The Unified Meeting to Free Georges Ibrahim Abdallah convened in a packed room in Paris on Saturday, 19 March, demanding freedom for the Lebanese communist struggler who has spent over 30 years in French prison, despite his eligibility for release.
Speakers at the event, including Khaled Barakat, coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, and Kristian Davis Bailey of the US-based Black4Palestine, urged freedom for Abdallah and fellow revolutionary political prisoners around the world, including Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and US prisoners, including Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mutulu Shakur, Oscar Lopez Rivera, and Sundiata Acoli.
Speakers from a number of organizations linked Abdallah’s case to the repression being carried out by the French state today, including the attempts to suppress and criminalize organizing for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as part and parcel of a French colonial policy toward Palestine working hand in hand with U.S. imperialism and the Zionist state.
“There are two central issues that Georges Ibrahim Abdallah reminds us of: international solidarity of peoples, and the centrality of Palestine to the struggle against imperialism and occupation, and for liberation. Today, we need Georges Ibrahim Abdallah’s thoughts and ideas more than he needs us,” said Barakat. “The fact that he is in prison shows that we have not yet achieved the strength that we need in order to free him and to free Palestine. The responsibility for the continuation of his imprisonment lies primarily with the French government, Lebanese government, U.S. and Israel – in other words, the camp of imperialism, Zionism, and reactionary forces.”
“No faction, party or group by itself can confront the challenges and tasks facing us alone. We need an international anti-imperialist front because our struggles are connected. As the enemy forces back each other, support each other, we need to do the same, but for justice and liberation, rather than for oppression and exploitation. Today, there is a new generation on the rise, in Palestine and in the impoverished areas and oppressed communities in the United States, France and around the world. This generation is living up to the legacy of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Che Guevara and many other leaders who continue to represent the true need to revive the revolution,” said Barakat.
Bailey highlighted the role of Black political prisoners within the Black Liberation Movement, not only as symbols of oppression and struggle, but also as leaders of the movement. He highlighted the case of Assata Shakur, labeled as one of the US’ “most wanted,” who continues to be pursued in Cuba today, as well as the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is currently being denied necessary and life-saving Hepatitis C treatment by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Screening the video, “When I see them, I see us,” which highlights Black-Palestinian solidarity and joint struggle, Bailey discussed the history and present of connections between the Palestinian and Black liberation movements on grassroots and political levels. He noted the involvement of Black leaders such as former political prisoner and renowned academic Angela Davis in the campaign to support Rasmea Odeh – former Palestinian prisoner and torture survivor today facing imprisonment and deportation in the U.S. – as well as the involvement of Odeh and others in supporting Black movements in Chicago. He also called for a united movement to confront oppression, racism, imperialism and capitalism.
A letter from Georges Ibrahim Abdallah from inside Lannemezan prison was read to the event, which joined parallel events in Bordeaux and Grenoble. A live Skype link with the event in Bordeaux shared greetings between the two mobilizations. “The resurgence of social tensions in the country and the significant ongoing mobilization of youth and unions are leading to the emergence and assertion of an overall atmosphere of struggle, which is conducive to an exchange of ideas and experiences, and thus enriches all of our activity…such an atmosphere of struggle revives our collective memory and the national and international heritage of the struggles of the masses, and the countless revolutionary experiences that are necessary for victory,” wrote Abdallah.
Speakers were frequently interrupted with enthusiastic chants in Arabic and French calling for freedom for Abdallah and liberation for Palestine. Barakat, Bailey and others particularly highlighted the case of Omar Nayef Zayed, former Palestinian political prisoner who escaped Israeli custody in 1990, killed on 26 February inside the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria, where he had sought refuge for 72 days from an Israeli extradition demand. The discussion of Nayef Zayed’s case – which will be focused on in worldwide events on 8-9 April – was highlighted by enthusiastic chanting in honor of Omar and his struggle.
Bailey presented a poster designed by Noura Ballout as a collaboration between Black4Palestine and the z collective, an Arab and Muslim Feminist Collective in Detroit, to Barakat and Mohammed Khatib, Palestinian youth activist and Samidoun organizer. Numerous organizations and parties came together to organize the event, which was also part of Anti-Colonialism Week and Israeli Apartheid Week in Paris and its surrounding areas.