New Yorkers took the streets to demand freedom for Maher al-Akhras, the Palestinian prisoner jailed without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation regime who has been on hunger strike for 90 days on Friday, 24 October. Organized by the NY4Palestine Coalition and Jewish Voice for Peace – NYC, the protest brought together a militant and dedicated group of organizers on short notice for a picket outside the Israeli consulate and the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is a member of the NY4Palestine Coalition, along with American Muslims for Palestine – New Jersey; Al-Awda New York, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Students for Justice in Palestine groups in the New York City area, and Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine. American Muslims for Palestine – NJ worked tirelessly to support the protest, which brought out dozens of JVP members, coalition members and other supporters of Palestine, including representatives of Struggle – La Lucha and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
“This is a crucial moment for not only Maher, but also the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and the Palestinian national movement as a whole,” said Joe Catron, U.S. coordinator of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
“Israel’s renewal of Maher’s detention shows how much its uncritical support from both parties of the U.S. government, as well as normalized relations with reactionary Arab states, have emboldened its crimes against Palestinians.”
Protesters periodically occupied sections of the street and marched in a picket on the sidewalk. Wissam of American Muslims for Palestine delivered a speech urging freedom for Maher al-Akhras and all political prisoners:
“Maher al-Akhras has put his body on strike against the Israeli settler colonial state’s use of so-called administrative detention as a weapon to break down the will of the Palestinian people,” said Rosalind Petchesky, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace – New York City.
“In so doing, he joins many thousands of unjustly detained Palestinians over decades of Israel’s colonial repression for whom hunger strikes have been the only available form—and an honorable form—of resistance.”
Maher al-Akhras has been jailed without charge or trial by Israeli occupation forces since July 2020, and launched a hunger strike to protest his illegitimate detention. Administrative detention is a British Mandate-era military regulation Israeli commanders in the occupied West Bank currently use to imprison 330 Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have spent years at a time jailed under these detention orders.
As he approached a severely critical health condition on Friday, Israeli officials suddenly officially re-imposed his administrative detention order (it was officially “suspended” until he recovered from the health conditions of his hunger strike – a fig leaf to reject any legal process) and transferred him from the Kaplan medical center to the Ramleh prison clinic.
New Yorkers expressed their firm commitment to save Maher al-Akhras’ life and return him home, freely, to his six children. They also expressed their outrage at the failure of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to uphold its responsibilities to Palestinian political prisoners unjustly detained, as well as the statement by U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, that “Israel has a right to defend itself” against a Palestinian father, locked up with no charges and no chance of trial, on hunger strike for 90 days, dying in his hospital bed as he seeks freedom for himself and his people.
Today, 24 October, people around the world will join in an online Twitter campaign to demand his freedom, using the hashtag #FreeMaherAlAkhras
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all supporters of Palestine to organize in your communities, areas and organizations to demand freedom for Maher al-Akhras, an end to administrative detention and liberation for all Palestinian prisoners – and for Palestine, from the river to the sea.