Samidoun meets South African ambassador in Berlin to advocate for Palestinian prisoners

Samidoun participated in a meeting with the South African Ambassador to Germany along with Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat, youth activist and journalist Ahmed Khalil and community activist Ghazi Hamad. Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun, joined the delegation to discuss the urgent situation of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, particularly administrative detainees on hunger strike against their imprisonment without charge or trial.

The delegation presented a range of topics affecting the Palestinian people and their struggle for their rights and liberation inside Palestine and in exile during the meeting with Ambassador Phumelele Stone Sizani in the South African embassy in the German capital. During the meeting, Sizani emphasized South Africa’s commitment to Palestinian rights and the importance of Palestinian unity to achieve their national goals. In particular, he recalled the words of South African ANC leader Nelson Mandela, who said that “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Sizani noted that Mandela’s words continue to pose an important direction for South Africa as a whole and the African National Congres (ANC) in particular. He noted the historical support from the Palestinian movement for the South African liberation struggle. During the discussion, Hamad, now an activist with the Democratic Palestine Committees, noted that he and other Palestinians in Berlin were involved with anti-apartheid campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kates discussed the situation of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. In particular, she talked about the eight Palestinian administrative detainees on hunger strike for up to a full month against their imprisonment without charge or trial. Administrative detainees can spend years at a time in Israeli prison under repeatedly renewed administrative detention orders, and people who are targeted for administrative detention are often student organizers and community activists. Ambassador Sizani noted that he had himself been detained without charge and imprisoned under apartheid in South Africa.

She discussed the case of Huzaifa Halabiya, on hunger strike for a month, who has been jailed without charge or trial and has never met his infant daughter. He was seized by occupation forces while his wife was pregnant and his detention has been renewed. He is carrying out his hunger strike despite the fact that he is a leukemia survivor who suffered burns as a child over the majority of his body, requiring specialized medical care. She also noted that 20 more Palestinian prisoners had joined the hunger strike that day to demand an end to administrative detention.

She also discussed ongoing repression in Europe faced by advocates for Palestinian rights, including the political ban imposed on Barakat by German authorities, preventing him from speaking in public in Berlin about Palestine. She presented statements by lawyers’ organizations in support of Barakat, including the statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. NADEL, the South African National Association of Democratic Lawyers, is a member of the IADL.

Barakat himself discussed the political ban as part of a campaign by the Israeli state and its imperialist allies to impose a form of siege on Palestinians wherever they are, including in places where it is not possible to put them in jail as the Israeli occupation does with Palestinians inside occupied Palestine. He discussed the escalating policy of home demolitions and land confiscation in occupied Jerusalem, including the home demolitions in Wadi al-Hummus, Sur Baher. Barakat expressed appreciation for South Africa’s co-sponsorship of a Security Council resolution in the United Nations along with Kuwait and Indonesia condemning the demolitions, a resolution vetoed by the lone vote of the United States.

Barakat also emphasized the broad Palestinian support for the boycott of Israel, especially given that the Israeli state is attempting to expand its networks in Africa and become a member of African economic and political bodies. He also focused on the need to build the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and confront attempts to criminalize or repress the movement.

He noted that Palestinians want South Africa to cut all ties with the occupation state, recalling the strong historical relationship between the South African and Palestinian liberation movement and the escalating attack by Israel and the U.S. against the Palestinian people. Addressing the future of Palestine in response to the so-called “deal of the century,” Barakat said that “the so-called two-state solution is dead. There is no choice for the Palestinian people other than to continue our struggle until the liberation of all of Palestine and the construction of a democratic society in Palestine.”

Barakat noted the centrality of Palestinian refugees’ right to return, noting that Palestinian refugees are under attack in Gaza – where they are shot down while marching for their rights – and even in Lebanon from right-wing political forces. He linked all of these attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause with the offensive being conducted by Israel and the United States under the banner of the “deal of the century.”

Hamad then presented further details about the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, noting that they have been displaced since 1948 due to the creation of Israel as a settler-colonial state and the forced expulsion of the Palestinian people. He discussed the current conditions facing Palestinian refugees, in particular the protests taking place in the refugee camps across the country after the Lebanese Minister of Labor (Kamil Abu Sleiman of the Lebanese Forces) enforced a labor law against “foreign workers” on Palestinian refugees. He noted that the forces attacking Palestinian rights are affiliated with the right wing in Lebanon and have a long history of alignment with the U.S. and Israel. He also noted that the Lebanese popular movements are standing clearly with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in their struggle for civil, human, social and economic rights.

He also noted that “Palestinians consider South Africa to be a supporter of the Palestinian cause,” expressing strong support for South Africa’s decision to downgrade its diplomatic presence in Tel Aviv. “We know that the people of South Africa know the horrors of war and racism and support the Palestinian people in confronting colonization and occupation in order to achieve return and liberation.”

Khalil discussed the situation of Palestinian students and youth in Lebanon, where they are denied access to 70 regulated professions, and the pressure on Palestinian refugees to migrate outside the country to find a future. He also discussed the racism and repression that Palestinian refugees face in Germany and throughout Europe, including the discrimination faced in applying for asylum and even, once again, the ability to work.

He noted that the fight against racism in Europe is also part of the fight for Palestinian rights and a just society, as well as the fact that Israel and the US are aligned with the most racist, far-right European forces.

All present emphasized the importance of continuing connections and discussions between Palestinians and South Africans, including the involvement of Palestinian communities in exile and diaspora around the world, especially in an era of escalated international attempts to marginalize the Palestinian cause.