Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Arrests, Crack Down on Nonviolence Resistance

This from a friend..

Dear friends,

I've been emailing a lot about this with involved friends, but it's time again to write to those of you who are more removed. I would appreciate it if you took time to read this. This is about two topics that are related: the ongoing expulsion ("ethnic cleansing" according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe) of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, and the arrests of non-violent protestors. Here, both topics are increasingly intertwined.

I would be happy if you read all of this. But if you don't, perhaps just look at these three links to see what YOU can do:


It seems everywhere around me, people are getting arrested or might get arrested for peacefully protesting against human rights violations. In turn, as usual, they are being portrayed as radicals in justification for their arrest.

Three months ago, Mohammad Othman (34) got arrested when he returned from a trip to Norway where he had met with senior officials to promote the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel based on the legal argument that Israel is committing the crime of Apartheid (for Apartheid in the Israeli context). Mohammed is the youth coordinator for the Palestinian grassroots Stopthewall campaign, and his strongest weapons are his words and his research. He is still under administrative detention, with reports of abuses.

Last week, Jamal Juma’, outstanding human rights defender and much-respected coordinator of the Stopthewall campaign, was asked for a meeting by Israeli “security” and then, subsequently arrested.

Five months ago, Adeeb Abu Rahme from the Popular Cooordination Committee in the Palestinian village of Bil'in has been arrested and charged with the blanket charge of "incitement". It looks like he will spend over a year in prison. Adeeb is one of the coordinators of the weekly non-violent demonstrations against the separation wall that has been illegally build on the lands of his village, and he is one of those inspiring figures who has been bringing together hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli, and other activists in their struggle for justice.

Since June 2009, 31 of the activists in Bil'in have been arrested, the latest among them Abdallah Abu Rahme, who has received the Carl v. Ossietsky-Medal of the League for Human Rights in Berlin last year. Look here for an article on the arrest.

The above mentioned are those detained activists and human rights defenders here that I actually know, and they are some of those that most inspire me and give me hope (there are others arrested that I only read about). It is devastating and scary when they get arrested and I am only left to hope that you will join campaigns to demand their immediate release, such as

campaign and petition to free Mohammad Othman:

Jewish Voice for Peace’s campaign to demand the release of Abdalla Abu Rahme and other human rights defenders

Last Friday, I was threatened with detention for asking an Israeli friend who had just gotten detained how many more people were being held in the building:

Perhaps some of you know that Israel has been engaged for quite a while in "Judaizing" occupied East Jerusalem, that is, in slowly expelling Palestinians citizens from the territory which is, from the perspective of international law, illegally occupied by Israel. This also means that Israel does not have the right to settle part of its population into this occupied territory.

It is happening, of course, in various places. One place that has evolved into a hot-spot lately is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, were 23 families (refugees from earlier displacement) now live. This article explains the situation better than I could, so please check it for further information.

What has been happening lately is that Palestinian families get evicted from their houses on dubious legal claims, and then, radical Israeli settlers are allowed to move into these houses while the claims are still being examined, protected by the Israeli police.

The situation is insane, as the case of the recently-evicted al-Kurd family shows:
Some years ago, as the al-Kurd family grew, they build an additional small building in their back yard, knowing that new housing is practically impossible to find for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. Again, like practically all Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem, they did so without a permit from the Israeli occupier - because it would have been next to impossible for them to attan one (the idea being that as few Palestinians as possible should live in occupied East Jerusalem, Israel effectively refuses Palestinians residents their right to build new houses or to add or even repair their old ones).

Based on the argument that the family build this structure in their yard without a permit, the al-Kurds were evicted from this building in November of this year. In December (three weeks ago), a group of radical Israeli settlers moved into that building under the protection of the Israeli police, while the family is still legally challenging the eviction order. Now, these settlers are living in this building in the yard of the al-Kurd family who is prohibited from approaching the building. However, the family is still allowed to use the yard and continues to live in the back yard (other families are completely pushed from their houses). Here a video of settler's moving into the building of the al-Kurd Family in Sheikh Jarrah.

In protest, the al-Kurd family set up a tent in front of this building where they are holding a permanent vigil. International and Israeli activists often sleep in this tent both in solidarity and to be there when further injustice occurs.

In the meantime, radical settlers from the entire neighborhood come day and night to visit those who have occupied the building to show their kind of solidarity for the Judaization of East Jerusalem. At night, dozens of settlers will walk through the yard which the al-Kurd family is still allowed to use. Settler children will walk up to the Palestinian families and spit on the ground in an act of provocation. If the family reacts, the settlers go straight to the police who then threaten with arrest (or do arrest). However, when the settlers beat up members of the Palestinian family, including their children, no authority intervenes for protection.

This is why the presence of activists is important.

And this is why, for the past three weeks, groups of Israeli and other activists have organized a march from West Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah.

What is remarkable is this: Israel has noticed that these protestors are not only those Israelis and internationals who are against all Zionist policies of the Israeli policy makers, but also quite a few rather mainstream Israeli activists. They have also noticed that the demonstrations are met with sympathy by more mainstream Israelis. Therefore, it seems in an effort to radicalize the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity protests, Israel has intervened with massive arrests and violence during the past two demonstrations.

On Friday (11.12.), police sprayed pepper spray straight into the faces of protestors whom they had already handcuffed (with plastic strips) and detained 23 protestors for 32hours (watch). This past Friday, Israeli police tried stopping a bus that came from Tel Aviv, and arrested protestors as they were yet marching towards Sheikh Jarrah. They then sealed off the Palestinian neighborhood (as you can see in the video below, protestors therefore climbed over walls to reach the al-Kurd house) and continued to arrest people who were very clearly demonstrating peacefully. This week, 27 people were detained for over 24 hours, and three Palestinians were hurt by settlers. (Video of this past Friday's demo). All 50 detainees from the last two Sheikh Jarrah protests were eventually released on the condition that they do not join the protest for the upcoming 30 days, an effective measure to stifle the movement.

In the upcoming weeks, the situation in Sheikh Jarrah might deteriorate, and more Palestinian coordinators and human rights activists might get arrested in Bil’in and in the other villages that resist the ongoing theft of Palestinian lands - the difference being that while Israeli or international activists here are usually held for hours or days, Palestinian activists such as those from Bil’in are frequently held for months or years on dubious charges. Please, pay attention.

Here are also some ideas of what you could do to add your voice to the struggle:

Against the expropriation in Sheikh Jarrah:

Demand the release of Abdallah Abu Rahme and other Palestinian human rights activists

Demand the release of Mohammad Othman