New Yorkers protested for the second time in as many weeks outside the offices of a charity that raises money to fund the Israeli occupation forces and their war crimes. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network gathered outside the Broadway office of the “Friends of the IDF” to denounce ongoing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and demand freedom for imprisoned Palestinian leader Khalida Jarrar on Saturday, 30 June.
Jarrar, a Palestinian leftist, feminist parliamentarian who is well-known for her advocacy for Palestinian prisoners, has already been jailed for a year without charge or trial, since she was seized from her family home in El-Bireh by Israeli occupation forces on 2 July 2017. In mid-June, she received a new order for another four months of imprisonment without charge or trial under Israeli administrative detention.
There are currently around 450 Palestinians held in administrative detention, among the over 6,100 total Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have spent years at a time imprisoned on so-called “secret evidence” without charge or trial. On 2 July 2018, an Israeli military court is expected to rubber-stamp the order from the Israeli occupation forces’ commander for her continued imprisonment. Jarrar, along with her fellow administrative detainees, is engaged in a collective boycott of the military courts, demanding the abolition of administrative detention.
Over 270 international groups, including political parties, feminist organizations, Palestine solidarity and Palestinian community organizations, have signed on to a collective statement demanding her release in advance of the hearing, while thousands of individuals have joined a petition calling for her immediate freedom.
“Israel’s ongoing persecution of Khalida Jarrar and its brutal repression of the Great March of Return are two sides of the same coin. As it seeks to crush the resistance they embody, their heroic examples of steadfastness demand greater solidarity from all of us,” said Joe Catron, U.S. coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, highlighting the ongoing marches by Palestinians in Gaza for their right to return and the breaking of the siege.
The marches have been met with intense violence by Israeli occupation forces, who have killed over 130 Palestinians and injured thousands as they marched in mass popular demonstrations at the colonially-imposed armistice line. On 3 July, women in Gaza have announced a women’s march for return and breaking the siege, and they have urged international solidarity; events are being organized in Belfast, Bratislava and elsewhere.
The protest also highlighted the role of the “Friends of the IDF,” a notorious “charity” organization that raises millions of dollars from U.S. celebrities and Zionist organizations to fund the Israeli occupation army and its killing, colonization and siege of Palestinians. Among other efforts, such as “Adopt a Unit,” the FIDF encourages Americans and others to travel as foreign fighters to join the Israeli occupation army as “lone soldiers,” providing them with material aid and assistance.
The strength of Saturday’s demonstration was bolstered by an earlier protest against U.S. policies of migrant detention and deportation, especially the detention of children and the separation of families. Approximately 30,000 people – including the participants in the demonstration for Palestine outside the FIDF office – participated in the march across the Brooklyn Bridge, part of a national day of action against the separation of immigrant families and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency responsible for carrying out these repressive policies.
Following the protest, participants joined the ongoing encampment in Foley Square, “Occupy ICE.” The 24/7 encampment is present near the ICE office in New York “with the intention of disrupting deportations, giving mutual aid in the form of food serves, medical, and legal services to immigrants facing deportation cases, and raising awareness of ICE’s innumerable abuses.” Catron, among others, formed the night crew holding the space overnight to ensure the encampment remains until the morning. Samidoun activists and Palestine organizers are among those participating in the ongoing encampment over the weeks to come.
Since the Foley Square protest began on Tuesday, 26 June, police invaded it twice – and on both occasions, they removed a Palestinian flag mounted on a statue there by participants. They left other flags in place, including Mexican and pan-African flags. However, each time the police have removed the Palestinian flag, the participants have raised it once more.
Samidoun activists in New York will continue to organize to demand the freedom of Khalida Jarrar and all Palestinian prisoners in the weeks and months to come.