RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS
The racist Israeli media is jubilant. With the exception of ultra-hardline Zionists who complain that any Palestinians were freed in exchange for Shalit, Zionist ideologues are today celebrating the “homecoming” of “our child” “Gilad.”
Hamas fighters shocked the Zionists in 2006 with their raid on Israeli Defense Forces near the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Egypt . After killing two other Israeli soldiers and despite losing two of their own comrades, the Palestinian fighters succeeded in seizing Shalit from the tank he was commanding and since then Hamas has defeated every Israeli attempt to locate and free him. That Hamas could out-smart and out-fight them in this way for five years has been a humiliation for the Zionists, at least until now.
While Palestinians celebrate the release from Israeli prisons of 477 prisoners and the promised release of 550 more in two months time, many also question whether Hamas did not make too many compromises in their agreement to release Shalit. While the exchange of over 1,000 Palestinians for Shalit would seem to be an unqualified achievement, in fact far fewer will in reality be freed. In a further confirmation of how the Palestinian Authority acts as an extension of the Zionists’ apparatus of repression, a significant number of the Palestinian prisoners released by Israel will merely by transferred to PA jails, where conditions can be just as bad for prisoners. A majority of the first 477 prisoners released will not be reunited with their families but will rather be deported or transferred to other territories for a minimum of three years and, in many cases, permanently. And of course well over four thousand Palestinian political prisoners will remain in Israeli jails, along with thousands more Palestinians who are technically not jailed for explicitly “political” crimes.
Importantly, the two most prominent Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, elected Palestinian Legislative Council members and government ministers Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Sa’adat, will remain in their cells:
Barghouti has been imprisoned by the Israelis since 2006 on charges that he directed suicide bombings inside Israel , this despite the fact that he has repeatedly denounced attacks against Israeli civilians. Elected to the Palestinian Parliament as a prominent member of Fatah, Barghouti had accepted the basic outlines of his party’s sellout to the Zionists by recognizing Israel ’s right to exist, but he remains highly popular among many Palestinians for his support of their intifadas against the Zionists as well as for his criticisms of the corruption of other Fatah leaders. Indeed Barghouti’s imprisonment has long been seen as a gift to Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is widely despised by Palestinians for his betrayals and who would surely be defeated by Barghouti in an election for Fatah’s leadership;
Meanwhile, Patriotic Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat remains held in solitary confinement, imprisoned by the Israelis since they seized him from inside a PA prison in 2006. Perhaps most importantly for judging the terms of Hamas’s deal to release Shalit is the fact that Sa’adat has been on a complete hunger strike along with hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners (and over 3,000 more on partial hunger strike) since September 27 and while their health is rapidly deteriorating, neither their demand for the end of solitary confinement of prisoners, nor their call for an end to the arbitrary denial of prisoners’ visitation rights, nor their demand for an end the abusive and humiliating treatment of Palestinians attempting to visit their incarcerated comrades, have been even mentioned let alone agreed to as part of the deal.
Amid celebrations of the release of some Palestinian prisoners we must not forget those remaining, especially those on hunger strike today! Protests in solidarity with the prisoners must continue. (For more information on the plight of Palestinian prisoners, see the website of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association at as well as the website of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’Adat)
ZIONIST RACISM AND THE PRISONER DEAL
It is indicative of the racism of the Israeli media and Israel as a whole, as well as that of the Western media, that unlike their attitude to the many thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, Shalit has been treated by them like a human being: he was given a name, had his story told, and his family were given a voice to describe their plight. The Palestinians slated for release, on the other hand, are simply referred to by their number. As anti-racists and anti-Zionists, we call attention to the list of Palestinian prisoners to be released in the deal that was first published by the Palestinian news agency Sama and later translated and published on the website of Al-Akhbar. That we do not have the space to tell each individual’s story merely shows the utter lack of symmetry between the oppressive powers of the Zionist state and the Palestinian people it oppresses.
Whenever a Palestinian prisoner’s name is mentioned in the Israeli media, it is only to relate the (often exaggerated) story of the act she or he committed before being imprisoned. Often, the crime can be to merely be a member of some Palestinian organization, or even take part in some protest. These cases, of course, are not publicized by the Israeli media – even when those imprisoned are children. Indeed as we went on record as saying long ago: if the racism of Zionists, which accords the Palestinian lives a mere fraction of that of an Israeli Jew, can be used to free many more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, so be it.
In the eyes of most Israelis, Shalit is an innocent solder who did his duty. They do not see that this so-called duty was a crime. We understand the pain that the Shalit family has felt. For years they could not hold their son, speak with him, or be sure that he is well. But we also understand the pain the families of 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. They cannot hold their children, speak with them, or be sure that they have not been tortured.
Many of the Palestinian prisoners being released from Israel ’s jails have been charged with involvement in terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens. Like all genuine socialists, the ISL opposes acts of violence against civilians – including Israeli civilians. We do not support the actions of many who would be released in the deal. But their actions, as objectionable as they may be, pale in comparison to those committed by Israel . Only the racism of the Zionist press can condemn a man responsible for a bombing which kills several Israeli civilians, but praise Israeli soldiers, many of whom are directly responsible for the cold-blooded murder of dozens of civilians. The momentary, if terrible, terror that Israeli civilians feel after a bombing is an inescapable constant of Palestinian life.
Importantly, attacks on Palestinian and Israeli civilians do not just differ in terms of scale, but are conducted on different moral registers. Misguided acts of violence by Palestinians are a response to their oppression and cannot be legitimately compared to the coldly calculated acts of racist murder that the Israeli state perpetrates on a daily basis to defend their expropriation and domination of the Palestinians. Indeed do not believe the Israeli state, an entirely illegitimate racist colonizing power, should have any right to judge Palestinians for anything and demand the release of all Palestinians from Israeli prisons regardless of the crimes they are charged with.
The Legal Basis for the Oppression of Prisoners
Israel’s so-called ‘Administrative Law’ has continued the practice of holding Palestinians for unspecified periods of time without charge. The Zionists have not spared even the children held in their prisons, who are often left traumatized as a result of their treatment.
The power to affect administrative detention was created at the time of the British Mandate by the Defense (Emergency) Regulations, 1945.
When Israel declared independence in 1948, a state of emergency was announced and the Defense Regulations became part of Israeli law. After the 1967 War , Israel has applied the defense regulations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. From the first year of occupation, Israel resorted to administrative laws to suppress any Palestinian resistance.
This is the same law the British colonialists used during the British mandate. Dov Joseph, the future Minister of Justice said before the Jewish Lawyers Association: "there is no guarantee to prevent a citizen from being imprisoned for life without trial. One does not actually have to commit an offense; it is enough for a decision to be made in some office for his fate to be sealed.” Yaacov Shapira, another future Minister of Justice, said: "the regulations led to a situation unparallel in any civilized country. Even in Nazi Germany there were not such laws".
Only a Socialist Revolution Can Bring True Freedom
The Israeli state cannot and will not be able to destroy the will of the Palestinians to be free of oppression, no matter what kind of law Israel will use. The criminals are not those who oppose occupation, repression, the stealing of land and the destruction of homes. The criminal is the colonialist oppressor.
While we in the ISL oppose acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians, we do not recognize Israel’s right to judge and imprison the people whom it has been expropriating, oppressing and murdering for decades.
A mass movement to free the prisoners could pressure the Zionists and their PA tools to improve the conditions of the prisoners’ and even to release some of them. But true freedom will be enjoyed by Palestinians only when they have their own state, from the river to the sea, free of racist oppression, where both Palestinians and Jews can live in peace and security, free from discrimination.
This state will never be created by either the collaborationist Fatah forces or Hamas, which has already signaled its willingness to compromise with Zionism, and which has already exposed its oppressive nature when it suppressed protests on Nakba and Naksa days, as well as solidarity actions with the uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere.
The only force which can truly win liberation for the Palestinians, as well as the rest of the peoples of the region, is the working class. This is clear when one considers that among all the uprisings in the region recently, the only ones that have been successful in toppling the corrupt regimes are those where the working class was overwhelmingly involved: Egypt and Tunisia .
This shows the way for the Palestinian struggle as well. The Palestinians are not strong enough to achieve liberation themselves, but once their class sisters and brothers in the region, the workers and poor, overthrow the regimes that oppress them, their help will be invaluable for this struggle. On their side, the Palestinian masses, with their undefeated will to be free, can serve as a true vanguard for all these struggles, giving them not only a rallying cry but also political guidance and inspiration.
The working class parties that will come out of the mass struggles in the region will be crucial for this strategy to be successful. Therefore, we call for the creation of Bolshevik vanguard parties all over the region, in preparation for the re-creation of the true party of World Socialist Revolution, the Fourth International.
Free all Palestinian Political Prisoners – Whether in Israeli or PA Prisons! For a Mass Movement in Support of the Prisoners! For a Palestinian Workers’ State from the River to the Sea, in a Socialist Federation of the Middle East