Samidoun Network: We dare to speak out for Palestinian prisoners and detainees

samidoun

 Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, discussing the challenges facing Palestinian prisoners on the occasion of the Palestinian prisoners’ Day, April 17, 2020

There is history and there is a pattern to how Zionist and Jewish organizations coalesce to plot the erasure of Palestinians. Today, they are mobilizing to criminalize the activities of Samidoun, Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

Eleven Zionist organizations have announced the establishment of an alliance for the inclusion of Samidoun Network on terrorist lists. Led by “a legal think tank” called Zakhour Center, the cabal incudes the NGO Monitor network in the United States, the B’nai B’rith Organization, the Israel Center for Jewish Affairs in Canada, the Friends of Israel Association in Belgium, as well as Zionist centers and associations in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland, the National Jewish Society in the UK, and the Stand with Us Foundation.

These are major racist, right-wing Jewish organizations in Europe and North America. They function by cooperating with Israeli embassies in several Western capitals, and of course have the backing of a number of lawmakers in US Congress, whose reelection depends on the support of these Jewish supremacist groups.

In Scotland in 2015, the target of such hate groups was the Palestinian BDS campaign. They got together in Glasgow to plot on how to criminalize this pro-Palestinian movement: They held a political training day “to defend Israeli war crimes and alleged crimes against humanity and to counter the Palestinian BDS campaign.” According to Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organization with members from many communities across Scotland, an Israeli Embassy diplomat “led the event, attended by various groups including SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, who provided a speaker for the event. SCoJeC had previously claimed to be open to all Scottish Jews and thus was not a pro-Israel advocacy group.”

israel lobby

 On this day in 2015: Political Training Day for Israel Lobby in Scotland

This pattern of mobilizing world Jewry in the service of Zionism and concomitantly erasing the reality of Palestine and Palestinians in word and deed goes back much farther than 2015. To win support from the masses of Jews in all countries, Theodor Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress in 1897. We all know the devastating consequences of such lobbying and such alliances.

But there is no doubt that, today, the ascendancy and insidiousness of the Zionist project are being pushed back like never before. The Zionist attempt in Scotland to criminalize BDS, for example, has been met with “a broad coalition of nearly 70 civil society organisations made up of trade unions, charities, NGOs, faith, climate justice, human rights, and solidarity organisations for MPs to reject this dangerous bill in parliament.”

To supporters of BDS, the anti-boycott bills Zionist “legal tanks” are pushing all over the world are dangerous because such bills threaten “to erode local democracy, restrict freedom of expression, and undermine campaigns for social and climate justice. Boycott and divestment campaigns have long been used to campaign peacefully for progressive change … around the world.” In defense of their support for BDS against Israel specifically, they cite findings, such as that made by Human Rights Watch that “Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

While fully embracing the above efforts, Samidoun Network goes further than pro-BDS activists in its advocacy of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian struggle for liberation generally. The Network affirms Palestinian prisoners’ resistance to the ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine. It does not shy away from supporting their legitimate pursuit of self-defense against a brutal colonizer, including through armed struggle.

Samidoun Network considers Palestinian prisoners and detainees, who currently exceed five thousand (including 1200 prisoners in administrative detention), as the true leaders of the decades-long Palestinian struggle for liberation. But having successfully tarred Palestinian resistance (in all its forms) as “terrorism,” Israel extends its self-serving logic to any organization that advocates for such resistance.

In a statement to Wattan News Agency, the international coordinator of Samidoun Network Charlotte Kates explains the context of this latest concerted Zionist effort to quash international support for Palestinian unwavering attempts to liberate their homeland “from the river to the sea” despite the costs and the odds:

“The new Zionist campaign comes in the context of the frenzied attack led by Netanyahu and Ben Gvir against the Palestinian people, and the escalation of campaigns of abuse and repression against the prisoner movement … The announcement of the new Zionist alliance to target Samidoun Network comes a few days after the decision of a Dutch court was announced in favor of Samidoun. The court ruled that it is not permissible to criminalize the coordinator of the Samidoun Network in the Netherlands, Thomas Hovland, because of Zionist complaints against his speech and political position and the chanting of the slogan ‘Palestine will be free from the river to the sea’ in marches and demonstrations organized by Palestinian and Arab communities and supporters of the Palestinian people in the Netherlands.”

Samidoun Network recognizes that “international solidarity is an indispensable weapon to support all the Palestinian prisoners who embody the resistance of an entire people fighting for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Note: First published on Medium

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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