“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them…Prisons are a profitable business. They are a way of legally perpetuating slavery. In every state more and more prisons are being built and even more are on the drawing board. Who are they for? They certainly aren’t planning to put white people in them. Prisons are part of this government’s genocidal war against Black and Third World people.”
– Assata Shakur
“I speak as a victim of America’s so-called democracy. You and I have never seen democracy – all we’ve seen is hypocrisy. When we open our eyes today and look around America, we see America not through the eyes of someone who has enjoyed the fruits of Americanism. We see America through the eyes of someone who has been the victim of Americanism. We don’t see any American dream. We’ve experienced only the American nightmare.”
– Malcolm X
“This trial cannot be separated from the process of the historical struggle in Palestine that continues today between the Zionist Movement and the Palestinian people, a struggle that centers on Palestinian land, history, civilization, culture and identity…As for your judicial apparatus, which is where this court comes from: it is one of the instruments of the occupation whose function is to give the cover of legal legitimacy to the crimes of the occupation, in addition to consecrating its systems and allowing the imposition of these systems on our people through force.”
– Ahmad Sa’adat
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the resistance led by the Black movement that has taken the streets of every major city and town in the United States in defense of Black lives and in resistance to state-sponsored police killing, targeting and profiling of Black people and of other oppressed communities. These protests, led by strong and militant Black youth and their comrades, have occupied highways, roads and bridges, disrupted “business as usual,” and are true sparks of Intifada against a racist system of exploitation and oppression.
“I can’t breathe.” “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “Black Lives Matter.” The slogans, in their clarity, are an assertion of existence and resistance in the face of a racist system that has been built for centuries on the devaluing, dismissal and suppression of Black rights, existence and struggle.
The grand jury verdicts declining to bring murder charges against the police who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; John Crawford in Cleveland, Illinois; and the acquittal or refusal to bring charges against countless other police who have acted with the full authority of the state to terrorize Black communities are not mere flaws in the system. Rather, they reflect the racist and oppressive nature of the legal system of the United States.
The United States, the world’s leading imperialist power, is responsible for occupation, exploitation and oppression around the world. The U.S. government was created through the dispossession and genocide of indigenous people and the country built upon the backs of Black people forced into slavery. Today, the United States government is the strategic partner and strongest ally of the occupation of Palestine, while the Israeli state trains U.S. police in repressive counter-insurgency tactics tested on Palestinians under occupation.
The U.S. courts, police and prisons constitute a regime of mass incarceration that targets Black communities with systematic violence, disrupting and destroying communities. As documented by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, every 28 hours, a Black person is killed in the U.S. by state-sponsored or state-protected murderers, including police and vigilantes. The police – and their violent repression and impunity – and the prisons – and their mass incarceration – function alongside the courts, who give this racist structure the appearance of “legitimacy.” This legitimacy is exposed, as the killers of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, and countless others walk free while entire communities are terrorized by arrests and constant police surveillance and oppression.
The grand jury system that protects the impunity of police murderers is the very same grand jury system that has been used to carry out widespread investigations, political repression and institutionalized harassment and suppression of the Black liberation movement, the American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican independentistas, anti-imperialist organizers and continues today to be used to investigate, surveil and harass Palestinian community organizers and movements and anti-war and international solidarity activists, as in the cases of Sami al-Arian, Mohammed Salah, Abdelhaleem Ashqar and the “Anti-War 23” in Chicago and Minneapolis.
When Palestinian prisoners are brought before Israeli courts, whether military or civil, there is no justice to be found – the Israeli legal system is built on the dispossession of Palestinian land and the negation of Palestinian lives and existence. When occupation soldiers and settlers are acquitted or not charged with the killing of Palestinians, this is once again not unusual, but part of the system itself. The Israeli legal system is an apartheid system, part and parcel of the occupation, of the very system which the Palestinian movement struggles to overturn in order to liberate land and people.
There is no surprise to be found in the alliance between the settler colonial states of the U.S. and Israel, based fundamentally on racism and oppression. It is U.S. imperialism that enables and arms the occupation and colonization of Palestine, and the Palestinian movement struggles to confront both Zionist occupation and U.S. imperialism. There is, however, true inspiration and hope to be found in the powerful movements taking to the streets, and in the long legacy of the Black liberation movement.
Today, U.S. prisons – with the highest incarceration rate in the world- hold over 2.2 million people and over 900,000 Black people, including the political prisoners of the Black Liberation Movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as Puerto Rican political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera and Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement, and Palestinian political prisoners – Rasmea Odeh, community leader, torture survivor from occupation interrogation and imprisonment, held in solitary confinement; and the Holy Land 5, serving terms of up to 65 years for fundraising for Palestinian charity organizations.
Palestinians and friends of Palestine, from Students for Justice in Palestine, the US Palestinian Community Network, and numerous collectives and organizations have been joining the protests on the streets of New York, DC, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Cleveland, Ferguson, St. Louis and around the country. This is a promising step forward that recognizes the long-standing ties between Palestinian and Black communities and also moves to strengthen, solidify and build those ties in the struggle.
It is borne out of an imperative of justice that supports the Black movement’s struggle for liberation and recognizes its centrality, and it is also a recognition through common experience that “From Ferguson to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime.” These demonstrations contain within them the seeds of intifada and revolution, challenging the very nature of the racist imperialist system that is at the heart of repression from Ferguson and Black communities across the US to every Palestinian refugee camp, and building for the movement and action necessary to achieve Black Liberation and a liberated Palestine from the river to the sea.
Free All Political Prisoners, End Mass Incarceration, Abolish the Racist Prison System!
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network