On April 17 we commemorate “Yawm elAsir elFalestini” – the Palestinian Prisoner’s day. The prisoners, like always, are angry at us: “What is the meaning of one day or one week of solidarity activities, while we suffer all along the year?” But activists “outside” need this day – there are too many vital issues to struggle for and plenty other things to do in life. You need these special days to remember (and act for) those that were left behind bars, exposed daily to the bullying of ignorant hotheaded guards and to the expropriation of their basic rights by the racist heartless prison management.
What the prisoners need most is, of course, freedom. Most of those who are sentenced for long periods will probably not have their personal freedom until the whole land will be free. So the most important thing that we should do for them is to continue the struggle and to do our best to improve and win.
The second most important thing for the prisoners is to know and feel that their suffering has a meaning. They want to be part of the struggle. They want to have their word and influence the development of the movement.
So, what I wanted to write about is the meaning of the Prisoners’ suffering and struggle for the Palestinian people as a whole.
The Palestinians are totally denied the most essential personal and national rights. They have no way to “democratically” or “peacefully” get their land or their rights or their freedom. In these conditions, the repeated attempts to revolt against the system that robs their land and houses, denies their rights and destroys their lives and their society is only natural and legitimate.
But the relationship of forces is so adversely skewed that you may ask yourself what is the point of trying to resist? Tens of thousands of people died and tens of thousands where jailed and so little was achieved… Will it not be better to just give up and suffer less?
I can give many reasons why the struggle will have positive results in the longer run, but the first thing is what it is doing to the people today. If you are denied your rights and your dignity and you don’t resist – you kind of accept it, and this acceptance of humiliation becomes part of your personality. If you know that the rules are rigged against you, and you agree to play by the rules – you give the system legitimacy and take part in your own oppression.
The prisoners are a live proof that the Palestinians reject the rules of the occupation and refuse their role as de-humanized subjects. In this sense also, in addition to their sacrifice and enforced full commitment to the struggle, they are the living conscience of the whole society. The knowledge that you resist the occupation, that it is enforced upon you but never accepted by you, is what allows you to keep your dignity and to avoid being internally distorted by the oppression.
In fact the whole of Palestine is a prisoner – occupied by the Israeli prison state, isolated from its surroundings in “elWatan elArabi” (the Arab Homeland) and denied all freedom and rights. At the time that the Arab world seemed helplessly succumbing to the yoke of Imperialist-Zionist-Reactionary rule, Palestine was not only the ultimate victim but also became a symbol of resistance and the living conscience of all Arabs. The struggle of the Palestinian people inside their big prison was a wake up call for the masses in other countries, much like the hunger strikes of the Palestinian prisoners are a wake up call for the Palestinian masses.
Now the latest news coming out from the prisons have it that thousands of Palestinian prisoners are preparing for a massive decisive hunger strike, after their basic rights and living conditions were severely eroded by their tormentors over the last years. The Arab awakening now shows the limits of the might of imperialism and all oppressors and the potential power of the mass struggle. The Palestinian struggle, getting used to so many defeats and disappointments, lost much of its revolutionary spirits and lags behind the Arab spring. Now, again, the prisoners are showing the way. They are united and rely on their will and blood power to overcome the walls and iron power of the oppressors. If they succeed, the solidarity campaign they call for will be the buds of the Arab spring on the Palestinian soil.