The US Palestinian Community Network issued the following statement on Prisoners’ Day 2015:
Today, April 17, the United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) joins our people and supporters across the world in calling for international solidarity on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. As noted by the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, every year since 1974 we commemorate the liberation of Mahmoud Hijazi, the first Palestinian political prisoner freed in an exchange negotiated by the Palestinian resistance. We come together on this day to demand freedom for all Palestinian prisoners held in the prisons of both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Since the Nakba and the establishment of the settler-colonial, apartheid state of Israel, over one million Palestinians have been imprisoned, 850,000 between the 1967 occupation and the present. Right now, close to 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners are in Israeli jails. Two hundred of these prisoners are children, 24 women, and 14 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council; and at least 500 are being held under administrative detention without charge or trial.
The issue of political prisoners is the most fundamental in all national liberation struggles. We remember and honor Bobby Sands and the other H-Block prisoners from the North of Ireland, and the legendary Nelson Mandela and Robben Island prisoners of South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movement. We also call for the release of important prisoners right here in the U.S.—the last of the Puerto Rican independistas still in jail after close to 34 years, Oscar Lopez; American Indian Movement icon Leonard Peltier; our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose life is in jeopardy because of purposeful medical neglect by the U.S. government; and dozens of other mostly Black Liberation activists and organizers, some imprisoned since the 1960s.
This year is especially important, as we focus on three prominent Palestinian women political prisoners—Rasmea Odeh, Lina Khattab, and Khalida Jarrar. Odeh is facing 18 months in prison in the U.S., along with deportation, because she was convicted last year of immigration fraud for allegedly not disclosing that she had been imprisoned by Israel 46 years ago. That arrest in Palestine in 1969 and conviction in 1970 was based on a confession forced by 25 days of vicious torture and rape by Israeli authorities. She is appealing her conviction and USPCN is a leader in her defense campaign, co-sponsoring a fundraiser April 19 in Chicago.
Khattab is a student leader at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for “ throwing stones” and “participating in an unlawful demonstration.” Ironically, the “criminal” demonstration and march was to Israel’s Ofer prison, which holds Palestinian political prisoners.
And Jarrar is a prominent political leader and parliamentarian with the Palestinian Legislative Council, whose case has garnered widespread international support since her arrest on April 2. Samidoun has issued a Call to Action to support Jarrar, including a petition.
The essence of our defense of our Palestinian political prisoners and those in the U.S. and elsewhere is a defense of resistance, a defense of organizing for liberation. The criminalization of our organizers, protesters, and leaders by Israel, and even by the PA, is a criminalization of resistance, an attempt to mark illegitimate our movement for our national rights—to return home, to self-determination, to equality, and to freedom. Those who seek to secure those rights, from every social sector of Palestinians society, are subject to imprisonment, whether within the open-air prison of Gaza under siege, the walled-in West Bank, the jails of the occupation and those colluding with it, or even prisons in the U.S.
Odeh, Khattab, and Jarrar are Palestinian heroes and leaders of our movement for return, equality, and liberation. We stand with them on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and everyday.