Chicago, IL - “Israeli soldiers torture and kill! We say we won’t foot the bill!” This chant rang out in front of the building housing the Israeli Consulate here, March 6. Close to 100 people picketed, shouting their response to the March 2 death of 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat. An autopsy revealed that Jaradat died after being tortured during interrogation by Israeli security, sustaining a total of six broken bones in his spine, arms and legs; his lips lacerated; his face badly bruised.
The protesters were organized by the Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights (CMPR), Palestine Solidarity Group (PSG) – Chicago, and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) – Chicago. The marchers included college students and veterans of the Palestinian movement.
Young women stood along the curb with black cloth tied over their mouths, holding signs with the names of Palestinian hunger strikers, including Samer Issawi and other prisoners on hunger strike to protest their inhumane and illegal detainment in Israeli prisons. Issawi continues on his hunger strike, now past its 225th day. He has vowed not to break it until he wins an absolute agreement that guarantees his release. The protest also supported Palestinian administrative detainees Jafar Azzidine and Tarek Qa'adan, whose hunger strikes have gone on for 91 days
Other Palestinian prisoners still on hunger strike include Ayman Sharawna, who has been on strike since July 1, and the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who are striking in solidarity with Jaradat, Issawi, and the others.
Abla Awadallah of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said, "The reason why the issue of prisoners is so important is because the Israelis are trying to criminalize them and by criminalizing them they criminalize our national liberation movement. We will never allow our heroes to be called criminals and there will never be anything criminal about our struggle for national liberation, an end to colonialism and occupation, and the Right of Return!"
In addition, Hatem Abudayyeh of USPCN called for a moment of silence in memory of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who had died the previous day. “Of all the political leaders in the world, Chavez was the greatest supporter of our struggle for national liberation,” explained Abudayyeh.
The protest called on supporters of Palestinian political prisoners to take action by calling President Obama at 202-456-1111; Secretary of State John Kerry at 212-647-4000; and the Office of Near East Affairs at 202-647-7209 to demand the U.S. administration: Condemn and sanction Israel for the killing of Arafat Jaradat; intervene for the immediate release of Samer Issawi, the other hunger strikers, and all the Palestinian administrative detainees and political prisoners held by Israel; and end all aid to Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands.