By: Ahmad Safi
Edited and translated by PAL team
There are times I’m convinced we are delusional in thinking we are beings who have any rights in the eye of international law. We did not choose this life, but we happen to live in this system, at this time, in this skin. This life builds walls against the way we treat other creatures living alongside us in this same reality that is flooded with violence and hatred. More importantly, this misery destroys hope. It prevents rights, morality, humanity, justice, and equality from becoming more than just words. They become foreign concepts difficult to even talk about, much less to envision attaining them in our lifetime.
It has been 25 days since Palestinian political prisoners began their hunger strike. As prisoners under Israeli control, during their sentence they were entitled to basic rights granted to them by way of law, treaties, and international protections. Since they are considered criminals in this system, however, they have been denied of these rights inside a country that considers itself above the law, and acts accordingly.
Though the strike has been largely ignored by many media outlets, perhaps you have read or learned about the reasons stated by the prisoners for its necessity (https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/02/hunger-strikes- highlight-isolation- palestinian- prisoners ). They seek to regain basic access to resources and comforts which have been taken from them, including more family visitations, a phone line of communication with their families outside, less restricted access to mass communication television channels to watch, and raising the quality of food given to them for years on end. A more detailed review can be found in the second link: http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?ID=776469
As a Palestinian embedded in a drastically unjust politicized conflict, I often try to avoid speaking on politics. But it is not something any of us can hide from for long as it permeates all facets of our life, though one many continue to try. The politics that plague my country are not some separate entity apart from our daily life and work. In fact, the violence that has shaped our life is the very thing that has also driven us to fight for animals and all those weakened and exploited by more powerful forces. It’s hard not to compare the experiences we share with them, and inside this world of recurring patterns of violence played out by the strong upon the weak, how can we possibly benefit from drawing distinguishing lines?
At times I am reminded that it is falling upon the shoulders of severely restricted people to find a solution to animal suffering within a state of injustice that has persisted for the last 69 years, since the onset of the state Israel. We do not enjoy the fundamental rights granted to humans or other species. In such desperation, our mission begins to feel terribly removed from the reality in which we live day by day. We shout for animal rights in a world that has been swallowed by a violent unjust occupation and which has stripped us of the most basic of human rights.
I write to you as an animal activist under apartheid behind the wall and I wonder how many others there are like me. I wonder why our suffering does not elicit emotion from a movement which has been moved to devote itself to eliminate the suffering of beings trapped in cages, barracks, farms, and slaughterhouses. I feel heard and supported by the animal rights community when I am careful to talk only about animals. But I wonder what it is about us when our plight is discussed that allows you to ignore us. The suffering of a chicken raised in 40 days to become meat unites us in its barbarity; but what about the ferocious suffering endured inside many Israeli prisons for years on end, by those who survive at all. Days slip like sand through your fingers as your children grow up and your parents grow old outside those walls. You sit trapped in daily torture, beatings, solitary confinement, withheld medical treatment, and complete isolation from the world you once fought to defend. I want to find an explanation for the silence in response to their screams, both the 1,700 Palestinian prisoners who have died and for those who may soon join them as we near the end of day 26 of this hunger strike.
Even our history betrays us. We are going through the worst stage in our times. Whether it be concentration camps during the Nazi rule, Israeli concentration camps, or the farm industry utilizing meat production, there is no competition on which is worse. I want to know that our resistance, the pain we have gone through has meaning, or that we deserve to suffer this pain on account of a sin we did not know we committed.
I often find myself thinking of the vegan Israeli soldier who clocks in, performs his duty clad in green helmet and boots, free of animal products. He blocks roads, shoots at children, and tortures and degrades prisoners and watches them die on so many levels. On his weekends, on the other side of the wall, he picks up a sign and demonstrate against fur or vivisection, and in that world he considers himself a defender of the weak. Those actions are admirable, but the contradiction cannot be ignored. As I understand it, the fight for animal rights, at its core, is a fight for the most pure and uncomplicated equality. And if this is a definition with which we can all agree, I am left unable to understand the logic which allows so many of us to exclude the suffering of an entire group from that moral consideration.
I’d like to speak to you directly, those of you who are wondering what can be done, and say that I am confident we share the same heart. I am sure your empathy for all beings on this planet will lead you to support humanity in all its facets. I hope you can see that in taking a stand, you become a part of existential fight for one’s own humanity through the realization of another’s liberation. You must free yourself from the mere concepts that tie cables around your hands and leave yu useless. Say no to injustice, no to war, and no to this toxic neutrality and complicity in justifying the misery based on nationality. As our collective fight for animals has taught us, there are no distinctions when it comes to rights and suffering. Each of us has the power to stand for what is right.