Palestinian Prisoners Day was marked on 17 April, an annual day to contemplate the individual and collective suffering and impossible pain of political prisoners and their families. It is also a day to recommit to our struggle for liberation and human dignity.
I feel like I am engaged in “collaboration” of sorts with an unfair narrative when I use the terminology of numbers or statistics to relate to more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
In so much international discussion and media, each of these thousands of Palestinian prisoners is considered just a number while an Israeli occupation soldier held as a prisoner by Palestinians is portrayed as a story representing the whole of humanity.
Even “equal” or “neutral” language and descriptions end up favoring the occupier when there is no equality in the real situation. Palestinian prisoners are not prisoners of war, but prisoners of a liberation struggle. Palestinian prisoners are victims of reality of occupation, colonialism, racism, ethic cleansing and political persecution.
We should look always to the root causes of conflict, not just at the superficial aspects. Colonialists all over the world throughout history damaged their own human values, and imposed real damage to their victims whenever these victims became passive toward their human duty to struggle for liberation.
So I look at all the solidarity groups, movements and people all over the world — you are doing great work. You are all people who will never accept injustice to be the norm. I call on all of you as partners in the struggle for rights to continue to view the Palestine liberation struggle as one struggle. Don’t play within the oppressors’ game of allowing the Palestinian cause to be fragmented.
Fragmentation means allowing fundamental rights to be subordinated to the balance of power. We must always place our commitment to rights and justice at the center of our ethics and our struggle.
The new wave of international solidarity movements is doing this by placing Palestinian rights at the center, and recognizing that it is the denial of these rights that is the root cause of conflict in Palestine.
This movement is motivated by universal values and human rights, but it also links the main demands of the Palestinian people: the right of return, an end to the occupation, the end of siege and blockade, and the end of the colonial and racist system that is the essence of Israel and stands in the way of liberation and self-determination.
Freedom for the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners of the liberation struggle will never be granted by Israeli courts. The legal system of the colonial racist oppressor is a mechanism and guarantor of oppression, not justice and liberation.
Only Palestinian struggle, supported by international solidarity, can free these prisoners and free all Palestinians. We will continue our role of steadfastness and struggle. But we are counting on our friends’ solidarity too. Together we shall overcome.
Ameer Makhoul is a civil society leader and political prisoner at Gilboa prison.