The annual Al-Quds Day rally was held in front of the American Consulate in Toronto on April 15, 2023.
Charlotte Kates is the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She is a law graduate of Rutgers School of Law and the coordinator of the US National Lawyers Guild’s International Committee, and an organizer with the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. Kates is also a member of the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
She has travelled to Palestine on multiple occasions with international delegations, which have included attending the Israeli military trial of imprisoned Ahmad Sa’adat, the leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and meeting with numerous former prisoners and family members of current prisoners. Her writing on Palestine and Palestinian political prisoners has been published in a number of print and online venues, including Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya and Jacobin Magazine.
Here is Charlotte Kates’ speech at Al-Quds Day:
We are gathered here today on Al-Quds Day, a day when thousands of people are gathered around the world to mark and commemorate the same event. We are gathered here to commemorate and stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.
And us people around the world mark Al-Quds Day today, we know that today is also another day of struggle, that today this year Al-Quds Day coincides with April 17th Palestinian prisoners’ day, and that there’re today, there are 4,800 Palestinian prisoners locked behind bars in Israeli occupation regime jails. These 4,800 Palestinian prisoners suffer from torture. they suffer from medical neglect. they suffer from solitary confinement, denial a family visit, disgusting conditions of confinement. Every single day the Palestinian prisoners are victimized by systems that use imprisonment as a colonial weapon against the Palestinian people, and their right to freedom self-determination and National Liberation from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.
But these Palestinian prisoners are not only victims, although they are victimized daily. They are the leaders of the Palestinian resistance. They are the leaders of our international social justice movements. They are workers and farmers. They are students and teachers. They are strugglers. They are women and men. They are children and elders. They are freedom fighters, who take up arms to struggle for freedom, and they are labor leaders, who organize Palestinian workers, and women and students in their community.
These Palestinian prisoners are locked behind bars, because they continue to fight back, because they are a true leadership of the Palestinian people that has not been sold out for some so-called peace process, that is in reality nothing more than a project for imperialist control of Palestine, and the entire region.
It is for this reason that the Zionist regime wants to deny these leaders to their communities, to the Palestinian people, and to our entire movement. And so, we say that the Palestinian prisoners are not alone, that we will not leave them to suffer inside the bars of the Zionist regime. No, we will stand with every one of those prisoners as they fight for freedom.
And I want to highlight three particular prisoners today. Walid Daqqa [Israeli – Palestinian who serves a life sentence for his involvement in abducting and killing an Israeli soldier], the Palestinian prisoner who is suffering from a rare cancer, who is also an intellectual, a writer and a freedom fighter, who has been fighting against medical neglect on a daily basis, and is today fighting for his life against a Zionist regime, that wants to practice his execution.
And today, I want to raise up the name of Khadr Adnan [Islamic Jihad operative], a Palestinian Sheikh, as well as a baker, a father of nine, who has been on hunger strike for 70 days this Al-Quds Day, who has not once broken his fast this Ramadan, because he has won his freedom four times before by going on hunger strike.
And I want to raise up George Abdullah [Lebanese communist militant serving a life sentence for a murder in France], the Lebanese Arab struggler for Palestine jailed in France for the past 39 years, as well as the three remaining prisoners [Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu Baker and Mufid Abdelqader] of the Holy Land [Foundation] five, serving 65 year sentences in U.S prisons, since we’re outside the U.S consulate for their charitable humanitarian work for the Palestinian people.
And so what we see is that the imprisonment of the Palestinian prisoners is not only an issue inside Palestine. No, it is an issue of the entire resistance, and it is an issue for all of us internationally. It is an issue that we must take up and fight for. And so, we say today free them all! Free them all!
Today, to stand with the Palestinian prisoners is to stand with the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, and all of the people of the world, who fight back and resist Zionism, imperialism, and reaction.
Today, when we stand with the Palestinian prisoners, we say we stand with the resistance, that these are our leaders, and we will not abandon them. They are not only the leaders of the Palestinian people, they are the leaders of our international social justice movement.
And of course as the theme of this event is anti-Palestinian racism, it is important to say that the repression of Palestinian voices does not stop at the boundaries of occupied Palestine from the [Jordan]] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. This weekend in Berlin, Germany, the police banned all events commemorating Palestinian prisoners day and in the list of reasons why well they said, one that they want to free terrorists. And another reason they said is because it coincides with Al-Quds Day, because the proud Palestinians organizing had mentioned Jerusalem in their social media posts.
Today, in France, Palestine solidarity organizations are fighting back against a ban imposed by the Macron government at the same time that it’s beating workers in the streets fighting back against austerity. In the United States they’re passing anti-boycott laws, that aim to criminalize the growing movement to isolate the Zionist regime.
And here in Canada, once again we see everything from students and Halifax going to high school being told not to wear a kuffiya [Palestinian scarf], to denunciations of the boycott of Israel from the highest political levels in this country.
And so, what do we know about this repression? We know that it represents the alliance of Zionism and imperialism against the Palestinian people, against the Lebanese people, against the people of the region, and frankly against humanity.
Samidoun our organization was declared a so-called terrorist organization by the Zionist regime in February 2021 for one reason, because we stand with the Palestinian prisoners, and they want the Palestinian prisoners to be isolated inside their jails, and we know that all of our organizations all of our movements are part of a global uprising, a global intifada, a global movement that stands with the prisoners, that stands with the resistance for the liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] Sea.
But we also know that these same Zionist organizations are issuing calls for Samidoun to be listed as a terrorist entity here in Canada. Now, we know this is nonsense. It has no chance of succeeding here. But what we do have to say is that it’s time to get the Palestinian resistance organizations off the so-called terror list of Canada. It’s time to get the Lebanese resistance [Hezbollah] off the so-called list of of terror here in Canada.
Because we know that those responsible for terror is imperialism is Zionism, it’s the forces of reaction, and it is these resistance forces who defend not only the land of Palestine, who defend not only the land of Lebanon, of Yemen, of Syria, of the entire region, it is these resistance forces that defend all of humanity, today who are on the front lines fighting for justice.
So, we stand today with the resistance of the Palestinian people. We stand today with the Palestinian prisoners. We stand with the resistance from Venezuela and Cuba to Lebanon and Syria to Yemen and Iran.
We stand with everywhere around the world, that people fight back against imperialism, that people say that it is still possible to win, because this Palestinian flag that we see flying above the crowd today. This Palestinian flag is the international symbol of resistance.
This Palestinian flag, everywhere there’s a worker fighting against austerity everywhere, there’s people working to bring down fascists, the Palestinian flag is there flying high, because what the Palestinian flag the Palestinian resistance in Al-Quds and all of Palestine shows us today is that no matter how powerful imperialism may seem, no matter how many weapons they have, it is still possible to resist, it is still possible to fight back and more than that, it is still possible to win. It is still possible to achieve victory.
Ghassan Kanafani [former leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-PFLP] said the Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only. It is the cause of every revolutionary. It is the cause of the oppressed and exploited masses in our era.
And so today, in Al-Quds Day, as we stand with the oppressed and exploited masses, as we take up the banner of revolution, we stand with Walid Daqqa [Israeli – Palestinian who serves a life sentence for his involvement in abducting and killing an Israeli soldier], we stand with Ahmed Saadat [leader of PFLP serving a life sentence for his part in the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister].
We stand with Marwan Bargouthi [founder of Al-Aqsa Brigades serving a life sentence for involvement of killing Israeli citizens]. We stand with Nael Bargouthi [Hamas operative]. We stand with Israa Jaabis [Palestinian woman serving 11-year sentence for blowing up a gas cylinder near a checkpoint]. We stand with George Abdullah [Lebanese communist militant serving a life sentence for a murder in France].
We stand with Khadr Adnan [Islamic Jihad operative], and every Palestinian prisoner, and the Palestinian resistance, the Lebanese resistance, and all of the resistance forces, who hold the future for humanity in their hands, in their arms, in their strengths, in their struggle, until liberation and return. Free free Palestine. Long Live Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] Sea Palestine will be free.