 8 months to highlight his illegal imprisonment by Israel following its breaking of the internationally brokered Shalit deal; 8 months without food so we could rally public opinion around his cause to force Israel to release him as it had done with Mahmoud Sarsak before him. But we failed.
One of the reasons for this failure is the reporting blackout by the corporate media on the plight of the hunger strikers and our failure to hold it to account. Until we launched our series of protests outside the BBC demanding they cover the story of the hunger strikers the BBC had completely ignored them - not one mention of Ayman Sharawna or Samer Issawi in its 21 million indexed articles spanning the 8 months of hunger strike. Its note worthy that since the protests began outside the BBC, the BBC has for the first time started to mention the hunger strikers: 4 mentions of Ayman Sharawna and Samer Issawi in February and 1 mention of Samer Issawi in March..
Ayman Sharawna is now free, but Samer Issawi has on principle rejected the deal of release with condition of forced deportation. He has said:
"Regarding the Israeli occupationís offer to deport me to Gaza, I affirm that Gaza is undeniably part of my homeland and its people are my people. However, I will visit Gaza whenever I want or feel like it, as it is within my homeland, Palestine, which I have the right to wander whenever I like, from the very north to the very south. I strongly refuse to be deported to Gaza as this practice will just bring back bitter flashbacks from the expulsion process to which our Palestinian people were subjected during 1948 and 1967.
We are fighting for the sake of the freedom of our land and the return of our refugees in Palestine and the diaspora, not to add more deportees to them. This systematic practice by Israel that aims to empty Palestine of Palestinians and bring strangers in their place is a crime. Therefore, I refuse being deported and I will only agree to be released to Jerusalem, as I know that the Israeli occupation aims to empty Jerusalem of its people and turn Arabs into a minority group of its population. The issue of deportation is no longer a personal decision, it is rather a national principle. If every detainee agrees to be deported outside Jerusalem under pressure, Jerusalem will eventually be emptied of its people.
I would prefer dying on my hospital bed to being deported from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is my soul and my life. If I was uprooted from there, my soul would be uprooted from my body. My life is meaningless away from Jerusalem. No land on earth will be able to embrace me other than Jerusalem. Therefore, my return will be only to Jerusalem and nowhere else. I advise all Palestinians to embrace their land and villages and never succumb to the Israeli occupationís wishes. I donít see this issue as a personal cause that is related to Samer Issawi. It is a national issue, a conviction and a principle that every Palestinian who loves his homelandís sacred soil should hold. Finally, I reaffirm for the thousandth time that I continue my hunger strike until either freedom and return to Jerusalem or martyrdom!"
The latest information we have is that after 260 days on hunger strike Samer's heart is very weak, he is dying. It is imperative we focus the worlds attention on his struggle so that pressure is brought on Israel to release him without conditions. This means continuing the pressure on the BBC to cover his story. With this in mind we protested once more outside the BBC..
Samer Issawi 200+ days without food (260 now), 200+ days with out a mention by the BBC
Bus stops for a leaflet!
Bus driver asks for a leaflet - good on him!
It was interesting to see the BBC are following our website and facebook page to learn when our protests are scheduled so that they can prepare for them by erecting barriers and a checkpoint some 100m from the entrance with access only for those with BBC ID cards. The barriers block a section of land which is meant to have a public right of way through it, especially needed for local residents wishing to get home. One resident actually came to complain to us that the BBC security are preventing her from going home! Needless to say all their efforts were wasted as we have to pick the busiest location for the protest to maximize our audience - and the BBC entrance, hardly used on a Sunday, hidden behind the BBC Radio Building is not it. Instead we choose the spot adjacent to the BBC building, opposite the zebra crossing serving the Langham Hotel, as the location for the protest.
leaflets going like hot cakes!
With so many people helping with leafleting we rushed through the supply of leaflets. The response from the public was great, with Pro-Palestinian music playing in the background creating a wonderful atmosphere, many people took the time to read each one of our posters and chat to us asking for more information. It was a real indication that the corporate media aren't doing there job, people are eager to know the truth but the BBC isn't providing it. We only had one negative response, from an elderly Zionist who wasn't interested in anything we had to say but just kept chanting the usual zionist mantra of why were we picking on poor little Israel, the only democracy, what about Syria and Darfur, etc. Rather than confront him we just left him shouting, it seemed to help convince other passer-by's to our position..
People are eager to know the truth, they take the time to go to each poster in turn and read it carefully, to understand what is happening - something the BBC is failing to provide them.
The next protest will be in commemoration of Palestinian Prisoners Day. We will be protesting outside G4S HQ in London on Friday 19th April from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, please join us.
Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/491842574210144/
BBC security watch from a distance, from behind their barrier
Leaflet and placard designs
Maysara Abuhamdia placard
Samer Issawi 260 days - Leaflet (front)
James Purnell Israel Lobby - Leaflet (back)
Also Of Interest
Page URL: http://www.inminds.co.uk/article.php?id=10589