Samidoun participated in São Paulo, Brazil in a political forum on “State Terrorism and Incarceration from Occupied Palestine to Brazil” on January 29, organized by the Movimento Palestina Para Tod@s (MOP@T), a youth-led Palestine solidarity and support organization in Sao Paulo focused on building connections between movements for justice inside Brazil and internationally.
The forum, which included Charlotte Kates of Samidoun, Palestinian activist and writer Khaled Barakat of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, and representatives of the 2 October Network, which organizes for prison justice and abolition in Brazil, and the Organization of Friends and Family of Prisoners in Brazilian prisons. All of the speakers addressed the impacts of mass incarceration on oppressed communities, racist injustice systems, and the relationship between mass incarceration and repression of movements.
Brazil has the third largest prison population in the world, a high level of police brutality and repression directed both against political movements and against poor and racialized communities, and a racist prison and policing system that targets Black youth in particular for repression, confinement and imprisonment. The representatives of the Brazilian movement discussed the impact of this level of mass imprisonment upon the families and communities of incarcerated people, including strip searching and abuse of family visitors and ongoing police harassment.
Kates addressed the system of mass incarceration in Palestine and its similarities – and differences – with racist and colonial oppression and imprisonment in the United States, Canada and Europe, noting that 1 in 3 Black men can be expected to be imprisoned at one point in his life in the US, and that the imprisonment rate of Indigenous people in Canada is 10 times that of white Canadians.
Discussing the Black liberation movement and Indigenous struggles for sovereignty, she addressed the use of mass imprisonment as a weapon of state terror against communities. In Palestine, where the racist, settler colonial state of Israel has been imposed upon the indigenous people of Palestine, 1 out of every 4 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be imprisoned in Israeli prisons, while 40% of Palestinian men have been imprisoned. “Imprisonment is part of the ongoing Nakba, the Zionist campaign to erase Palestinian existence and resistance, and it symbolizes the oppression of all Palestinians: the over six million refugees forced from their homes and lands and denied their right to return; Gaza under siege and under fire; Jerusalem under attack and demolition; Palestinians in the West Bank struggling to live as a Wall of apartheid cuts them from their land; and Palestinians in ’48 facing dozens of racist laws and police murder,” Kates said.
She discussed the use of administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, against Palestinians, including 500 current administrative detainees out of 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners, repression inside the prisons, and the denial of family visits to Palestinian prisoners as a method of collective punishment against the entire Palestinian people, as nearly every Palestinian family has been touched by mass imprisonment.
Three cases of Palestinian political prisoners were discussed at length: that of the child prisoner, 14-year-old Malaak al-Khatib, a teen girl who is the youngest of nearly 200 Palestinian childrenin Israeli jails; imprisoned Palestinian student and folkloric dancer Lina Khattab; and political leader, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, who was imprisoned by Israel as well as in collaboration with the United States, Britain and the Palestinian Authority.
The discussion also addressed the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions and the demand to free Palestinian prisoners as part of the BDS campaign. In particular, the campaign against G4S, which is involved in human rights abuses in detention and imprisonment around the world – including in Brazil, where BDS campaigns are focusing on its involvement in private prisons, and in Palestine – is growing internationally.
Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat, coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, provided a political analysis of the current situation of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and what is needed today in order to achieve justice in Palestine.
“Those who recognize and defend Israel’s ‘right to exist’ on stolen Palestinian land cannot be true friends or part of the real solidarity movement with the Palestinian people. We must keep the flame of the struggle burning in confrontation with Israel and its supporters inside and outside Palestine, under the leadership of the Palestinian people and their resistance, and with the support of the Arab nation, the people of the region, and the progressive forces and people of the world. This is the only truly realistic and revolutionary option to change the balance of power locally and internationally and change the equation in the region to the benefit of the Palestinian people and their just struggle for liberation,” said Barakat.
He addressed the Palestinian and Arab resistance as the only mechanism capable of defeating “the settler-colonial racist state in occupied Palestine,” noting that there are nearly 100 years of Palestinian armed struggle for liberation. “Since 1917, the Palestinian people have been confronting colonialism and occupation.” He dismissed the so-called “two state solution” as a “major betrayal of the Palestinian people and their right to return to their homes from which they were forced,” calling instead for “the establishment of the democratic state of Palestine on the entire land of Palestine,” from the river to the sea.
Barakat denounced the Brazilian government’s economic and military partnerships with the Israeli state while it expresses verbal support for Palestinian rights, urging the acceleration of the campaign for the full boycott of Israel at all levels, military, economic, cultural, academic and political.