As more than 1300 Palestinian prisoners begun an open hunger strike on April 17, the solidarity movement was in disarray. In the first week it was even hard to get news about the strike. Nobody (at least in the 48-occupied Palestine) prepared for the solidarity campaign. Our attempt to coordinate action between the patriotic and democratic parties in Haifa totally failed.
We had the first proper strike-solidarity demo in Haifa on Sunday, April 22, on Jabal street. The next day it was the Ghassan Kanafani youth that invited us for a demo in Akka. It was typical of the new dynamics – the group was newly formed some weeks ago out of frustration from the position of the establishment parties at the solidarity campaign with (striking prisoner) Hana Shalabi. Now it acted before many big parties and established prisoner’s solidarity networks.
In the second weekend of the strike, the solidarity action started to come thicker. Support tents were built in Tira in the “Triangle” and Shefa’amer in the Galilee. On Saturday there were two demos, in Sakhnin and Arabeh.
But only in the last two days, as the number of prisoners on strike is increasing daily and has already passed 2000, it really feels like the solidarity campaign is gaining steam
Yesterday in Al-Makr, just the first village on the Galilee after Akka, there was a demo that collected many activists from all the area, as well as many locals. It was in a place that is not used to this kind of activities.
Today, Wednesday May 2, we had the second activity in Haifa. As people in Haifa are bored of the almost weekly small demos (there is always something to demonstrate about) – we devise a more varied program. Raising flags and carrying placards and images of the prisoners and shouting slogans was still an important part, but it was followed by reading letters from prisoners, singing songs on the plight of the prisoners and a lecture by a prisoner that was released a few months ago in the latest prisoners’ exchange. Some hundred people attended, which is nice by our modest standards.
The important thing is that the spirit of the Arab Revolution is now driving the solidarity campaign. And I don’t mean support for the Syrian or Egyptian revolution, even though when the singer in the Haifa demo mentioned that we are also in solidarity with the freedom prisoners in Syrian jails most of the public enthusiastically applauded. What I mean is that the gap that was left by the parties and established organizations is now filled by grassroot activists and the youth.
Tomorrow’s demo in front of the Ramleh prison was organized by a collection of independent youth initiatives. And in the next days we will have to make hard choices to which activities we go and which we can skip – as there will be more than one demo every day.
Every group of youth now knows that it can organize and initiate its own activities. The prisoners’ strike is a call of action to everybody, and, with the prisoners’ families, it is the youth activists that are first to take the initiative and the lead. More and more places will see the Palestinian flag raised in this campaign. More groups will be formed, or go from local social activity to patriotic political activity. A new net of connections and coordination is being built through the solidarity action.
The Prisoners are showing the way by their resolve to confront their oppressors and scarify whatever will be required until victory.
Haifa, May 2, 2012