Protesters in New York City gathered on Friday, 3 February outside the Best Buy in Union Square to demand freedom for Palestinian prisoners and call upon Hewlett-Packard (HP) to end its corporate contracts with Israeli institutions, including the Israel Prison Service. The protest focused on the case of Salah Khawaja, Palestinian human rights defender, member of the Secretariat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) and leader with the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall.)
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network gathered outside the Best Buy, a large consumer electronics store that markets many HP computers, printers and other devices. Participants in the protests carried signs calling for freedom for Khawaja and fellow Palestinian prisoners as well as emphasizing that HP is profiting from the imprisonment and oppression of Palestinian political prisoners. Samidoun’s weekly protests are part of the growing international campaign to boycott HP, emphasizing the corporation’s profiteering from Israeli checkpoints, settlements and prisons.
Participants also carried signs saying “No ban, no wall in the US or Palestine,” denouncing the Israeli settler-colonial regime as well as U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall – further intensifying the already-intense militarization and securitization – on the U.S./Mexico border and his executive order banning travel to the U.S. by nationals of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Samidoun activists have participated in a wide array of protests, actions and demonstrations in New York City, at JFK airport and elsewhere denouncing the “Muslim ban” and demanding an end to U.S. attacks on the people of these countries, including ongoing bombing, military attacks, deportations and the Trump ban.
The Samidoun protest was joined by a relative of Khawaja; participants distributed flyers and materials about Palestinian prisoners, the Khawaja case and the role of HP. Khawaja has been imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces since he was seized from his Ramallah home on 26 October 2016 in a pre-dawn armed military raid by Israeli occupation forces and subject to heavy, torturous interrogation, ill-treatment, beatings and denial of access to a lawyer. Several brief military court hearings were held in Khawaja’s case, in which he was accused of contact with an “agent of an enemy state.” This allegation is frequently used against Palestinians who travel to other Arab countries and meet Arab and Palestinian civil activists or media figures outside occupied Palestine; in Khawaja’s case, it appears that this charge was even weaker than usual as he was accused of meeting someone of unspecified identity in Jordan. After the charges against Khawaja appeared to be falling apart in a hearing on 28 December, the Israeli military prosecution submitted a “secret file” to supplement the charge sheet. Since 28 December, no new hearing has been set in Khawaja’s case and this prominent Palestinian human rights defender remains imprisoned on the basis of a so-called “secret file.”
Following the protest, Samidoun activists joined the New York City stop on the “No Child Left Behind Bars: Living Resistance from the US to Palestine” tour, featuring Ahed Tamimi, Amanda Weatherspoon and Nadya Tannous. Speakers Weatherspoon and Tannous made strong material connections between U.S. Israeli policies and racist, settler colonial practices targeting Palestinian, Black, Indigenous and other youth from oppressed communities, as well as joint policing, security and other oppressive programs. Ahed Tamimi, 14, spoke via video from occupied Nabi Saleh about her and her community’s experience with Israeli oppression and imprisonment; she was not given a visa to the U.S. to join the tour.
Samidoun activists will protest again outside Best Buy on Friday, 10 February in a picket demanding HP end its profiteering from the imprisonment of Palestinians and focusing on the case of 19-year-old Shorouq Dwayyat, a Palestinian university student sentenced to 16 years in Israeli prison. All are invited to join the protest at 5:30 pm outside the Union Square Best Buy at 52 E. 14th St.