[Pnews] Prisons, the Black Liberation movement and the struggle for Palestine

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 16 10:09:49 EDT 2018


  Prisons, the Black Liberation movement and the struggle for Palestine

October 15, 2018

/The following article, by imprisoned Palestinian national liberation 
movement leader Ahmad Sa’adat 
– the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of 
Palestine – was originally published in French as the preface to the new 
French-language edition of “Revolutionary Suicide” by Huey Newton 

/On 15 October – the anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther 
– we salute the profound legacy and ongoing struggle of the Black 
Liberation Movement, on the front lines of confrontation against U.S. 
racism, imperialism and capitalism. Sa’adat’s article, published in 
English for the first time here, elucidates the common struggles and 
revolutionary alliances of the Palestinian and Black movements. It 
focuses particularly on the struggle against racist and colonial 

It is an honor to write an introduction to this book by a great leader 
of the Black liberation struggle in the United States, Huey P. Newton. 
 From inside the occupier’s Ramon prison, on behalf of myself, my 
comrades and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, we extend our clenched 
fists of solidarity and salute and arms of embrace to our Black comrades 
whose struggle for liberation in the belly of the beast continues today 
against fierce repression.

 From Ansar to Attica to Lannemezan, the prison is not only a physical 
space of confinement but a site of struggle of the oppressed confronting 
the oppressor. Whether the name is Mumia Abu-Jamal, Walid Daqqa or 
Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, political prisoners behind bars can and must 
be a priority for our movements. These names illustrate the continuity 
of struggle against our collective enemy – their legacies of organizing 
that reach back to the anti-colonial, liberation movements of the 1960s, 
1970s, 1980s to today. Political prisoners are not simply individuals; 
they are leaders of struggle and organizing within prison walls that 
help to break down and dismantle the bars, walls, and chains that act to 
divide us from our peoples and communities in struggle. They face 
repeated isolation, solitary confinement, cruel tortures of the occupier 
and jailer that seek to break the will of the prisoner and their deep 
connection to their people.

So when we witness the escalation against our movement as we see today 
in the Philippines, as we see the murderous and orchestrated attacks on 
our Palestinian resistance, as we see the criminalization of Black 
people and movements, it is clear that we are still facing the situation 
that Huey Newton identified and confronted. We are still seeking to 
defend our peoples from the relentless assaults of capitalism, Zionism 
and imperialism and their police and military forces. We have not yet 
been able to realize our dreams and transform the prisons into museums 
of liberation. Revolutionaries across the world struggle and dream for 
this future, in every movement of oppressed people. Indeed, when we 
speak of the prisoners’ movement, we are in essence speaking of Resistance.

Prisons exist for a reason, for the needs and interests of those with 
power. And when there are prisons to lock up the people, when there is 
occupation, colonialism, oppression; where there is occupation and 
colonization, there will be prisons and all of the laws and legal 
frameworks erected to legitimize exploitation, oppression and injustice 
and criminalize resistance and liberation. From the Fugitive Slave Acts 
of the 1800s to the “terrorist lists” that seek to criminalize and 
isolate the resistance movements of the peoples of the world, these are 
reflections of a war on the people. We salute sister Assata Shakur, 
still struggling and free in Cuba, while facing renewed threats and 
“terrorist” labeling to justify hunting down this global symbol of freedom.

This also illustrates clearly that the struggle, the cause, and the 
movement of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Movement 
are not a closed file. It is an open file, an ongoing struggle and a 
continuing movement for justice and liberation. As I write today, the 
revolutionary Palestinian Left, the Popular Front for the Liberation of 
Palestine, is marking its 50th year of struggle, a time for both 
celebration and review of this legacy in order to sharpen and strengthen 
our march toward revolutionary victory. Similarly, we have just passed 
the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, whose 
vision for revolutionary change continues to be just as relevant today.

This is a legacy that is carried on both with ideas and with people 
themselves whose histories of struggle continue to animate and inspire 
their communities. You could pass by the first prisoner of the PFLP 
somewhere on the streets of Berlin, still organizing Palestinians. You 
could feel the legacy of the Black Panther Party and the continuing 
Black struggle on the streets of Chicago, Oakland and Harlem. There are 
people who carry within them the legacies of struggle as a human 
treasure. The experiences of the elders of our movement, especially 
those who have come through prison, stand alongside the ideas passed 
down through writing, books and literature in carrying on, from one 
generation to another, the trajectory and path of struggle toward a 
future in which youth are coming forward to lead Black and Palestinian 
revolutionary struggles for liberation.

Every political prisoner, whether they are currently in prison or not in 
prison, carries within them the dream and reality of liberation and what 
it can and must mean in practice. Today, when we look at the Black 
Liberation movement or the Indigenous and Native struggle in the United 
States and Canada, we are talking about the same camp of enemy that we 
confront in occupied Palestine. The bullets that assassinated Malcolm X 
or Fred Hampton could have been used to kill Ghassan Kanafani or Khaled 
Nazzal or Mahmoud Hamshari, and today we see the same tear gas and 
bullets shipped around the world for use against the people. We see 
corporations like G4S profiting from the attacks on our movements and 
the mass imprisonments of our people and U.S., European and Israeli 
police forces exchanging training with one another to escalate racism, 
“counter-insurgency” and repression on the streets of our cities, camps 
and villages.

In our circles here in prisons, we always hope and wish to communicate 
to movements elsewhere and political prisoners everywhere. We want to 
share our experiences with one another to strengthen all of our 
movements for liberation and the movement to free our prisoners. The 
political prisoners have a firsthand experience of confrontation, and 
the experience of the prison can be a transformative one for a political 
prisoner. It is not an individual experience but a collective one; the 
heroism of a prisoner is not simply to be in prison but to understand 
that they carry with them the leadership of a movement and a continuing 
struggle in a new location that continues to have international 
reverberations. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah today is struggling in 
Lannemezan prison just as Mumia Abu-Jamal is struggling in Mahanoy. The 
heroism also does not come simply in that one has spent years in prison 
and now has been released; but in being a veteran of struggle who 
continues to carry the message of liberation for those who remain.

The political prisoner is not weak and is not broken, despite all of 
their best efforts. The responsibility of the political prisoner is to 
safeguard the flame. This is not a role that we have sought out or 
worked for. But now that we are in this position we must hold our 
position to set an example, not to our people, who are rooted and 
steadfast, but to the enemy, to show that imprisonment will not work to 
defeat us or our people. We carry a cause, not simply an individual 
search for freedom. Israel or France or the U.S. would free us, or 
Georges Abdallah, or Mumia Abu-Jamal, if we were willing to become tools 
of the system or betray our people. But instead, the prisons have 
generated striking examples of a culture of resistance, from art, to 
literature to political ideas.

Today, our movements and the revolutionary movements around the world 
are facing very difficult times. However, these difficult times can also 
hold value if we look more closely; we are paving the way for new 
generations of revolutionaries around the world who can still carry the 
demand for socialism, for people’s democracy, for an alternative world. 
In the era in which Newton wrote, movements and prisoners shared 
experiences and communicated through letters, books and art, often 
smuggled out of or into prisons, past censors and iron walls. Today, 
with all of the great revolutions in technology, political prisoners are 
struggling to have their words heard at all, denied access to even 
telephones to speak with our families and loved ones.

Why do we still consider and read and reprint the writings of Huey 
Newton today? Fundamentally, because his analysis and that of the Black 
Panther Party was right and continues to be right, valid and essential. 
Today, when we see the ravages of U.S. imperialism, the threats of Trump 
against the world and the shooting down of Black people on U.S. streets 
by cops, then the fundamental correctness and necessity of the Black 
Panthers’ work is underlined. Today, when popular movements are under 
attack and liberation struggles labeled as “terrorist” and criminalized, 
we see a massive coercive attack on our peoples. Prisons are only one 
form of coercion in the hands of the occupier, colonizer, capitalist and 
imperialist; stripping the knowledge of the people and imposing new 
forms of isolation are yet more forms of coercion.

The imposition of consumerism, the stripping of peoples from their 
humanity, the isolation of peoples are all forms of coercion alongside 
the prisons that act to undermine our movements, our peoples and our 
visions of liberation. They want to see all of our movements isolated 
from one another, through the terror of the “terrorist list” and the 
silence of solitary confinement. Capitalist and imperialist media 
blankets the world, so even here in Israeli prison we hear about the 
latest technologies in the U.S. while the repression of Black people is 
rendered invisible. But the reality today is that every day, a little 
Huey or Assata or Khalida or Ishaq is being born that can carry forward 
the vision of their people.

Huey Newton and the Black Panthers stood for socialism, for social 
justice, against racism, imperialism and war, from the streets of 
Oakland to the refugee camps of Lebanon. Huey Newton said, “We support 
the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We 
will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive 
people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which 
all people can live.”

Of course, I cannot speak as an expert about incarceration in the United 
States today. But just looking at the numbers is a stunning illustration 
of what is deeply wrong with the system. As Palestinians, we also face 
an experience of negation, of attack on our existence, as being treated 
as lesser or non-humans for our designated racial identity. We 
understand through our own experiences how occupation and capitalism are 
all about profit and the example that U.S. prisons are creating for the 
world, where prisons are seen as a source of cheap and coerced free 
labor and a profit for capitalism. We see how incarceration is used to 
control, divide and threaten communities and peoples under attack. 
Incarceration means a lot of money for corporations at the same time 
that it means a direct threat to Black children and their futures. And 
this is the “security solution” that Trump and U.S. imperialism is 
marketing to the world as a solution to the crisis of capitalism, a 
solution built on bloody and brutal exploitation.

Here in our cells, we can feel the reverberations of these attacks and 
the physical impact of them in the invasions and inspections of the 
special repressive units of the occupier. We also see the potential and 
indeed, the necessity, for movements to rise inside prisons together 
with those on the outside. We see thousands of people sentenced to 
massive sentences of 20, 30, 40 years in prison and even more, stripping 
people’s freedom and taking people’s lives. Resistance is critical and 
it must have a real impact on people’s lives. Our sacrifice in prison 
has meaning when it can lead to fruits for the poor and liberation for 
our peoples. Our struggle must impact people’s lives in a material way.

 From Ireland to the United States to France to Palestine, political 
prisoners continue to be leaders in movements fighting racism, 
imperialism and colonialism. We also see the prisoners of the 
Palestinian movement facing political imprisonment around the world in 
the jails of the enemy – from the heroic Rasmea Odeh forced from the 
United States to the Five prisoners for Palestine, called the Holy Land 
Five, held in extreme solitary confinement alongside Black strugglers, 
for engaging in charity work for our people, to our dear comrade Georges 
Abdallah who has suffered for 34 years in French prisons.

The prisons and the political prisoners are also an example of the power 
and necessity of “breaking the law.” The law – the law of the 
imperialist and the colonizer – is used to steal the rights and 
resources of our people and also to justify our imprisonment and 
repression and criminalization. Through the collective “breaking” of the 
law and its power to define justice and injustice – when people, 
collectively, confront and “break” the law, not merely as individuals 
but as a collective power, it loses its claim to legitimacy. Breaking of 
the law must become the norm, and not the exception – the law of 
capitalism, imperialism and exploitation.

Political prisoners are jailed because they fear our actions and they 
fear our ideas, our power to mobilize our peoples in a revolutionary way 
against their exploitation and colonization. They fear our communication 
and they fear the powers of our people. They fear that if we come 
together that we will build an international front for the liberation of 
oppressed peoples. They know, and deeply fear, that we can truly build 
an alternative world. For them, this is the terror of defeat, but for 
us, and for our peoples, this is the hope of freedom and the promise of 

Ahmad Sa’adat

Ramon Prison

November 2017


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