Palestinian community organizations in exile and diaspora salute prisoners’ struggle

Palestinian community organizations around the world in exile and diaspora – reflecting the dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people and their struggle for return and liberation – have been deeply involved in the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners, both historically over decades of struggle and over the past 40 days of the #DignityStrike.

In cities and towns around the world, Palestinian communities have demonstrated, organized, pressured and struggled to support the prisoners and their demands, leading international efforts. A number of the organizations that have been heavily involved in these efforts have issued statements in support of the prisoners, which we republish below from three continents.

The Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations in Europe dedicated its fourth conference in Berlin, which elected a new, youth-oriented, organizing leadership, to the Palestinian prisoners, and its activists were involved in many actions across Europe to support the prisoners. The US Palestinian Community Network organized a number of actions for the prisoners’ strike, with the participation of former Palestinian prisoner and community leader Rasmea Odeh, and received a letter of support for the hunger strikers from U.S. Member of Congress Danny Davis. The Committee for a Democratic Palestine in Brazil played a leading role in bringing together Brazilian mass organizations and movements, including the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and the CUT labor confederation, with Palestinian groups to create a new support campaign for Palestinian prisoners.

Sao Paolo Brazil, 22 May 2017

The organizations’ statements follow below:

Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations in Europe | US Palestinian Community Network | Committee for a Democratic Palestine – Brazil

Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations in Europe

The Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations – Europe greets the Palestinian people in the homeland and in diaspora, and all our comrades and brothers in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, led by the great national leader Ahmad Sa’adat and the brothers, Marwan Barghouthi, Karim Younes, Abbas Sayyed, and all of our prisoners. We extend our salutes and congratulations to the prisoners and their leadership on the occasion of a historic, important victory in the Battle of Freedom and Dignity, which the prisoners’ movement fought in Israeli jails with steadfastness and will of steel, refusing to relent and achieving victory after 41 days of struggle in open hunger strike.

We urge all Palestinian institutions and associations and the movements of solidarity with the Palestinian people in Europe to celebrate this victory through organizing cultural, social and political events to continue the struggle and to work for the liberation of all prisoners from the jails of the occupation, exposing all of the schemes of the prison authority aimed at targeting the rights of our prisoners. The victory will be complete only with the removal of the occupation from the entire land of Palestine.

The Union reaffirms that this national achievement came due to the steadfastness of the prisoners and their families, and the blood of the martyrs who were killed in the struggle and the dozens wounded, and the struggle of just people and the forces of freedom in the world. And we renew our call to protect this victory of the political prisoners and warn against any attempt to circumvent or confiscate it for any partisan or official advantage.

Freedom for the prisoners
Glory to the martyrs and healing to the wounded
Victory for the Palestinian people and the Arab nation

Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations – Europe

US Palestinian Community Network

“They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.”
— Bobby Sands, Irish Republican leader who died in a political prisoners’ hunger strike in 1981

After 40 days of the Palestinian Strike of Freedom and Dignity, our political prisoners have suspended their hunger strike and declared victory! Over 1,800 prisoners participated in the open-ended hunger strike, consuming only salt and water; and many more tens of thousands in Palestine, other Arab states, and the rest of the world protested, fasted in solidarity, and supported the #DignityStrike. USPCN salutes the prisoners and everyone else who played a role in this historic victory!

The hunger strike began on April 17th, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners, when 1,500 original strikers representing all of the social sectors and political forces in Palestinian society, announced their basic and humanitarian demands, including the restoration of regular family visits, an end to solitary confinement, an end to administrative detention (imprisonment for months without trial or formal charge), the strengthening of medical care, and access to education.

When the prisoners declared victory May 27th, the only detail reported by any media was the restoration of a second monthly family visit, but today in a press conference, Issa Qaraqe, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission, said that “80 percent of the demands” of the prisoners were won after 20 hours of negotiations between the committee in leadership of the prisoners and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS).

It should also be noted that the IPS claims that the agreement was not made with the prisoners themselves, but between Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Palestinian Authority (PA). We reject this boldfaced lie, and also condemn the role of the ICRC, which was responsible for cutting the second monthly family visit in the first place.

In addition, we will not allow the PA to take any credit for this hunger strike and the victory it brought for our prisoners and our people. As we have many times in the past, USPCN again demands that the PA, under its President Mahmoud Abbas, immediately halt “security coordination” with Israel. It cannot be more clear that this coordination plays a leading role in serving Palestinian organizers, activists, and resistance leaders to the Israelis. In fact, a number of the hunger strikers were originally jailed by the PA before being abducted and imprisoned by the Israelis.

This hunger strike was always about more than just visitation rights and better services for the prisoners. It was a fight for respect, dignity, and freedom. And it was won because of the steadfast strength of the hunger strikers themselves, who built a united front across the political spectrum, even when the enemy tried to isolate and marginalize the leaders and break the strike. The IPS had refused to negotiate with the prisoners until just two days ago, which means the strikers broke the Israelis instead.

The fight was won because of the brave family members of the prisoners, and the entire community of Palestinians in historical Palestine, who continuously lobbied and protested to pressure Israel to accept the demands, even under massive repression from both the Israelis and the PA. It was won also because it was a fight taken up by huge numbers of people across the world, who organized nonstop in solidarity and support. In the U.S., despite virtually no coverage at all from mainstream media, activists still organized protests, visits to legislators, and solidarity encampments.

As a reminder that the U.S. government and its elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, are complicit in Israeli crimes against Palestinian prisoners and our people in general, only one, Congressman Danny Davis of Illinois, wrote a letter supporting the strikers. (Coalitions of forces met with Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California and, led by USPCN, with Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, and are hopeful to get positive responses, even though the strike is suspended.) And despite a meeting USPCN organized with the staff of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, one of the most powerful members of Congress, he has been mute.

Even with this incredible victory, we cannot forget that dozens of strikers have been hospitalized, and many more will take months to recover physically. They were and are ready and willing to give up their lives to win their dignity and respect, and they and millions of other Palestinians are also ready and willing to give up their lives for full liberation.

We are proud to salute and celebrate our hunger strikers and all the prisoners, and remind all that this victory comes only with a “suspension” of the hunger strike, so we must make certain that the Israelis do not renege on the agreement, as they have so many times in our history.As the Irish martyr, Bobby Sands, suggested in the quote that opens this statement, the essence of our defense of Palestinian political prisoners is a defense of resistance, a defense of organizing for liberation. The criminalization of our organizers, protesters, and leaders by Israel, the U.S., and even the Palestinian Authority (PA), is a criminalization of resistance, an attempt to brand illegitimate our movement for our national rights to return home, to self-determination, to equality, and to freedom. Those of us who seek to secure those rights, from every social sector of Palestinian society, are always going to be 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 inside the U.S.

Follow @uspcn, @Addameer, and @SamidounPP for updates, and stay tuned to #DignityStrike and #PalHunger on social media. Continue organizing until every single one of our Palestinian political prisoners is free, and until full Liberation and Return!

Ramadan Mubarak!

May 28th, 2017

Committee for a Democratic Palestine – Brazil

The victory of the Palestinian prisoners in the realization of their humanitarian demands is in and of itself a great achievement that we all must support. More than that, however, today the Palestinian people, its institutions and organizations, its civil and political movements, stand with the Palestinian prisoners. They are the front lines of the resistance and the struggle aggainst the Zionist occupation, who must be supported by action at all popular and official levels for their freedom and liberation.

They continued their strike despite brutality, torture and isolation and all forms of pressure. The prisoners were able to deliver their message and their meaning, throughout the Palestinian street. It is they who are leading the struggle for self-determination, independence and national liberation. No voice is above their voice. All of the attempts to break the strike were themselves broken, and this achievement was a collective one of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian prisoners that forced the jailer to submit to the just demands of the prisoners.

We must not remain idle and must struggle for the prisoners’ freedom; they have sacrificed everything for the freedom of the Palestinian people. The prisoners’ cause must remain a top priority of the Palestinian liberation movement with action and resistance at all levels for their immediate release.

27 May 2017