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[Middle East] [California]

Palestine Petition Gains Much Support in California Prison

In August 2014, United Struggle from Within launched a petition campaign against the I$raeli settler state and to support the people of Palestine against the recent violent attacks. A petition was circulated to prisoners in many states and this is a report back from one persyn's efforts to collect signatures.

I was surprised to get as many signatures as I did, and most prisoners didn't have to hear much more than the basic thrust of the document to know that they wanted to sign. I offered everyone the petition to read for themselves so that they could be sure of what they were signing. For most people I broke the document down into three points. The first was simple opposition to the purposeful targeting of civilians by I$rael. Indeed most of the people who signed had very strong feelings about seeing wimmin and children being killed. The second point was our agreement that Israel's bombing of Gaza had to stop. The third was that even as so-called "thugs and criminalsm," even we know there are lines to be drawn in combat, and civilian deaths are a big no no. Therefore all signatories were united on one basic premise: no to the killing of wimmin and children.

Most prisoners quickly signed after hearing what I had to say, while two people just refused to sign. I was actually surprised since they were both "born again Christians" and part of the social base I'd thought would've been easiest to organize. One of them said he was currently in the process of reading something on that topic and would get back at me once he was thoroughly informed. I told him that I had already outlined everything he needed to know, but still he was hesitant. I then went into explaining the basics of the document but still he was unsure. He also seemed nervous for some reason at which point I thanked him and walked away.

The second "Christian" is a Vietnam veteran so I anticipated his hesitance but thought his so-called spiritually would transcend the political. Instead he quickly put on a look of disgust and kindly declined. I tried pushing him some based on his religious beliefs but still looking annoyed he once again declined, instead telling me that he would pray for the wimmin and children of Gaza but would not sign the petition. Of course I had some choice words for his bombastic air of superiority as he is one of those Christians who walks around with bible in hand, head to the sky as if he's superior or has reached some type of Nirvana to which none of us are privy; yet he cannot sign the petition.

Then there was someone else, another older gentleman who expressed something of shock and irritability at what I was proposing. Who was I to organize a petition for Palestine? And why should he sign it if no Amerikan lives where involved? I recited my script and basic points of unity to which he was still "confused." At this point I began to sense something of a chauvinist attitude emanating from his line of questioning. Finally I told him that if he didn't want to sign then that was fine as he was beginning to take up too much of my time.

But now he was the one who didn't want to let me go. He said he was only trying to understand my motivations. He said that during Hurricane Katrina he saw no petitions to help the people of New Orleans, that America has its own problems and that we should focus on that first instead of organizing for Palestine. Finally, he caught me off guard when he cited the many wars in Africa currently taking place and why wasn't I organizing for that? I was left speechless for about a second or two but then quickly recovered by telling him that he was right and that was a good point he made about Africa. I told him that if he wanted we could both put something together and start a petition. He quickly refused and then retreated to his second line of defense. He didn't understand the point of the petition. He said it wasn't gonna solve anything, therefore what was the point? I told him that he was wrong and that the purpose of the petition was to help build public awareness of the atrocities and to help build public opinion so as to hopefully put additional pressure on Israel. Furthermore if people on the streets who have the freedom and liberty to organize for Palestine saw that prisoners were circulating and signing a petition for Palestine then perhaps they'd be moved to do more.

He disagreed and instead proposed that I initiate a fundraiser/food drive here in which we can get a outside vendor to sponsor us and all money collected from prisoners could go to Palestine. (Various self-help groups here such as AA, NA, Anger Management, etc. have raised funds in the past thru these fundraisers with proceeds going to Locks of Love, cancer research, etc). I told him that we needed the administration's permission for such a drive and that they would never sanction us sending money to Palestine since they were a tool of the state. He vehemently disagreed.

He then went back to his point about Africa, and why did I choose Palestine over Africa? He said the only reason I chose Palestine was because I too was Middle-Eastern. I told him I was not, and he was more confused. I then told him that Palestine is a flash point on an international level compared to the civil wars in Africa and thereby more people would be easier to organize around this platform. I once again offered to work with him on an Africa project. He again refused. By this time I again offered to take my petition somewhere else but after a little more struggle he begrudgingly signed. I told him that if he was still pessimistic about it that I didn't need his signature as I wanted everyone's signature to be sincere, but he said he was good and I accepted.

As the day went on I got more signatures and had a couple interesting political conversations as a result. You can be sure that everyone who signed did so out of a sense of injustice in Palestine. My small petition drive was a good learning experience and helped me exercise my political speaking abilities.