[Ppnews] Prisoners see linked struggles in California, Palestine

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 4 13:54:10 EDT 2013

  Prisoners see linked struggles in California, Palestine

Submitted by Nora Barrows-Fr... on Tue, 09/03/2013 - 23:55



This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

    * Why Palestine solidarity activists are organizing around the
      hunger striking prisoners in California jails
          o Azadeh Zohrabi, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Network
          o Lara Kiswani, Arab Resource and Organizing Center

      Rush transcript: Lara Kiswani and Azadeh Zohrabi on solidarity
      between prisoner hunger strikers in California and Palestine

*The Electronic Intifada:* Azadeh, let's start off with you. can you 
tell us about the latest news on the hunger strike protests that are 
still going on inside California prisons, and what they're demanding, 
and how the state has responded so far?

*Azadeh Zohrabi:* Yes. You mentioned earlier that there are about 40 
people who are still on hunger strike, and those are people who have 
been on hunger strike continuously since July 8th --- today is their 
57th day. However, they're not the only ones on hunger strike; there are 
about 150 other people who are also on hunger strike, they just haven't 
been on hunger strike continuously. They may have come off hunger strike 
and restarted their hunger strike.

We also noticed that since two weeks ago, when a federal court in 
California gave permission to the Department of Corrections to begin 
force-feeding people, that many protesters have rejoined the hunger 
strike in protest of this force-feeding order. So we see that numbers 
are rapidly going up. So far, the state of California has not engaged in 
negotiations with the hunger strikers, nor have they addressed the 
demands of the hunger strikers in any reasonable or meaningful way.

The prisoners who are on hunger strike are demanding an end to the 
administrative abuse that they face, a lot of these things happen with 
very little due process and very little transparency. And people are 
spending decades in solitary confinement under these conditions that are 
not conditions that are given to them as part of their sentence by a 
court when they're sentenced to prison, it's completely done 
administratively, in secrecy, using confidential evidence that can't be 

They're also asking for better food. A lot of them are complaining about 
the nutritional inadequacy of the food that they've been given. A lot of 
them are asking for more contact with their families, better conditions, 
more time out of their cells, and an end to long-term solitary 
confinement --- this practice that allows the Department to hold them in 
cells by themselves for forty or more years.

*EI:* Lara Kiswani, this sounds shockingly similar to the conditions 
that Palestinian prisoners are facing in Israeli jails and detention 
centers. Can you talk about how this struggle in California connects to 
the Palestinian struggle for human rights, and why are solidarity 
activists organizing around the hunger strikes inside California prisons?

*Lara Kiswani:* Yes, definitely. There are very organic connections and 
links between what's happening here with prisoners in California and 
across the US, and what's happening with prisoners in Palestine or in 
the Zionist state of Israel. The US exports torture tactics and policing 
strategies all across the world, and specifically within the state of 
Israel. And they share surveillance technology, police training and 
military training. So the fact that a lot of the strategies are shared 
across the border also means that the struggles within the prisons are 
very similar.

And just like the system here is racialized, it too is racialized in 
Palestine. So we find there are direct connections between the interests 
of the US in the prison industry here, and the interests of the US 
within the state of Israel, and its expansion of empire and its 
corporate interests.

So prisoners in Palestine have been struggling for decades with 
administrative detention, which is very similar to solitary confinement, 
and 40 percent of the Palestinian male population have been in prison. 
So given these numbers, there's obviously a clear connection to the 
people of color here in the US and the way in which men of color in 
particular are used as pawns within this industry, and often targeted 
for the prison industrial complex.

So we've been trying really hard to make these connections within our 
broader bases. But within the prisons themselves, Palestinian prisoners 
have been making those connections and have been reading up on 
struggles, from the days of Bobby Sands and after, they've been very 
well-read. The prisons are in essence schools, just like they are here. 
Where movements are actually created and built within the prisons.

Right after the hunger strikes started here in Pelican Bay, statements 
started to come out from prisons in Palestine, expressing their 
solidarity with the struggles here. Because they saw that their struggle 
was intrinsically linked to the struggle of prisoners here against the 
US imperialist country that is essentially the root cause of what 
Palestinians are going through.

*EI:* Azadeh, how important is it to build solidarity networks around 
the systems of mass incarceration in the US, especially when the 
establishment media is not covering these hunger strikes either in 
California or Palestine, or general prison conditions at all?

*AZ:* It's very important, and I think that the people who are in prison 
and are on a hunger strike in California also see these connections.

I was just at New Folsom Prison last Thursday, where a busload of 50 
prisoners was just transferred from Pelican Bay. And during my visits, 
the people who were on hunger strike in the prison were asking me to 
look up information on how Israel deals with hunger strikers, and how 
they have dealt with hunger strikers, because there was a strong feeling 
that the US and the California state and federal governments were 
collaborating with Israel in terms of information sharing, just as Lara 
said, about how to politically repress these peaceful protest actions, 
and how to delegitimize them, and how to squash it inside prisons.

So today I was reading about Palestinian prisoners being transferred in 
an attempt to break their hunger strikes, and that's the exact same 
thing we're seeing in California. And there's a very real consciousness 
amongst the prisoners in California that this is a global struggle 
against these same issues, and that what's happening in California is 
linked to what's happening in Palestine, and is linked to what happened 
in Ireland and what happened in those prisons there.

So there's a very real connection both in terms of the outside 
collaborative work that we're trying to do to build solidarity, and what 
the prisoners themselves are seeing --- their moment in history and 
their struggle for human rights.

*EI:* Lara, how can people get in touch with the Arab Resource and 
Organizing Center and what kinds of direct actions are you planning in 
support of the California prison hunger strikes?

*LK:* Well, one thing we're constantly doing is just internal education 
and sharing stories and experiences. So we've created a Pelican Bay to 
Palestine network, which Azadeh is a part of, as well as other prison 
organizers in the Bay Area, to talk about the different struggles and 
what's happening, different efforts to challenge these systems of 

So one thing is internal education, and the other is developing some 
sort of action plan as far as being participants in the various actions 
that the coalition is already in the works of building on. So we've 
already been participating in various efforts, as well as the Cocoran 
State Prison caravan, and the direct actions that have been happening 

People can get in touch with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center 
through our website, araborganizing.org <http://araborganizing.org/>, 
that's probably the best way, and we'll be updating about various ways 
for us to stay in the loop about different struggles, prison struggles 
as well as other solidarity struggles across the US.

*EI:* And Azadeh, where can people go for more information on the 
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition?

*AZ:* We are at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com 
<http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/>, we also have a 
Facebook presence 
and @CAHungerStrike <https://twitter.com/CAHungerStrike> on Twitter. On 
our website, you can find all the information about upcoming actions, 
statements from the prisoners themselves and all the news and action 
alerts and upcoming events happening across the country.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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