Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network warmly congratulates Abdulrahman Odeh and his family on the occasion of his release from 15 years of unjust and illegitimate imprisonment by the U.S. government as part of the Holy Land Foundation 5 (HLF5) case. The persecution of the HLF5 is a clear anti-Palestinian attack by the U.S. government, a case that persisted for years upon years, on the slimmest of evidence, involving practices that undercut the very premise of justice and accountability, including anonymous testimony by Mossad agents. On this day of celebration for the Odeh family, we urge the immediate release of his fellow HLF5 political prisoners and all political prisoners in U.S. jails and the broadest possible mobilization to obtain their liberation.
Abdulrahman Odeh and his family were deprived of 15 years of their time together due to the malicious prosecution of the HLF5 in a concentrated, anti-Palestinian campaign designed to devastate the Palestinian community in the United States, destroy institutions that had been built over years of work and struggle and spread fear and repression among the community, especially amid the post-9/11 imperial war drive in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the rising Intifada in Palestine.
The Holy Land Foundation was a charitable institution that had provided millions of dollars in aid, fundraised largely from Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities in the United States, to orphans, widows and marginalized people in need in occupied Palestine. It comes as no surprise that the Israeli colonial occupation and the imperialist power that arms, funds and sponsors the Zionist project would want to see such an institution, strengthening the steadfastness of the Palestinian people to live, survive and persist under occupation and colonialism, defunded and destroyed.
It may be shocking that Abdulrahman Odeh’s 15-year term was the shortest of the five sentences imposed on these Palestinian community leaders. Mohammed el-Mezain was also sentenced to 15 years; Mufid Abdelqader to 20 years; and Ghassan Elashi and Shukri Abu Baker to 65 years each in prison, for their charitable support for Palestinians. Their families and communities continue to work tirelessly for their freedom, despite exhausting almost all avenues for justice in the U.S. legal system.
The HLF5 were convicted on false charges of “providing material support to terrorism,” despite the fact that they were never even accused of funding the legitimate armed resistance to Israeli occupation and colonization. Indeed, the same charities funded by the Holy Land Foundation were also funded by the International Red Cross and even USAID, the US Agency for International Development. However, the U.S. government, after failing to convict the HLF5 in their first attempt, was allowed to bring in an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent to offer even more dubious, torture-produced “evidence” against the Five, alongside pure sensationalism and anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab racism.
The case reflects the purpose of the designation of Palestinian resistance organizations as “terrorist” groups by the U.S., EU, Canada, the UK and other imperialist powers. Such designations aim to quell Palestinian organizing and community development, posing a constant threat of surveillance, persecution and repression that seeks to undermine the capacity of Palestinians in exile to play an active role not only in their national liberation movement, but even in charitable support for their brothers and sisters inside Palestine and in the refugee camps.
Just as the use of the “terrorist” label is used to propagandize for imperialist wars, invasions and global domination around the world, it is also used to repress communities, peoples and nations organizing for justice and liberation, whether inside their homelands or in exile. The persecution of the HLF5 was and is an extension of the same imperialist agenda that provides over $3.8 billion in military aid every year to the Israeli colonial project in Palestine. They are Palestinian political prisoners in U.S. jails.
Of course, the U.S. is not alone in this regard, nor in the continuing imperialist persecution of Palestinian organizers and strugglers for Palestine; we see the 36 years of imprisonment of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah in France – fully supported and demanded by the U.S. – as well as today’s persecution of Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat alongside Irish republicans by the British state, the original promulgator of the Balfour Declaration and the colonial division of Palestine.
The imprisonment of the HLF5 comes alongside the repression of Palestinian organizers – from the Los Angeles 8 to Sami al-Arian to Rasmea Odeh – to the use of police and FBI spies and agents to infiltrate and attack Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizers in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York and elsewhere. It also comes hand in hand with the ongoing targeting of Black Liberation, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Indigenous and revolutionary organizers and strugglers for violent repression, police assault and assassination and long-term political imprisonment. We note that the “terrorist” label has been used against the Black Liberation Movement, Puerto Rican independentistas and Indigenous strugglers challenging U.S. imperialism and settler-colonialism.
Today is a day for celebration, but even Abdulrahman Odeh is not yet fully free. He must still spend time in a “halfway house” before truly returning home to his family. The fellow four members of the Holy Land Foundation 5, Mohammed el-Mezain, Mufid Abdelqader, Ghassan Elashi and Shukri Abu Baker, remain behind bars in an ongoing, violent injustice perpetrated against them and their families. We salute Abdulrahman Odeh and his family today, renew our demand for the immediate freedom of the HLF5, all political prisoners in U.S. jails, and all Palestinian political prisoners around the world – in Israeli, imperialist, and reactionary prisons – and emphasize the urgent need to mobilize in support of their liberation.
Freedom for the HLF5, freedom for Palestine!