The Palestinian Prisoners’ Struggle and the 34th Anniversary of the Great Palestinian Intifada

As the Palestinian people commemorate the 34th anniversary of the launch of the great Palestinian popular uprising, they continue to confront the machinery of oppression, siege, repression and arrest on a daily and hourly basis. The Palestinian people defy racist Zionist colonialism throughout occupied Palestine, yearning for return, liberation and dignity, and continuing their valiant resistance despite all obstacles and challenges.

Today, on the anniversary of the glorious popular Intifada of 1987, which constituted a new milestone of struggle on the path to liberation and the history of the Palestinian national liberation movement. It remains an inexhaustible reservoir of knowledge and revolution, as the Palestinian people stand before that important stage, drawing from it lessons upon lessons, passed down from generation to generation of the Palestinian and Arab people. The great Palestinian popular Intifada is a source of pride and strength for all of humanity. Beginning on 8 December 1987, the Intifada was a natural outcome of a long revolutionary experience of struggle in combatting the Zionist occupation since 1948.

The popular uprising expressed the determination and will of a struggling people willing to sacrifice and contribute in order to extract their national and human rights. It revealed the maturity and momentum of the Palestinian liberation movement at all levels, especially through the women’s movement, labor movement and student movement. The Palestinian people’s boundless ability for popular organization and creativity flourished in the Intifada, creating a national alternative and building a national resistance economy. The Palestinian people showcased their skill and expertise in managing their civil and collective affairs, leading their agricultural, industrial, medical, educational, sports and cultural institutions and imposing popular authority in villages, camps and cities through the formation of Popular Committees and Protection Committees, whose reference was the masses. These committees were led by reliable revolutionary cadres and national leaders, foremost among them liberated prisoners with credible histories and experiences of struggle.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement played an important role in leading and directing the popular uprising inside and outside the prisons. The liberation of 1,150 prisoners in 1985 in an exchange process between the Palestinian resistance and the Zionist state played a major role in the return of hundreds of revolutionary cadres from the prisons to the fields and spaces of popular, cultural, union and armed struggle. The prisoners’ movement transformed prisons and detention centers into revolutionary schools that received young adults, students and youth and bid them farewell to enhance the experience of the new generation and its leading role in struggle, especially as the occupation arrested and imprisoned tens and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, mostly youth.

The role of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement was not limited to leading daily tasks of struggle in developing and sustaining the flame of the popular uprising, but it also presented hundreds of important documents and studies written inside prisons in the experience of revolutionary work. The prisoners contributed to strengthening Palestinian national culture and transforming it into a weapon of revolutionary awareness and deep knowledge that took root from the culture of steadfastness in the dungeons of interrogation and the values of collectivity and social and human solidarity.

To the same extent that the Palestinian prisoners’ movement embraced the Intifada and guided and reinforced its action, the Palestinian people outside embraced the prisoners’ movement and considered the cause of the prisoners a critical daily and permanent issue of struggle.

Today, 34 years after the outbreak of the popular Intifada, we also remember the prisoners who are still detained who entered Zionist jails before this date, such as the leading strugglers Karim Younes, Nael Barghouthi and Walid Daqqa, and the martyrs of the prisoners’ movement in the occupation prisons and their revolutionary leadership, as we recall the internationalist Lebanese struggler Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, jailed in French prisons since 1984. We urge ongoing and escalating work to organize for their liberation, taking up the responsibility to expose the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian prisoners in the racist Zionist colonial prisons.

Today, we reaffirm our rejection of all official policies of the Palestinian leadership that undermine the role and position of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, and the agreements that squandered their sacrifices and the achievements of the popular Intifada — especially the Oslo accords of 1993 and the devastating annexes and agreements that followed. These “agreements” have inflicted great damage upon the Palestinian people’s cause and struggle, including the prisoners’ movement.

Today, we also reaffirm that the Palestinian prisoners will remain the solid core of the resistance and the true leadership of the Palestinian liberation struggle in Palestine, on the front lines defending the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the liberation of the land and people of Palestine from the river to the sea.