THE ABU JIHAD CENTER
[ press release ]
“George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine”
“This is an important event for the Palestinian prisoner.”
— Dr. Sari Nussibeh
“We have to reinforce solidarity with freedom-minded people all around the world.”
— Issa Qaraka
“The Abu Jihad center does solidarity work movements for liberation.”
— Dr. Fayed Abu Al-Hajj
The Abu Jihad museum at Al Quds University is hosting an international exhibition titled “George Jackson in the Sun of Palestine,” which opened October 20, 2015. It is the first international exhibit of this center for prisoner movement affairs located in the Abu Dis village of Jerusalem. The exhibition links the Palestinian prisoner struggle with the struggles of other political prisoners around the world. It aims to raise international awareness about the reality of prisoners in general and what the Israeli Occupation State is doing to harass Palestinian prisoners in particular.
The ceremonial opening of the exhibition was preceded by a symposium focused on George Jackson, the Black revolutionary prisoner of North America, and his connection to Palestinian struggles, Palestinian writers, and Palestinian prisoners. His belief in the Palestinian right to self-determination, a strong belief shared by his comrades, was a central topic of discussion. Speakers included Dr. Fayed Abu Al-Hajj, the head of the Abu Jihad center, and Dr. Issa Qaraka, the head of the Committee of Prisoner Affairs. Also speaking were Sahar Francis, the director of Addameer (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association), and Greg Thomas, a political activist and university professor visiting Palestine from the United States. The launch was attended by ex-prisoners themselves, as well as Dr. Sari Nussibeh, a member of the Al Quds University Board of Trustees; Dr. Imad Abu-Kishki, the current president of the University; and Radi Al-Jarai, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Prisoners and a lecturer at Al Quds University, not to mention a range of political activists and representatives from human rights organizations and prisoner organizations Many media outlets were on hand to cover both the opening and the symposium.
The exhibition generated a tremendously positive reaction, collectively confirming the importance of continuing to link people and activists who call for freedom and liberation on a worldwide level.
Dr. Sari Nussibeh expressed his appreciation for the Abu Jihad center’s enormous efforts in bringing this exhibition to fruition. He pointed out that Al Quds University, from its initial decision to house the Abu Jihad center on campus, always wanted to make it an active organization in terms of forging international connections with political and human rights movements enacting human liberation. Nussibeh explained that enabling Palestinians to experience an exhibit on the life of a prison activist incarcerated in America is very important for the Palestinian prisoner as well as American public opinion on the matter of prisoners and imprisonment, and asserted that he will be happy to see such activity continue.
In his turn, Dr. Fayed Abu Al-Hajj expressed his sincere happiness about being able to mount such an exhibition, saying that “We, as the Abu Jihad center and the Al Quds University family, consider the hosting of this event to be like a Palestinian wedding. It is a coming together for the Palestinian people, the female prisoners as well as the male prisoners – not only the Palestinians and the Arabs, but also for prisoners all around the world. We are honored to host this historic exhibition that bears the name of one of the great Black freedom fighters in America, to honor his legacy as he spent his life defending the ethics of liberty and being active against oppression, injustice, and exploitation. This exhibition will be a cornerstone of the Abu Jihad center as we practice the vision of Dr. Nussibeh. He is the one who made it possible for us to reach this stage of the center’s work, a stage in which we are able to communicate with the rest of the world, support them in their causes, and win them over to stand up for our cause.”
He pointed out that the Palestinian people know the scale of the injustice and racism befalling Black brothers and sisters in the United States. “In this regard we remind the people of the whole world, including the people of the United States, that our people are facing racism, injustice, and abuse in all its forms at the hands of the Israeli Occupation State. And we demand that people stand firm in the face of continued occupation and apply pressure on their government to end their support for the Occupation state.”
Abu Al-Hajj also elaborated on the fighting life of George Jackson, saying that Jackson was just like a thousand Palestinian political prisoners. “He taught himself from within his prison cell. He joined the Black Panthers, which was active in confronting racism in the United States. And we have occasion to remember their struggle, especially when we feel the racism, oppression and abuse has reached a peak.” He also highlighted the importance of practicing solidarity between popular struggles, as this provides moral support for Palestinian prisoners who are caged in Israeli dungeons. “And let’s remember the moment after Jackson’s assassination, when the prison guards told his mother, ‘We killed one of your sons last year, and we killed yet another one of your sons today. Pretty soon you’ll have no more sons left.’ She replied, ‘I have sons all over the world wherever people are fighting freedom.’ It is amazing how many Palestinian mothers have repeated these very words, especially when their loved ones fall into the clutches of the Israeli prisons.”
On another note, Abu Al-Hajj remarked that the Abu Jihad center is very active in networking with the international liberation movements, including those in South Africa, reporting that when the Vice President of South Africa visited the center he was astonished by the quantity of materials in the museum and the cultural and literary reservoir of the Palestinian political prisoners.
On behalf of Al Quds University, Dr. Imad Abu Kishek congratulated the Abu Jihad center on this great achievement, affirming that Al Quds prioritizes the issues of prisoners because they relate to such a broad swath of Palestinian society. He added further that the existence of the center’s exhibition featuring Jackson’s political struggle is also beneficial to a wide range of students and activists. “It moves us to look at the prisoners from a wider lens and to relate our struggles to the struggles of other people who also suffer injustice and discrimination.” He hopes that Abu Jihad center will continue to host exhibitions hailing from different areas that support the Palestinian cause.
Dr. Issa Qaraka thanked the center and the university for their efforts in hosting the exhibition and the opening symposium, “especially at this time when our sons are rising up in the face of Israeli state oppression, racism, and injustice.” In this regard, he pointed out that the face of oppression and injustice is one and the voice of freedom is also one, “internationally, everywhere.” “This is what unites strugglers all around the world.”
He added that Jackson was killed in prison, just like the Palestinian Abrahim Al-Raii was killed in his Israeli prison cell. “The cell in which Jackson lived under so much oppression and injustice is the same cell in which thousands of male and female Palestinian prisoners are suffering. They are suffering from injustice, the denial of rights, and attempted murder. Just as Jackson was offered bad food on a daily basis, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are offered bad food. Just as Jackson was forbidden books and such, our female and male Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli dungeons are daily denied literature, letters, and educational materials. It is not even so strange to find a poem in Jackson’s cell that was written by the Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim, titled ‘Enemy of the Sun.’ That poem united freedom-minded people of the world. All the systematic killing and oppression carried out by the Israeli government are just manifestations of other systems that were used against many other oppressed peoples. This is what guides us and strengthens our solidarity with all the freedom-minded people of the world and with the struggles of those who are on the road to freedom and justice. We consider the U.S.A. to be the father of all the oppression and injustice that befalls our people, as the U.S.A. fertilizes and bolsters the Israeli occupation state.”
Qaraka also pointed out that “Israel” is considered an Apartheid state by all the world’s experts on the subject. “Look at what’s happening now in the city of Jerusalem and what happened earlier with the building the Apartheid separation wall. Look at the ideology of racism that is constantly fed to the Israeli youth. Look at the legal decisions of the Israeli courts. The settlers commit crimes against Palestinian families with impunity, while our sons are being sentenced to tens of years in prison for any reaction to the violence of the Israeli army and the settlers.”
“Let us not forget the denial of our most basic rights in these courts. On this matter, Jackson had ‘put his finger on the wound,’ the Palestinian wound that continues to bleed. It is important to recognize that what makes his experience so exemplary is that he politically educated and re-socialized himself in the prison, taking inspiration from the steadfastness of Palestinian prisoners like Samih al-Qasim. And I believe the real reason for killing him was that he drank from the ethics of liberation and the defense of human rights.” He concluded, “We as Palestinian people bring to life the legacy of all the freedom fighters of the world through this display of Jackson’s life.”
Sahar Francis was also thankful that Abu Jihad has organized this exhibit, stating that it is very important to deepen and empower the relationship between the Palestinian revolution and freedom fighters internationally. She focused on solidarity that has already been forged between many organizations, especially those that challenge prisons, policies against political activists, and the many companies that facilitate and profit from the “security” complex of the U.S. and Israeli prison systems. Most notable here is “G4S,.” the British multinational “security” company that is the world’s largest such company. “We recently learned that Bill Gates was supporting them and is investing in them. In response, we activists applied abundant pressure on him to withdraw his investment. And we succeeded.” She added that this is proof that we can do much more when we work in partnership with international organizations. “It is necessary to network with other struggles. Then we will bring to justice all the companies that violate international law.” Francis observed that the Israeli Occupation State is benefiting from every method of oppression and exploitation that has been practiced by other governments in their attempts to destroy Palestinian society. “As we see in multiple situations and scenarios, arrest or detention is an aim in and of itself for the Israeli Occupation State, which operates in exactly the same manner in the United States of America. An example of this is in the schools – whenever a Black student violates any kind of rule, he or she will be subjected to the worst punishment, which may entail actual imprisonment, which may then lead to denial of social services, which may further lead to denial of employment or work. This is exactly what Israel is doing by targeting school kids. Another example is what recently passed in the Israeli parliament, a law that allows the force-feeding of prisoners, as practiced by the United States government in Guantanamo. All of this compels us to continue cooperation with the freedom-minded people of the world.”
The U.S.-based scholar and activist Greg Thomas presented his sincere thanks to Abu Jihad center, represented by the Director, Dr. Fayed Abu Al-Hajj, whose full support led to the successful hosting of this exhibition. Thomas emphasized that the center powerfully represents the ongoing and historical struggles of the Palestinian people. Thomas explained that many international activists regularly celebrate the legacy of George Jackson, and that Abu Jihad center, as an institution that genuinely appreciates the role of prisoners as thinkers and militants, is perhaps the best place to host an exhibition on this great revolutionary fighter for freedom. He added that Jackson was an enemy of colonialism, racism and capitalism. He said Jackson became a legend inside the prisons and outside of them. A revolutionary role model for his fellow inmates, he completed two books in prison, one of which was published after prison guards assassinated him, on August 21, 1971, when he was only 29 years old. The French writer Jean Genet, a supporter of the Palestinian struggle, wrote the introduction for Jackson’s first book, Soledad Brother, describing it as “a striking poem of love and combat.” The manuscript for Jackson’s second book, Blood in My Eye, was smuggled out of the prison shortly before the state assassinated him. Thomas maintained that Jackson is still alive and present in the souls of world revolutionaries against oppression. And he lives on in the nightmares of oppressive systems—a symbol of uncompromising freedom.
From prison, Jackson would join the Black Panther Party, a legendary organ for Black power in the United States and a party that supported the Palestinian struggle. This led to the establishment of a Palestinian group under the same name in the 1980s. Palestinian revolutionaries inspired Jackson and his Black Panthers, while Jackson is himself considered to be the architect of the modern anti-prison movement in the U.S.
Finally, Radi Al-Jarai agreed that this type of exhibitions is very helpful for the Palestinian prisoner’s cause, since it connects this liberation struggle to those of freedom-minded people around the world. It also reminds us of the extent to which the Palestinian struggle has inspired other movements for justice, as well as other poets and writers, across the world. But perhaps most importantly it increases the level of historical awareness among Palestinian youth of the history of oppression of Blacks in the United States; the ways they maintain opposition against it; and the heavy price to be paid for freedom in the struggle for liberation.
[ trans. Mahmoud Muna ]