On Tuesday, 16 May, an event featuring Salah Hamouri, the French-Palestinian lawyer and former political prisoner forcibly deported from Palestine, was organized by the CGT labour union, the Association France-Palestine Solidarité, and Solidarité Palestine Toulouse at the Bourse du Travail. The event was supported by over 20 organizations, including the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a member organization of the Samidoun Network.
Salah Hamouri spoke to a packed room about his experience, explaining how imprisonment is used as a colonial weapon and describing reality experienced by more than 4,900 men, women and children unjustly detained by the Israeli occupation. In particular, he denounced the policy of administrative detention, routinely used by the Israeli occupation after initially being introduced to Palestine under the British colonial mandate, under which Palestinians may be imprisoned without charge or trial for up to 6 months per order, which are indefinitely renewable. There are currently over 1,000 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention, a practice which Salah Hamouri has been subjected to on several occasions.
First, he recalled more than twenty years of relentless assaults and attacks against him by the Israeli authorities, including his imprisonment on several occasions and his recent expulsion. Deported from his hometown of Jerusalem last December, he became a Palestinian refugee at the age of 38 who today fights for his right to return to his land alongside millions of other Palestinian refugees.
He recalled that imprisonment was a weapon used by the Israeli occupation, and before during the British mandate, to suppress the resistance of the indigenous people. In particular, the arrest and imprisonment of children is an attempt to prevent the emergence of new generations who embrace resistance. According to Israeli military law, the age of criminal responsibility for Palestinians is 12 years. Each year, 500 to 700 children are prosecuted in Israeli military courts and 155 are currently imprisoned. Violence during arrests and imprisonment have serious consequences for their development and health.
Furthermore, he also underlined the particularly humiliating conditions imposed on women prisoners, even going so far as to keep them handcuffed during childbirth. There are currently 32 women prisoners, who represent all facets of Palestinian society: students, activists, parliamentarians, journalists, health workers, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, freedom fighters.
He also discussed the Israeli policy of medical negligence, including failing to provide adequate medical treatment for the more than 600 sick prisoners, including 60 suffering from serious illnesses of various types. One of the symbols of the inhumanity of this policy is the writer and Palestinian revolutionary Walid Daqqah. Imprisoned since 1986, he suffers from a rare cancer, myelofibrosis, and does not receive appropriate care despite a very worrying health situation.
Salah Hamouri also intervened to emphasize that the prisoners are also resistance fighters despite the conditions of detention. He returned to his participation in several collective hunger strikes which are fundamental tools of mobilization for detained Palestinians who only have their bodies as weapons. On this occasion, he underlined the struggle of Khader Adnan, who died after 86 days of hunger strike.
In an attempt to prevent the residents of Toulouse from hearing the reality of the occupation practices against the Palestinian people, dozens of supporters of Israeli apartheid and representatives of Zionist organizations interrupted the evening on 6 occasions. In this delegation of censors, several members of CRIF, the most prominent pro-Israeli apartheid organization in France, participated as well as Thierry Sentous and the former president of CRIF Nicole Yardeni, both part of the Toulouse city government’s municipal majority.
Alongside them in the room was the former elected official Aviv Zonabend who had been removed from office after declaring that there were “too many Arabs” in Toulouse. People from the pro-Israeli far right were also present, in particular men who had already assaulted activists from the BDS Campaign in 2015, in an attempt to censor the voice of a Franco-Palestinian human rights defender. These provocateurs were escorted to the exit by event security personnel, eager to allow a serene exchange without threat or invective.
This attempt to sabotage the event was carried out in cooperation with a journalist from La Dépêche who hastened to publish sensationalist videos and articles, even going so far as to distort reality, implying that the provocateurs were victims of the event organizers. For example, this coverage does not mention that one of the videos shows a member of these provocateurs throwing a chair at a quiet audience or that another person attempted to physically attack Salah Hamouri. Less than an hour later, Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc relayed this campaign on social networks.
This coordinated operation between members of CRIF and the Toulouse municipal government majority — which continues to promote the twinning of Toulouse and Tel Aviv while engaging in campaigns against the Collectif Palestine Vaincra — underlines their feverish attempts to suppress the growing support for the Palestinian cause, of which Salah Hamouri has become a leading symbol in France. However, it was a resounding failure: the evening proceeded successfully, allowing the French-Palestinian lawyer to describe the reality of the occupation in front of an audience of 200 people.
Finally, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra thanks all the organizers, and in particular the CGT, for having made this evening a success and for having invited us to hold a stand in support of the release of Georges Abdallah. More than ever, we must develop and intensify solidarity with the Palestinian people, their prisoners and their legitimate resistance until the return and liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea!