It is a great honour for me to be able to address you from the confines of an Israeli jail through my wife Janan Abdu, who is an ardent campaigner for the protection of human rights.
I have now spent 40 months out of the nine years in an Israeli jail.
Dear friends of CIVICUS, you are on my mind. Being a human rights defender is very costly for Palestinians under Israeli domination. Exercising my basic right to free speech and free expression, assembly and association by communicating with Palestinian refugees outside Palestine and with Arabs is considered a crime and an act of terror under Israeli law.
One of the most powerful feelings of a Palestinian political prisoner is the knowledge that one is not alone. I have received thousands of letters and postcards from concerned citizens and organisations all over the world, in different languages but with a common message, which says, “you are not alone.” It sounds the same; it feels the same. It is a language of solidarity. This is the language of CIVICUS.
I am fortunate to be part of CIVICUS and to be supported by CIVICUS. Your support means a lot to me, as well as to all Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israel. It is a great support for me, and all victims of oppression, occupation, colonialism, racism and state-sponsored violence and terror: for all victims of injustice all over the world.
Solidarity is much more than sympathy. It involves commitment to taking responsibility and action to combat violations of human rights. Solidarity is based on human values and sharing of responsibility to neutralise violence that is the outcome of the structures of power.
A few years ago at the CIVICUS World Assembly in Glasgow, I was privileged to address the closing plenary and highlighted the difficulties we face within the Palestinian community and the fact that our movements are severely restricted.
But CIVICUS provides the space irrespective of the distance and jail walls. Even from the confines of jail in Israel I can join colleagues from all parts of the world in solidarity for human rights.
I would like to bring to your attention the fact that the popular campaign for my freedom is to organise a solidarity exhibition. This will include letters, postcards, posters, press releases and protests and demonstrations. This will highlight the power of solidarity and will amplify the responsibility of citizens as a tool for change and for `making the future together’, using CIVICUS’ approach.
I believe that solidarity as a value and as an ingredient of global movements is a major requirement for defining and renegotiating a new social contract.
I quote Martin Luther King when he says, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” But I also have to add this: “Solidarity anywhere is a basic component of a new social contract everywhere.”
Finally dear friends, being in an Israeli jail as a victim of vengeful and unjust political system is extremely painful and hard for me and my family, but when you add your solidarity to my belief and steadfastness, we will surely make a difference. And for this I am very proud.
What is sure is that we shall overcome. One day we shall meet again and continue to walk to freedom for all victims of oppression.