Ex-prisoner Discusses History, Future of Palestinian Political Left

As part of the course “Prison Notebooks: the Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement,” the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University held a lecture on the experiences of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, and the history of and prospects for the Palestinian political left on October 26, 2017.

Former prisoner Moayed Abdel-Samad presented the lecture “The Left between Freedom and Liberation: The Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement and Experiences of International Liberation.”

Abdel-Samad, who spent 25 years of his life in Israeli prisons, commenced the lecture by noting the lack of records that historicize and trace the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and experiences throughout its many years. “There is an apparent chasm in the history of the movement despite its rich and multifaceted history and achievements.”

“One of the movement’s most pronounced characteristics is the time that its members had to contemplate, trace, and analyze the current situations to their best advantage. It was that time that differentiated the Palestinian liberation movement from others in the world and allowed the Palestinians to change the situation from even behind the bars,” Abedel-Samad continued.

The former prisoner also detailed the Palestinian political left’s relationship with its worldwide counterpart and detailed the mirrored set of circumstances that defined that relationship. “The relationship between the Palestinian and the worldwide left had a lot in common. The tactics and strategies that the Palestinian movements employed were derived from and inspired by the liberation movements in places that were underpowered but fought imperialism, such as in Vietnam, and a common, overarching ideology helped to connect the Palestinian political left with its various global counterparts in its fight against Israeli colonization,” he added.

Abedel-Samad also opined on the current state of the Palestinian political left. He said, “While some of the criticisms lodged at the left are valid, this is not only an issue that the left faces, but one that casts its shadows over the whole national movement. Our criticisms and concerns should be voiced while taking into account the left’s own history and struggle.”

Abedel-Samad concluded the lecture by noting that political movements are tools of political progress that have liberation and freedom as their final aim. He said, “The movement, and by extension the political party, is a living, breathing creature that lives and dies and is then again rebirthed into existence. The political left, however, is a vision and a path to liberation that no one can cancel or relegate to the sidelines; the left had its own unique experience in charting the path toward freedom. All political parties make big steps and even bigger backtracks in the struggle to achieve liberation from the Israeli occupation, but the goal remains clear and constant, and the fight is reignited each and every day.”