Support campaign for Palestinian political prisoners concludes in Halifax

A vigorous and well-attended public meeting

HALIFAX (1 May 2006) -- The second annual, cross-Canada campaign by representative organisations of Palestinian political prisoners wound up a highly successful six-city tour of Canada on Sunday, April 30 with a well-attended meeting at St Mary's University in Halifax.

More than 150 people listened intently as the featured speakers of the campaign provided important perspectives on the significance of the Palestinian political prisoner as a phenomenon of the daily life of resistance lived by every Palestinian family -- not only in Palestine but even to greater or lesser extent in the "shata'at" (exile) of the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Almost no family is without one or more members that have been arrested and jailed by the Zionist authorities of the State of Israel.

Speaking were Ayed Abu Eqtaish, former political prisoner and currently research co-coordinator for Defense for Children International in Ramallah (http://www.dci-pal.org) and representative of the Committee in Defense and Solidarity with the Jericho Six. He was accompanied by Toronto-based Adam Hanieh, co-author of Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel's Detention of Palestinian Children (Pluto Press, 2004).

Regardless of the legal pretext issued by these authorities, the real crime is that of being Palestinian and refusing to acknowledge the Zionist claim to Palestinian lives, lands or future. Whereas real infractions of ordinary laws by non-Palestinian residents of the State of Israel are routinely processed in civilian courts, Palestinians are invariably hauled before military tribunals as "terrorists", and the most elementary rights and norms are dispensed with, including access to or by family members, even in cases of family emergencies. Since the State of Israel inaugurated its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza following the June 1967 war, out of the more than 3 million living in Palestine-1948, i.e., "Israel proper", and in the West Bank and Gaza, more than 690 000 have been arrested and incarcerated by the Zionist authorities.

Today there remain some 9 000 Palestinian political prisoners either in Israeli jails or in prisons that are formally under the Palestinian Authority but actually controlled by the Zionist authorities. The political character of their arrest, trial and incarceration is clear to all, such that Palestinians everywhere, alongside the other fighting peoples of the world, recognise these prisoners as the leading edge of resistance to the Zionist project in Palestine.

The current Intifadah since September 2000 has seen an especially dramatic rise in the numbers of Palestinian children arrested and tortured by the Zionist authorities. The Zionists' routine resort to what its own courts permit as "moderate physical pressure", meaning torture, has become widely known as the Palestinians' resistance has had growing impact on the Tel Aviv junta's efforts at continuing to present the only state in the world that has actually legalised torture as any kind of normal member of the international community and even "the only democracy in the Middle East".

As the speakers and subsequent comments from the audience acknowledged, solidarity with the Palestinians' struggle for rights has advanced considerably over the last 15 years in Canada. Even 5-10 years ago, the lack of awareness of the Palestinians' conditions and struggle was widespread, whereas criticism of the State of Israel seemed confined to the political fringe. Today, on the other hand, many people know and think of the Zionists' project as "Israeli apartheid" and see the Palestinians as a heroic force waging the last anti-colonial struggle left on the face of the earth.

Among Palestinians inside and outside Palestine, as well as among other fighting peoples of the world, including the Canadian people, there remains much more to do in further unifying a political force capable of not only defending the immediate interests of the Palestinians (for example, on the political-prisoner issues), but also putting an end to Zionist land theft, aggression and oppression once and for all. However, as both speakers made clear: the spirit of the Halifax meeting was in tune with that of the entire tour. It is the spirit of "it can be done, it must be done!", the spirit that ensures that "a better world is possible!"

The delegation also visited the cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Guelph and Montreal.

The tour was organized by the Sumoud Political Prisoners Solidarity Group (http://sumoud.tao.ca), and the event in Halifax very well hosted in Halifax by The Palestinian Solidarity Society (www.freepalestine.ca) together with co-host Canadians, Arabs and Jews for Just Peace (http://forjustpeace.org)

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