Bil’in update – Israeli forces continue to target the leadership of Palestinian non-violent resistance
Ewa Jasiewicz reports (via her mailing list) followed below by Jody Mcintyre’s Electronic Intifada article “Bilin’s unwavering spirit of resistance” (20 August 2009)
Israeli forces continue to target the leadership of Palestinian non-violent resistance
20 August 2009: Once again the night in Bil’in was disrupted by a raid ending with the arrest of one the members of the Village’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. This occurred the night after the childrens demonstration where the children had chanted slogans like “We want to sleep,” “Stop the night raids”.
The house of Bil’in Popular Committee member and vice president of the Bil’in village council, Mohammad Abu Rahma, (age 50), known by his friends as Abu Nizar, was raided shortly before 2am on Thursday morning. About 25 soldiers with their faces painted in black had come to the village on foot.
The soldiers broke into Abu Nizar’s home and forcefully took him from his bed where he and his wife were sleeping. They then beat and dragged him to the Annexation Wall where jeeps were waiting to pick them up. During the arrest, the soldiers where confronted by international solidarity activists who live in the village and Haitham Khatib the village’s camera man. As Haithem was filming the arrest, one soldier hit him, broke his camera and hit two of the activists.
Abu Nizar’s son Nashmi Mohammed Ibrahim Abu Rahma (age 14) had been arrested 5 days ago. To date, Israeli forces have arrested 28 people (most of which are under 18). Nineteen residents of Bil’in remain in Israeli detention. Through Israel’s interrogation and intimidation tactics, some of arrested youth have ‘confessed’ that the Bil’in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. With such ‘confessions’, Israeli forces then proceed to arrest leaders of the non violent struggle in the community.
Magda abu Rahme , 17 , sister to Nashmi and daughter to Mohammad who are both currently in Israeli military prison stated; “These crimes, these armed invasions, breaking into homes where women sleep, these will only make us stronger and more steadfast. We remain samideen – steadfast – and will not back down. The strategy is to fragment our families and community and create distrust, and this will fail, we remain strong and we are immovable.”
What you can do?
Attempts to criminalize the leadership of non-violent protests where curbed in the past with the help of an outpouring of support from people
committed to justice from all over the world.
1. The Popular committee of Bil’in is in desperate need for legal funds in order to pay legal fees and Bail. Please donate to the Bil’in legal fund by paypal click http://tinyurl.com/lcr6rg . If you would like to make a tax deductible donation in the US or Canada contact: email@example.com.
2. Please Protest by contacting your political representatives, as well as you consuls and ambassadors to Israel to demand that Israel stops targeting non violent popular resistance and release Mohammad Abu Rahme (Abu Nizar,) Adib Abu Rahme and all Bil’in prisoners.
The Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements
The Palestinian village of Bil’in has become an international symbol of the Palestinian popular struggle. For almost 5 years, its residents have been continuously struggling against the de facto annexation of more than 50% of their farmlands via the construction of the Apartheid Wall.
In a celebrated decision, the Israeli Supreme court ruled on the 4 September 2007 that the current route of the wall in Bil’in was illegal and needs to be dismantled; the ruling however has not been implemented. The struggle of the village to liberate its lands and stop the illegal settlements has been internationally recognized and has earned the popular committee in Bil’in the Carl von Ossietzky Meda. Http://tinyurl.com/nfmsvm
Another leading Bil’in non-violent activist, Adeeb Abu Rahme, remains in detention since his arrest during a non-violent demonstration on July 10th (see report & video: http://palsolidarity.org/2009/07/7652.
Adib Abu Rahme as well as Bil’in’s popular committee Member Mohammad Khatib have been charged with “incitement to damage the security of the area.” , was recently released on bail after his lawyer proved that a picture the military prosecution claimed was of him throwing stones that was accompanied by a confession form one of the arrested youth recognizing Mohammad, was taken while Mohammad was out of the country.
Brilliant article from Jody McIntyre – mega-brave activist who broke through the siege of Gaza with Viva Palestina earlier this year and currently living in Bilin. He’s livin’ on wheels too…..Check him out!!!!:
Bilin’s unwavering spirit of resistance
The Ofer military base is not an easy place to get into. But after most of my friends and the father of the family I was living with, Mohammed Khatib (also a leading member of the Bilin Popular Committee) were arrested in a brutal night raid on the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, I was determined to go to their court hearing.
Unfortunately, the taxi driver dropped me off at the wrong entrance. Four menacing Israeli soldiers faced me, and they did not look pleased at my presence.
“What are you doing here?” they demanded, “Don’t you know that no one is allowed here?!”
“No,” I replied, “I’m just here for a friend’s court case.”
“No you can’t, you must leave, go home now!”
Fortunately, one of the soldiers unwittingly pointed me in the direction of the court, before reasserting, “but you can’t go there.” Nevertheless, I was not intending to follow his orders.
Sitting outside were the families of all seven men on trial — although the term “men” would be misleading; five of the seven were aged 18 or younger. Also waiting to enter were a small group of international volunteers, hoping to observe the trial. But as usual with Israel’s so-called “democracy,” they would not be permitted to do so. Luckily for myself, I arrived at the same time as Lamia Khatib, Mohammed’s wife, and her insistence that I was a member of the family secured my entrance.
Once inside, I felt like I was at the heart of apartheid. We sat out all day in a Shawshank Redemption-esque yard, feeling jailed ourselves, with the unbearable heat beating down on our heads. As I sat on the concrete floor, staring at the youthful soldiers patrolling the cage we sat in, I couldn’t help but contemplate the occupation. When will the injustice stop? How can this be overcome?
At that moment, I could see it all around me. Right down to the Palestinians working for peanuts to repair the building behind us — cheap Palestinian labor is hugely exploited inside the green line, the internationally-recognized boundary between Israel and the West Bank, while the workers are treated as third-class citizens in their own homeland.
We were finally called for the hearing at around 3:30pm, even though it was due to start at 9:30am. In the court, the system of apartheid was even clearer. Despite the guards demanding the shackled teenagers not communicate with visitors, 18-year-old Mustafa couldn’t help but to shout out “HALA JODY!” when he saw my face. It was difficult seeing my adoptive family in brown uniforms, knowing they wouldn’t be freed in this sham of a trial.
The evidence presented against the defendants is known as “secret evidence,” meaning only the prosecution and the judge can see it, and hence no defense can be put forward. The whole process is conducted in Hebrew, a language most Palestinians don’t understand. Translation is kindly provided by a young Israeli soldier — yet another bitter irony considering the overwhelming force used to drag the boys from their homes in the dark of the night.
By the end of the day, there was no conclusion. No one was released.
Of course, the imprisonment of all the boys from Bilin is completely unjustified. After all, they are arrested for their participation in demonstrations against the wall, which defies not only international law, but also, in the case of Bilin, an Israeli high court order!
However, the arrest of Mohammed Khatib was particularly symbolic. As a senior member of the village’s Popular Committee, the Israeli authorities’ goal was clear — arrest the leadership in an attempt to crush the nonviolent resistance. In addition, the only alleged evidence against Khatib is the testimonies of two 16-year-old boys from the village, both of whom were subjected to interrogation by the Israeli army.
A few days later, I was back in Ofer for another hearing. This time, the prosecution presented a photo of a man throwing stones as evidence, who the two youths had “confirmed” as Mohammed Khatib. The defense attorney asked for the date when the photo was taken, which was given as October 2008. The defense attorney then presented the judge with Khatib’s passport.
Mohammed Khatib was not in the country in October 2008, he was in New Caledonia.
The prosecution’s case had been exposed for what it truly was — a political mission to put an end to the nonviolent resistance movement of Bilin, a mission in which they are doomed to fail.
The next day, a Friday, we marched to the wall again, as the residents of Bilin have been doing every Friday for the last five years. As usual, our peaceful protest was met with copious amounts of tear gas and sewage water.
After 15 days in prison without charge, we got a call from Mohammed’s lawyer, letting us know that, at last, he was going to be released. As soon as I heard the news, I jumped in the car with Ahmad, Mohammed’s brother, and their father, and we drove back to Ofer.
As usual, we waited outside for hours with no news. Finally, at around 7pm, we saw Mohammed’s smiling face walking towards us through the fence. After walking out, he turned and bowed to God, before coming to embrace his family.
It was difficult to know what to say. So I just smiled.
All the way home he told stories and laughed. As he told me later, “There is no comparison to the feeling of freedom.”
As we rounded the last corner coming into Bilin, we saw the flags which had been put up, the children running out onto the street with arms aloft, and Ahmad turned the music up full blast on the car stereo. When Palestinians are released from prison, it is tradition for their family to put up the flag of the political party they support. But for Mohammed, it wasn’t Fatah or Hamas waving in the sky, it was the Palestinian flag.
Our hero was home.
That same evening, Mohammed told me that being locked up as a political prisoner was something he felt proud of.
“Yes, the conditions were terrible, but I knew that the resistance was still alive in the village. I told the officer in charge of the operation, if you think that by arresting me, you will stop the demonstrations, you are completely wrong.”
Bilin will never, ever give up.
Jody McIntyre is a journalist from the United Kingdom, currently living in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. Jody has cerebral palsy, and travels in a wheelchair. He writes a blog for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, entitled Life on Wheels. He can be reached at jody.mcintyre.