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A Global System of Subjugation: The 'New Jim Crow' and the Israeli Occupation

Mass incarceration is used as a mechanism of social control in occupied Palestine and in America's communities of color.

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Suddenly the soldiers charged towards the boys – firing tear gas canisters at them and at us. Gasping, we groped our way into the nearest building, the cultural center we were visiting.

After we recovered, a young man named Mohammed described spending two years in jail for drawing graffiti on the wall when he was 17 years old. Twenty-seven of his classmates were in the same jail.

He told us that one resident from Aida camp has been in administrative detention without ever being charged with a crime for the last nine years. A Palestinian who is found without an ID card at one of the hundreds of Israeli check points that fragment the West Bank – which is about a fifth the size of Massachusetts – is likely to spend ten days in jail. Prison is used to punish, to intimidate and to recruit informers, as well as to break the spirit of Palestinians.

American taxpayers urgently need to re-think their priorities. Does it make sense to pay more for prisons than for higher education here in the United States? And why are we giving $8 million every day to Israel, funds which enable it to sustain its military occupation of Palestinian territory in violation of UN resolutions and international law?

We must, as Michelle Alexander urges, build a movement here at home to end the ‘war on drugs’ and dismantle the system of mass incarceration. And we should simultaneously take to heart words spoken by Nelson Mandela on December 4, 1997 when he was serving as president of post-apartheid South Africa:

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Nancy Murray, who is on the editorial committee of the journal Race & Class, and Sara Driscoll, a co-founder of City Life/Vida Urbana, have long been active on a range of social justice issues in the Boston area, including the struggle for Palestinian rights.

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