Protest: Alaa Hammad – 200 Days of Hunger Strike, BBC – 200 Days of Silence
Date: Sunday 24th November 2013, 1pm – 3pm
Location: BBC Broadcasting House Portland Place, London W1A 1AA (Oxford Circus Tube)
Alaa Hammad is a Palestinian father of six young children – 3 boys and 3 girls. They have not seen their father for 7 years as he rots in an Israeli dungeon after being severely tortured. As his act of resistance in demanding his freedom from an illegal occupation prison he started a hunger strike. 17th November will be his 200th day on hunger strike. Yet the BBC, which describes its mission as one to “inform” and “educate” and the news as “providing trusted World and UK news..”, has refused to cover his story.
The search engine Google has indexed nearly 20 million articles from the BBC website yet it returns no results from the BBC for Alaa Hammad. Alaa Hammad has never once been mentioned by the BBC – those 20 million articles.. empty of any reference to the Palestinian hunger striker who is nearing death after nearly seven months without food.
This bias by the BBC is not new – it was only after months of protesting outside the BBC over their silence of the hunger strikers Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna that they final mention their names.. even then they only mentioned “Samer Issawi” 6 times and “Ayman Sharawna” 5 times.
If we do a quick search on Google for Israeli prisoner “Gilad Shalit”, the soldier in the Israeli occupation force who was captured by Hamas in 2006, it brings back 998 articles from the BBC which includes articles from this year – two years after he was released and yet he is still news worthy for the BBC. They even did a special article to commemorate the anniversary of his release!
The Shalit release anniversary article reports of his “ordeal”, the “psychological effects”, “trying to come to terms with his fame” the ordeal of the media following “his first bicycle ride after he returned home.. [his] trip to Paris to visit President Nicholas Sarkozy and a meeting with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.. at a concert of the popular singer, Shlomo Artzi, who dedicated a song to him; at various sports events and on the set of the US television drama series, Homeland..” Contrast this ‘ordeal’ which the BBC finds newsworthy to the ordeal Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike are going through TODAY.
Alaa Hammad after 200 days without food is in critical condition. His vision is going – he cannot see more than one foot in front of him, there is pain through out his body and he cannot walk, and there is blood in his urine suggesting his kidneys may no longer be functioning properly. Two months ago he had already lost 30kg in weight, we do not have recent figures as following abuse at the hands of the Israeli prison guards and doctors he has refused all medical examinations as his last resort to protest his inhuman treatment. On occasion Alaa Hamamd has lost consciousness for 5 hours, ignored by Israeli doctors.. they say if a hunger striker falls into coma then they will force feed him.
Alaa Hammad started his hunger strike on 2nd May 2013 along with 4 other Palestinian political prisoners. The Israeli prison guards have brutally attacked the hunger strikers – throwing them off their beds in hospital on to the concrete floor before beating and kicking them; and they have used the denial of medicine as a weapon against the prisoners to force them to stop their hunger strike. After 100 days of enduring such abuse the other 4 hunger strikers suspended their strike after the Israeli prison service agreed to allow family visits for the first time. Some of them have not been allowed to see their families for 13 years. Three months later however, its clear Israel has reneged on the deal with not a single prisoner being allowed to see their family. The father of prisoner Abdullah Al-Barghouti is in critical condition in hospital with only one wish – to see his son before he dies. The families have been left in limbo, their hope now rests with the sole remaining hunger striker Alaa Hammad.
Lack of international attention was the primary reason the four hunger strikers gave as to why they ended their hunger strike, so it is imperative that pressure is put on our media to cover their story, to give voice to their suffering. The BBC is principally funded by television licence fees – £3.7 billion last year. Such blatant bias by omission in its reporting is unacceptable and we as TV licence holders demand the BBC follow its remit to inform and educate by covering the issue of Palestinian hunger strikers and in particular Alaa Hammad. There will be a protest in Jordan (Alaa Hammad’s family is in Jordan) this Sunday to mark Alaa Hammad’s 200th day of hunger strike, and we in the UK will continue with one the next Sunday, on 24th November. We will protest outside the BBC Headquarters on Portland Place, W1A 1AA (closest tube is Oxford Circus) at 1pm-3pm, please join us.
Organized by Inminds Palestinian Prisoners Campaign: http://inminds.com/caged