15 January 2023 marks the 21st anniversary of the abduction of Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat by the Palestinian Authority — at the behest of and as part of “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation in 2002. Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has now been imprisoned consistently since that time — first by PA security, then under US, British, Canadian and Turkish guard in a PA prison in Jericho, and now, for the past 17 years, inside Israeli jails alongside 4,750 fellow Palestinian political prisoners after occupation forces’ deadly siege on Jericho and the kidnapping of Sa’adat and his comrades in 2006.
The arrest of Sa’adat on 15 January 2002 was emblematic of the deep damage the crime of “security cooperation” has done to the Palestinian people and their national cause. “Security cooperation” has meant nothing but attacks on the Palestinian resistance at the behest of Israel, committed by Palestinian Authority hands. The abduction of Ahmad Sa’adat, and his imprisonment – and that of his comrades – in the PA prison in Jericho, under U.S. and British guard, was a clear example of the PA’s status as fundamentally beholden to the interests of Israel, the U.S. and other international powers, at the expense of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance.
This has not changed since 2002; instead, the problem has become only more widespread. There are dozens of Palestinian political detainees in Palestinian Authority prisons in the West Bank, held there precisely because they are targeted for allegedly being part of or supporting the Palestinian resistance. The PA jails have become a “revolving door” with the jails of the Israeli occupation, with former prisoners particularly targeted for political repression through “security coordination.” Today, as in the case of Sa’adat — who was ordered released by a Palestinian Authority high court but remained held in Jericho until the Israeli assault — Palestinians continue to be locked up by PA security forces despite Palestinian courts ordering their release, another indication of the lack of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination of the PA.
In recent days, demonstrations demanding the release of political prisoners held by the PA have come under attack by PA security forces, even as the anniversary of Sa’adat’s arrest approaches. Sa’adat and his four comrades — Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Qur’an and Basil al-Asmar, along with Fuad al-Shobaki — were jailed by the PA, only to be seized by the occupation at the first potential hint that they may be released. In the 2006 PA elections, the Change and Reform bloc — supporters of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance — won a majority, and during their campaign, they pledged to end security coordination and release PA political prisoners. The assault on Jericho prison on 14 March 2006, organized by the Israeli occupation together with the international “guards,” who withdrew to give the occupying forces free access to attack the prison, kill Palestinian guards and seize the political prisoners — came exactly two weeks before Ismail Haniyeh was slated to be sworn in as prime minister.
Of course, the results of the 2006 election were never truly implemented and were immediately met with sanctions, siege and intensified imperialist domination. This helped to clarify, once again, that the PA as a system was never set up to represent Palestinians but to pacify the Palestinian people for the benefit of the occupation. However, it remained a priority for the occupation to ensure that even the limited powers of the PA could never be used to liberate political prisoners, only to maintain them on behalf of the occupation.
On this anniversary, people around the world are organizing and acting to demand freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian prisoners! 14-24 January 2023 is the international Week of Action to Free Sa’adat and All Palestinian Prisoners. Over 210 organizations from more than 30 countries have joined together to demand freedom for this imprisoned Palestinian political leader — and for Palestine, from the river to the sea. Click here for a list of events and activities and here to download materials that you can use in your campaign!