Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
This day, April 17, 2008, marks Prisoners’ Day, a day of respect, honor and support and solidarity for Palestinian and Arab political prisoners imprisoned for their commitment to their cause, their homeland and their people. Today, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine bows in salute to these brave prisoners – men, women and children, from the newborn babies of women prisoners to Said al-Atabah and his decades of imprisonment – who today number more than 11,000, inside the torture cells, interrogation rooms and the prisons of the occupation.
These prisoners are over 11,000 hostages to the occupation forces whose situation is exploited by the so-called “peace process,” and as the occupation forces attempt to barter concessions by negotiating small “releases” according to criteria set by the occupation and revocable at any time by the same occupier who abducted them, imprisoned them, held a mockery of a trial for them, tortured them. Today, we remember the martyrs of the prisoner movement, and the many injured. It is worth noting that this year, as in many years past, Israel has carried out massacres to prevent Palestinians from carrying out campaigns for prisoners and against Israel’s torture policies.
Israel knows that these Palestinian and Arab prisoners are an integral part of the Palestinian national movement. Among them are workers, students, activists, teachers, of all ages. Among them are national leaders – comrade General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, Marwan Barghouthi, Abdelaziz Dweik, Hussam Khadr, Samir Kuntar. Israel engages in its policy of mass imprisonment as a means of attempting to hold our people as a whole hostage, and as an attempt to break our people and our cause by subjecting them to massive detention and imprisonment, rounding up our organizers, our leaders, our young people and our teachers, removing them from society and holding them away. Yet, despite these attempts, the prisoners are in fact central to and at the forefront of the Palestinian national movement. Every day, they carry on the struggle against the occupier on the front lines – inside his prisons, face-to-face. It is the Palestinian and Arab political prisoners who pay the first price for our struggle to stay alive. Despite Israel’s best efforts, they are not isolated from the struggle, and they are not isolated from their people. They lead all of us as they stand in the front lines of struggle, inside the jails, continuing to fight for their – and all of our – freedom.
On this Prisoners’ Day, it is urgent that we call for the widest possible campaign on a national and international level, in order to put the cause of Palestinian prisoners where it belongs, not only in the forefront of the Palestinian national movement but also the international solidarity movement. Every day, our prisoners pay the price on the front line for all of our struggle for freedom, and it is imperative that we take up our responsibility to struggle for freedom for our prisoners.
The rights that our prisoners have achieved only through their constant struggle – the history of Palestinian political prisoners is a history of resistance literature, hunger strikes, demonstrations, organizing and constant refusal to submit – are being stripped away on a daily basis, and further reduced. They are subject to torture in the interrogation chambers, and subject to illegal occupation courts which make a mockery of justice – that is, if they are tried at all; at present, one-half of Palestinian prisoners have never even had a trial in one of these illegitimate military courts. They are denied family visits in further attempts to cut off Palestinian prisoners from their families and their communities. At this time, it is urgent that we all stand with the prisoners and draw the highest level of attention to the cause of freedom for the prisoners, and shine a light on the torture and abuse of the occupier.
The prisoners represent all Palestinian trends in confrontation with the occupation. It is the prisoners’ movement that in many ways represents the pinnacle of principled and clear national unity in practice, a national unity that is a lesson and a clarion call to all of us. In honor of their struggle and in recognition of its important, now is the time and the opportunity to raise a unified national campaign to free the prisoners – all of our prisoners, united in their confrontation with the occupier and their struggle for liberation. It is an opportunity to reflect the unity and the steadfastness of the prisoner movement in our organizing to support them. This campaign should take place across all of Palestine – in the occupied lands of 1948, the West Bank, and Gaza – just as our prisoners in the Zionist jails come from all of Palestine.
In addition, this campaign will set the agenda for an international call for prisoner support, rallying international forces and placing the issue of our prisoners on the international agenda as a primary Palestinian demand, and provide the support needed, on all levels, by the families of the prisoners, due to the immediate effects suffered by these families, with no conditions or discrimination. This campaign can be – and must be – a unifying factor in the Palestinian national movement, just as our prisoners themselves are such a unifying factor.
Our Palestinian people in exile as well must be engaged in this campaign, not only to provide support for the families of the prisoners and to campaign for the freedom of their fellow Palestinians inside the Zionist jails, but also to engage in providing support and struggling for the Palestinian prisoners outside Palestine – in jails in Iraq, England, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. Palestinian political imprisonment does not only take place inside Palestine, but wherever there is a Palestinian national movement, engaged in the struggle, and facing repression, and our people in exile and our communities can lend a clear and loud voice to the campaigns for the freedom of these prisoners.
The campaign to suppor tthe struggle of Palestinian political prisoners, however, should not only be a Palestinian campaign. Instead, it should be a fundamental part of solidarity work – not an obscure issue or a mere corollary to occupation – but a central and consistent part of solidarity work for Palestine, reflecting the front-line, central position of Palestinian political prisoners within our national movement. In addition, on an international level, this campaign can share common cause with other movements in order to demand freedom for all of our political prisoners, imprisoned around the world for their work in struggling for liberation for their people. Furthermore, the solidarity movement with Palestine can play a very important role in involving lawyers, legal associations and other institutions in holding international tribunals on torture and killings of Palestinian prisoners, and taking legal action to pursue on an international level those Israeli officials responsible for such crimes, and to hold human rights organizations accountable to live up to their responsibilities in advocating for the rights of Palestinian political prisoners. In addition, solidarity movements in various countries can play a key role in supporting and calling for the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners in their own countries, supporting the Palestinian community in its struggle against repression and imprisonment.
Today, we express our solidarity with all political prisoners around the world, take inspiration in their leadership and pledge to uphold our national and international responsibility to struggle for their freedom and continue to struggle, in their path of resistance, organization and steadfastness, for the liberation of our land and our people.