Palestinians and supporters of Palestine rallied for freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian prisoners in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the heart of New York’s Palestinian and Arab community, on Saturday, 22 January. Part of the international week of action to free Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian prisoners, the action drew the largest crowds in recent memory for a New York protest in support of the liberation of jailed Palestinians.
The rally met with an enthusiastic response from the community and passers-by. As the security team prepared for the protest, a man identified himself as a liberated Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails, bringing coffee for the organizers and activists preparing for the demonstration. Passers-by also joined the demonstration, chanting for liberation for Palestinian prisoners and justice and liberation for the Palestinian people.
The demonstration opened with a statement from Sa’adat, the imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a Palestinian national leader. Sa’adat is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli occupation prisons, after he was kidnapped in 2006 from a Palestinian Authority prison. The week of action commemorates the 20th anniversary of Sa’adat’s arrest by PA security forces as part of its “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation — and its later imprisonment of Sa’adat under U.S. and British guard.
Joe Catron, Samidoun’s U.S. coordinator, spoke on behalf of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, presenting a statement issued by Sa’adat from Israeli occupation prisons on the importance of internationalist struggle and collective solidarity against imperialism:
How can we, Palestinians, not be internationalist? Connecting struggles and recognizing the common chains of our oppressors is not merely a political choice for our struggle. The reality is unmistakable: we face not only a local oppressor, the Zionist regime, but an international ruling class: the imperialist powers and the reactionary regimes that profit from doing their bidding. This is clear for us in occupied Palestine and for movements around the world whose struggles for justice, human dignity and the future of the planet itself regularly confront imperialist interventions and coups, relentless assaults on sovereignty and the domination of the institutions of global capital such as the IMF.
How can we, for example, fight against the dungeons, jails, prisons and incarceration systems of our oppressors? Is this the task of the prisoners alone? How can we combat injustices inflicted on women globally – is this the task of women alone? The same principle applies to struggles for social liberation or the struggles of the indigenous nations for self-determination, sovereignty and survival itself.
Key struggles take place daily in prisons, schools, factories, popular neighborhoods – from the “slums” of Soweto to the refugee camps of Lebanon to the “projects” in the U.S.
In order for us to accomplish our goals, to achieve our liberation, we must build an international popular front confronting imperialism. This is, was and always will be a task for all revolutionaries around the world. We stand together in one camp confronting common enemies: capitalism, imperialism, Zionism, racism and reaction.
From the battles against repressive forces and isolation here in Ramon prison to the fight to defend indigenous land and popular movements in Brazil to the movement for peasant and worker justice in the Philippines, we are labeled “terrorists” because we work to protect our land and our people; in reality, we face the same forces of terror and domination that extract our wealth and resources and exploit our people in the most brutal of circumstances.
The goal of every struggling revolutionary prisoner, whether in the prisons of the U.S., the Philippines, Turkey or the Zionist jails in Palestine, is to obtain freedom, not a momentary amelioration of torture. We are not simply seeking to moderate or reform the social and economic conditions of our people. We must be clear: we are struggling for socialism, for an alternative world – and in order to achieve victory, we must struggle together.
General Secretary, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Ramon Prison, Occupied Palestine
Speakers from a number of organizations conveyed strong messages in support of Palestinian liberation. Aton spoke on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace and Hassan on behalf of Samidoun NY/NJ. Tamar of Palestinian Youth Movement spoke about the role of Palestinian youth in organizing to struggle against imperialism, Zionism and colonialism, including joint struggle to resist capitalism, racism and settler colonialism in the U.S.
Nerdeen Kiswani, chair of Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine spoke about the Palestinian struggle to defend land in Sheikh Jarrah, al-Naqab and throughout occupied Palestine. Souphe spoke on behalf of Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and Rabbi Weiss spoke for the Neturei Karta, the Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionist religious group, which had a strong presence at the mobilization.
Hassan’s statement for Samidoun NY/NJ urged broader mobilization for Palestinian prisoners and for return and liberation for Palestine:
Today we’re here to highlight the struggles of Palestinian prisoners, in particular Ahmed Sa’adat and to draw attention to the ongoing struggles in Sheikh Jarrah and Al Naqab.
These two things are intricately connected. The right to resist occupation is contingent on the rights of Palestinian prisoners and vice versa. We know from experience that if we resist genocide we will be called terrorists and criminals and aggressors. We know that in the zionist dungeons our people and especially our leaders are isolated tortured and abused.
We also know that the popular masses are on our side when we say that zionists are the real terrorists criminals and aggressors. They are on our side when we fight back against zionist abuse by any means necessary. That is our court and our jury. Theirs is the verdict that Ahmed Sa’adat and others like him await when they are accused of crimes by the Zionist entity.
With every flare-up of israeli aggression there are new prisoners and new martyrs. Our continued support for the prisoners, the martyrs and their families shows future militants that they will not be left behind. It shows every prisoner in Palestine that we are with them, that all the good people of the world will always be with them and we will never believe the lies the colonizers say about them.
Every prisoner in Palestine is there because of their steadfast refusal to accept racism, imperialism, and settler colonialism. Ahmed Sa’adat has been in prison for 20 years because of his refusal to roll over and accept genocide. Because of his dedication, inside and outside of prison, to Palestinian national liberation.
To quote Ahmed Sa’adat:
the Palestinian prisoners’ movement represents a living witness to the continuation of our people’s resistance to the Zionist settler colonial project.
We need to stand with them and support their struggle against the zionist criminals whether it’s in Al Naqab, in Jericho, or in Sheikh Jarrah. And we need to have the steadfastness, the sumoud, to continue our agitation and solidarity not just when Palestine is trending, not just when the voices have gotten too loud to ignore but every single day until soon when Palestine is liberated from the river to sea.
The demonstration was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace – NY, Palestinian Youth Movement, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine and endorsed by dozens of organizations.
Samidoun NY/NJ will be organizing actions and events in support of Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement in the coming period. To get involved, please contact Samidoun NY/NJ on Instagram or on Twitter.