An action call from the International Solidarity Movement — two of the main Palesinian non-violent organizers in the occupied West Bank village of Bil’in, which holds weekly protests against Israel’s “separation barrier” being built illegally on its farmland, have been arrested and detained under false charges by the occupation authorities. For more on Bil’in, the collective punishment of the village, and its cooperation with Israel activists, see Meron Rapaport’s Ha’aretz article, Ghandi Redux.
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:
Pictures of the tombstone action:
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
American Consulate, Jerusalem Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +972-(0)
European Union, Jerusalem, Email email@example.com, Fax: +972-
UN Special Coordinator, Gaza, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax:
S/SMEC, Office of the Special Middle East Coordinator fax: (+1) 202 47
White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
State Department Bureau of Public Affairs Comment Line: 202-647-6575
See our last post on land conflicts in Palestine.