New York activists protested on Monday, 2 October to demand freedom for imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian prisoners. The protest, held outside the Best Buy electronics store in Manhattan’s Union Square, highlighted the case of the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as the growing international campaign to boycott Hewlett-Packard (HP) corporations over their role in providing technical infrastructure to Israeli apartheid.
The protest, organized by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, also expressed solidarity with three longtime Black Liberation Movement prisoners in New York jails: Jalil Muntaqim, Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes. Bell – jailed for 43 years – was recently attacked by prison guards, beaten badly, and has been denied family visits. In addition to information about Palestinian prisoners, the case of Ahmad Sa’adat and HP complicity in Israeli colonialism, the demonstrators also distributed a leaflet about the three men’s cases.
Ahmad Sa’adat is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli occupation prisons for his leadership of the PFLP. The leftist Palestinian leader was seized by occupation forces along with four of his comrades – Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Quran and Basil al-Asmar – in 2006 when they violently attacked the Palestinian Authority’s Jericho prison. Sa’adat and his comrades had been jailed under U.S. and British guard in PA prison for four years, since 2002. He recently published a new book about his experience of isolation inside Israeli prisons; he is one of the foremost leaders of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement as well as a Palestinian national leader.
During his military trial, Sa’adat refused to participate or recognize the court. Samidoun international coordinator Charlotte Kates was part of a delegation of U.S. lawyers and activists in 2007 who participated in observing the military trial and witnessing firsthand the mockery of justice presented. At the close of the trial, Sa’adat stood to speak to the court, denouncing its role and proclaiming his commitment to Palestinian liberation:
“Based on all that I have said, and in defense of the justice of our cause and in defense of the legitimate struggle of our people against the occupation, I refuse to recognize the legitimacy of your court or to legitimize your occupation or to stand before either of these. Because what you call a list of accusations and ‘security infractions’ are in reality my patriotic duties, “whether they were effective or not,” and would have to be framed within the context of the general duty of resistance against occupation.
At the same time, and as the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, I would like to reaffirm my pride in belonging to the Palestinian Revolutionary Movement and to the extensions of this movement in the regional, national and international planes that form the components of the international movement against the imperialist system of globalization. This is the leading framework of the peoples of the world and their oppressed social classes that struggle for freedom, democracy, socialism, global progress, the just distribution of wealth, equality among peoples and peace – rejecting repression and the concept of imperialist freedom based on plunder, injustice and racial discrimination.”
The protest focused on Best Buy as a major retailer of HP products to the consumer market. HP corporations are involved in providing IT databases to the Israel Prison Service as well as selling the technology Israeli occupation forces use to maintain their system of apartheid checkpoints and ID cards. HP corporations are even involved in providing technical support to the Israeli navy and other military forces, thus profiting from the siege on Gaza and the daily military occupation and colonization imposed on the Palestinian people. Churches, labor unions and other organizations are joining the call to become “HP-free zones” to demand the corporation cut its ties to apartheid.
Khaled Barakat, the international spokesperson of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat and a Palestinian leftist writer, delivered a message of solidarity to the protest. Barakat wrote:
“Ahmad Sa’adat is a representation of the reality in Palestine today: the leaders of the Palestinian people – the lawyers, the strugglers, the organizers, the parliamentarians, the freedom fighters, the students, the teachers – are targeted time and again for night raids, mass arrests, torture under interrogation and lengthy prison sentences. This is an attempt to deny the Palestinian people their leadership and thus hold back the tide of resistance for return and liberation.
We salute Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and the New York activists especially, who consistently and firmly stand behind Palestinian prisoners, linking arms in struggle to demand liberation for all Palestinian prisoners and liberation for Palestine. Your actions and dedication are seen not only here but also warm the hearts and raise the spirits of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Your tireless work through three years of weekly demonstrations illustrate your own steadfastness as true comrades on the march towards liberation.”
Samidoun will be participating in multiple upcoming events and actions in the coming week in New York City. It is one of the co-organizers of the 7 October Rally to Resist War and Racism at Home and Abroad, joining with dozens of other organizations to denounce U.S. war threats, imperial attacks and racist policies.
On Monday, 9 October, Samidoun will not be holding its own protest but will instead be supporting Indigenous and Indigenous solidarity organizing against “Columbus Day,” participating in the 2nd Annual Anti-Columbus Day Tour beginning at the American Museum of Natural History. The protest has three demands: “Remove the white supremacist statue in front of the museum, Rename the day to Indigenous People’s Day, and Respect the Ancestors.”
Samidoun in New York will be planning actions in the following weeks as part of the international Days of Action to Free Georges Abdallah from 14-24 October; announcements will be posted soon. All supporters of justice for Palestine and the Palestinian people are encouraged to join and attend these events.