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Message from Jason (May 2015)

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you as well as possible. I know our May newspaper is getting out to you a bit late, sorry about that. Know that even when we are slow we are never forgetting about you. Did you know that Black and Pink National Office receives over 200 letters each week? Because we are a mostly volunteer organization it takes us months to get to all of the mail. We are often coming up with new ideas to get through the mail more quickly, but it still takes a long time, unfortunately. When you do not hear from us, please know it is not a lack of solidarity.

May 15th was the anniversary of al-Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe. May 15th marks the day in 1948 that Zionist colonists established the state of Israel. People within the United States who are organizing to abolish the prison industrial complex align our struggle with those in Palestine who are opposing the ongoing colonization of their land by Israel. It is important that we build these alliances internationally and across struggles as it makes it clear that the liberation of one oppressed people is tied to the liberation of all oppressed people. I have a tattoo on my shoulder of birds flying out of a broken prison window with the words under it, “we will be free when all are free.” It is important for Black and Pink that we understand how our struggles are all connected.

Palestine has been referred to, by many activists and scholars, as the worlds largest open air prison. There are giant walls separating the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza from the declared state of Israel. This wall is called an “apartheid wall”. It is called such because of the ways it has been used to steal land and to keep Palestinians separated from access to resources. There are countless check points that Palestinians have to go through in order to travel across their own land. They are forced out of their cars by Israeli soldiers and are constantly harassed, even killed when they do not follow orders of the occupying soldiers. As a prisoner in the United States I imagine you can empathize with those who are always being watched and controlled by people with guns who threaten violence and incarceration simply for exercising your human right to live.

There is a large international effort led by Palestinian civil society calling for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel and companies that profit from the colonization of Palestine. This effort is called the BDS Movement. Among the companies targeted by the BDS Movement is Hewlett-Packard. This US based company has been contracted by many agencies profiting from Israeli occupation of Palestine, including the Israeli prison authority. Similar to their efforts in United States prisons and immigration detention centers, HP is contracted to design and maintain computer management systems to track prisoners. HP is directly profiting, in the tens of millions of dollars, from incarceration, whether that incarceration is in Palestine or the United States. When our movements align with one another we become stronger. When we fight side by side we can take down companies like HP who are benefiting from oppression.

As a family of LGBTQ people we have a particular responsibility to challenge the myth of Israel as a safe and justice focused place. The Israeli government puts millions of dollars into campaigns to make it seem like a wonderful gay friendly place. They release advertisements online and even print major ads in newspapers claiming that they are the only safe haven for LGBTQ people in the Middle East. In reality they use this myth to distract all of us from their human rights abuses in Palestine. They claim to be a safe space for queer people, but there is no rainbow door in the apartheid wall that allows LGBTQ Palestinians to have freedom of movement. The bombs Israel drops on Gaza and the homes they destroy with bulldozers are not making things safer for LGBTQ Palestinians. I have heard prison administrators say that they create safe prisons for LGBTQ prisoners, through policies and safer housing situations, but that in no way ends the real harm created by prisons. An LGBTQ prison is still incarcerating people. We need to learn from our Palestinian friends and challenge the idea that there can be safe prisons. We need to connect our struggles for collective liberation to put an end to all incarceration. We do our work knowing that once there were no prisons, that day will come again.

In loving solidarity,
Jason

 

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