Palestinian Freedom Song
Focus on Palestinian prisoners
People often ask: where is the Palestinian Mandela / Gandhi / Martin Luther King? The answer is that they are mostly murdered or imprisoned, just as Mandela, Gandhi and King were, explains the Hastings Palestinian Solidarity group.
17 April is designated as Palestine Prisoners’ Day and to mark it (early!) Hastings Palestine Solidarity is holding a joint meeting with Hastings Against War on Tuesday 15 April.
Israel takes Palestinian prisoners for various reasons, mostly to demoralise and show who is boss or occasionally to exchange for some political gain. Arrests are also part of a system of information gathering.
Of the thousands that have been through the system, not a single one has had what we would class as a fair trial, with legal representation, adequate or any translation or a real chance to mount a defence.
Most of the prisoner issues are in the West Bank, which Israel conquered in 1967. Ever since then, this area, with a Palestinian population of some two and a half million, has been run as a military dictatorship by Israel’s occupation army, the IDF.
The laws made by the IDF are not subject to any democratic accountability, cannot be appealed and are up and running as soon as they are issued. Over 1000 of their ‘Military Orders’ dictate how people can live – and also give the IDF itself unlimited control over the land, its water and natural resources.
The IDF makes the law and also administers it: this covers rights to residence, land ownership and planning, access to water, road planning and building, the growing of trees and crops and even flowers, the transportation, import and export of produce, etc. For an idea of the magnitude of this military rule, see here.
These laws are used to rubber-stamp the occupation of buildings and vast tracts of land, either for military use or for the building of towns and cities, housing some 600,000 Israeli citizens, but not a single Palestinian.
The administration of the law - the issuing of permits and papers, arrests and questioning, law courts, prisons etc - is also unaccountable. Little wonder that the workings of the Justice System itself are deeply flawed and in breach of dozens of human rights requirements.
These laws and Orders also determine what people may read and what may be taught in schools. And the IDF has sweeping powers of search, invasion of private property, pursuit and ‘administrative detention’ without charge or trial.
With that all sewn up, people can be deported or fined, have their homes destroyed, be held up for hours at any of the hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints – and arrested and imprisoned for contravening or resisting any law or Order. So Focus on Prisoners is just the tip of the iceberg of the effective imprisonment – i.e. deprivation of freedom and self-determination – of the whole population.
Photo from HPS
* Young children are routinely taken from their homes without an accompanying adult, in the small hours, handcuffed or shackled, bullied and browbeaten and threatened, used to gather information, sign statements in a foreign language confessing or implicating others in actions (usually stone-throwing), and then either returned home (so the whole matter is not even recorded as a statistic) or ‘tried’ in a military court with no defence, in a process that can take less than a minute.
* At times of rebellion or resistance, thousands of young men have been rounded up and packed off to camps for years.
* Prisoners are often kept within Israel, so it’s almost impossible for their families to obtain the necessary permits to visit them. This is in breach of international conventions.
* The taking of prisoners is less a matter of keeping order, but of repressing dissent, demoralising communities, impoverishing families through loss of breadwinners, applying pressure by causing physical and psychological damage to children and using prisoners as pawns and bargaining chips in negotiations.
* And yes, there is a ‘Palestinian Mandela’: his name is Marwan Barghouti and he has been kept for 12 years after a trial that was so stacked against him that he refused to plead. A campaign for his release was launched last year from Mandela’s cell in Robben Island, led by Mandela’s lifelong comrade, Ahmed Kathrada, and supported by Archibishop Desmond Tutu.
MEETING IN HASTINGS:
White Rock Hotel, 15 April, 7pm
With a speaker from Gaza, the film, Children in Chains and the video of the new, Palestine Freedom Song, written by Rachel Lever, sung by Kat Lee Ryan and produced in Hastings
Hastings PSC - The Song
Hastings PSC member, Rachel Lever, woke up one night with a song in her head. “I’ve never even dreamed of writing a song, but now I’d written one in a dream”, she says.
Palestinian Freedom Song
It was the night after Nelson Mandela had died and the tune that went with the words was the anti-apartheid theme tune, now South Africa’s national anthem. A composer friend, Rob Weatherburn, worked the words and music together. Kat Lee Ryan of the Fabulous Red Diesel developed and polished the result and recorded it, and Rachel worked it into a video.
So Hastings’ talent has come together to create the Palestine Freedom Song. Watch it on YouTube here