[Ppnews] Political prisoners speak

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 26 08:33:45 EDT 2006

Political prisoners speak

By Richard Hugus
Online Journal Guest Writer

Sep 26, 2006, 00:45

On Sunday, September 17 The New England Committee 
to Defend Palestine and the Boston chapter of the 
Jericho Movement* held an event in Boston to 
raise funds for Palestinian political prisoners.

The opening talk was from Ahmad Kawash, a 
Palestinian refugee from Miamia camp in Lebanon, 
who spoke of the human effect of imprisonment on 
prisoners and their families in Palestine, and 
the prisoner status of the majority of 
Palestinians, whether enclosed by the Wall in the 
West Bank, or living in camps as refugees. Ahmad 
Kawash said that since the U.S. and Israelis 
don’t care about international law, the only way 
to free this imprisoned society is through 
organized resistance, as exemplified by Hizbollah and Hamas.

There are currently 10,163 Palestinians 
imprisoned for political reasons by the “Israeli” 
colonial occupiers. Fifty thousand residents of 
the West Bank and Gaza have been detained since 
the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 
September, 2000. Five thousand of these detainees 
have been children. Seven-hundred thousand people 
– 25 percent of the total population – have been 
detained since 1967. It is estimated that this 
includes more than 40 percent of the total male 
population. For adult males, the number is 
probably higher than 80 percent. Detention routinely involves torture.

The September 17 event was held in memory of 
Black September, the month in 1970 when Jordanian 
forces under King Hussein massacred as many as 
5,000 Palestinian refugees in Amman. Those 
familiar with the history of Palestine know that 
other "Black Septembers" followed. In September 
of 1982, in an effort to crush Palestinian 
resistance in Lebanon, Phalangist forces under 
the supervision of Ariel Sharon slaughtered 2,000 
Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

In September of 1993, the official signing of the 
Oslo Accords legitimized the theft of 78 percent 
of Palestine and created an infrastructure for 
settlement expansion in what remained. In 
September of 2000, Zionist forces murdered 13 
Palestinians, marking the beginning of the 
Al-Aqsa Intifada. Now, in September 2006, the 
entire territory of Gaza is under a siege of 
killing and starvation, and Lebanon is reeling 
from the recent destruction from U.S.-sponsored Israeli bombing.

But this September also comes at the beginning of 
new resistance to U.S. and Zionist imperialism in 
western Asia. Hizbollah has emerged victorious 
and stronger than ever in Lebanon, and the 
popularity of Hamas in Palestine signals the 
resolve of Palestinians to continue to stand up 
and fight back. In both cases the greatest 
resistance seems to come in the midst of the 
greatest hardship and punishment. The same 
current has reached the US, where the strongest 
support for Palestine now comes from those who 
have endured the worst prisons the U.S. has to 
offer, from those who have proven their 
commitment to national liberation and 
anti-imperial struggles over the past 50 years, 
and who are the first to say that their struggle 
is the same as that of the Palestinians. These 
are the leaders and resistance fighters of the 
New Afrikan, Native, and Puerto Rican independence movements.

At the September 17 commemoration, unqualified 
messages of support for Palestine were read from 
Rafael Cancel Miranda, David Gilbert, Bill Dunne, 
Marilyn Buck, Russell "Maroon" Shoats, Jalil 
Muntaqim, Debbie Sims Africa, Albert Woodfox, Jaan Laaman, and Byron Chubbuck.

National co-chairs of the national Jericho 
movement, former political prisoners Kazi Touré 
and Ashanti Allston delivered messages in person 
at the event. The tone and strength of all the 
messages put to shame the white liberal and 
impotent discourse which dominate most of what is 
called the "antiwar movement" in the U.S. today. 
Even more, the prisoners’ statements may be a 
first major step in redressing the long-standing 
problem of the betrayal of Palestine by the U.S. 
left going back many years. Once it was the 
betrayal of silence. Now, at a time when no one 
can ignore Palestine, it is the betrayal of 
purposely remaining too weak to take a meaningful stand.

Jalil Muntaqim, who was instrumental in the 
founding of the Jericho movement in 1998, sent a 
statement to Palestinian political prisoners 
which spoke to the need for the U.S. left to act decisively:

“When we in North America fail to act, fail to 
confront and engage our common enemy we have 
betrayed you and our words of solidarity become 
empty and hollow. Therefore, it is the duty of 
political activist and progressive folks in this 
country to build a mass and popular movement that 
specifically challenges white supremacy and 
national oppression here. The struggle in the 
U.S. needs to grow and evolve in a consistent 
level of resistance that corresponds to -- if not 
exceeds -- the degree of oppression and reaction 
by U.S. imperialism. Unfortunately, that is not 
happening here, and because of this failing, more 
Palestinians are dying who could have possibly 
been saved. Harsh truths, but truths none the 
less, and it is far time that progressive forces 
in the U.S. come to terms with this reality.”

Jalil Muntaqim is currently in prison in Auburn 
N.Y. Like many other political prisoners, he is 
not mentioned at popular rallies, nor honored by 
the antiwar movement. According to one organizer 
of the September 17 event, people in Boston 
Jericho and the New England Committee to Defend 
Palestine “felt it was important to bring forward 
the voice of U.S. political prisoners not only to 
support and build the resistance struggles they 
represent, but also because their existence helps 
to unmask the falsehood about ‘American 
democracy’ that the U.S. tries to project while 
at the same time promoting its own imperial 
interests. Thus the event also had the purpose of 
reminding people of these political prisoners, 
their history of struggle, the history of 
domestic repression, and the utter sham of a U.S. 
‘democracy’ promoting ‘democracy’ worldwide.”

Myriam Ortiz, a Puerto Rican independentista, 
spoke at the event of the many similarities 
between the 108-year old occupation of Puerto 
Rico and the 58-year old occupation of Palestine 
and cautioned against accepting either as 
established fact because of these long years. The 
similarities she cited between Puerto Rico and 
Palestine were that both countries have been 
plagued by foreign occupation throughout their 
histories, that both were denied status as 
countries in their own right due to these 
histories, that exile was forced on many of their 
inhabitants, that they were both then invaded by 
settler societies, that racism and attacks on 
indigenous culture typify those settler 
societies, that economic dependence was 
intentionally imposed on them, and that they were 
subject to genocidal experiments and practices.

Myriam Ortiz also touched on the co-optation that 
has occurred in “progressive” circles within the imperium:

“The invader's propaganda is not just present in 
the schools we attend, and the media we watch or 
read. Often it infiltrates what is supposed to be our progressive discourse.

"Pacifism, human rights, and feminism are often 
co-opted to attack anti-colonial resistance and 
deny its legitimacy. Always bombarded by colonial 
propaganda, we sometimes echo that anti 
resistance language disguised as progressivism, 
as if it were some universally held truth.

"In the case of Puerto Rico, the American 
'leftists' who swoon over the Cuban revolution, 
quote Che Guevara, and supported the Sandinistas, 
argue that armed struggle would be a bad option 
for us, because it would alienate the American 
'working class'"; a working class that has always 
been complicit with the U.S.'s colonial projects.

"In the case of Palestine, the 'Israel'" and 
American left reject armed struggle, because they 
see the settlers as 'innocent civilians'; never 
mind that those settlers are responsible for the 
exodus of about 900,000 Palestinians already; 
never mind they've built their homes on the ruins 
of destroyed Palestinian homes, and continue to 
do so; never mind they all join the 'Israeli' 
military that protects the theft perpetrated 
against Palestinians; never mind that those same 
'innocent civilians' often engage in the 
persecution and humiliation of Palestinians. 
Curiously, that 'socialism loving' Zionist left, 
who praised the armed resistance against Hitler, 
who often praises the Cuban revolution, suddenly 
discovers the 'merits' of Gandhi and nonviolence when it comes to Palestine.”

Marta Rodriguez, another Puerto Rican 
independentista, sent the following message from her home in Puerto Rico:

"You should all be very happy, not only because 
of the money raised for Palestinian political 
prisoners, but because you struck quite a blow at 
the Zionists, and most particularly the left 
Zionists. For years they've gotten away with 
denying Palestine's place among the nations 
fighting colonialism and invasion by arguing that 
'the situation is complicated' without being 
challenged by non-Palestinians. On September 17 
we heard from representatives of different 
resistance anticolonial movements who said 
otherwise. The next time some 'soft' Zionist 
comes to argue that "the 'Palestine/Israel' 
'conflict' is 'more complicated,' tell her/him to 
ask Don Rafael, or any of the Resistance 
prisoners who partook of the event via their 
solidarity messages. Eventually they will have no place to hide."

Who are the left Zionists? They're the people who 
fill books and give long speeches about the 
suffering of the Palestinians, and don't mention 
a word about the absolute legitimacy of armed 
resistance to the colonizers who caused this 
suffering. They're the people who say we need to 
"listen to both sides." implying that the 
murderer and thief has as much right to be heard 
as the victim. They're the people who will 
criticize "Israel" up one side and down the 
other, but only for the purpose of making 
"Israel" nicer -- a kind of clever blockade 
against the much more obvious conclusion that 
"Israel" should be done away with altogether. 
They're the people who say Palestinians should 
have equal rights and a state of their own in the 
West Bank and Gaza, but of course not any of the 
land stolen by colonial settlers since 1948. Left 
Zionists have a comfortable home in the United 
States, because the U.S. was founded on the same 
crimes, and is open to the same condemnation.

 From at least the 1960s the U.S. left has been 
influenced by activists and intellectuals who 
took principled stands on almost every issue but 
Palestine. Some were Zionists intentionally 
working for the cause. Some were simply afraid to 
face the mountain of guilt laid at the feet of 
the West in general for genocide committed 
against Jewish people. But it is becoming harder 
and harder to ignore the genocide being committed 
today under the aegis of Zionism, and to separate 
Zionism from its benefactor, U.S. imperialism. 
The killing never stops. Gaza is being punished 
again and again. The restrictions on Palestinian 
life become more and more severe. Lebanon has 
again been devastated by Israeli bombs and missiles. Yet no one speaks.

Those who took most to heart and led the 
important struggles of the '60s for the 
liberation of Puerto Rico, of Vietnam, of Afrikan 
and native people under racist oppression – have 
now demonstrated their strength again, most of 
them from behind bars, with a message of great 
significance: Palestine too is a struggle for 
national liberation, and there is no time for us 
to dither. It is interesting that these 
prisoners, who come from different experiences, 
who don't know each other, all concluded that 
Palestine is a nation fighting colonialism and 
has a right to resist. It speaks volumes of 
Palestine's rightful place among nations 
resisting colonialism; that all it takes is for 
someone to recognize her/his own colonial 
experience in order to see Palestinians as 
involved in the same struggle. In his message, Rafael Cancel Miranda said:

"I admire the Palestinian people, because I know 
how much love and courage it takes to struggle 
with their determination. My people, the people 
of Puerto Rico, are engaged in a similar 
struggle. I can say without fear of 
self-deception that we will win; not only because 
truth and reason are on our side, but because we 
are ready to do whatever is necessary to secure the rights of our peoples."

Rafael Cancel Miranda is a Puerto Rican 
nationalist and former political prisoner for 28 
years, who, along with Andrés Figueroa Cordero, 
Irvin Flores and Lolita Lebrón, protested the 
criminal nature of the U.S. colonial domination 
of Puerto Rico by opening fire on the U.S. 
Congress in 1954. Don Rafael was sentenced to 84 
years for “an attempt to overthrow the government 
by force and violence.” As a result of pressure 
from the Puerto Rican Independence movement and 
the international community, he was released without conditions in 1979.

It is time for activists in the U.S. to realize 
that their country too, like Israel, is founded 
on genocide and wars of aggression, and needs to 
be dealt with from a revolutionary, not a 
reformist, perspective. It can’t be changed from 
within; it can't be made nicer. Our duty to the 
rest of the world that the U.S. has so long 
oppressed is to work where we are to stop this 
unbelievable monster from going any further.
*<http://www.onepalestine.org/>New England 
Committee to Defend Palestine, <http://www.jerichoboston.org/>Jericho Boston.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
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