More efficient media coverage a must for the success of Palestinian hunger strikers
A whole week has passed since the Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons started their indefinite hunger strike in a symbolic "uprising" against their jailers' cruelty. But their battle isn't going according to plan amid what seems to be an intentional media blackout, said the columnist Hussam Kanafani in the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.
One day after the collective decision was announced, follow-up news on the strike seemed to slip off most western and Arab news agencies daily grids. The issue should have received more focus, at least in Palestine.
"Who's to blame?" asked the writer. "It isn't enough to point fingers at the Israeli occupation authorities at this point. In fact, it was the normal reaction to be expect from them, especially in light of the arbitrary measures they have been practicing so far against the Palestinians."
Besides, this isn't the first time the Israeli authorities had to deal with this type of mutiny in its jails. The recently released prisoner Khader Adnan had successfully coerced his jailers to acquiesce, even partly, to his terms by going on a 67-day hunger strike that ended in February.
But if his attempt was successful, it was because of the media coverage it attracted, mainly in Palestine, which in turn caught the attention of the western media.
"No media impetus of the sort can be seen in this instance where more than 1,200 prisoners are refusing their daily meals, either in the Arab or in the western media," added Kanafani. "On the contrary, it looks as if the fascination that surfaced with the first day of the strike has subsided."
The issue is bigger than a mere focus on the launching of the strike. Daily developments must lead at every news medium in and outside Palestine; that is if the strike was to reach the same scope as Mr Adnan's individual strike and especially since reports are suggesting that more and more prisoners are joining the strike.
The Palestinian media have yet to take the prisoners' movement seriously. Only then will the voice of empty stomachs be heard.
It isn't too late yet; the movement is still in the beginning and promises more escalation in the near future. But it lacks strong and efficient support from within, away from political divisions, as well as the backing of the Arab world.
Approximately 4,700 Palestinians are detained in Israeli prisons. Their hunger strike, which coincided with the annual commemoration of Prisoners' Day in Palestine, was a last-resort measure to coerce their captors into meeting their demands, mainly the abolishment of inhumane incarceration policies such as solitary confinement, administrative detention and the continuation of sanctions that were imposed before the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier that was captured in Gaza.
North African stakes in the French election
The people of France are not the only ones anxious to see the outcome of their presidential election, which kicked off yesterday, given that North African nations also have a stake in that outcome, according to a commentary by Mohammed Lachheb, a Moroccan columnist, in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.
While the incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy, of the Union for a Popular Movement party, and his main rival, the Socialist Party's Francois Hollande, are battling it out at the polls, some of France's former colonies in North Africa are rooting for one, and some for the other.
Morocco, for instance, has had excellent ties with France during Mr Sarkozy's tenure, whereas right across the border, in Algeria, those relations have not been all that great.
Bad blood from the era of French colonisation of Algeria still muddies the water.
Many French voters of North African descent feel equally French and African, and their vote is often dictated by how good the relations are between their host and mother nations.
In other words, this region matters to France just as much as France matters to it.
Look at the economy. "Trade volume and economic figures show that French influence is still very much a fact of life in North Africa," the columnist said.
The UAE cannot be bullied on the islands
Those who think the UAE is weak or submissive on tackling the crisis of the three islands occupied by Iran are off the mark, wrote Dr Mohammed Bin Huwaidin, in an article published in the Dubai-based Al Bayan.
"This is exactly what Iran is striving to promote through its frequent provocative acts," said the author. The recent visit of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the UAE's Abu Musa island is a stark example of such moves.
The greatest achievement of the UAE is the wisdom its leaders have in dealing with all issues.
"Among the UAE policy constants is peaceful conflict resolution, and steering away from use of force," the writer said. "This stand does not come from our weakness, but rather from an astuteness, the core of which is that we are holders of a civilisation project and not warmongers."
"The UAE is able to retake its occupied islands by military force, which our adversaries think we lack," the writer said.
"We had the chance to forcibly reclaim the three islands on several occasions in the past but the UAE distanced itself from using the political circumstances to this end."
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk