Issued by New Jersey Solidarity - Activists for the Liberation of Palestine
March 15, 2006

New Jersey Solidarity - Activists for the Liberation of Palestine strongly condemns the Israeli assault upon Jericho prison of March 14, 2006 as well as the US and British involvement and complicity in that attack and kidnapping operation. The assault, in which the Zionist army laid siege for nine hours to a Palestinian prison holding six political prisoners, led to the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa'adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Zionist prisons.

Ahmad Sa'adat and his comrades in Jericho prison had been held there since 2002. Sa'adat, who was never charged with nor tried for any crime, had been held with his comrades at the behest of the United States, Britain and Israel, along with Hamdi Quran, Basel al-Asmar, Majdi Rimawi and Ahed Gholmi, who were tried and sentenced by an impromptu military court for the December 2001 assassination of extremist, racist Zionist tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi. At their "trial," which took place inside the Muqata, the Palestinian Authority presidential place, as it was surrounded by Zionist tanks, the four were not allowed to have attorneys or present a proper legal defense; no evidence, no confessions and no statements were received before the four were convicted by Brigadier-General Ribhi Arafat, who had no standing to act as a judge. Sa'adat was never tried nor convicted at all.

The prisoners were transferred immediately to Jericho Prison, ostensibly under the control of the PA, but subject to the rule of US and British "monitors." There, for the past four years, the US and British "monitors" have served as wardens for the political imprisonment of Palestinian political leaders and activists at the behest of the Zionist state. On Tuesday, March 14, those same US and British "monitors" left their posts - an action the Zionist military had been awaiting for some time - and served as collaborators in the deadly and criminal siege of Jericho prison.

The Palestinian High Court of Justice - the highest Palestinian judicial body - has ruled that Sa'adat must be released immediately, and calls for his release have engaged the support of human rights organizations internationally. Ahed Gholmi completed even his illegitimate one-year sentence in 2003; nevertheless, he has remained imprisoned to this day, and was kidnapped by Zionist military forces along with his fellow political prisoners.

As they laid siege to the prison, the Zionist government and military made clear their willingness, and eagerness, to assassinate these political prisoners. The brutal and racist nature of the Zionist state is laid bare by its actions at Jericho, as it has been for the past 58 years; the assault on Jericho was yet another attack in the ongoing war against Palestinian resistance and Palestinian existence. In such a racist state, the siege of Jericho is part of an election campaign by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; the death and imprisonment of Palestinians are trophies to be trumpeted, and Palestinian life is taken so cheaply as a method of increasing popularity at the polls. The barbaric nature of such a state in which murder and political imprisonment is to be taken as a winning election campaign strategy should be clear to all. Nevertheless, as Zionist officials affirmed their readiness to murder Palestinians and take Palestinian political prisoners, violating all standards of law, justice and human rights, the US government not only stood aside and made possible, but justified and applauded the murderous brutality of the Zionist siege of Jericho.

These political prisoners were kidnapped because they are legitimate political leaders and activists of the Palestinian people who have continually struggled against Zionist occupation and oppression. Sa'adat, the child of Palestinian refugees forced from their homes and land in 1948, has spent years in Zionist jails because of his commitment to freedom for Palestine and the right to return of Palestinian refugees. He was elected in January to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

These kidnapped political prisoners now join 8000 other Palestinian political prisoners in Zionist jails. These political prisoners are held in Zionist jails because they have been committed to freedom for their homeland; an end to brutal occupation, the return of Palestinian refugees to their original homes and properties, and the right of Palestinians to self-determination and independence in their own land. They are held prisoner because the Zionist regime has never stopped trying to imprison resistance and imprison the Palestinian national movement. Nevertheless, despite torture and brutality, the Palestinian people have continued to struggle. Political imprisonment has thus become a fact of life for many Palestinians - approximately 20% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza has spent time imprisoned or detained in Zionist jails.

The brutal practices of political imprisonment are not surprising. Israel is a colonial settler state of an apartheid nature whose existence is based upon the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the theft of Palestinian land and the eradication of Palestinian Arab identity in Palestine. Such an illegitimate colonial enterprise requires political imprisonment to maintain its control over the land it has stolen and now occupies. It is a pattern that has been repeated around the world many times in countries under occupation or living under colonial regimes, from the Philippines, to the Congo, to India, to South Africa, to today's Iraq under US occupation. And it is made possible on a daily basis - the torture, terror and oppression - by the billions of dollars in US aid funneled on an annual basis to prop up and sustain the Zionist state in its colonization of Palestine.

In Jericho, the US made quite clear its role in regard to Palestinian political prisoners. As the so-called "monitors" - in reality, the wardens and guards ensuring the continued imprisonment of Sa'adat and his fellow political prisoners at the behest of the Zionist regime - moved out, the Zionist army moved in immediately for its siege. The US State Department blamed Palestinians for the siege, stating that the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council leadership of Hamas had indicated its willingness to release these illegally-held political prisoners. Therefore, in order to prevent the rule of law and the freedom of unjustly-held Palestinian political prisoners, the US conspired with the Zionist state to kidnap these Palestinians and lay siege to Jericho.

This action is typical of US government behavior - commitment to the Zionist colonial project in Palestine and its war upon Palestinian Arab existence, war against and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and threats of war against Syria and Iran - but does not represent the people of this country. We demand that the US government immediately end all US aid to Israel. Our tax dollars should not be used to engage in nor prop up colonial adventures! While billions are spent on war and occupation, working people in the US desperately need education, health care and housing. In addition, the US government has pursued the political imprisonment of Palestinian activists in its own prisons, in cases such as that of Palestinian professor, Dr. Sami al-Arian, and Muhammad Salah of Chicago, a Palestinian U.S. citizen facing secret testimony from Shin Bet agents in his trial; the US government is standing in for the Zionist regime in these cases based on the persecution of Palestinian political activity. Attacks like the siege of Jericho and the kidnapping of Sa'adat and his fellow political prisoners could not take place without the complicity - active and passive - of the US government - and it must end immediately.

The Palestinian Authority has illegally and illegitimately held these prisoners for the past four years and, in continuing to submit to US, British and Zionist pressure to hold these prisoners at their behest, allowed the criminal siege at Jericho to happen. This action shows once again why relying on the US as a "mediator" or "neutral party" always ends in an attack upon the Palestinian people. This siege exposes one of the many lies of "security cooperation," in which the occupied are forced to provide "security" to the occupier - even to the extent of holding its political prisoners. In Jericho, it meant that these political prisoners - Palestinian leaders and activists - were held in place and laid vulnerable to Zionist assaults. It is quite telling that despite all of their language about "democracy" in Arab nations, it was the commitment of the newly elected leadership of the PLC to implementing Palestinian law that inspired the US and Britain to, essentially, turn over Jericho to Zionist attack.

Ahmad Sa'adat and all 8000 Palestinian political prisoners are being held because they are committed to freedom and justice in Palestine. It is imperative that the actions in Jericho lead all who are concerned for justice in Palestine redouble our efforts to protest political imprisonment and demand the release of all political prisoners.

Freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian political prisoners in Zionist jails!

Free Palestine!