[Pnews] Palestinian prisoners: A battleground for international solidarity

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 5 10:40:03 EST 2018


  Palestinian prisoners: A battleground for international solidarity by
  Charlotte Kates

November 3, 2018samidoun
13-16 minutes

/The following article, by Charlotte Kates, the international 
coordinator of Samidoun, initially appeared in Arabic in Al-Adab 
magazine, published on November 2, 2018. The Arabic text can be read 
online at the Al-Adab website 
The article appeared in an issue with a special focus on Palestinian 
prisoners, including testimonies from current and former political 
prisoners and their families./

Ghassan Kanafani’s quote that “Palestine today is not a cause for 
Palestinians only; it is the cause of every revolutionary, the cause of 
the oppressed and exploited masses in our era”[1] <#_ftn1> has not 
dulled in its accuracy over time. Perhaps it resonates more clearly than 
ever before, when U.S. imperialism and its European partners appear as 
an ongoing threat to Palestinian existence and self-determination as 
well as to any form of Arab unity or even truly independent policy.

There are many campaigns that capture the attention of the international 
solidarity movement, all of them worthwhile and challenging some aspect 
of the Zionist project in occupied Palestine – from the campaign to 
break the siege on Gaza, to building boycott campaigns against Israeli 
corporations, state entities or academic and cultural institutions, to 
working with Palestinian communities in countries of exile to fight back 
against racism and repression. The struggle to defend Palestinian 
political prisoners and seek their freedom is central to building 
solidarity with the Palestinian people, their national liberation 
movement and their revolution.

The Zionist movement and state certainly recognize the centrality of 
this issue; it should be noted that Gilad Erdan, the minister who 
carries the file of “public security,” including the Israel Prison 
Service, is also responsible for the “anti-boycott” initiatives of the 
Israeli state in his role as the Minister of Strategic Affairs[2] 
<#_ftn2>. The Zionist campaigns against the Palestinian prisoners – both 
the propaganda campaigns in international media and the campaigns of 
repression and misery that aim to break the spirit of the prisoners – 
recognize just how central these men and women, children and elders are 
in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

Palestinian prisoners, both to the occupier and to the occupied, to 
those who would build solidarity and those who would criminalize, 
represent the implacable will of Palestinians to resist occupation and 
oppression, by all means necessary. The very act of posting on social 
media about Palestinian armed resistance has been labeled incitement; 
hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and jailed for their 
statements on social media in support of Palestinian resistance[3] 
<#_ftn3>. And any involvement at all with the organized liberation 
movement – from the most common charge of membership in a prohibited 
organization to those who directly take up armed struggle – can be met 
by years and decades behind Israeli bars.

Defending the Palestinian prisoners and campaigning for their freedom is 
an inseparable aspect of defending the Palestinian resistance and the 
right to armed struggle. Even in the cases of Palestinian child 
prisoners, the most common charge is “throwing stones” – direct 
resistance to the occupier[4] <#_ftn4>. The imprisonment of Palestinians 
is an attempt to isolate the Palestinian resistance; thus, the defense 
of Palestinian prisoners is a means to break that isolation and turn it 
instead toward the isolation of Israel.

There are, of course, many organizations on the ground in Palestine 
doing excellent and important work to defend the prisoners legally and 
politically and seek their freedom. However, this work has not been 
exempted from the framework that Oslo has imposed on the Palestinian 
movement as a whole. Increasingly, the political aspect of Palestinian 
prisoners’ cases has been replaced with a purely humanitarian or human 
rights-based approach. The prisoners’ cause, like many other aspects of 
the Palestinian struggle, has been professionalized into an area of work 
and commentary for lawyers and other legal experts. Palestinian 
prisoners are addressed primarily and mainly as victims rather than 
protagonists in a revolutionary struggle for liberation.

In reality, every Palestinian prisoner’s case is far less of a legal 
battle than it is a political one; yet our strategies are increasingly 
directed toward legal defense, even while acknowledging politically that 
the entire system is invalid and illegitimate. It is not possible to win 
the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners by presenting the perfect 
legal argument, as – whether they face military courts or Israeli 
“civil” courts – they face a system that is based on the complete 
negation of their existence and, particularly, their organization and 

This situation is also reflected in the violent response of the prison 
system to any and all attempts by the Palestinian prisoners’ movement to 
exert their intellectual and political leadership in the Palestinian 
national liberation struggle. It has been said that the Palestinian 
leadership that is not compromised or liquidated in the Oslo process can 
best be found behind bars. In response to their statements and 
interviews, conveyed through secret messages, smuggled cell phones and 
other technologies that defy Israeli isolation, Palestinian prisoners 
are subject to raids, violence, forced transfers and isolation. The 
recent interview of Palestinian political leader, PFLP General Secretary 
Ahmad Sa’adat, published in El-Masry al-Youm[5] <#_ftn5>, sparked harsh 
raids and repression against Palestinian prisoners in Ramon prison[6] 
<#_ftn6>. Veteran prisoner and struggler from ’48, Walid Daqqa, was 
thrown into solitary confinement when he published a new children’s 
book; this followed the defunding of a Haifa Palestinian theater that 
exhibited a play based on his work[7] <#_ftn7>.

The international aspect of the Palestinian prisoners’ struggle is not 
one that can or should be relegated to the corridors of the United 
Nations and international legal bodies. It must be noted that this is 
something that the Zionist movement clearly recognizes as well. The 
imperialist countries like the United States, France and other states of 
the European Union are full partners in the imprisonment of Palestinians 
and the legitimation of the charges against them through their campaigns 
against the resistance.

Today’s “anti-terrorism” laws have various legal precedents – most 
commonly in the laws used to suppress anti-colonial and liberation 
movements in the Western powers – but they stem directly from laws that 
were passed in the United States in the mid-1990s. Those laws were then 
exported around the world with the 11 September 2001 attacks. The 
original U.S. laws were explicitly justified as a means of supporting 
the “Middle East peace process,” i.e. the Oslo process, and 
criminalizing all of those parties that rejected Oslo[8] <#_ftn8>. Thus, 
we see the “terror lists” of the United States, Canada, the European 
Union, the UK, Australia, packed with the names of Palestinian 
organizations seeking national liberation, who rejected the trap of Oslo 
– the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Hamas; Islamic 
Jihad; and even those fighters of Fateh who resisted pacification.

These “anti-terror” laws are used to justify the persecution of 
Palestinians inside these countries – see, for example, the case of the 
Holy Land Five, five Palestinians serving sentences of up to 65 years in 
prison in U.S. jails for their fundraising and charitable work for 
Palestine[9] <#_ftn9>. Reflecting the fact that these are only the 
newest gloss on an existing strategic alliance, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah 
has been jailed for 34 years in France for his involvement in actions to 
support the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles. In Palestine 
itself, U.S. and British guards – including those previously stationed 
in the colonized north of Ireland – surrounded the Palestinian 
Authority’s Jericho prison where Sa’adat and his comrades were held from 
2002 to 2006. Those guards moved aside in a coordinated fashion to allow 
for the violent assault of the Israeli military in March 2016.

Just as upholding the Palestinian prisoners, their names, lives and 
politics, is a contribution to the defense of the resistance in the 
battle of ideas, the European Union and the Zionist state have also 
recognized the importance of this battle from the opposing perspective. 
Thus, we have seen the defunding of Palestinian schools that bear the 
names of martyrs and strugglers who gave their lives for Palestinian 
liberation by participating actively in resistance. From Dalal Mughrabi 
(targeted by Norway and Belgium) to the campaigns against schools and 
squares honoring Shadia Abu Ghazaleh and Khaled Nazzal, there is not 
only a battle over the names of schools and institutions but a battle 
for Palestinian memory and history[10] <#_ftn10>. It is our 
responsibility to fight back by upholding Palestinian resistance leaders 
as the international social justice leaders for which they should be 

This very battle of ideas is the reason why Erdan, in his campaign 
against the growing boycott movement, included Samidoun Palestinian 
Prisoner Solidarity Network among dozens of other international groups 
in his latest propaganda alert against international solidarity with 
Palestine[11] <#_ftn11>. Erdan connected Samidoun and others with a “red 
line” on his graphic to the Popular Front for the Liberation of 
Palestine. The illustration is not a random choice but reflects the 
Zionist project’s concern about a closer linkage between what the Reut 
Institute, a Zionist strategic center, referred to as the 
“delegitimization” network and the “resistance” network[12] <#_ftn12>.

Through public exhortations and campaigns about dubious alleged linkages 
with resistance organizations, Erdan and the Israeli state aim to spread 
fear and intimidation among solidarity organizations. These attacks aim 
to push such organizations to alter their rhetoric, polices and 
campaigns in an attempt to avoid such allegations and their potentially 
criminalizing consequences. It is not simply propaganda against 
Palestine solidarity – this project aims to undermine the legitimacy of 
the Palestinian resistance and its association with global struggle and, 
therefore, to isolate the issue of the prisoners from its political context.

In the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners for freedom – an 
indivisible aspect of the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation – 
we can find the seed of connection that holds the potential for building 
the type of deep alliances – those most feared by Erdan and the forces 
he represents –  that can truly challenge Zionism, imperialism, 
capitalism and their reactionary-regime allies.

The Palestinian prisoners’ liberation cannot be disconnected from global 
struggles for liberation, nor from the struggle to liberate the 
political prisoners in the Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, the United States 
and elsewhere. Building the struggle for their freedom reflects the 
common interest of revolutionary movements fighting for justice and 
liberation, on the front lines of confrontation with repression, racism, 
exploitation and fascism.

/Charlotte Kates is the International Coordinator of Samidoun 
Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. /


[1] <#_ftnref1> “Tribute to Ghassan Kanafani,” in “Ghassan Kanafani,” 
Tricontinental Society, London, 1980. 

[2] <#_ftnref2> “Gilad Erdan,” 

[3] <#_ftnref3> “When it comes to Facebook ‘incitement,’ only 
Palestinians are arrested, not Jewish Israelis,” Danielle Alma Ravitzki, 
Mondoweiss, May 22, 2018, 

[4] <#_ftnref4> Defence for Children International – Palestine, “Number 
of Palestinian Children (12-17) in Israeli Military Detention,” July 
2018, https://www.dci-palestine.org/children_in_israeli_detention

[5] <#_ftnref5> Hussein Al-Badri with Ahmad Sa’dat, Al-Masry al-Youm, 
October 20, 2018, https://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1334883

[6] <#_ftnref6> Handala Center for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners, 
“Repressive forces storm Ramon prison,” October 23, 2018, 

[7] <#_ftnref7> Ahmed Melham, “Jailed Palestinian writer pens story for 
children of prisoners,” October 13, 2018, 

[8] <#_ftnref8> Executive Order 12947, “Prohibiting Transactions With 
Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,” 

[9] <#_ftnref9> Charles Glass, “The Unjust Prosecution of the Holy Land 
Five,” August 5, 2018, The Intercept 

[10] <#_ftnref10> Norwegian government, “Unacceptable glorification of 
terrorist attacks,” 
Times of Israel, “Belgium halts PA education funding because West Bank 
school named for terrorist,’ 

[11] <#_ftnref11> Samidoun, “Gilad Erdan wants to shut us down while 
attacking prisoners,” June 20, 2018; 

[12] <#_ftnref12> Reut Institute, “ The Delegitimization Challenge: 
Creating a Political Firewall,“ 2010; 

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