Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine - by Stephen Lendman
For decades, Israel has met peaceful Palestinian protesters disruptively with violence, arrests and at times unprovoked killings. It's no surprise that targeting them and their leaders is now common practice in cities and villages like Jayyous and Bil'in.
On August 3, 200 Israeli soldiers raided five Bel'in homes at 3AM arresting eight Palestinians, including Mohammad Khatib, a leader of the Bel'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. It's part of Israel's repressive routine - late night arrests and imprisonment without charges for indefinite periods. Khatib faces trial, but was released on August 17 on condition he report to a police station with a monitor each Friday until 5PM for its duration. He told supporters:
"The Israeli authorities are worried that the model of popular nonviolent resistance is spreading. They are targeting the popular committees to try to crush (them) but they cannot destroy the spirit of the demonstrations in Bil'in with the arrests of individuals. The whole village is part of the nonviolent resistance and the military would have to arrest (everyone) to stop us from protesting against the Occupation and the theft of our land. Even then, when we all come out of jail, we would continue our struggle."
On September 22, Jayyous resident Mohammad Othman was arrested because of his "Stop the Wall Campaign" activism and efforts on behalf of dispossessed farmers. He's now administratively detained without charge after a military court rejected the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association's appeal on his behalf, citing "secret evidence" that he's a "security threat in the area."
On December 10, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of Bil'in's Popular Committee Against the Wall, was arrested after nine military vehicles surrounded his home, broke down his door at 2AM, then blindfolded and seized him from bed in the presence of his wife and children as part of the effort to break the spirit of Bil'in's residents and their popular struggle against the Wall. Since June, Abu Rahmah is the thirty-first Bil'in activist arrested.
On December 22, an Ofer Prison Military Court indicted him on "incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms," pertaining to tear gas canisters fired at demonstrators that he collected to display in his home.
His lawyer, Gaby Lasky said:
"The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting (and) presenting the remnants, they are persecuted and prosecuted. What's next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?"
On December 24, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for his unconditional release, saying he met with him and Mohammad Khatib in August in Bil'in.
"We were impressed by their commitment to peaceful political action, and their success in challenging the wall that unjustly separates the people of Bel'in from their land and the olive trees. I call on Israeli officials to release Abu Rahmah immediately and unconditionally."
He's been a member of Bel'in's Popular Committee since its 2004 inception, and after Wall construction began there in March 2005, participated in organizing regular actions and demonstrations to stop it. He also represented Bel'in around the world, and in June 2009 was in Montreal for its precedent-setting legal case against two Canadian companies illegally building settlements on its land.
In addition, he participated in a speaking tour, including in Germany to accept the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for outstanding service toward the realization of human rights, awarded by the International League for Human Rights.
On December 16, Jamal Juma' was arrested with no explanation. He was denied contact with a lawyer or his family, and is now imprisoned for his activism against the Wall and settlements. He's a founding member of several Palestinian NGOs and civil society networks, and has been the coordinator for the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign since 2002. He's also the highest profile arrest of leadership figures like himself. So far, he's uncharged, yet may be held indefinitely along with hundreds of others.
According to B'Tselem, administrative detention is "without charge or trial, authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree." Under international law, it's legal only under rigid conditions, given how grievously it can harm due process and the way Israel uses it.
It's purpose is to "prevent the danger posed to state security by a particular individual." Yet Israel never defined it and blatantly abuses the process. At any time, hundreds of Palestinians are held in prolonged detention without charges or trial based on secret evidence unavailable to themselves or their counsel.