On 6 September 2021, 6 Palestinian prisoners of war have escaped an I$raeli maximum security prison known as Gilboa by digging a tunnel with plates and panhandles.(1) The tunnel was 72 meters long, and the I$raeli Security Agency has suspected that the excavation had started around November of 2020.(2) This incident is being talked of as the most significant prison break in the history of Palestine.
The 6 Palestinian prisoners were members of Palestinian nationalist organizations (The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the al-Quds Brigades) which have resisted the I$raeli occupation.(3) Out of the 6, four of the escaped freedom fighters were serving life sentences.(4)
In response to the prison break, the I$raeli Prison Service (IPS), launched a lockdown on Palestinian prisoners: break time has been cut to one hour a day; prison canteen has been closed; and the number of captives able to walk in the yard has been decreased. 400 prisoners, who have been deemed “Jihadist” and a threat to the security of the prisons, have been separated from one another as well. On top of this, family visits have been completely taken away by the pigs.(5) For our readers on the inside, these tactics by the I$raeli prison pigs to punish all for the actions of some sound similar as the United $tates and I$rael are very similar in character. Both are settler-colonial states, and both trade and exchange tactics/information used to better repress their respective oppressed nations.
The Day of Rage
In response to this crackdown, I$raeli prisons faced strikes and riots. In Katziot prison, seven cells were set on fire by Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikes have been set to begin in Gilboa on Friday, 17 Septemebr 2021.(6) The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission has declared that 1,380 prisoners have joined the hunger strikes.(7)
Outside of the prison walls, the nationalist organization Hamas has declared a “Day of Rage” on the Friday of September 10th.(8) At the al-Aqsa mosque, supporters of the escaped freedom fighters have organized a sit in protest after the end of prayer. The I$raeli forces stormed the mosque in response to the protest and killed one man and arrested another. The man killed was a Palestinian doctor named Hazem al-Jolani.(9)
About a week after the escape, the 6 prisoners were recaptured into imprisonment. One of the freedom fighters, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, was put in solitary confinement with nothing but a blanket and was subjected to physical and psychological torture.(10) All other prisoners involved in the escape were sent to separate high security prisons as well.(11)
Internationalism in the Prison Movement
While studying Engels’ writings on the bourgeois state, Lenin said the following:
“Engels elucidates the concept of the ‘power’ which is called the state, a power which arose from society but places itself above it and alienates itself more and more from it. What does this power mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command.”(12)
As Lenin explains, prisons serve a class purpose in maintaining power in class society. In the world we live in today, the bourgeois class utilizes prisons to control their “unruly” populations under their command. Under socialism and proletarian dictatorship, prisons will exist as well albeit being conducted under scientific lessons of rectification of past socialist movements. For the case of not only the 6 prisoners of war who escaped Gilboa (but for all prisoners in Palestine and all prisoners in the United $tates), their very facilities are a material form of capitalist-imperialist power locking them up in their every move. Here in the United $tates, we have had historic moments of prisoners fighting against the repression and seeking for redemption and liberation through class struggle. The Attica uprising of 9 September 1971 is a prime example of that class struggle. With Attica as the battle cry of the revolutionary prison movement in the United $tates, we hope to reach that cry across the oceans and to Palestine itself.
From Attica 2 Palestine!
Down with the I$raeli Prison Service! Down with the Department of Corrections!
Bibliography1. Toi Staff, September 14, 2021, “Jailbreak probe said to find 11 Gilboa prisoners started tunnel dig in November.” Times of Israel2. Ibid.3. The Palestine Chronicle, September 6, 2021, “Six Palestinian Prisoners Break out of Gilboa Prison after Digging Tunnel”4. Ibid.5. Middle East Eye, September 10, 2021, “Palestinian killed during ‘day of rage’ solidarity protests for prison escapees”6. Khaled Abu Tomaeh, September 14, 2021, “Palestinian prisoners to begin hunger strike Friday,” The Jerusalem Post.7. Ibid.8. Ibid.9. Ibid.10.Yeni Safak, September 16, 2021, “Palestinian prison escapee to keep fighting for freedom.”11. Middle East Eye, October 1, 2021, “Israel: Recaptured Palestinian jailbreakers transferred to solitary confinement”12. Vladimir Lenin, August 1917, “State and Revolution.”
25 May 2017 - Actions in cities around the world were taken today to mark 40 days since 1500 Palestinian political prisoners have been living on salt and water alone to protest the conditions of their confinement. The message at these rallies made clear connections between the struggle against long-term solitary confinement, detention without trial, lack of health care and restrictions on contact with families and the broader anti-colonial struggle. At a local demonstration, this connection was also made to struggles here on occupied Turtle Island.
Signs reading "Palestine Will Be Free" and "Withhold Aid to Israel" lined the sidewalk in front of the Israeli consulate as Aarab Barghouti, the son of political prisoner Marwan Barghouti, spoke to the crowd in San Francisco. Aarab spoke of not being able to enter Jerusalem, the city where ey was born. Aarab told of eir sister visiting their father to plead that ey not risk eir health in a hunger strike. But Marwan Barghouti responded that, "I'm doing this because I haven't been able to touch any of you for 15 years. I'm doing this because we have more than 5000 Palestinian prisoners who haven't been charged or had their day in court."
The participants this correspondent spoke with were all quick to speak of colonialism and the seizure of land when asked why so many Palestinians languished in Israeli jails. They spoke of the one-sided violence and the resistance that Palestinians made to it that led to their imprisonment. Everyone knew that the United $tates is the biggest prison state in the world today. But when asked why, only half (of a small sample size) made the same connections to land grab and national oppression in this country. Others spoke of the "Prison Industrial Complex", free labor, profits, outdated laws and a system that works against the poor. This correspondent pointed out that MIM(Prisons) has research on their website debunking some of the common ideas held about the "PIC," and for-profit prisons in the United $tates.
The relative silence around the colonial question here on occupied Turtle Island is somewhat understandable. We do not have an apartheid state like Israel has in the occupied territories of Palestine. The internal semi-colonies here have democratic rights for the most part, and integration has progressed in many ways. Meanwhile, the struggle for land is only popular among indigenous people on the reservations that are isolated enclaves on this vast land.
Nonetheless, MIM(Prisons) was not the only group trying to make the connection. One speaker opened with, "Here on Ohlone Nation, we stand on stolen land and we stand in solidarity with another indigenous nation." The representative of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center mentioned ICE detainees currently on hunger strike and prisoners in California who recently went on hunger strike for similar conditions. A speaker from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) talked about the leading example the Palestinian prisoners were making in solidarity with all those fighting colonialism. Ey went on to say, "We hope the movement on this territory can take direction and inspiration from those imprisoned here for political and social crimes."
One protestor told this correspondent that they'd been fighting in solidarity with the liberation of Palestinians since 1967. This persyn was one who saw prisons in the United $tates being used for the same purposes as they are used in I$rael. Ey told a story of meeting some young Israelis:
"I was in Brazil four years ago, on a bus, and there was a group of young Israelis who recently completed their military service. I had on this bracelet, which says 'Free Gaza.' So we started talking, and they were freaked out, meeting a U.S. citizen [saying these things]. They were arguing, well, we didn't do anything to the Palestinians that the Amerikans didn't do to Native Americans and Blacks. As if that was a justification."
Young Israelis see the connection and so should we. Another persyn we spoke to pointed out how Israelis train the NYPD. So it goes both ways. But the United $tates is the imperialist power and I$rael would not exist without its decades of patronage. The liberation of Palestine remains at the forefront of the struggle for national liberation of all oppressed nations today because of the blatant lack of democratic rights and self-determination. Just as the recent hunger strike finds its strength and base in a strong national liberation movement, the prison movement in the United $tates last peaked when Black, [email protected], Puerto Rican and Indigenous liberation movements reached a peak some 50 years ago. Without making these connections again, today's growing prison movement will fizzle out in reformism and false promises.
Many attending the protest were interested to check out Under Lock & Key, and were inspired to hear about the USW petition campaign to oppose the Israeli bombing campaign in August 2014. In turn, our movement should find inspiration in the heroic strike going on in Israeli prisons today, and the continued struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom from settler occupation.
UPDATE: As this article was being reviewed by our editor news broke that the strike had ended and a settlement reached after more than 800 prisoners didn't eat for 40 days. The terms of the agreement with the Israeli state are many, and full details have not been released. They include many improvements to family contact and visitations, access to educational materials, medical conditions for the sick, access to better foods and cooking, better sports equipment and addressing high temperatures and overcrowding. In addition, a prisoners' committee has been established, providing a mechanism for addressing future issues. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network released the following statement:
"On this occasion of the prisoners’ victory, we know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine. We urge all of the Palestinian communities, supporters of Palestine and social justice organizers who took to the streets, drank salt water, engaged in hunger strikes, expressed their solidarity and organized across borders and walls to celebrate the victory of the prisoners with events and actions on 4-6 June, in Celebrations of Dignity and Victory.
"In these celebrations, we will recognize the power of the Palestinian people to defeat the occupier and the colonizer, honor the prisoners and their steadfastness, and emphasize the ongoing struggle. These celebrations are an occasion to escalate our demands for Palestinian freedom – for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian people, and the entire land of Palestine."(1)
Yesterday was Palestinian Prisoners' Day. Yesterday was also two days after the fifteenth anniversary of intifada hero Marwan Barghouti's illegal abduction from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
It is on this day that American-backed Israelis, in action opposing the two-state solution, chose to put Palestinian reconciliation and national unity symbol Marwan Barghouti in solitary confinement.(1)
Solitary confinement is a practice widely implemented as a form of discipline and political repression in the #1 prison state in the world, the United States. Used to repress protests of inhumane conditions, solitary confinement is itself widely considered inhumane particularly when done for long periods of time. Some Palestinians have been in solitary for years. Other kinds of worse treatment often accompany solitary confinement. It seems likely that Marwan Barghouti will be in solitary for several days at least.
A long-time prisoner himself with an immediate interest in the outcome of the protest like any of the other "security prisoners" in Israeli prisons, Barghouti was reportedly leading a large prisoner hunger strike against inhumane and illegal treatment of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. One of the things the prisoners are demanding is an end to solitary confinement, which it seems Barghouti could be in until the hunger strike ends. A mass hunger strike in 2014 lasted two months.(2)
Reactionaries are trying to get the public to associate the open hunger strike with the murder allegations against Barghouti. They are suggesting Barghouti is the only reason for the strike. The hunger-striking prisoners' demands include an end to health negligence and an end to detention without trial. I$rael is holding hundreds of Palestinians without Israeli citizenship in administrative detention. Because of multiple anniversaries in 2017 related to the colonization and occupation of Palestine, massive protests would have happened whether Barghouti was alive or not.
Many in various countries do consider Marwan Barghouti — one of several imprisoned members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, belonging to different parties — to be Palestine's "Mandela," a potential future Palestinian president. Barghouti was taken by the imperialist settler formation and Amerikan outpost named "Israel" fifteen years ago and subjected to a show trial in a kangaroo court. An intifada figure and strong supporter of Palestinian nationalism and independence before and after being abducted, Barghouti is reportedly able to unite various groups of Palestinians in a way that few are. Many people in various countries already support Barghouti's release.
Barghouti supported the Oslo Accords in the past. Azanian Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize in June last year. At his show trial, Barghouti noted in Hebrew that he was a figure for peace for two peoples.
Barghouti has supported trying different approaches, permitted under international law, to ending an occupation that is illegal. Months and years after major waves of protest and resistance, there are still thousands of Palestinians in I$raeli prisons for resisting the illegal occupation and settlement. One of them happens to be Barghouti.
Since the I$raeli goon squad kidnapped Barghouti in 2002, the highly influential and extremely wealthy United $tates has had many years of chances under various presidents to secure Barghouti's release. It hasn't happened. Two-term Democratic president Barack Obama didn't do it. Instead, Obama deceived Palestinians and gave Israel a record-breaking aid package. Obama sought to protect the image of Democrat warmongers and do-nothings, and the United States' image, after now-President Trump won the U.S. election and it became obvious that the United States was going to lose its undeserved standing as a peacemaker.
The West Bank and East al-Quds ("Jerusalem") already had tens of thousands of illegal settlers at the time of Ariel Sharon's al-Aqsa provocation against the two-state solution in 2000. For years the United States has verbally supported the two-state solution and verbally opposed settlement construction, in land universally understood to be occupied territory, while hampering the two-state solution and supporting settlement construction in actuality. Whether Barghouti would ever be president or not, Barghouti's continued detention is hampering processes Palestinians need to go through to arrive at important decisions with a higher level of unity.
The two-state solution isn't total liberation of Palestine. Many Palestinian leaders and figures mediating Palestine's international struggle support it. Some Palestinians consider the two-state solution a temporary step. According to survey reports, many support some approaches to it more than they support others. Though not always agreeing with or emphasizing some approaches to the two-state solution, Marwan Barghouti has supported it.
Despite internal disagreement about specific issues and non-Palestinians' demoralizing statements about the ability to end and reverse settlement activity, the Palestinian nation as a whole is still struggling for the two-state solution in the midst of U.S. hindrance and the intransigence of some Zionist and non-Zionist elements in Israel. Palestinians and various Arabs and Muslims do not support the two-state solution any less than the Amerikans, who take advantage of conflict and violence in the Middle East, do. As discussed on this website [see notes], even Hamas and Iran support the two-state solution more than the United States does in reality.
Israelis have a chance to oppose West Bank annexation, oppose West Bank settlement activity, and support Palestinian independence. They have a chance to live in relative peace by ending their idolatrous attitude toward the United States and ending their dependence on that hegemonic, rogue aggressor for support in the midst of worsening conditions. However, the I$raeli entity stupidly chose to put Barghouti in solitary yesterday. In a month and a half is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Syrian Golan. It is possible the Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity will still be going on then.
Regardless of intent or how anyone feels about the two-state solution, the broad Palestinian unity around the prisoners' hunger strike may be helping to promote Palestinian reconciliation and unity in other areas, and advance the two-state solution. That is true even though some of what the hunger strikers and prisoners are asking for could be won without freeing prisoners or winning a sovereign independent Palestinian state.
In the United States, there are also hunger strikes including strikes over solitary confinement.(3) So-called intersectionality in the Palestine-United States context is sometimes discussed in terms of pursuing equality with oppressors within a single state. Unity of Palestinians with various perspectives inside and outside prison, though, has the potential to contribute to Palestinian nationalism. Within U.S. prisons, unity of various whites and people in different non-white nations (including the [email protected] nation, the New Afrikan nation, and First Nations) often targets repression affecting many different prisoner demographics. This benefits the oppressed and activists inside prison, and can benefit fights for the self-determination of oppressed nations. Often this has nothing do with uniting Amerikans in general, or with advancing integrationism, which is a dead-end. Incarceration in the United States, and incarceration of so-called security prisoners and other Palestinians in I$raeli prisons, show oppressed nations' need for self-determination.
In response to the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike, some are downplaying Palestinian unity or trying to take advantage of differences and discourage supporters by saying the strike is just about Barghouti. Yet, many different movements in Palestine have members in Israeli prison and are supporting the strike.
In a statement on the hunger strike, Barghouti refers to "mass" arbitrary detention and mistreatment and opposes occupation.(4) Barghouti refers to "the nation" to which prisoners belong, and "every national liberation movement in history." Barghouti identifies Israel as an occupying power. The prisoners' suffering is related to the suffering of the Palestinian nation.
"The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost."
Among other things, Barghouti addresses collective punishments. "Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel's policy of imposing collective punishments."
"Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation."
Some are using the failures of Amerika's phony leadership as an excuse to oppose the two-state solution, Palestinian nationalism in general, and peace efforts in general. This is unfortunate. The United States must be opposed. In the international sphere, there needs to be new leadership in coordination with Palestine. Other countries need to influence Israel. Palestinian officials must give up any remaining illusions they might have about the Amerikans. The United States has proved uninterested in taking serious steps to resolve the conflict. In fact, it promotes and benefits from it. The United States, itself an illegitimate settler entity, is hegemonic, just gets in the way of real peace efforts, and is losing whatever credibility it had in the context of Mideast peace. The AmeriKKKan population has repeatedly proved willing to support or go along with U.S. aggression in the Middle East and, as a whole, is interested in the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict only enough to make things worse. The Amerikan population doesn't really care about Jews and Muslims overseas. When it seems to care about their conditions, it exploits them for chauvinistic, jingoistic and warmongering purposes and to justify Amerikan corruption in the Middle East.
This writer understands why Israeli activists would want to focus on opposing their own country or its policies. However, globally there needs to be more opposition to the United States in order to advance Palestinian liberation. Various elements inside and outside Israel are accepting U.S. hegemony and failing to support Marwan Barghouti's and other political prisoners' release while opposing Palestinian nationalism and supporting amalgamation with settlers. That is unwise.
Israelis and the world must act to immediately end the folly of refusing to negotiate with Palestinian prisoners, and end the abuse of hunger strike leaders and participants. Marwan Barghouti and other leaders or political prisoners must be freed from solitary confinement and must be freed from prison. The practice of taking Palestinians to be imprisoned in Israel must stop. The world's countries must support Palestinian independence and sovereignty regardless of the United States' priorities and exert pressure and influence so that demands of the hunger-striking prisoners are met as long as Palestinians are in I$raeli prisons.
On 18 October 2015, an early twenty-something Eritrean migrant by the name of Habton Zerhum, was unjustly shot by an Israeli security guard and then beaten by a mob of racist Israeli vigilantes in the town of Beersheba. He later died from his wounds. Zerhom's murder was the result of an earlier event where an Arab-Israeli citizen with a gun and knife allegedly killed an Israeli soldier, stole his weapon and opened fire on a crowd, injuring nine. In the mayhem that followed, a video shows Zerhom crawling for cover when a security guard walks up and shoot him at close proximity. As Zerhom lay in a pool of his own blood, he is cursed, kicked and hit with a rack of chairs by a racist mob of Israeli Jews. It was later reported that the security guard mistook Zerhom for an attacker.
According to other news reports Zerhom worked in a plant nursery and was in Beersheba to renew his work visa. Zerhom, who migrated to Israel to seek a better way of life, "was a modest man, quiet, and he tried to do his job as best as he could" said his employer, Sagi Malachi.
Immediately following the incident, Yaakov Amidror, former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, "It is a disgrace to Israeli society, and those that carried out this lynching need to be found and brought to justice." What is interesting is that Amidror used the word lynching to describe the brutal murder of Zerhom but not the murders of thousands of Palestinian people since 1947.
The settler "state" of Israel has been rocked by knife-wielding Arab-Israeli protestors reacting to rumors that the Israeli government was planning to ban Palestinians from accessing Jerusalem's Temple Mount which is home to Islam's third most holiest site - the Al-aqsa Mosque. Israel has occupied this site since 1967. But the current Arab-Israeli conflict is rooted far beyond Israeli occupation of the Temple Mount. It is rooted in historical land-theft, genocide and colonization of the Palestinian people by the imperialist Israeli settler state. Israel's rise to power and dominance in Palestine began in the late 1800's when European Jews formed a movement called zionism which sought to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Jews began arriving en masse in Palestine in the early 1900s, angering the Arab population who had been the majority in the region since AD 600. In 1947, to quell a potential uprising by Arab Palestinians, the United Nations proposed dividing the region into an Arab state and a Jewish state, which the Palestinians rejected of course. Not to be deterred from inhabiting a land which it felt it was entitled based upon Biblical prophecy, the settler state of Israel forcibly came into being on 14 May 14 1948.
The Palestinian intifadas (uprisings) are a natural reaction to almost seven decades of brutal Israeli occupation of their homeland. Palestinian revolutionary nationalism developed as a response to Zionism and its frequent land-thefts and unauthorized settlement expansions into Palestinian territories. But Israel's bullying, colonization and subjugation of the Palestinian people wouldn't be possible without the nearly $3 billion Israel receives annually in U.S. military aid. This aid guarantees the United States a strategic military ally in the Middle East. Clearly the U.S. government is an accomplice to the crime of genocide committed by Israel against defenseless Palestinian men, women and children.
Don't think it's genocide? According to the "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, genocide means "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." Taking the United Nations's definition of the crime of genocide into consideration, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the settler state of Israel is committing mass genocide against the Palestinian people via outright murder, bombing campaigns, embargoes, land thefts, forced migrations, unlawful arrests and detentions, etc. A Jewish people who once suffered genocide at the hands of Hitler and his Nazi regime have themselves assumed the role of neo-Nazis by committing genocide upon the Palestinians because of their ethnic-Arab background and Muslim and Christian beliefs.
The Israeli colonialism/imperialism that the Palestinian people are confronted with on a daily basis is equal in its intensity and brutality to the English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and american variety which nearly wiped out entire populations of Indigenous natives in Central and South America beginning in 1492; the abduction of Africans from their homeland in the 15th century; the lynchings and mass slavery and incarceration of Blacks beginning in 1619; and the colonial oppression which the Haitian people successful resisted during the Haitian revolution from 1790-1802, leading to their independence and the establishment of the first Black Republic in the world in 1804.
Those of us who embrace and practice revolutionary internationalism must stand in solidarity with the Palestinians and oppressed people all over the world who are engaged in national liberation struggles for their right to self-determination. All power to the Palestinian people!