Free All Palestinian Political Prisoners!
Statement of the Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 21.4.2017, http://www.the-isleague.com
According to Palestinian activists, more than 1500 Palestinian political prisoners out of 6500 political prisoners, began an open end hunger strike on April 17th (Israel claims that 1100 prisoners went on strike).
The hunger strike was led by Marwan Barghouti, a prominent political figure of Fatah movement. Polls have shown that Barghouti is the most popular choice to succeed Abbas, the Palestinian president. Barghouti was arrested in 2002 during the second Intifada and convicted in a political show-trial, on multiple counts of murder. Israel charged him with directing suicide bombings against its citizens and he was sentenced to five life terms.
The political prisoners demand: proper health treatment for sick prisoners, an end to the denial and cutbacks on family visits, and an end to administrative detention and solitary confinement. In addition, they demand the installment of a public pay phone.
In a moving letter published in the New York Times, Barghouti wrote: “Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance.” (1)
Since 2006, following the capture of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, by Hamas, the political prisoners have been held under even harsher conditions. As Barghouti described in the same letter:
“Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of. Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967.”
Because of such actions Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments. (2)
Israel's Cynical Justification
Israel justifies the treatment of the Palestinians political prisoner on two grounds. The first one is that Hamas is cruel toward Israeli captives - dead or alive. For example, it complains that: “Hamas has rejected an Israeli offer to free 18 Palestinians and hand over 19 bodies seized during the 2014 war in Gaza in exchange for the bodies of two IDF soldiers who died in the 50-day conflict, and two other Israelis that crossed the border to Gaza. One of them is mentally ill. Israel’s chief negotiator Lior Lotan said.” (3) He added that Hamas demanded to free other prisoners as well for this exchange.
What he did not tell us is that Israel has arrested even Hamas members of parliament. A parliament that has not been convened for over 10 years as part of Israeli pressure tactics on Hamas.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, a senior Hamas official in Gaza who is involved in the prisoner issue said that: “the details published to date are “disinformation.” For about a year, he said, all contacts on the issue have been deadlocked, because of one condition that Hamas considers essential to any deal. We are steadfast in our demand for the release of the 54 Shalit deal detainees. Without that, there is nothing to talk about and no way to proceed,” the official declared. The detainees were released as part of the 2011 exchange for the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit but rearrested after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens in the Etzion settlement bloc in 2014. (4)
Secondly, that the Palestinian political prisoners are "terrorists with blood on their hands". However, the Zionists are the last ones who can claim that the Palestinians have blood on their hands. In addition to the ethnic cleansing of 1948 resulted in the removal between 750,000-900,000 Palestinians and the over 30 massacres carried out by the Zionist armed forces, since the formation of Israel at least 10,000 civilians Palestinians were killed by Israel. Since 1967 around 800,000 Palestinians have been in prisons.
According to the BBC between July 8th and August 27th, 2014, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli civilians. The UN says the vast majority of Palestinian casualties are civilians. But figures from previous operations over the past six years in the densely populated Gaza Strip show it is not the first time civilians have paid a heavy price. The UN says at least 2,104 Palestinian died, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.
However, according to the Israeli government, Israel killed 1000 terrorists. Thus, for Israel unarmed children and women are in fact terrorists. (5)
Israel tries to suppress the Hunger Strike
The kind of judicial apartheid that Barghouti wrote about was demonstrated in the trial of sergeant Azaria who received 18 months for the cold blooded murder of an injured Palestinian.
Many thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza in support of the strike. 11 were injured by the Israeli army shootings.
“At a rally marking the annual Palestinian “Prisoner’s Day” in the West Bank, Abbas sent his support to the hunger-strikers and said Israel was being “stubborn” for refusing to “accept the just humanitarian demands of the prisoners.”
According to the Ynet news website, Abbas made no mention of the strike’s initiator and leader Marwan Barghouti. Some Palestinian officials have attributed Barghouti’s call for the strike to an attempt to send a message to the Fatah leadership and Abbas, who excluded Barghouti’s people from a recent Central Committee meeting and didn’t give Barghouti the position of deputy chair to the PA. (6)
This may explain why the supporters of Abbas in the prisons have not joined the strike so far.
While for the Zionists Barghouti and the other Palestinian political prisoners are dangerous criminals, for the Palestinians and all who oppose the systematic repression of the Palestinians by Israel, the so called "security prisoners" and "terrorists" are freedom fighters against national oppression.
The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its section in Israel / Occupied Palestine fully supports the hunger strike. We oppose the Israeli government that is trying to smash the hunger strike by various methods including the isolation of Barghouti for two "offenses". The first one for going on hunger strike and the second one for expressing his views in the New York Times.
Israeli Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, has threatened to deny prisoners on hunger strike access to standard hospitals in an attempt to thwart the strike and block popular solidarity in Palestine ’48. Instead, he has ordered the creation of a “field hospital” in the Negev desert prison, planning for the transfer of hunger strikers, and potentially threatening hunger strikers with forced feeding.
At the same time Fadwa Barghouthi, Palestinian lawyer and the wife of Marwan Barghouthi, urged solidarity for the prisoners’ demands and their hunger strike. A number of Palestinian organizations and institutions have organized events for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and the coming weeks. (7)
The Palestinian political prisoners are freedom fighters, not different from the black political prisoners in South Africa during the Apartheid regime. Not different from the known Black Panther prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal.
An Analogy: The Heroic Uprising in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw
77 years ago, during World War II another group of freedom fighters stood up against oppression. At that time it was a group of Jews. They were also considered by the (German) state authorities to be criminals "with blood on their hands". Israel is not Nazi Germany, but it is an oppressive state, as it was recognized by Marek Edelman (1919-2009) a leader of this Jewish group.
World War II was the continuation of the World War I. The root cause of these wars was the contradiction between a world economy and the existence of imperialist powers struggling to control the world economy. Germany that had developed industry was in need of colonies but these colonies were controlled by the so called "democratic states", Great Britain, France and USA.
The only major power that was not an imperialist state was Stalinist Russia where the counter revolutionary bureaucracy removed the working class from the political power by a political counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin.
In the 1932 elections the Nazis won 33 percent of the votes, more than any single party. The Social Democrats (SPD) and the German Communist party together had more voted but they were unable to form a united front. In January 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany.
Between 1933 and 1939 the interest of the ruling classes in the western states was to turn Hitler against the Soviet Union and for this reason, for example, the 1936 Olympic Games were held in Berlin. For this reason the policy of the "non intervention" during the Spanish civil war helped Franco that was supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
At the same time, in countries like Britain, to volunteer to fight against Franco was considered a crime. In Palestine the Communist party organized 300 Jews and Arabs to the International Brigades. The Zionists not only opposed them but were busy in stealing Arab lands in what was known as the Tower and Stockade operation during the 1936–39 Arab revolt.
All the enemies of the working class revolutionary wave, which Spain was the last part of, united to prevent and smash the revolution. A similar event has been taking place in Syria in the last six years.
Around 100 million people died in WWII, most victims were civilians, among them millions of Jews. Shortly after Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, in September 1939, more than 400,000 Jews in Warsaw were confined to a small part of the city. This ghetto was sealed off by brick walls, barbed wire and armed guards, and anyone caught leaving the Ghetto was shot on sight. The Nazis controlled the amount of food that was brought into the ghetto. It is similar to the Ghetto in Gaza.
In 1942 the Nazis began the "Final solution"- the systematic killing of the Jews. Heinrich Himmler the head of the Nazi paramilitary corps, the SS, ordered that Jews be sent to extermination camps. In September 1942 some 265,000 Jews had been deported from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp.
Between 55,000 to 60,000 Jews remained in the Warsaw ghetto, and small groups formed underground self-defense units. The larger one was the Jewish Combat Organization, or ZOB, which managed to smuggle in a limited supply of weapons from anti-Nazi Poles. It was a united front of Anti Zionist and left wing Zionists. There was another military anti-Nazi smaller organization the ZZB was formed by the right wing Revisionists.
The ZOB received their weapons from the Communist underground while the ZZB received their weapons from the Nationalist Polish Home Army. The Zionists in Palestine did not provide even one bullet. They kept their weapons and ammunition for the Arabs.
A few Jewish fighters survived, one of them was Marek Edelman who was one of the leaders of the ZOB. After the war he remained in Poland. In August 2002, he intervened in Israel's show trial of the now jailed Palestinian resistance leader, Marwan Barghouti. He wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian movement, and though he criticized the suicide bombers, its tone infuriated the Israeli government and its press. Edelman had always resented Israel's claim on the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as a symbol of Jewish liberation. Now he said this belonged to the Palestinians.
He addressed his letter to the Palestinian ZOB, "commanders of the Palestinian military, paramilitary and partisan operations – to all the soldiers of the Palestinian fighting organizations". The old Jewish anti-Nazi ghetto fighter had placed his immense moral authority at the disposal of the only side he deemed worthy of it. (8)