Mohammed Khatib, the Europe coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, was interviewed by journalist Shireen Mousa Habash on the “Sawt Falasteen” (Voice of Palestine) program on Sawt al-Shaab Radio in Lebanon on Friday, 12 October. He was asked about the upcoming week of action to demand freedom for Georges Abdallah and the need for increased actions to win his freedom.
The interview was conducted in Arabic. Listen below, and read the English-language transcript following the audio file:
The program also included interviews and contributions by several others, including Ahmad Abdullah, Fidaa Abdel-Fattah, Mohammed al-Aidi and Rami Ibrahim. Listen to the full program here:
Shireen Mousa Habash: We’re here to speak more about the week of action for Lebanese prisoner Georges Abdallah. With us from Athens, the capital of Greece, the European coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Mohammed Khatib. Welcome Mohammed, to the Voice of Palestine program at Sawt al-Shaab (Lebanon):
Mohammed Khatib: Hello, thank you for having me.
S: Welcome, Mohammed,as you are the coordinator of Samidoun in Europe, and as your network is one of the main organizers of the international solidarity week for the freedom of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, can you please tell us more about the actions and events that are being organized during this week?
M: First of all, thank you for the invitation to speak with you on Sawt al-Shaab, to bring this issue to the Lebanese people, the Palestinian people. It is the cause of all forces of solidarity, and I salute all Lebanese people and all resistance movements in Lebanon. Samidoun works primarily with a focus on the Palestinian and Arab prisoners in the Zionist prisons and in prisons around the world, and on supporting the solidarity movements who have prisoners, from Black Liberation movement in the United States to struggles in Europe.
Regarding the actions, this is not the first year of the week of action; these weeks have been happening for approximately four years. Many major European cities will have events this week between the 17th and 24th of October. The main event will be in front of the prison in Lannemezan, where comrade leader Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is being held, on 20th October. Other cities will have supporting actions, like other cities in France such as Paris, Marseille, Toulouse and Martigues; in Berlin, the capital of Germany; in Gothenburg, Sweden; in Milan, Italy; in Geneva, Manchester, Belfast, these are some of the most active cities.
There will be an announcement of actions in Tunisia; Tunis has been one of the most active Arab cities on the case of Georges. There is a constant struggle in Tunisia and demonstrations in front of the French Embassy demanding the freedom of Georges Abdallah. And I’m sure that in Beirut our comrades and friends will mobilize.
S: These events are going to be what kind of actions, protests?
M: Yes, protest actions – some will be mobilizations in front of French embassies. But in the case of Geneva, for example, there will be a campaign of writing letters to George. But mostly we will see events and angry protests to demand the freedom of comrade Georges Abdallah, who has spent 34 years in prison without justification.
S: Now Mohammed, as you said, the cause of Georges Abdallah is not just limited to a Lebanese matter, because he is a Lebanese citizen. It is a cause of all strugglers around the world, especially the resistance forces in the Arab world and around the globe, particularly the Left. How do you evaluate the role of these left forces in activating the cause of Georges Abdallah and pressuring the French government to release him? How do you see the level of this work in the past and in the last few years?
M: Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, for us and for all the resistance forces around the globe and in Lebanon, is not just a prisoner. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is a symbol, a leader – an international leader. Political prisoners in the Philippines know about the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. European prisoners too – there are 30 political prisoners in Greek prisons who consider Georges Abdallah as a leader and symbol. This is the case in all of the Arab world also. In the last week, we in Samidoun received a letter from Ahmad Sa’adat inside the enemy prisons, reflecting the fact that Georges is a symbol for Palestinian prisoners and the prisoners’ movement. This is the case for all six thousand Palestinian prisoners, not only for the PFLP prisoners alone, because he is an example of resistance. Not only that he resists occupation, but that he resists imperialism and Zionism in their own stronghold. So any mobilization is insufficient – the fact that Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has been in prison for 34 years means that any mobilization is not up to what it needs to be, in the past or now. The actions do not rise to the level of the sacrifices of Georges and they must be elevated. They also do not rise to meet the needs of the left. In fact, we need Georges Abdallah more than he needs us; we need himoutside of prison. The left needs a symbol with the value of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.
S: The forces of the left, and the resistance forces, what are they doing today for Georges Ibrahim Abdallah?
M: For sure, there are shortcomings from the left forces. Today, the left is weak and that is why we need Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. There is a lot of criticism to to the resistance movement, I’m speaking in general –
S: Yes, not specifically –
M: I’m talking about the resistance in general, the supporters of the resistance, the forces of the resistance, they must realize the level of the insult by France to keep imprisoning a national, international, and human symbol like Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. The role and the duty needed of the left – it is not a favor, it is a responsibility towards the left itself – and in order for people to find a reason to belong to the left, the left must take seriously the case of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. This is necessary and should be a central issue on the agenda of the left and not just an annual event that we can organize in Beirut or in an Arab or Western capital.
Even the solidarity movement, the solidarity movement with Palestine in France, and what they call the center-left or the radical left, they have a greater responsibility than mere verbal solidarity with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. Today, after 34 years in prison, we should not just say that we are in “solidarity” with George Ibrahim Abdallah. He does not need our words of solidarity only. We should be working to free George Ibrahim Abdallah. There is a big difference between saying that we are with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and working on our duty to actually free this Arab and international struggler.
S: In January 2013, there was a decision to free Georges Abdallah and deport him, the decision was never implemented because the interior minister Manuel Valls refused to sign for his release. Some people are saying France is not the only or actual jailer that is imprisoning Georges Abdallah…
M: When Ahmad Sa’adat, General Secretary of the PFLP, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority and held in Jericho prison, he was not truly and solely under the PA’s authority. There were all kinds of Western intelligence agencies involved, including the British, the French, the CIA and the FBI – the intelligence services of all imperialist forces. The fact that Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is held in a French prison, as you said, does not mean that he is only a prisoner of France. Of course, the main pressure, for the past 34 years, has been coming from the State Department of the United States. The French government is so preoccupied with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah because they are afraid of him, even though they act against their own laws and they claim to be a democracy.
S: As they claim –
M: Of course – they go against their own rulings and laws, especially with the pressure coming from the United States. And because they realize the challenge that George presents outside prison. Why? Because he is a symbol of resistance. When Georges Abdallah was arrested in France, he, in his ideology and beliefs, recognized that the centers of the support and strength of Zionist movement are not only in occupied Haifa and occupied Yafa, but also in the imperialist capitals like Paris and London – that is the real support for the Zionist movement, that comes with money and weapons.
S: They’ve created this.
M: Yes, they created it, and until today, it is their machine that supports it. Many of the soldiers who stand on checkpoints in occupied Palestine come from these cities. They are Western citizens who carry Western passports, and France does not hold them accountable for being terrorists. If a Zionist soldier kills a Palestinian child, they can go back to France and spend their vacation, and they are not prosecuted. This is not like Georges Abdallah – they are not punished, like they are doing to Georges. Georges Abdallah did not kill civilians. Georges Abdallah is not a terrorist. They cannot say about Georges that he is a terrorist, they cannot claim that he is from IS (Da’esh) – he represents another version of resistance. The conscious resistance.
S: Yes, that is why they are pressuring France not to release Georges Abdallah. Lastly –
M: Georges Abdallah can have a major effect on an entire new Arab generation – with the political analysis and positions of comrade Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, and his consciousness and ideas, despite being in prison for 34 years, what he represents outweighs any leader who claims to be on the left [outside prison].
S: Mr. Mohammed Khatib, please in one minute, because we are running out of time, about your activities with the international community and the human rights commission at the United Nations –
M: We don’t rely on the so-called human rights community or on the United Nations. Our movement is in the streets, and our solidarity is in coordinating with the forces of the left, of the resistance, grassroots solidarity in the West and in all the world. Our hope is in the Lebanese resistance to take this issue seriously and consider Georges Ibrahim Abdallah as their son, even as he is a Communist and a Leftist. We demand that the Lebanese government must assume its responsibility, to defend the Lebanese people and Georges, just like they rushed to defend Saad al-Hariri when he was detained by the Saudis. France even interfered to free him!
S: Unfortunately, unfortunately –
M: Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is more important than Saad al-Hariri and all “kings of sects.” [Lebanese traditional political leaders]. He is the alternative example, He wants to liberate Lebanon from this ruling clique, to liberate all Arab land from colonialism and reactionary regimes. That is why they fear him.
S: Thank you Mohammed Khatib from Athens, of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.