The boycott movement and the attack on Palestinian prisoners by Khaled Barakat

The following article by Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, was originally published on 24 January 2019 in Arabic at Quds News Network. English translation follows below:

The right-wing Zionist Cabinet minister, Gilad Erdan (Likud), is waging a furious and organized campaign against the prisoners’ movement in Israeli jails today. This campaign aims to distort the image of the prisoners and confiscate their voice and their achievements earned through hunger, blood and suffering. At the same time, he is personally leading official Zionist efforts against the international movement for the boycott of Israel. The BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) calls for the boycott of the occupation, withdrawing investments from its companies and institutions and imposing sanctions on it, including a military embargo.

Erdan heads the Ministry of Public Security, responsible over the prison administration. He also heads the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, founded for his right-wing, racist colleague Avigdor Lieberman in 2006. When appointed in 2015, he transformed its agenda toward a new primary task: to confront the growing international boycott movement. It is no coincidence that there is a strong relationship between the struggle of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the international solidarity movement with the Palestinian people around the world. The task of Gilad Erdan is to criminalize both parties at the international level: the Palestinian prisoners and all those calling for the boycott of Zionism or the victory of Palestinian rights.

This strategy of Gilad Erdan is based on a simple, central framework: “moving from defense to attack.” This concept includes Zionist recognition of a serious problem, viewing the colonial settler entity as facing an existential crisis, what the Zionists term “the delegitimization of Israel.” Within this context, it is “logical” for the Zionist movement to attempt to criminalize and suppress the boycott movement in the United States, Canada, Europe and elsewhere due to its achievements and growing strength in support of the Palestinian struggle. Similarly, how can the policy of the “move toward attack” be justified in the case of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, held captive in prisons and detention centers, be justified and promoted without violating their rights, attempting to confiscate their achievements and distorting their image?

The Zionist attempt to delegitimize the resistance

In most of his numerous speeches and statements, Gilad Erdan repeatedly claims that the prisoners are not prisoners of war, political detainees or freedom fighters. Instead, he labels them “killers” and “terrorists,” claiming that those who support the “killers” are implicated in their “crimes.” He is well aware of the existence of various so-called “anti-terror” laws in the United States, Europe and their allies to criminalize the Palestinian resistance!

This is the daily international message of the Israeli state and the Zionist movement: criminalizing the Palestinian prisoners, the prisoners’ movement and the Palestinian resistance in general, while practicing terror against the popular movements and growing forces that fall within the framework of the global movement for boycott.

The Zionist organizations are trying to criminalize the Palestinian resistance and its supporters, both the popular resistance and the armed resistance. The latest example was the failed attempt to pass a resolution characterizing Hamas as a terrorist organization in the UN General Assembly, as well as the persistent attempts by the enemy to manufacture claims of “organizational links” between the international boycott movement and the Palestinian resistance forces. For example, Palestinian and solidarity organizations active in the United States, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and American Muslims for Palestine are repeatedly and dubiously accused of being “defenders of Palestinian terrorism” or linked to Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others. The reality is that these and other groups are popular movements, human rights organizations and civil society institutions that are growing in popularity and strength in churches, trade unions, political parties and universities.

Many of these campaigns of disinformation and distortion carried out by anti-Palestinian institutions and centers in the United States and Europe attempt to link the international boycott movement with the Palestinian resistance forces by noting the leaders of the prisoners’ movement, characterizing them instead as “Palestinian terrorist leaders.” One additional purpose of such attacks is an attempt to pressure the international solidarity movement, and at its heart the boycott movement, to silence or abandon its moral support and political position in support of the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance against the occupation toward return and liberation.

It is a war of legitimacy, then, and it is true that there is an essential, existential conflict between the racist, settler-colonial Zionist project and the liberation movement of the Palestinian people under occupation and in exile. The search for “solutions” and “settlement” is not useful or realistic; both of these sides are looking for victory. The Arab-Zionist conflict has never been a struggle over shifting borders and small areas.

The repressive legislation that criminalizes the Popular Front, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and other organizations come under a well-known framework prohibiting “material support” for groups on “foreign terrorist lists.” Erdan and his colleagues are attempting to use the threat of these laws to bully and repress the boycott movement and its allies in Washington, London, Paris and other Western capitals. These laws often originate in finance ministries, with a stated purpose of “drying up support for terrorism.” But Israel and the Zionist movement wants more even than this criminalization of “material support” for the resistance. They want to criminalize political advocacy and growing movements in a desperate attempt to criminalize the entire Palestinian national liberation movement and strip it of its legitimacy and support.

If these efforts can run aground on the “prison front” because of the cohesion of the prisoners’ movement, their internal strength and their long experience of historical struggle, this calls for mobilizing the Palestinian people inside and outside Palestine and advancing Arab and international popular support and solidarity in order for the prisoners’ movement to recover its leading position as the solid nucleus of the Palestinian resistance. As always, the prisoners stand on the front line to defend the people and their rights. The occupation state and its institutions are also failing in their efforts against the boycott movement, due to the vigilance of the Palestinian people and solidarity movement, raising two basic principles: resistance and boycott.

To conclude:

Defending the achievements and rights of the prisoners in occupation prisons, uncovering the crimes of the Zionist forces against them and working to internationalize their cause at the popular and official levels as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian resistance is a task of a special and critical nature. It is an existential question for the entire Palestinian people, not only for the prisoners themselves.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement, which today is being subject to a furious, official campaign of attack directed by Gilad Erdan, is able to confront the special repressive forces like Masada, Dror, Yaman and others with its solid and unified will. It provides us with daily, living examples of unity in struggle within the dungeons of the occupier. We must learn and draw lessons from this example as well, to unite our efforts to confront Zionist aggression and all attempts to delegitimize the struggle of the Palestinian people and undermine its courageous and legitimate resistance.

It is also necessary that the struggles of the prisoners’ movement occupy their natural and advanced position on the agenda of the international solidarity movement with the Palestinian people. Those who do not stand in solidarity with the prisoners cannot support the resistance and will not defend the Palestinian people and their legitimate national rights.