Palestine: Zionists tighten their grip

Trump Palestine Jerusalim

Trump’s election as US president has given confidence to the Israeli right that their plans for settlement expansion will not be held back. Three days after the Washington inauguration the Zionist regime announced the construction of 2,500 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank. The fact that many of these are planned for the illegal Beit El settlement near Ramallah, the site of settler violence against protests by Palestinians living in the area, shows that Israeli leaders expect no significant constraints from the new US presidency. The plans come as Israel accelerates house demolitions and land grabs in historic Palestine and proposals to annex other illegal settlements. Trump’s stated aim of moving the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem has become another flashpoint for Palestinian protests. Louis Brehony reports.

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President-elect Donald Trump: friend of Israel

The farce that was the US elections provided no real choice between two reactionary candidates. Nowhere was this more evident that in their policy towards Palestine. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump guaranteed the continued alliance of the US government with the Israeli occupation with unconditional support for the expanding number of illegal Israeli settlements.

Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman, Co-Chairmen of the Israel Advisory Committee to Donald Trump, released a statement on 2 November 2016 outlining the core positions of a Trump Administration which spoke of an ‘unbreakable bond’ between the US and Israel. It acknowledged Israel as ‘a staunch ally of the US and a key partner in the global war against Islamic Jihadism’ and promised that

‘a Trump Administration will ensure that Israel receives maximum military, strategic and tactical cooperation from the United States, and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will not limit the support that we give. Further, Congress will not be limited to give support greater than that provided by MOU if it chooses to do so.’

To appeal to Republican Zionists who were initially doubtful of Trump’s commitment to Israel compared to Hillary Clinton’s more obvious support, he promised under his presidency to ‘recognise Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state’ and move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Should this happen, it would make a ‘two-state’ solution impossible and strengthen those Zionists who want to seize the entirety of historic Palestine.

Nica Evans

Palestinian Prisoners: On the Front Lines for Freedom

As we write, Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid have been on hunger strike in Israeli prison for over 57 days. Imprisoned without charge or trial under ‘administrative detention’, the two have refused food since 25 September in order to highlight their demand for freedom. In doing so, they are part of a long collective and individual tradition of Palestinian hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, demanding freedom, justice, and engaging in coordinated struggle against prison abuse and oppression.

Abu Fara and Shadid are among over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, imprisoned for their role in struggling for the freedom of their people from Israeli settler colonialism. Since the 1948 Zionist conquest of Palestine, over a million Palestinians have been imprisoned in Israeli jails. In fact, imprisonment has always been part of the settler colonial project designed to ensure the domination of Palestinian land and the expulsion of the Palestinian people. Every Palestinian family is affected by the experience of mass imprisonment; over 40% of Palestinian men in the West Bank and Jerusalem have spent time in Israeli jails. Approximately 700 of these Palestinian prisoners are held, like Abu Fara and Shadid, under administrative detention without charge or trial.

Administrative detention orders are issued by either the military commander over the West Bank, or Israel's minister of defence, the infamous racist Avigdor Lieberman. Rubber-stamped by Israeli courts, these detention orders contain no charges and Palestinian prisoners under administrative detention have no opportunity for a trial. Alleged evidence against them is contained in a ‘secret file’, to which the detainees and their lawyers have no access. These orders are issued for one to six months at a time, but are indefinitely renewable; numerous Palestinians have spent years at a time in administrative detention, sometimes over 10 years over multiple arrests, without ever facing a charge or a trial. The orders can be renewed at the last minute; for example, Shaher al-Rai was packed and ready to leave to his awaiting family when he was once again ordered to administrative detention. Palestinian student Bahaa Najjar was released and returned home for less than a week before he was re-arrested in a violent home invasion by Israeli occupation forces and once again ordered to six months in administrative detention, renewing his previous imprisonment.

Administrative detention was first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate. It is frequently used against student activists, community organisers, local leaders, political organisers and other prominent activists, in an attempt to remove and isolate them from their community and repress Palestinian resistance.

Administrative detention is, of course, only one aspect of the use of imprisonment to suppress Palestinian organisation. The majority of Palestinian political prisoners are brought before Israeli military courts, which convict 99.74% of the Palestinians who appear before them. Palestinian lives in the West Bank are dictated by a series of military orders. Any alleged ‘violation’ of these ‘ orders can be met with violent pre-dawn raids by dozens of soldiers ransacking a home; brutal interrogation amounting to torture; and lengthy imprisonment. Recently, some of the most common allegations against Palestinians in military courts have included ‘incitement’ for posting political statements and opinions on social media; hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and imprisoned for this. Another extremely common charge against Palestinians is ‘membership of’ or ‘support for’ a hostile or prohibited organisation, a category which includes all major Palestinian political parties. Palestinian children are threatened with up to 20 years in prison for throwing stones at occupation soldiers in military vehicles invading their towns, villages and camps.

Imprisonment is a mechanism for targeting Palestinians and their political leadership. Among these prisoners include Ahmad Sa'adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, alongside leaders of most major Palestinian political parties including Marwan Barghouthi, BDS activists like Salah Khawaja, lawyers like Shireen Issawi and prisoners' advocates such as Hasan Safadi. At the same time, Palestinian prisoners have always been leaders of the resistance. From their participation in collective hunger strikes against isolation and repression to their political examples of national unity, the voice of the Palestinian prisoners has risen as an exceptional representative of the Palestinian people's struggle for return and liberation. Internationally, it is critical to build the movement to support these prisoners, break the isolation imposed upon them, and demand their freedom.

Charlotte Kates, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

To learn more about the Palestinian prisoners and their struggle for freedom, please visit www.samidoun.net.

Victory for Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed – step up the solidarity

We salute the victory of Palestinian political prisoner Bilal Kayed, whose 71-day hunger strike in Ramle prison resulted in the Israeli state agreeing to release him in December 2016. His protest against continued imprisonment under ‘administrative detention’, without charge or trial, highlighted the treatment of many more locked up under the Zionist regime. In a letter from prison Bilal wrote:

‘The prisoners are yesterday’s strugglers and tomorrow’s leaders...I remind you that there are still those prisoners who are fighting a vicious battle against this occupier that does not understand anything but the language of challenge...I remind you of the two Balboul brothers and Malik Al Qadi, and bless the victory of Ayed Al Heraimi, which is no less than my victory and the victory of others. I call upon you to stand with them in their struggle until the battle of hunger is victorious against the arsenal of the occupier. Inevitably, they will win.’

The RCG supports the Samidoun (‘steadfast ones’) campaign for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners and argues that the issue of detainees is central to building a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. At a rally in solidarity with Bilal Kayed in Manchester on 17 August comrade Shadi Daana told crowds:

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Boycott Israel! Free Bilal Kayed! Free all political prisoners!

On Saturday 23 July 2016, on London’s Oxford Street - Europe’s busiest shopping area - protestors held a loud and colourful demonstration demanding the release of Bilal Kayed, a Palestinian political prisoner who is now in the second month of a hunger strike.

The protest was organised by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) and took place outside the flagship store of Marks and Spencer, Britain’s biggest corporate supporter of Israel. The RCG has organised pickets outside Marks and Spencer for more than 14 years because of the company’s historical links with the zionist movement, and its continuing economic ties with Israel. The 23 July picket was dedicated to the cause of Bilal Kayed and all Palestinian prisoners.

Free Bilal Kayed

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On 13 June 2016 Bilal Kayed completed a 14.5 year sentence in Israeli jails and was immediately given a further six-month sentence of ‘administrative detention’, meaning arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial.

Kayed was an organiser of the 2012 Karameh hunger strike, in which thousands of Palestinian prisoners refused food for nearly one month, in protest against solitary confinement and denial of family visits. His continued imprisonment is punishment for his political leadership and solidarity. Now in his second month of another hunger strike, Bilal is demanding his freedom from administrative detention.

The RCG was one of 150 organisations around the world that responded to the call for protests to demand freedom for Bilal and for all Palestinian political prisoners.

A small group of zionists, keen to silence any criticism of Israel or its human rights abuses, attended the picket with Israeli flags and shouted abuse at the protesters, at one point attacking someone speaking on the sound system. In any case, the overwhelming support of passers by was for the anti-racist message of the Palestine protest and the zionists only served to show how isolated Israel has become - precisely because of its war crimes against the Palestinians.

To find out more about Bilal Kayed and the international campaign for political prisoners, visit the Samidoun website.

To find out more about the RCG and protests against the occupation of Palestine here in Britain, contact your nearest RCG branch today!