In the early afternoon on Oct. 24 at Wells Park in El Cajon San Diego, the Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted a potluck and letter writing session supporting the Holy Land Foundation Five. They were joined by Palestinian Youth Movement San Diego, members of the community, and attendees from as far as Los Angeles.
On the table were several dishes that people had brought: Iraqi breads, Palestinian danishes, dates, Greek salad, cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries and more.
After attendees enjoyed a bite to eat and talked with others, the program began. Zach Bowersock of PSL San Diego reminded the group why they had gathered: to show solidarity and support for a group of five unjustly jailed Palestinian-Americans that came to be known as the Holy Land Foundation Five.
Their foundation, which was at one point the United States’ largest Muslim charity, provided aid primarily to Palestinians throughout the Middle East, but also to war victims in various Eastern European countries. Yet, for this they were arrested, tried and convicted of supporting terrorism.
The first trial in 2001 resulted in a hung jury; but in the second trial in 2008 they were convicted of financially supporting Hamas, despite no clear evidence linking the HLF to Hamas. The U.S. has branded Hamas as “terrorist.”
Four of the five political prisoners are still incarcerated in the U.S.: Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader and Mohammad El-Mezain. El-Mezain was transferred to ICE custody on Sept. 21. The fifth, Abdulrahman Odeh, was released in December 2020.
In an interview with Liberation News after the event, Nadine, a local organizer with PYM, highlighted the importance of taking part in actions showing solidarity for Palestinian political prisoners: “Incarceration is a tool used to control resistance, to isolate freedom fighters. Pillars of the community were targeted for being outspoken in their resistance to settler colonialism, and were locked away as a tactic to discourage the community from mobilizing. But that is exactly why we need to get together, build consciousness on the issue, and organize for their freedom.”
As the program concluded, the group wrote letters of solidarity, comfort and encouragement, reminding the incarcerated members of the HLF 5 that they are not forgotten and their courage inspires those who continue to struggle for the liberation of Palestine.