Organizers in Athens, Greece have organized a series of actions in support of Palestinian political prisoners. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in Athens has participated in protests, marches and contingents to express solidarity from Greece to all Palestinian prisoners, and to the 1500 prisoners who launched the Strike for Freedom and Dignity on 17 April 2017, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.
On Thursday, 11 May, protesters in support of Palestine gathered outside a Pizza Hut in central Athens, protesting the corporation’s Israeli division’s advertisement that mocked Palestinian hunger strikers, in an action organized by the Ghassan Kanafani Front for Resistance and Solidarity.
The Pizza Hut advertisement was met with immediate and worldwide revulsion and calls for boycott of the corporation as Palestinians and Arabs led calls to boycott Pizza Hut globally. The World Federation of Trade Unions also denounced the Pizza Hut advertisement and emphasized global workers’ solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners. Pizza Hut International later apologized for the advertisement and fired the Israeli advertising agency responsible for the social media post.
The Athens protesters denounced the corporation’s cynical and cruel use of the prisoners’ pain to market their pizza. 1500 Palestinian prisoners, of a total of 6300 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, are on hunger strike for basic human rights; their demands include an end to the denial of family visits, access to proper health care and medical treatment, the right to pursue distance higher education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.
This was far from the first protest organized in Athens to support the prisoners on hunger strike. On 4 May, activists in Athens who had organized several previous actions under the banner of the Assembly to Support Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Hunger Strike gathered outside the Athens Cinematheque to protest the screening of a film sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Greece – and the presence of the Israeli ambassador at the film’s opening – and call for the cultural boycott of Israel.
On 2 May, the same Assembly to Support Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Hunger Strike, drawing together many longtime Palestine activists from a range of organizations in Athens, gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Athens in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
Over 100 people participated in the rally, including the Palestinian community in Greece and a number of solidarity organizations. A large number of newer Palestinian refugees in Athens joined the protest to express their solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and their struggle for dignity and freedom. Activists were greeted with a large, repressive police presence and massive police buses that seemed designed to block maximum visibility of the protesters.
“The Palestinian prisoners are not only conducting a hunger strike for their own rights inside Israeli jails. They are struggling for these basic rights from the moment they enter the jails and in their daily life. What they are doing today is a strategic and tactical step for their role in the Palestinian national movement for the liberation of Palestine,” said Mohammed Khatib, the European coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, speaking in Athens.
“The prisoners are leading the Palestinian people to be in the streets and the Palestinian youth to organize and mobilize themselves. They are bringing the Palestinian refugees in Nahr el-Bared camp and Hittin camp in Jordan to the forefront of struggle and urging the solidarity movement to intensify their campaigns and build the boycott of Israel. The Palestinian prisoners are leading us and our struggle together under one united banner. This is their role and their message. Freedom for them and for Palestine!” said Khatib.
The 2 May demonstration followed a vibrant May First demonstration in which tens of thousands took the streets in Athens and several contingents showed strong solidarity with Palestine, with a special focus on Palestinian political prisoners. A large banner, reading “Victory to the Palestinian hunger strikers, Victory to the Palestinian resistance” was carried throughout the May First march.
Samidoun activists distributed a statement by Ahmad Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, issued to the international left on 1 May. “Greetings to you from inside the prisons and cells of Zionism, and salutes to all those who celebrate today, who march and participate in this day, in the lighting of the flame of this immortal, human, day, the first of May, the day of workers, the people, and the struggling classes. This is the day in which we together renew our primary commitment to defend the rights and interests of the impoverished and struggling classes with a fundamental interest in progress and change, the classes that were and still are the front line of the revolution, standing against the savage forces of capitalism, occupation, colonialism and racism…One of our common tasks is to defend the rights of refugees everywhere and to defend migrants and the impoverished classes, especially those living in the midst of imperialist countries,” said Sa’adat.
Another event is scheduled for this evening, Monday, 15 May in Athens, marking the 69th anniversary of the Nakba and supporting the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners. A motorcycle procession in solidarity with the Palestinian people will depart the Panathenaic Stadium in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. It will depart at 5:30 pm from the front of the stadium and will demand the immediate implementation of the demands of the hunger strikers and the freedom of Palestinian prisoners.