Saturday, December 25, 2010

Israel’s Steps Up Its Repression of Non-Violent and Unarmed Palestinian Protests, Part One

Arbitrary Arrest of Palestinian (and Israeli) Leaders Who Preach and Practice Non-Violence

After the initial successes of the non-violent (or, occasionally, unarmed) protests in Budrus and Bil'in, Israel is trying to suppress the protests by arrests, harassment, and even summary expulsion without charges or trial. The last few weeks have seen an increase in the tactics. You want to create facts on the ground in defiance of the High Court's ruling? Arrest the leaders, get the facts on the ground done, then release them. You want to bring in groups of ultra-rightwing settlers to populate an Arab neighborhood? Give an order expelling the leader of the protests from his home based on a 1945 British mandate emergency regulation. You want to arrest a well-known Jewish activist against the Wall? Pick him up on trumped-up charges while he is riding a bicycle in a protest where nobody else is arrested.

I mention here four cases of differing severity – what is common to all of them is that the leaders preach and practice non-violent resistance; Israel persecutes them; America, which claims to care about Palestinian non-violence, and civil society protest (remember Iran?) is silent – as is much of the main-stream media.

Bil'in's Abdallah Abu Rahmah served his jail term of one year for the trumped-up charges of "incitement" and "organizing illegal protests." The Bil'in protests are ipso-facto illegal since they are not authorized by the military. (remember" this "crime" is based on the Draconian IDF military justice system, which affords virtually no rights of protest to Palestinians in the West Bank. In Israel and in Palestine, there is no fundamental right to assemble.) Even if we admit the evidence gathered by kids arrested in the middle of the night and scared to death, the legal definitions of "incitement", if applied to Jews, would have ensured locking up the entire Jewish settler community of Hebron long before Abu Rahman. And what is that definition: ""The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order." Notice that it is not necessary actually to disturb the peace in order to be convicted.

But the real kicker is that Abu Rahmah served his sentence and is still not being released. And why not? The official response is "to give the military prosecution more time to appeal the 'leniency' of the conviction". Which translated means – to hold him without trial so he can't be leading protests. By the way, lest some of my readers note, correctly, that the Bil'in protests are not always non-violent, let me hasten to add that even if the Bil'in protesters shot IDF soldiers – which they don't – Abu Rahmah would be wrongly convicted, since he has always himself preached non-violence and himself is non-violent – and, of course, he was not convicted for violence, armed or unarmed, nor has he been accused of violence.

Israel doesn't like the Bil'in protests – so they throw Abu Rahmah in prison. But what is the reaction in the world? The Europeans support Abu Rahmah; the Americans employ their famous double standard in giving Israel a pass when it comes to human rights violations. For futile attempts to get some sort of statement from the State Department see this powerful Youtube video here.

Jerusalem's Adnan Gheith/Jith has been involved in protests against house demolitions and confiscations in Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the neighborhood that is at the heart of the de-Arabization project carried out by right wing Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and the rightwing settler movement El-Ad. Gheith/ Jith has been repeatedly arrested and, to my knowledge, never convicted of anything serious. So how to deal with him? That's easy – use a 1945 British mandate emergency regulation that was concocted against Jews to kick him out of his house for four months, during which time, more rightwing settlers can be moved in and Palestinian houses destroyed. For this story, read Haaretz here. Let's hope a) that the High Court cancels the order and b) the Israeli authorities listen to the High Court. Read about it here.

Jonathan Pollak is one of the most famous non-violent protesters of the Israel Occupation in Israel. A founding member of Anarchists Against the Wall, he is most often associated with protests at Bil'in, Budrus, and other places. Recently he was arrested for taking part in a demonstration on bicycle in Tel-Aviv – the charge was being part of an illegal assembly. He was pulled out of the pack of cyclists by plainclothesmen who proceeded to arrest only him and who allowed the protest to continue. If convicted (the verdict is this week), he faces a 3-6 month sentence. Why was he arrested? Harassment, attempting to deter others, keeping him away from protests. Read about the story here.

Walajeh's Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, formerly of Duke and Yale Universities, who returned to Palestine to fight for justice non-violently, was arrested and later released together with other residents of Walajeh. The fate of the village of Walajeh is simply extraordinary. The villages were expelled from their village in 1948, and then after 1967, they have seen their lands confiscated time and time again for Jewish settlement, Gilo, Har Gilo, and others. Now what is left will be surrounded by a double wall whose purpose is simply to create a ghetto that will allow more land for Jewish expansion. According to the Palestine Monitor, since 2007, the people of Al-Walaja have received four different maps outlining the proposed route of the wall. The first official proposal threatened to divide the town in two parts, completely cutting off one part of the village from the other. After formally complaining to the Israeli high court, the plan for the village was eventually overturned. The current plan for Al-Walaja will see the town surrounded on all sides by the wall. Only one entry and exit point, under complete military control, will remain. The position of nearby settlements mean the Wall will encroach further onto village land, shrinking Al-Walaja before surrounding it.

As I said earlier, the strategy appears to be to crush the Palestinian non-violent protest movement by arresting and removing the leaders from the scenes of the protest.

Where are the "Palestinian Gandhis"? In Israeli jails – for acting according to their principles of non-violence 


Unknown said...

Non violence only works against a people with a conscience. The WWII impoverishment of Great Britain together with no Marshall plan was more important in the end of the British occupation. Gandhi's "non-violence" role in liberation is overrated and there are more homes in India with a portrait of the man who assassinated him than those of Gandhi.

Juan said...

Jerry, this is a most informative post--many thanks! My question to you and to your readers is: What should be done at this point in response to these Israeli govt. outrages? Perhaps some celebrities or otherwise famous people should also march and get themselves arrested. The international press might become very interested if someone such as Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie joined the protest (or Noam Chomsky). What about Ali Abunimah or Norman Finkelstein? Even better than all of the aforementioned would be Oprah Winfrey!