ISM: Update From Palestine (2)
1. Action Alert – Non-violent organizers from Bil'in Still Imprisoned! 2. Israeli Soldiers Use Tear Gas as Bullets in Marda – by Allison 3. Beit Surik Children on Trial 4. Join the People of Marda in Non-violent Resistance on Tuesday 5. Hebron: What A Difference Five Years Makes By Rusty 1. Action Alert – Non-violent organizers from Bil'in Still Imprisoned!
Abdullah and Rateb Abu Rahma, brothers, organizers and non-violent activists from the village of Bil'in near Ramallah, were arrested at a non-violent demonstration against the annexation barrier on Friday, June 17th. As of today, June 19th, they are still being held in Ofer camp and a date for their hearing has not been set. Abdullah is accused of `disturbing with an office in the course of duty' and Rateb of throwing stones at soldiers. Both proclaim their innocence. A video recording made by an Israeli activist corroborates their stories completely. However, the Israeli police refused to watch the part of this recording relating to them, while agreeing to release three Israeli activists based on the very same tape!
Rateb, aged 40, has been active in Seeds of Peace and was in the United States with one of their delegations in 2003. He regularly visits the United States as part of his work towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Recently (June 4th), he attended a conference in Notre Dame in Jerusalem dedicated to dialog between peace-seeking Israeli and Palestinian activists. He currently works as a lecturer in sociology at the Open University of Al-Quds.
Abdullah, aged 34, has worked with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), the only joint Israeli-Palestinian think tank in the world. He has undergone their trainings in dialog and peace-education and implements this knowledge in his work with the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall, which he undertakes in addition to his work as a teacher of Arabic in a high school in Ramallah.
The Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall has at its very basis the principle of non-violence. In the organizing of resistance to the annexation barrier, the Committee has attempted (and has succeeded) in inventing new and creative modes of non-violent resistance, only to be met with extreme heavy-handedness from the Israeli army. The army has not only used much violence in attacking non-violent demonstrations, but has also invaded the village at night, harassing members of the committee and their families in what the army commander in the area has described as `collective punishment'.
Rateb was hit by a sound bomb thrown at him by Israeli border police and was arrested as he was lying prone on the ground. He was lying underneath a mock tombstone, as were many other local, Israeli and international activists. The tombstones were designed to represent the death of the village, as caused by the building of the barrier. This action is typical of the creative direct actions the village employs in every demonstration. Rateb was injured near his groin and has not been allowed access to medical treatment beyond the routine check received on entry to prison.
Lawyer Tamar Peleg, who is representing the two brothers, has filed a request with the court and the prosecutors for their immediate release, as every shred of evidence, as well as of testimony, points to their innocence. It is interesting to note that not a single activist in Bil'in has been convicted of any act whatsoever relating to the demonstrations. This in a court system with a 95% conviction rate! The non-violent resistance in Bil'in is fast-becoming a model for admiration and emulation throughout the West Bank. It is clear that Abdullah and his brother have been arrested not as a direct result of their acts, but as part of a coordinated campaign of intimidation from an army that cannot deal with non-violence.
Pictures of Abdullah and Rateb from the demonstration: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/ids_photos_wl/r708513495.jpg http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/ids_photos_wl/r627541849.jpg http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/481/jrl11406171453 http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/photos_wl/mdf586923 http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/481/jrl11906171548 http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/050617/481/jrl12206171533
Pictures of the tombstone action: http://freckle.blogs.com/photos/bilin_tombs/dsc_0057.html
What can you do?
Please call, fax and phone to demand their release and an end to the collective punishment and violent repression of non violent resistance to the Annexation Wall.
Israeli Head Military Prosecutor: Phone: +972-(0) 3-5692911 Fax: +972-(0)3-5694370
American Consulate, Jerusalem Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +972-(0) 2- 627-7230
European Union, Jerusalem, Email email@example.com, Fax: +972- (0)2-532 6249
UN Special Coordinator, Gaza, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +972-(0)8-282-0966 S/SMEC, Office of the Special Middle East Coordinator fax: (+1) 202 47 4808
White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111 State Department Bureau of Public Affairs Comment Line: 202-647-6575
2. Israeli Soldiers Use Tear Gas as Bullets in Marda – by Allison
16 June 2005
The demonstration this morning was quite small—approximately 30 Palestinian teenage boys and 4 internationals from ISM and IWPS. We started up the mountain from Marda, heading toward the construction of the annexation barrier, at 10:30 am.
Minutes after we began our attempt to reach the construction, Israeli soldiers appeared and started shooting tear gas at us. They soon added sound bombs to the mix, and in response some of the Palestinian teenagers began throwing stones. In an effort to scare us back into the village, the soldiers moved down the mountain until they were 30 meters away from us. At that point they began shooting tear gas canisters directly at people's bodies (contravening Israeli army regulations) in order to injure Palestinians instead of simply dispersing the demonstration (which is the supposed intention of tear gas).
One soldier shot a tear gas canister down the mountain toward a group of Palestinians, hitting three of them, who were standing less than two meters from where I was standing. Although almost all of the demonstrators returned to the village after these injuries took place, from the house I was staying in, I watched the soldiers continue to shoot tear gas toward the village for another hour.
3. Beit Surik Children on Trial
Tuesday, June 21st
On the 5th of June, Isa Salah Isa Kandil aged less then 15, and Basem Yasser abed el Kader Sheikh, aged 15 and 4 months, were arrested by undercover border police soldiers with in the village of Beit Surik, west of Jerusalem. On that day, a peaceful demonstration had been taking place on the village grounds that are being confiscated for the purpose of erecting the annexation barrier around Jerusalem. Isa and Basem were arrested far from this demonstration, within the village itself. The undercover soldiers entered the village masked, presented themselves to the children as Palestinian activists, showed fake IDs and then asked Isa and Bassem as well as 25 year old Talet Ghadad, who is mentally handicapped, to join them in throwing stones at the soldiers, and then arrested the three at gunpoint. Talet Ghadad was released on bail later that day.
On the 9th of June in the Judea Military Court at Ofer camp, the military prosecutor charged Isa and Basem with throwing stones at soldiers and requested that the two children remain under custody until the end of their legal proceedings. Attorney Yael Barda, defending the children filed a motion for the release of the children on bail. The grounds for the motion were based on:
A. The fact that the children were actually arrested while they were operating under the influence of an undercover agent who had initiated the felony which the kids are being charged with. B. The fact that the prosecution had failed to provide facts that support the charges, except for an incriminating statement given by the mentally handicapped Talet Ghadad during his interrogation. Ghadad's medical diagnosis was presented to the court C. The fact that in only in the last week, on similar circumstances, the high court had ordered the release on bail of 2 older boys who were charged with actually assaulting a soldier (in Isa and Basem's case, the prosecution does not even claim that). Although during the hearing itself the judge had twice asked the military prosecutor to consider agreeing to release on bail, he later that day issued a decision that:
1. Basem Yasser abed el Kader Sheikh can be released until the end of his proceedings, bail being set on the exorbitant sum of 20,000 NIS, and another 40,000 NIS in third party bond.
2. Isa Salah Isa Kandi will not be released, and will remain in custody until the end of the legal proceedings.
The defence plans to appeal against the outrageous decision on Tuesday, June 21st morning.
4. Join the People of Marda in Non-violent Resistance on Tuesday
21 June 2005
To correspond with the Israeli High Court decision on the Wall in the Salfit region, the village of Marda has planned a nonviolent demonstration protesting the construction of the Annexation Wall on their land. Israeli and international activists are invited to join the people of Marda and other Palestinians for a march and public meeting at 10:30, Tuesday, June 21.
The people of Marda will march for the center of their village to it entrance where an open popular meeting against the Annexation Wall will be held. Palestinians from organizations across the Salfit region will speak about the damage being done by the construction of the Wall on their land.
Marda is one of the four villages named in a recent Israeli court decision that cancelled all previous injunctions halting construction of the Annexation Wall in the area. Marda is located twenty kilometres east of the Green Line, beside the settlement of Ariel. Over the past two weeks, hundreds of olive trees have been uprooted to clear the path of the "Ariel loop" of the Wall. In response to Marda's nonviolent resistance, occupation forces have entered the village on several occasions. They have fire tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, and imposed one day of curfew. For more information, contact:
Nasfat (Palestinian organizer) - 059 984 1006 (Arabic and English)
International Women's Peace Service- 09 251 6644 (English)
International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) Hares, Salfit Telephone: 09 251 66 44
5. Hebron: What A Difference Five Years Makes
By Rusty Dinkins-Curling
Words cannot express what my eyes have seen in these first days in Hebron, but I'll try.
When I was here five years ago the Palestinians used the words "shway, shway" or "little by little" to describe how the Israeli settlers and their government allies were taking their land away. From one day to the next you couldn't see much difference. A few acres were confiscated here; a closed military zone (often the first step of land confiscation) was declared over there. A few days later a road is blocked, a house is demolished or an olive orchard is bulldozed. It is the pace of the turtle, slow but sure, rather than the quick leaps of the rabbit.
But after being gone for a little over five years the long term effects are evident and devastating. I began to see the difference when the taxi to Hebron was leaving Jerusalem. The Israeli settlements on the outskirts of Jerusalem had grown dramatically. By the time we got to Bethlehem, it was apparent that Bethlehem would soon be surrounded by settlements. The new "neighborhoods" of Efrata had spread out so far that I thought it was a whole new settlement from the Efrata settlement I had visited before.
Yet, most startling was the difference I saw in Hebron. Little seemed to have changed as I put on my red CPT hat and walked towards Bab iZaweyya. The streets were crowded, businesses seemed to be healthy, and people greeted me with typical Palestinian warmth. Two team mates, Jerry and Donna, met me at Bab iZaweyya and we continued to walk south into the Old City of Hebron. (Al Khalil, in Arabic, and Hebron both mean friendship). Two blocks down Shalaileh Street the crowds were gone, businesses were closed, shop doors were closed and padlocked.
The farther we walked the more deserted, the more desolate it got. Finally we took the now unfamiliar right turn into the chicken market where our CPT office and apartments are. There was one little shop door opened in the whole chicken market, but none of the chicken shops were open. Other than the one shopkeeper, no one was there. As we rounded the corner I could see that the opening to Shuhada Street had been barricaded with ten-foot concrete barriers and a high fence with razor wire at the top.
The once bustling "souk" (Arab market) of the Old
City of Hebron is now a virtual ghost town. I could hardly
hold back the tears as we walked up the steps to the CPT
office. How devastated must the people who live here feel?