In an effort to garner American attention and support for Palestinian political prisoners, a representative of Addameer, a Palestinian NGO based in Ramallah, is scheduled to deliver presentations on the topic in several U.S. cities this month.
Sahar Francis, Addameer’s General Director, will likely address perceived issues in the Israeli prison system for Palestinian prisoners, but she also seems to be engaged in an effort to analogize the Palestinian prisoner cause to the way the criminal justice system in the U.S. addresses issues of crime in the inner-city.
Francis’s talks will take place in several cities that have faced troubling rises in crime, including Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. The titles of the presentations, “From Pelican Bay and Guantanamo to Palestine: Prisons, Repression, Resistance;” “Ending Mass Incarceration: From Palestine to Pennsylvania;” and “Juvenile Injustice: Criminalization of Youth in Palestine and Chicago,” underscore Francis’s apparent goal of linking problems in the American prison system, such as discrimination, racial profiling and lack of rehabilitation options, to the issues faced by Palestinian prisoners.
Sponsors of the events vary widely and include many groups whose missions seem to be wholly unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Black Youth Project in Chicago and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The diverse number of groups supporting these events is likely to further credibility to Addameer’s intended comparison between the Palestinian prisoners’ cause and problems in the inner-city.
Several of the other scheduled speakers work on social justice issues related to undocumented students and immigrant rights. At the Philadelphia event, for example, the other speaker is a member of DreamActivist PA, a youth organization that advocates for immigrants.
Francis has been outspoken about the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners. In a 2010 interview with Electronic Intifada, she asserted that Israel tries to demonize Palestinian resisters by describing them as “terrorists” but that “citizens should be aware that Palestinian political prisoners are not terrorists.”
She also alleged that “torture, ill treatment and abuse” are norms of the Israeli prison system, and that Israel’s “policy of imprisonment” is aimed at suppressing nonviolent resistance like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel. In her talks, Francis urges her audience to call for the unconditional release of all Palestinian political prisoners despite the fact that many of these prisoners have been convicted of violent crimes against Israeli civilians.