Protesters in New York City gathered outside the Best Buy electronics store in Union Square to demand freedom for jailed Palestinian Nael Barghouthi, the longest-held Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails. They also urged the boycott of Hewlett-Packard (HP) electronics like computers, tablets, printers, accessories and ink due to the corporation’s involvement in the imprisonment of Palestinians and other aspects of Israeli apartheid.
Participants distributed information to passers-by and Best Buy shoppers about the growing international campaign to boycott HP products. An increasing number of churches and labor unions are becoming “HP-free zones” in protest of the global electronics corporation’s profiteering from Israeli apartheid. HP doesn’t only provide database systems to the Israel Prison Service; it is integrally involved in the creation of the ID card and checkpoint system used to control Palestinian movement and enforce apartheid as well as in IT services to the Israeli occupation military, including naval forces imposing siege on Gaza.
The protest, organized by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, highlighted the case of Nael Barghouthi, 59, from the Palestinian village of Kobar in the occupied West Bank of Palestine. He has spent over 36 years in Israeli prisons. Released in 2011 in the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange, he was detained once more in a roundup of dozens of former prisoners in 2014 in an attempt to pressure the Palestinian resistance. Many of these prisoners have had their original sentences reimposed.
Barghouthi was ordered to a 30-month sentence; however, he was not released on schedule because of a pending appeal for a higher sentence by the Israeli military prosecution. On 22 February, his prior sentence of life imprisonment plus 18 years, for involvement in Palestinian resistance actions in the 1970s, was reimposed. His wife, a fellow former prisoner, Iman Nafie, has pledged to keep escalating the struggle for his immediate release.
Protesters also found themselves engaged in conversation to express support for U.S. held Black liberation prisoners like Dr. Mutulu Shakur. Imprisoned since 1986, Shakur was a struggler for civil rights and Black liberation for decades, accused of involvement in bank robberies and other actions to support the Black Liberation movement in the United States and free imprisoned struggler Assata Shakur. Today, within U.S. prisons, Dr. Mutulu Shakur is a member of the New African People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Samidoun activists joined Black passers-by who raised the case with protesters in calling together for freedom for Dr. Shakur and all of the political prisoners held in U.S. jails.
As in Barghouthi’s case, Shakur is a long-held political prisoner who was scheduled for release – later denied arbitrarily by the U.S. government as he remains imprisoned. He was set for release on 10 February 2016, but instead was only scheduled for a parole hearing on 4 April 2016. “Dr. Mutulu Shakur is being illegally detained in Federal prison beyond his release date because of his past and ongoing contributions to the human rights, self-determination and liberation of not only his nation New Afrika, but to the freedom and justice for all oppressed peoples,” wrote MXGM.
The participants in the action also expressed their congratulations to Samidoun activist Nick Maniace, who had been unjustly and illegally arrested by the NYPD at the Al-Quds Day protest on 23 June for chanting “Free Palestine” through a megaphone. The ticket and charges were never presented in court because the police failed to provide “legally acceptable” documentation.
This is only the latest incident in an ongoing pattern of NYPD repression of Palestine demonstrations, including assaulting protesters and illegal arrests. Of course, this comes on top of the police department’s lengthy history of racial profiling and intense spying on Arab and Muslim communities, and its violent record of attacks, repression and racism targeting, in particular, New York’s Black and Latinx communities.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network will continue to organize actions and events in coming weeks to support freedom for the nearly 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and the liberation of Palestine’s land and people, including the return of millions of Palestinian refugees in exile and diaspora.