Israel has plunged into unfathomable depths of cynicism and callousness, in its mockery-campaign targeting hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti for supposedly eating a cookie and a wafer in his prison cell toilet cubicle.
This campaign of incitement has been orchestrated by Minister of Internal Security, Strategic Affairs and Hasbara (propaganda), Gilad Erdan. But Erdan is not alone. The campaign to humiliate Barghouti is being taken up by a gleeful media and public.
Today, Allison Kaplan Sommer in Haaretz noted how Barghouti was “eaten alive on social media”. She cited various mocking tweets about the wafer, photoshopped memes of him holding a wafer, or having a doughnut stuffed in his mouth. She presented a Facebook post by Army Radio host Erel Segal, with the Army Radio logo on it, eating a wafer with a woman standing beside him, both cracking up in laughter. The text says “Tortit [the wafer brand] and cola – after all, a legitimate Mediterranean breakfast” [my translation]. The cola on the table is Coca Cola, not incidentally – as Kaplan Sommer notes:
“several people paired images of the candy bar with bottles and cans of Coke in a reference to the recent report that Israel’s Coca-Cola franchise donated thousands of dollars to the left-wing bashing group In Tirtzu in 2015.”
So here we have an institution – Army Radio – directly implicated in this mockery. But they weren’t the only ones.
Pizza Hut ran a mock campaign on its Facebook page yesterday, using a still caption of Barghouti on the toilet, with a banner saying, “Barghouti, if you’re going to break a strike, isn’t pizza better?” – the meme added a pizza box on the floor and a pizza slice in the sink. The post was since removed, but here is a cached version (thanks to Tali Shapira, Ofer Neiman for noting).
This perverse mocking of hunger strikers with food– and the disgraceful violations of their privacy — did not just begin now. As Orly Noy wrote in the Hebrew version of her article in Local Call titled “When did we become so beastly” (my translation):
“When did we become so beastly? How did we become this loser, this despicable nation which celebrates in glee that a human whose body is close to collapse after continuous starvation, has put some crumbs in his mouth? How did we become this nation that sets up a grill outside the prison walls so that the smell of the meat would reach the nostrils of the hunger strikers and exacerbate their tortures? How have we become this appalling and sickening thing?”
(An English version that is somewhat shorter was published on +972 Magazine, titled ‘Israelis simply don’t want to know about Palestinian prisoners’).
Ofer Neiman posted an appraisal of the contradictions in Israeli hasbara, under a satirical heading: “Marwan Barghouti, the Cookie Monster”:
‘On odd days of the week, the ”Israeli regime and media ”prove to the Israeli public that Marwan Barghouti and his comrades are dangerous and steadfast murderers.
On even days of the week, the Israeli regime and media “prove” to the Israeli public that Marwan Barghouti and his comrades are spineless cowards.
On odd days, fear and hatred are instilled. On even days, disregard and contempt are instilled. The Israeli sheeple swallows it whole, without noting the contradiction. Bon appetit.’
Gideon Levy wrote yesterday in Haaretz about the evil character of the campaign:
“The Israel Prison Service is abusing them. At first they took away the salt, then they isolated them, fined them and increased the weight of the already cruel load. The Israeli media hardly reports their strike. It knows the heart of its consumers: Most Israelis don’t care about the strike, while some are happy over it; let them die.”
This callous indifference to Palestinian demands is echoed in Orly Noy’s post (English version):
“After three weeks of hunger strike, the Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know what happens to a body after it is deprived of food for so long. How the hunger striker struggles to stand on his feet, suffers from severe dizziness, a dramatic decrease in heart activity, fatigue, tremors, and potential damage to his lungs and motor skills. As the days go by, prisoners will have a difficult time swallowing water and may lose their sight, their ability to hear, and will have a difficult time breathing. And all this without going into the psychological consequences. But the Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know.
The Israeli public neither knows nor wants to know about the enormous significance this strike has for the Palestinian people on the outside; about the solidarity protests and tent encampments erected in support in nearly every city across the West Bank; about the people who joined the hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners; about the hopes among the hunger strikers that this will move forward an internal dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. It does not know about the “Saltwater Challenge,” in which Palestinians around the world film themselves drinking a cup of saltwater in solidarity with the prisoners. It neither knows nor wants to know.
What is the Israeli public interested in, instead? Marwan Barghouti’s chocolate-coated waffle.”
When I posted the Pizza Hut meme on my Facebook wall (to show the depth of the abyss), my friend Dave Gaskell noted:
“For me this shows a dark side so entrenched in Israeli society that it was deemed OK to do this. Similar to those hideous … bags supporting Elor Azaria by Rami Levy supermarkets for murder”.
Gaskell is refering to supermarket bags with the image of the medic-killer Elor Azaria.
That’s where Israel is. A sweeping arrogance, callousness and ignorance. It’s hard to see light at the end of this horror show. This is the real terror of it all.