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Chicago delegation sees Palestinian resistance first hand

By Joe Iosbaker

Members of the U.S Palestinian Community Network from Chicago (USPCN)

Chicago, IL – Members of the U.S Palestinian Community Network from Chicago (USPCN) reported, August 24, on their summer delegation to Palestine. Bassem Kawar stated at the beginning of the event that their purpose was “to take our leading members and organizers to get a firsthand understanding of the occupation and the resistance on the ground.” They met with over 20 Palestinian organizations in the different “Fronts of Struggle,” which was the title of their talk.

Muhammad Sankari opened by talking about the 6000 Palestinian political prisoners, and the occupation’s use of administrative detention. This policy allows the Israelis to detain someone without charges for six months at a time, and extend indefinitely. These prisoners are held under what is called “secret evidence” by a military court. “This policy is used to break the back of the Palestinian liberation movement,” explained Sankari.

Adameer is the organization that defends Palestinian prisoners, including the case of Ahed Tamimi, the 16-year-old imprisoned after a video was released showing her slapping the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldier who had shot her cousin in the head with a rubber coated, metal bullet, causing severe damage to the boy’s skull.

Sankari spoke about the fightback that is happening in defense of prisoners. “There is a strike right now of all administrative detainees who are refusing to appear in front of military courts. These sham courts have an over 99.7% conviction rate.”

He described Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian legislator currently held under administrative detention, who organized a class for women on international criminal law and law on advocacy for political prisoners. “The Israeli government shut down the program and separated her from the other prisoners because it was such a threat to what they wanted to do to these prisoners – destroy their spirit. Defense of the political prisoners is the defense of the right to national liberation of the Palestinian people.”

Land theft and settler expansion

Danya Zituni spoke about Jerusalem, “where we witnessed some of the most ugly faces of settler colonialism.” She said, “The apartheid wall is being used inside Jerusalem so that there are less Palestinians inside, and more and more Jewish only settlements,” and “The construction of the Jewish only settlements in Jerusalem in particular, and Palestine as a whole, is very strategic. They’re built on the edge of a village in order to encircle and isolate them, or they’re built in the middle of the village in order to fragment them. This policy makes a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.”

Delegates saw the worst examples of the occupation in Jerusalem. For example, Israeli police regularly harass youth to pressure Palestinians to leave. Thousands of Palestinians live ‘illegally’ in Jerusalem and can be deported to the West Bank.

Zituni also spoke about the community of over 50 Afro-Palestinian families in the old city of Jerusalem, some of who “migrated from East African in order to fight alongside the Palestinian Arab fighters in 1948 against the Zionists gangs who carried out the Nakba,” referring to the deadly attacks that killed over 12,000 Palestinians and led to 750,000 refugees fleeing. “The resistance of this community dates back before the state of Israel was created, and daily confronts the brutality of the occupation, not only as Palestinian Arabs, but also as African descendants who are attacked with vicious racism by the Israeli soldiers, and the very right wing settles that live in Jerusalem.” Zituni added, “When we say who Jerusalem belongs to, we always need to uplift the Afro Palestinian community.”

Resisting settlements in Hebron

Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank. Bassem Kawar described a recent incident there. “We learned in our first day in Palestine that a family was welded shut into their home, and they had to dig under the wall of their home to get out. It was then turned into a military check point.”

The other two fronts of struggle the delegation documented were cultural and health and environmental resistance.

Finally, Sankari spoke about the struggles inside 1948 Palestine, the area identified as Israel, where the Palestinian people have never given up on their struggle for a free Palestine, “From the river, to the sea.”

He closed the presentation talking about the refugee camps. “There’s one thing that unites every single one of these camps. From the oldest person we met, a survivor of the Nakba, to the young children who ran after us, all of them said the same thing: “I want to go home. I want to go to where I’m from. When you ask the youngest child, where are you from, no one says, ‘I’m from Balata camp.’ They said, ‘I’m from Haifa.’”

“The right of return for all the Palestinians is a non-negotiable demand,” Sankari declared. He closed by listing the three principles that USPCN is guided by: “Self determination and national liberation for the Palestinian people; the end of Israeli colonization of all Palestinian and Arab land; and the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their original homes and lands.”

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