Fadi Abu Zeitoun, Killed as Settlers Attacked Farmers

Rana Hamadeh | April 9, 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

See original article on palsolidarity.org.

Israeli settlers attacked and chased a group of Palestinian farmers last Thursday, causing a tractor to flip over during the chase, causing the death of the Palestinian driver.

On Thursday, April 5th, armed settlers from the illegal Israeli colony of Itamar attacked a group of Palestinians en-masse. In haste and in fear for his life, twenty-eight year old Fadi Abu Zeitoun’s tractor tipped and crushed him as he fled from the pursuing settlers.

The villagers who own olive groves near Itamar rarely get “permission” from the Israeli District Coordination Office to access their own land. During the harvest season, they are permitted a few days, but in the spring when the land needs to be tended they have more difficulty acquiring permission. During this spring harvest, the villages of Hawarta, Yanoun, Aqraba, and Beita were told they had only four hours to  access their land. The area to be tended is approximately 1000 dunums so the villagers collected forty tractors to work as much land as possible in the shortest possible time. Israeli activists from the movement Peace Now, and a group of international activists were present in solidarity. Prime Minister Salam Fayad joined them to make a statement re-affirming their right to utilize the stolen land that they were standing upon.

The funeral of Fadi Sleman Abu Zeitoun | 06/04/12 | photos provided by Beita village

During the Prime-minister’s visit, Israeli authorities were positioned nearby and prevented the settlers from passing. However, shortly after Fayad left the area, Israeli soldiers permitted a mob of settlers to converge upon the Palestinian farmers tending to their land. They began by throwing stones, causing the group to separate and begin descending the hill. The settlers then proceeded to fire M-16 assault rifles in the direction of the unarmed farmers before releasing dogs. In the ensuing chaos,  and as Fadi desperately attempted to escape, his tractor flipped over and fell on him, mortally wounding the young man.

Palestinians witnessing the incident ran back towards the scene to offer assistance. The settlers promptly dispersed as they rushed him down the hill to the road, unfortunately he was already dead.

Fadi is of the village of Beita . With a population of only 12,000, this death resonates among all the residents. As Fadi’s father-in-law, Isam Bani Shams says, “This is not our first martyr nor our last, we have been in this situation for sixty-four years. Our village has lost some seventy martyrs.”

On the same date, twenty-four years ago, two men from the village of Beita were also murdered by settlers from Itamar.

In the gathering following the funeral, Fadi’s father, Sleman Abu Zeitoun, sat with his head down. Beside him sat three other men who have had a son murdered by Israeli soldiers or settlers.

Fadi was newly married to nineteen year-old Fida’ Bani Shams who is left widowed and six months pregnant. Her brother was killed at the age of sixteen by Israeli soldiers during the second intifada, and as her father says, “She has lost a brother and a husband so what can I say of her emotions? She is in grief. She is exhausted.” Fida’ sat slouched in a corner of the room, her eyes closed and blankets covering her feet.

Fadi’s sister has had a nervous breakdown since the death of her brother. She does not recognize  her husband or her daughters. Their mother, Mona Fihmeh says, “in terms of how I feel, I have patience, but my back has been broken from the burden.” Mona spent last night praying over her feverish body, and today she sent her daughter to the hospital. Her husband was on the way back from a funeral in Jordan when the accident occurred. He returned to Beita to find that his son had been killed.

Throughout the funeral, political talk arose about the various results of Israeli occupation and apartheid on Palestine. At first, the unemployment rate among Palestinians does not seem relevant to the death of Fadi Abu Zeitoun, but one soon realizes that Israel’s apartheid policies are to blame for both the impunity with which settlers are treated, and the numerous other negative consequences on livelihood.

The funeral of Fadi Sleman Abu Zeitoun | 06/04/12 | photos provided by Beita village

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory  reported that over 90% of complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians to the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment. OCHA’s report on settler violence notes that “the root cause of the settler violence phenomenon is Israel’s decades-long policy of illegally facilitating the settling of its citizens inside occupied Palestinian territory. This activity has resulted in the progressive takeover of Palestinian land, resources and transportation routes and has created two separate systems of rights and privileges, favouring Israeli citizens at the expense of the over 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Recent official efforts to retroactively legalize settler takeover of privately-owned Palestinian land actively promotes a culture of impunity that contributes to continued violence.”

Declared one of the men at the funeral, “every time Israel builds a colony, we will build another Palestinian town; every time they erect a building, we will build a new building.”

“Our steadfastness protects our land,” another proclaims.

Rana H. is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.

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Israel opens fire on the Global March to Jerusalem in Qalandia and across Palestine

Rana Hamadeh | March 31, 2012

Yesterday the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) opened fire on marchers as they headed towards Jerusalem marking Palestinian Land Day.

The Global March to Jerusalem is an initiative taking place across the world, with hundreds of thousands of people involved. Marches were organized within Palestine, 1948 territories, and Gaza, as well as all surrounding countries and parts of Asia, North America, and Europe. Among other things, the march was calling for an end to the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and Palestine at large, the right of return for all refugees, and the protection of Jerusalem’s non-Jewish holy sites which are currently at risk. At least two hundred people were injured by the IOF in protests across Palestine, and one young man was killed in Gaza.

The Israeli military employed a series of weapons on the unarmed protesters, including the ‘siren’, which emits a defeaning ringing; the ‘skunk truck’ which propels torrents of a sewage-like liquid; rubber-coated steel bullets; sound bombs; high-velocity tear gas; and live ammunition.

Soldiers prepare to fire at protesters. Behind them the 'skunk truck', which propels sewage-like liquid, is parked. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When I arrived at the protest area, people were running away as tear gas was fired. I ran towards the soldiers, trying to get to the area behind them where journalists were set up. The ‘siren’ was already put in use, getting unbearably louder as I approached, and the street already had a grim look only minutes into the march. People hid behind cement blocks and smoke filled the air. As soon as I reached the soldiers, the ‘siren’ became a quiet ringing. The technology used allows the IOF to propel the sound in a specific direction.

Israeli soldiers stand beside a cement block reading 'together we'll break the wall' | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

As I snapped photographs of the abundant Israeli soldiers in the area, and the murals covering the apartheid wall behind them, the ‘skunk truck’ moved forward and arbitrarily fired sewage water at the people, houses, and shops in its reach. Journalists ran for cover to save their cameras from damage. Others ran to save themselves from being marked with the foul smell for days to come. A mist carried back to where I stood and I almost choked. The scent is stronger and lingers longer than would even real sewage. One young woman marched up to the truck, and was drenched, but managed to place a Palestinian flag on it.

The steady stream of 'skunk' water fired by the IOF can be seen in the background as journalists run away. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When they finished with the ‘skunk’, the soldiers got into jeeps and moved forward, firing tear gas at the same time. The protesters ran in a frenzy to find clear air and avoid arrest by the approaching army.

Protesters run as soldiers approach and fire tear gas | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

I ran for cover behind a building from the onslaught of tear gas grenades. A handful of others joined me and we thought we had reached safety when the smell of tear gas overcame us. We ran deeper behind the building, stepping through piles of garbage and trying to find relief from the gas filling our eyes and lungs. To both directions was gas. There was no options. Most of us fell to the ground choking and trying to stay conscious. Someone was desperately shouting the name of a blind girl who they had lost track of in the chaos. When I was able to open my eyes a slit, I saw that the soldiers had come to our hideout and were beckoning everyone out. In the chaos of the moment we didn’t think about disobeying. As soon as we were out, a commander targeted one of the boys among us. It was an arbitrary choice. Another woman and I stood in between the soldiers and the young man, pointing out  their discrimination in that whatever he had done, we had also done. We attempted to de-arrest but soldiers surrounded us and aggressively took the young man away, still choking on tear gas.

A young Palestinian man is arbitrarily targeted by Israeli soldiers. We unsuccessfully attempt to de-arrest. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Fadi Arouri 30/03/2012

Across the street I found a group of soldiers banging on the door of an apartment building, trying to break it open. Faces of women and children looked down at them from the windows above. They broke the door’s window and continued to hammer the door until it was bent out of shape and able to be opened.

An Israeli soldier stands with his hands on his gun as others behind him break down the door to a Palestinian apartment building. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

Israeli soldiers break the door to a Palestinian apartment building. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

When they finally go the door open, a group of soldiers stamped into the building and up the stairs. The last few walked backwards, with their guns pointed at us, comically as if myself and a few other journalists would attack. Other soldiers stayed at the door, guarding it. The group of soldiers made their way through the building then emerged on the roof from where they would shoot rubber-coated steel bullets at a wider range of people.

I grew frustrated of standing among the soldiers with the other journalists so amidst gun fire I ran back towards the protesters. The scene was much grimmer from this perspective. Every few minutes people would shout for an ambulance and the wounded would be carried away.

A young man is carried to an ambulance after being injured by a rubber-coated steel bullet. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

As time passed, the shooting of rubber-coated bullets seemed to escalate and people were no longer seen in the center of the street, but rather pressed against buildings and behind walls.

An injured man's feet are visible as medic volunteers attend to him.| Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

An injured medic volunteer is carried into an ambulance. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

It was draining to continue to duck at the sound of gunfire and watch as the ambulance workers crowded around a person, so eventually I asked a dozen people to come walk up to the soldiers with me. Many agreed so we stepped out into the street, arms and flags in the air and began to walk. The army continued to fire. I looked behind me and only one person was left walking with me. “Don’t worry about it, Rana,” he reassured me, “keep going.”

We stayed motivated and it was liberating to walk unabashedly towards the Israeli soldiers, dressed in military armor and carrying their range of weapons. At the sound of gun fire, we turned our heads away so that at least if injured, our eyes would be protected. We didn’t flinch as soldiers fired tear gas over our heads.

Marching towards Israeli soldiers. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Bahaa Nasser 30/03/2012

A handful of others caught up as we approached the soldiers. The idea was to stand in front of them and prevent them from firing at the protesters behind us. We were chanting slogans like, “no justice- no peace”, and “we are peaceful- what are you?” At first I didn’t see many journalists and the soldiers got aggressive quickly. An Israeli soldier grabbed the Palestinian flag from my hands and threw it on the ground. Me and another girl tried desperately to reach it but we were hit and shoved away.

We linked arms and formed a chain. When the Israeli military tried to move to the side, we moved with them. They attacked the group, clearly trying to break us up and make arrests. Soldiers kicked and beat the group. When one young woman put her arms in the air and shouted that she was unarmed, a soldier picked up a rock and smashed her hand with it. The young man to my left was dragged away and I felt myself taken in a headlock and pushed to the ground. Bodies and feet pressed on me and I focused only on keeping my head from hitting the pavement as chaos ensued around me. I felt people pulling, pushing, and hitting me. When I could lift my head to see, the same friend who had initially marched with me was holding on to me, and I am certain saved me from arrest.

I learned later that the other activists had been similarly attacked, but had managed to prevent any other arrests. We stood there stunned, injured, and exhausted.

We continued to chant as we backed away and returned to the rest of the protesters. Only a few meters away they began to shoot again and we saw more injuries carried into ambulances. Throughout the day I witnessed several people bleeding from injuries by rubber-coated bullets, but refusing to take up space in the ambulances.

Later, after many had left and the protesters were few, we were standing against a wall and turning our heads at the sound of gunfire. Suddenly, a rubber-coated bullet hit a young man standing beside us in the face. His expression was frozen as if he had lost consciousness with his eyes still open. We shouted for an ambulance and he was carried away.

A young man hit just under the eye by a rubber-coated steel bullet. | Qalandia, Occupied West Bank | Rana Hamadeh 30/03/2012

That was our final straw and we decided to head home, having been at the protest for about six hours. Clashes continued until at least 10pm when my friend called me to say he was finally leaving, and completely drenched in ‘skunk water’.

These experiences are so common in the Palestinian struggle that one easily becomes normalized in order to cope. As activists, this is something we are fighting, and nonetheless we are all deeply affected by these experiences whether we can still find the passion to express it or not.  Understand only that this was not a unique day. This is a regular response to the peaceful protesting which occurs at least weekly across Palestine. A young man being arbitrarily chosen for arrest is something every family has experienced. The IOF breaking down a door in order to use the roof of as a military base is a common practice. Breaking the windows of an ambulance with gun fire, targeting journalists, firing at homes and shops, can all be witnessed in a trip to Palestine.

Hana al-Shalabi’s sacrifice: day 23 of hunger strike

Rana Hamadeh | Mar 9, 2012

Today Hana al Shalabi has been on hunger strike for 23 days.

Hana had been held for two years under administrative detention (no evidence, no conviction) but was released in the prisoner exchange last October. Many of the over 1000 prisoners that were released in this deal were shortly after given the reminder that release did not mean freedom.

Life under occupation does not include the word freedom. A Palestinian’s home can be raided at any moment, whether it be as a mother is putting her children to bed, or at 3am, waking the family. There is no warrant necessary. While walking to school or simply to the corner store, a Palestinian can be ordered to submit to search by Israeli soldiers. Military road blocks and checkpoints can be erected on highways and all following cars forced to wait hours as soldiers search or simply waste time. A Palestinian can be arrested at any moment, again no warrant is needed, even for a minor. Once under arrest they are at the mercy of Israeli soldiers most often between 18-20 years old who have grown accustomed, through practice, to not being held accountable for their actions. They can be held under ‘administrative detention’ on ‘secret evidence’ without even knowing what their charge is or when they will be released. This can continue indefinitely.

Hana al-Shalabi knows this, and has probably known it her entire life. Just a few months after being released in the exchange, soldiers raided her home and re-arrested her. Again, the evidence against her is undisclosed. She began hunger striking as soon as she was arrested on February 17th, as did her parents in solidarity, and they continue to today.

Hana Shalabi

On day 19 of her strike, an Israeli military court decided to shorten her administrative detention sentence from 6 months to 4 months. Hana did not accept these conditions and so she continues to hunger strike.

She did not accept this because she sees the bigger picture. Not only could she be re-arrested on more ‘secret evidence’ at anytime after her release, but so could any Palestinian. The even bigger picture is that the Palestinians in the occupied territories are living under military rule that controls all aspects of their lives. Bigger still, is that there are over 5 million exiled Palestinians who do not have the right to return. That there are 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who live as second class citizens, treated as enemies in their own home. That the 1.5 million Gazans are living in an open-air prison, slowly suffocating and still subject to massacres, bombings, white phosphorous, and horrendous violence.

No one cannot expect to carry all these burdens on their back. The Palestinian struggle progresses step-by-step. Hana admirably decided to take one step further than the shortening of her sentence. She is now on day 23, and her will remains strong. For international woman’s day, women and men across the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets honoring the many Palestinian women such as Hana for their steadfastness and strength.

The sacrifice that Hana al-Shalabi is making is monumental. Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes as a means to demand their basic human rights  (though they are still fighting an immense battle) to the extent of people dying in demands for mattresses to be thicker or the presence of books in prisons. The international community should be ashamed that they are allowing Palestinian prisoners to have to sacrifice their lives for these basic rights, for lack of other tools to fight Israeli oppression. As long as the international community stands idly by in the face of obvious human rights violations by Israel, the blood of Palestinians is on both parties’ hands.

Ma'an News Agency

Our [mis]understanding of history on day 12 of Hana al-Shalabi’s hunger strike

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 27, 2012

Hana Yahya al-Shalabi was among the Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit in October 2011. When she was released she had been under administrative detention for two years already. On February 16th she was arrested again and given another detention order for six months. She began a hunger strike immediately, and continuing what Khader Adnan began, she is fighting against the illegal practice of administrative detention, and her cruel treatment at the hands of Israeli forces. Today is day 12 of her hunger strike.

Drawing connections in our understanding of history

Hana Al-Shalabi has reminded me of Black Panther activist Assata Shakur. After six attempts by American intelligence at framing her with various bank robberies and murders, all of which were dismissed in court, Assata was charged with the murder of two policemen. Her eventual conviction was the result of an unfair trial which ignored evidence in her favour in order to ensure her guilt. Records that have now surfaced show that a “counterintelligence campaign was conducted by the FBI in cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies designed to criminalize, defame, harass, and intimidate Assata.” The FBI systemically targeted black groups and individuals, Martin Luther King being among the first targets, but including thousands of less prominent ecivil rights activists. Assata experienced among the worst treatment of any woman prisoner in the US, even being jailed for a period in a men’s prison. After about two years, she escaped from prison and took exile in Cuba. [Assata: an autobiography]

In her own words, “although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.”

The name 'Assata' means 'she who struggles' - one reason I was reminded of hunger striking Hana al-Shalabi

What really perplexes me is that the dominant impression in the West is that of ‘racism has been abolished due to an evolution in human goodness’. The reality of racial oppression, to many in the West (not including visible minorities), is a thing of the past that could not return. Two things must be understood:

Slavery did not end in the United States due to a realization of human beings as equals, it was rather quite unimportant how many people were in support or against the cause. In reality, the North fought for the end of slavery because they could not economically compete in the cotton industry with the South who had slaves working without pay. The figure of the abolition of slavery, Abraham Lincoln was de facto an avid racist:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the White and Black races; that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and Black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.. there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race.” – Abraham Lincoln, Fourth Lincoln-Douglas Debate September 18, 1858

Second, that while most people will be quick to outcry the crimes of racial segregation in North America in the 60s and 70s, they remain silent in the face of current crimes. One major difference between Assata and Hana, is that Israel did not have to frame Hana – it simply arrested her on ‘secret evidence’ and just skipped the trial. There is a common view that the worst evils (often considered to be Hitler) are in the past. Rather than studying history to avoid repeating the same crimes, history has been used to distance genocide and oppression from the present. Subconsciously, we cannot comprehend that the very crimes of the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples in North America, the slavery of blacks, or the holocaust of millions by the Nazis, are continuing today in different forms – such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

This is what brought me to unlearn my history education and realize that change did not come about necesssarily through a collective understanding of humanity and equality. As long as there is a group that has something to gain from the oppression of another, those ‘winners’ will not denounce their privilege unless they are economically or militarily forced to. The reality is that if the people’s armies were to try to go up against governments of the world with military might, they would be crushed. Economically, however, we can force powers like Israel to conform to humanitarian law.

With a movement like Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, raising awareness about Palestine has become more valuable. Awareness in itself cannot end oppression, it requires action alongside it. Hana al-Shalabi is raising awareness about the illegality of administrative detention, but what Israel fears is not the loss of her life to a hunger strike – it is the loss of a reputation and the investors that come along with it.

Administrative Detention

Administrative detention is a process that permits Israel to arrest and detain Palestinians on ‘secret evidence’ without charging them or allowing for a trial. Military Order 1591 authorizes military commanders to detain someone with “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” The 6-month detention orders can be renewed indefinitely and are often renewed on or just before the expiry date. This leaves detainees not knowing why they were arrested nor for how long they will remain. The “security” grounds Israel cites are used frequently, and sometimes administrative detention is used as a form of collective punishment (a war crime). For example, from March- October 2002, during the second Intifada, Israeli Occupying Forces arrested over 15,000 Palestinians during mass arrest campaigns, rounding up males in cities and villages between the ages of 15 to 45. [IAK] Administrative detention, by international law, is allowed only in emergency situations, and detainees are still entitled to a trial and to defend themselves. Israel’s practices are thus evidently in violation of international law.

Gender-based sexual abuse and humiliation

HanaAl-Shalabi’s report with Addameer, a prisoner support association, gives the following details of her first arrest on 14 September 2009. At 1:30 am, a dozen Israeli military jeeps surrounded her house and ordered the entire family outside. They entered the house and searched it. One soldier, removed framed pictures of Hana’s brother Samer, who was killed in 2005 by the Israeli army, tore them apart, and walked over the pieces in front of the family. Soldiers began to curse at Hana and her family. When her father tried to intervene, a soldier assaulted him with the butt of his gun. Hana’s mother fainted and soldiers placed Hana under arrest.

As Hana was being transferred, her traditional Muslim dress worn over her home clothing came upon, uncovering parts of her body. She was handcuffed and could not prevent it. Male soldiers took pictures of her, “consciously exploiting her situation, knowing she would feel offended and humiliated by such photos.”

Hana was put in solitary confinement for 8 days, in a cell without any natural light. She could not differentiate between day and night. Since it was the month of Ramadan, Hana refused all meals and water throughout the 8 days in order to respect her fast.

Not unlike other Palestinians in Israeli custody, Hana was subject to sexual and physical abuse. During her questioning, one of the interrogators called her “habibti” (“my darling”) in a provocative manner. “Feeling humiliated and angry at the interrogator’s offensive use of an intimate term, Hana started shouting at him. The interrogators responded by slapping her on her face and beating her on her arms and hands. The guards then took her back to her cell where they tied her to the bed frame and continued humiliating her by taking pictures of her laying in that position.”

Addameer states that they are ” greatly concerned by the verbal abuse Israeli detaining authorities display towards Palestinian female prisoners by directing sexual threats towards them and using inappropriate, vulgar language. Addameer contends that this behavior is done in a deliberate effort to exploit Palestinian women’s fears by playing on patriarchal norms as well as gender stereotypes within particular customs of Palestinian society.”

Hana spent 17 days in Kishon Detention Center, and for the entire time was not given a change of clean clothes. After her administrative detention order was issued, she was moved to HaSharon Prison. Due to overcrowding, she was kept in the same area as female Israeli criminal offenders. It is a direct violation of Isralie Prison Service Regulations for administrative detaineees to be held with prisoners who have been convicted of a crime. “Moreover,” says Addameer, Palestinian female prisoners “detained in the same sections as Israeli criminal offenders… are almost always discriminated against, enjoy fewer recreation hours and are often subjected to humiliation and abusive language from Israeli prisoners, who threaten them of physical attack. As a result, Palestinian women live in constant fear and often experience insomnia, and other psychological problems for the entire time they are detained in the same sections with Israeli women.”

Freedom for hunger striking prisoner, Hana al-Shalabi

The price of a Palestinian prisoner and Hana Al-Shalabi – continuing the fight

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 26, 2012

Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike last Tuesday, wherein he protested against his administrative detention – that is, arrest without charge or evidence for an indefinite period of time. The final deal reached essentially just shortened his detention order by a few weeks, stating that Israel would not renew the detention – unless, new ‘secret evidence’ surfaces. Thus, although Adnan was highly successful in drawing international attention to the case of administrative detainees in particular, and the Israeli occupation in general, it would be wrong to believe that with the end of his hunger strike came the end of the conditions he was protesting. As of February 1st there were 309 Palestinians under administrative detention, but even in the past few weeks this number has increased.

One notable case is that of Hana Yahya al-Shalabi, a woman who was released in the prisoner exchange last October, but was arrested on 17 February 2012 with a six month administrative detention order. Upon her arrest she began a hunger strike, and continues now on her 10th day. For other notable cases under administrative detention see here.

In the recent prisoner swap the sole Israeli prisoner detained by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, was released in exchange for over one thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. While most Palestinians were delighted to be reunited with family or friends, they were also reminded of an ugly reality of Israeli apartheid. One Jewish Israeli life is worth over a thousand Palestinians. And so it has been and continues to be.

For the five years that Shalit was imprisoned, his face and name were repeatedly splattered across global media. Yet how many of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners can we recall?

There were two phases to the prisoner release, the first which occured in October, led to the release of 477 Palestinian political prisoners. In the two months until the second group of prisoners were released, 470 more Palestinians were imprisoned, essentially making up for those released. Those arrested between October 18 and December 12 included 70 children and 11 women.

Regardless of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, and their cruel treatment at that, it was the Israeli captive that made international news continually for five years. Despite that 700,000 Palestinians have been detained since 1967 (that is approximately 20% of all Palestinians in the occupied territory, and 40% of the male population), it is Shalit who was invited to Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential palace in Paris where Sarkozy praised Israel for its effort with Shalit, claiming it as a sign of Israel’s democracy “because in a democracy we attach importance to one life.” In the case of Israel, a self proclaimed Jewish nation, that importance appears to be attached exclusively to Jewish lives.

The arrest of an adult military soldier while serving in the Israeli Occupational Forces – an army repeatedly accused of committing war crimes against Palestinians – was worthy of global news and sympathy while the 7,000 Palestinian children arrested since just 2000 went ignored.

The crimes of Israel’s occupation go largely ignored by the international community.

For example, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, all but one of the prisons holding Palestinians are inside Israel (international law states that an occupying power must detain residents of the occupied territory in prisons within their territory). The result of this violation is that the family and/or lawyers of the prisoners are often denied permits to enter Israel and thus cannot visit the prisons. This goes largely unmentioned by the international community. Instead, we read about the inhumanity of Hamas not allowing visits to Shalit.

Many aspects of Palestinian life have been criminalized under broad military orders. Examples given by Addameer are, for instance, that the political parties comprising the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are considered “illegal organizations” despite that they have been in peace negotiations with Israel since 1993. The raising of a Palestinian flag is a crime. Participating in a demonstration is a disruption of public order. Even “pouring coffee for a member of a declared illegal association can be seen as support for a terrorist organization.” Thus, imprisonment has also become a common aspect of Palestinian life.

To the families, friends, and supporters of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, the repeated talk of prisoners as numbers can be sickening. Each and every prisoner has a life and story as worthy as Shalit’s was to the world and despite the unequal representation in the media, we can vow to empower as many voices as possible by our own means.

Urgent Action Alert for Hana Al-Shalabi

As Hana al-Shalabi is attempting to remind us that even the prisoners released in the exchange are not safe from harassment. Many have received threatening raids from the IOF in the middle of the night, with a reminder that they should not feel free just because they have been released. Others have had prices put on their head by illegal Israeli settlers, offering money in exchange for their murders.

Al-Shalabi was an administrative detainee held for two years without a charge before she was released last October. Last Friday the 17th, she was re-arrested without a charge or trial and since then she has refused food. She has been given a 6-month detention order which can be renewed indefinitely.

On day 10 of her hunger strike, she needs international support to amplify her voice. Act now for Hana al-Shalabi – sign the letter and/or send a fax!

Also, tweet:

Demand Israeli occupation release Hana al-Shalabi immediately! #FreeHana #Palestine http://samidoun.ca/?p=327

Three years, no charge? no trial? Free Hana al-Shalabi now! #FreeHana Take action: http://samidoun.ca/?p=327


Guerilla theatre in the heart of Ottawa | mock Israeli checkpoint

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 20, 2012

Last weekend we staged an Israeli military checkpoint in the heart of Canada’s capital city in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli Apartheid and in particular with the residents of Al Khaleel/Hebron in their struggle to free their city. Al Khaleel is a powerful microcosm for Israeli apartheid practices all across Palestine:

Shuhada st in Al Khaleel has been turned into a ghost street for nearly 20 years now. Israelis and tourists are allowed on the street but Palestinians are prohibited.

500 Israeli armed settlers occupied Shuhada st in 1979. The 167,000 Palestinians living in the city have their freedom constricted as a result. This settlement is illegal under international law as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Participants hold signs while actors behind them wait in line at a mock Israeli checkpoint | Soha Kneen 2/20/2012

In 1994 an Israeli settler opened fire on people as they prayed in the Ibrahimi mosque killing 29 Palestinians and injuring over 100. Following this, Shuhada was closed to Palestinians, while settlers continued to travel freely and carry arms. Despite constant violent harassment from settlers, Palestinians are the ones subject to checkpoints, night raids, arbitrary searches and arrests, economic closure etc.

Palestinians are not allowed on this road, even if they still live on it. Palestinians still living here must climb down from neighbours’ roofs or use back doors to access their homes. In the area, Palestinians are not allowed to use cars, while Israelis are. Palestinians have also lost access to their cemetery because it borders Shuhada st. Since the second Intifada, all Palestinian shops on Shuhada st were sealed, and their owners prohibited from accessing them.

Shuhada street is symbolic of the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements within the West Bank, a widespread policy of segregation, the lack of freedom of movement for Palestinians, and the Israeli occupation at large. This is why opening Shuhada is so significant.

Open Shuhada Street Day is coming up on Feb 24th and Al Khaleel residents are organizing events all this week. Read more here: http://www.youthagainstsettlements.org/upcoming-events.

Participants act as detainees to draw attention to the system of Israeli apartheid that obstructs Palestinian rights & freedoms | Soha Kneen 20/02/2012

Myself giving a monologue on behalf of pregnant Palestinian women | Charline Dequincey 18/02/2012

This is the monologue I read:

“I am Hurriyeh Mir’ieh who waited at a checkpoint for 6 hours before she began hemorrhaging. Finally, Israeli soldiers let her through, but said she couldn’t use a car. She walked 2km while bleeding before fainting and asking her husband to leave her to die. She lived but her baby girl died.

I am Samaher Zbaidat who was in labour when she reached an Israeli checkpoint but was delayed for an hour as soldiers demanded they go back and get an ambulance to be allowed to pass. She gave birth in her car and almost died when the placenta ruptured inside of her.

I am Bushra Sultan whose ambulance was deliberately stopped by Israeli soldiers and prevented from transferring her to hospital. She died at the checkpoint.

I am Maysoon al-Hayek who was having contractions when her car was stopped and searched for one hour. After being allowed through, Israeli soldiers fired at her car, shooting her husband and father-in-law and injuring her. Contractions were coming faster. Soldiers pulled her out of the car, made her undress to be examined, then left her on the street, bleeding and in labour. When she finally reached the hospital, she gave birth to a baby girl in the elevator. Her father-in-law was in coma for 40 days. Her husband died.

Between 2000 and 2007, 10 percent of all pregnant Palestinian women traveling to hospital were delayed 2-4 hours at checkpoints. 69 babies were born at checkpoints. 35 babies and 5 mothers have died as a result.”

More media coming soon including videos!

My Dignity is More Important Than Food: Day 64

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 20, 2012
Khader Adnan has been on hunger strike for 64 days now and his will remains strong. He has chosen his dignity over his hunger.

Today, Israel’s High Court of Justice scheduled a petitions hearing for Adnan, scheduled for Thursday, February 23. The petition was filed on February 15th but the court has not treated the situation with the urgency it requires. The High Court of Justice was provided with a medical report by an accredited Israeli doctor (Physicians for Human Rights- Israel) which confirmed that Adnan is “in immediate danger of death” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival.” February 23, the day of the hearing, will be Adnan’s 69th day without food.

The 33-year old father of two young girls, whose wife is pregnant, has lived his entire life under the omnipresent oppression of the Israeli occupation. His hunger strike began one day after he was arrested from his home, in the terrorizing style of a night-raid, while his wife and daughters looked on. That was December 17, 2011. His hunger strike began the next day and continues today. He received no charge, and was not even informed of a reason for his arrest. Rather than confusion, Khader Adnan was facing a process he has grown to be familiar with: administrative detention.

Day 64 of Khader Adnan's protests | Hafez Omar

Administrative detention is arrest without trial or charge. Evidence is not disclosed for “security reasons”. A period of detention can last 6 months, but can be renewed indefinitely. Some detainees have been held for up to 8 years. The practice as such is illegal under international law.

In an Electronic Intifada interview, ex-prisoner Mousa Abu Maria commented on his own experience in Israeli prisons and under administrative detention:

“They try to show how they have control over you… They would force me to sit with my hands cuffed to my ankles, on a tiny chair that was tilted over so that I was in a crouching position for hours, day after day. It is both very painful and a psychological torture. You can’t lift your head, you can’t look them in the eye. They want you to feel that you do not own yourself, that they own you, and you do not have any power to resist.”

Khader Adnan, however, has taken his power back by the only means he had available to him – to refuse food. In doing so he has made a statement that has drawn global attention to the inhumane practices of Israel. Abu Maria puts it perfectly:

“They know you have been an activist and that you have internal strength to resist. They have to break that from you. Sometimes it’s to try to get information from you but many times it is just to break your will. That’s why you go on hunger strike. It is the only thing you can control: what you eat, what you put into your body. It is the way to show that you can still resist. You are showing your captors and your comrades, but you are also showing yourself, giving yourself strength that you are still resisting, that they haven’t taken everything away from you.”

Adnan refuses to eat until he is given his rights as a human being. Bobby Sands of the IRA was another prominent hunger striker in the 70s who died after a fast of 69 days. Adnan is on day 64. A supporter wrote this beautiful song:

A portion of the lyrics:
“Khader Adnan loves his wife and daughters
And he likes to eat his daily bread
But in prison he can’t see his children
Or live life with the lady that he wed
So on behalf of all the children without fathers
He decided he had to strike a blow
He said I will have dignity or death
Like in Belfast not many years ago

…Khader Adnan lost his liberty before he was born
To fight for life it’s death he must embrace
But just like others come before him
There are others waiting to take his place
And even the great powers can lose interest
In supporting such a vicious status quo
Because you can’t break a man who won’t be broken
Like in Belfast not many years ago”

It is a shame that his story has not made headlines globally, so we must take it into our own hands to spread his message far and wide.

There has been a petition circulating via Samidoun for a while now: sign here.

Two days ago, Amnesty also set a petition: take action here.

53rd day of Hunger Strike Highlights Plight of Palestinian Prisoners

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 8, 2012
Khader Adnan is entering the 53rd day of his hunger strike, and simultaneously entering a state of starvation, but he continues to refuse food on the basis that he has been detained by Israel without charges or trial, and in protest of his mistreatment at the hands of Israeli officials. Rallies held in front of the regional Red Cross offices in Al Khaleel (Hebron) this week called on the organization to take action against the human rights abuses Palestinians prisoners and detainees suffer under Israeli authority.

Khader Adnan; understanding the path that brought him here

Adnan was arrested in mid-December when the Israeli army conducted a house raid at 3:30 am. The Israeli soldiers used a Palestinian man as a human shield by forcing him to knock on Adnan’s door blindfolded, and call out his name. Several soldiers then raided the house and grabbed him in front of his two young daughters and his sick mother. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, thrown into a jeep and beaten for the duration of the drive to Dutan settlement. He was pushed out of the jeep, and due to the blindfold smashed into a wall causing injuries to his face.

Addameer reports:

Four interrogators began to insult and humiliate him, especially using abusive language about his wife, sister, children and mother… After the first session, however, Khader stopped responding and began a speaking strike because of the interrogators’ use of increasingly graphic language. Interrogation sessions continued every day for the next ten days, excluding Mondays.

On his fourth day of interrogation, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) sentenced him in his cell to seven days of isolation due to his hunger strike. In order to further punish him without being required to go to court, the IPS also banned him from family visits for three months, revealing a pre-intention to keep him in detention upon completion of his interrogation. Khader was placed in an isolation cell in a section of the prison shared with Israeli criminal prisoners. On one occasion, a force of soldiers raided his cell in the middle of the night and strip-searched him. While in the isolation period, Khader continued to be under interrogation daily.

Each day, Khader was subjected to two three-hour interrogation sessions. Throughout the interrogation sessions, his hands were tied behind his back on a chair with a crooked back, causing extreme pain to his back. Khader notes that the interrogators would leave him sitting alone in the room for half an hour or more. Khader also suffered from additional ill-treatment. During the second week of interrogation, one interrogator pulled his beard so hard that it caused his hair to rip off. The same interrogator also took dirt from the bottom of his shoe and rubbed it on Khader’s mustache as a means of humiliation.

On Friday evening 30 December 2011, Khader was transferred to Ramleh prison hospital because of his deteriorating health from his hunger strike. He was placed in isolation in the hospital, where he was subject to cold conditions and cockroaches throughout his cell. He has refused any medical examinations since 25 December, which was one week after he stopped eating and speaking. The prison director came to speak to Khader in order to intimidate him further and soldiers closed the upper part of his cell’s door to block any air circulation, commenting that they would “break him” eventually. [1]
 
Administrative Detention: no charge, no trial, indefinitely

Three weeks after his detention, Adnan was issued a four-month detention order. Adnan is an administrative detainee, and his situation is not unique. By definition, administrative detention is the ”arrest and detention of individuals by the state without trial, usually for security reasons”. The detainee is not necessarily held for a crime or offense that they have already committed, but in case of a future threat. Evidence is considered ”secret information” and is available to the military judge but not to the accused or his lawyer.

This practice violates International humanitarian law which allows administrative detention only in emergency situations, but still requires that basic rules are followed, such as a fair hearing where the detainee can argue the basis of their detention. Israeli law as well declares administrative detention illegal except in cases of state security. Israel, however, does not define ‘state security’.

Detentions last up to 6 months and can be renewed an indefinite number of times, without a trial or any evidence shown. Detainees have been held for up to 8 years without charge and since 1967, 40% of the male population in Palestine has experienced administrative detention. Although holding prisoners indefinitely disregards the 4th Geneva Convention, international leaders have not called for the release of Palestinian administrative detainees as they did for Gilad Shalit who was held in Gaza for five years under the Hamas government.

This is Adnan’s eighth arrest and he has spent a total of 6 years in Israeli prisons, mainly under administrative detention.

Adnan continues his hunger strike  for several reasons: his detention being a violation of his rights and identity; the ill-treatment he suffered from soldiers, interrogators, and Nahshon Unit; and the unjust system of administrative detention.  He refused to take vitamins or even salt in his water and is now suffering serious health problems associated with starvation.

In June 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised collective punishment—including punitive isolation and reduced access to family visits, education, books, medical care, television, among others—for as long as the single Israeli prisoner held by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, remained in the Hamas government’s custody. Despite Shalit’s release, and a mass hunger strike in September 2011, conditions remain as bad as ever, and in some cases worse. Over 200 Palestinians have died in Israeli prison as a result of inadequate health care and food, torture, assaults, and other abuses.

Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Khader Adnan be released immediately and that his administrative detention not be renewed.

  • Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit
    Military Judge Advocate General
    6 David Elazar Street
    Harkiya, Tel Aviv
    Israel
    Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526
    Email: arbel@mail.idf.il; avimn@idf.gov.il
  • Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi
    OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command
    Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
    Fax: +972 2 530 5741
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak
    Ministry of Defense
    37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
    Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
    Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
  • Col. Eli Bar On
    Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
    Beth El 90631
    Fax: +972 2 9977326

Write to your local elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Khader Adnan and to put an end to the unjust system of detention without trial or the disclosure of evidence.

[1] Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Palestinian prisoners released after a day of Israeli army attack on waiting families

On Sunday the 18th of December I witnessed a chaotic release of 550 prisoners from Israeli prisons to mark the last of the prisoner swap with Hamas. Every single person I asked in Ramallah was expecting to finally see a son or daughter, a sibling, a friend, or a family member.  Hundreds of people gathered outside Ofer prison around noon on Sunday, awaiting their release. Throughout the day the time of release was pushed later and later.

At some point in the afternoon, boys began to throw stones at Israeli jeeps and soldiers behind Ofer prison’s gate. The army responded by tear gassing the entire procession, including the many families that were waiting. They then operated an armoured truck that shoots a sewage-like liquid at people. “This is nothing – ” a journalist tells me as we watch from a good distance, “when the first half of the prisoners were released they sprayed so much that every media’s equipment was ruined. Consider yourself lucky.” While, yes I’m quite glad I wasn’t drenched in Israel’s manufactured-sewage water, I don’t see why anyone, ever, in any case, should have to be a victim of it. Although it isn’t a weapon created to injure (though a friend was arrested after being sprayed, and not allowed to change for several hours and now has an unknown skin disease), it is the inhumanity of it that penetrates.

The “scream” also came into use, an incredibly loud siren that can direct noise at us while not effecting soldiers. So deafening that you literally feel you cannot near it. Rubber-coated steel bullets were another favourite. A foot in front of my eyes I saw a boy get hit in the arm by one of these. He ran to the ambulance screaming.

It is very dark and very chaotic when I arrive at 7pm. The area smells nauseatingly of sewage. The clash has been going on for almost seven hours and the night makes it an entirely more dangerous scene than usual. Soldiers can’t see what they are aiming at – though in my experience they rarely use discretion anyways. I stand with the media under a tent at the edge. A woman is clearly visible to soldiers under the camera light, and reporting into a microphone. She is hopping around on a cane because one leg is in a cast.

Suddenly one, two, three, and four tear gas canisters come buzzing at us. Everyone runs, but as I’ve learned: never turn your back. I’m still close when I notice that the woman hasn’t moved her spot, unable to run with a broken leg. Gas fills the air around her. Her cane falls to the ground. She begins to sway. And in the next moment, men are running for her and hurriedly pick her up to safer ground. To run after her in the line of fire, one of the men put his arms in the air. Others didn’t care and just ran for her. Some gestured with their arms: WHY?

There was no popular celebration planned for this release. It was the worse half of the deal. The first group of political prisoners released last October included many serving life sentences while this group was largely young prisoners with short sentences, only a few weeks or months before they would have ordinarily have been released.As the mother of a young man in prison tells us, “my son is sick. He goes to the hospital in the prison. He still has years left before he comes out. But it’s not about me and my son. The sick should be released first; it’s on principle. They can’t heal in prison.”

I have heard time and again the name Gilad Shilat. I have been hearing his name for five years.I know his face like I know my friends’ faces. I have heard about all the ailing Israeli parents who worry about their own children. I have been told he was only nineteen when he was abducted or kidnapped, while every day I don’t hear about the arrest of Palestinian boys and men. Why is an Israeli soldier spoken about more than a Palestinian civilian? A Palestinian woman? A Palestinian child?

55 Palestinian children between 14-17 were released on Sunday. I don’t know any of their faces. Of the 106  Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, how many names do you or I know? After some searching I found the Guardian had reported a story I have heard a thousand times: A child, arrested arbitrarily, accused of throwing stones (a charge that usually brings 6 months imprisonment, but has a maximum penalty of 20 years), is interrogated without a lawyer, forced to confess, forced to sign a confession in Hebrew without being translated, and essentially treated no different from any adult arrested:

“Al-Hasan Muhtaseb was arrested early in the afternoon as he and his 10-year-old brother Amir were walking home through Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, after visiting their aunt.

“Two soldiers came to us and told us: ‘Come over here.’ We went to [see] them,” said Al-Hasan, a slight boy, neatly dressed, who barely looks his 13 years. “They took my brother and I don’t know where they took him. I was sent inside the station and I never saw him after that.”

They were detained separately. Amir was released later that night, deeply traumatised. “He was in a very, very bad psychological state,” said his father, Fadel Muhtaseb, 45. “He had wet himself. He was terrified.” The boy said he had been held with his eyes covered by a hat in a room where there was also a dog, which he could hear panting.

Al-Hasan was interrogated at an Israeli military post in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement in Hebron. “I was asked: ‘Did you throw stones? Did you hurt the soldiers or hit their vehicles? How close were you to the soldiers? Why were you throwing stones?’,” he said. Eventually he had admitted throwing stones, although in an interview last week Al-Hasan said it was untrue: on that day he had not thrown stones, although earlier in the week he had.

He had been made to sign a statement in Hebrew, a language he doesn’t speak or read. He was blindfolded and taken to Ofer military prison, where he arrived at 3.30am. “There were no other children,” he said. “I was afraid.” Three days after his arrest he appeared at a military court. But his father, who works as a tiler, could not afford the 2,000 shekels (£350) bail. “My father told them he couldn’t pay this much money,” said Al-Hasan. His father, who sat next to him through the interview, burst into tears.

Last Sunday the boy was freed under a bail arrangement in which his father faces arrest if his son does not appear at the next summons. “Even if he were throwing stones, he is only 13,” said Fadel. “They treated him like a terrorist. They claim they are democratic and human, but they are not.”” [Palestinian children’s rights violated Israel]

Israeli courts try Israelis as adults at 18, but Palestinians at 16. I wrote it in my last post, but I will keep repeating it: 99.74% of all Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are convicted. Palestinians are tried for almost every crime in military court, where the judge and the prosecutor have all been soldiers, and the word of a soldier is proof enough to put you in prison. 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained by Israel. 30% to 40% of the population have been in prison and between 3 and 4 out of 5 Palestinian men have been in Israeli prisons.

Palestinians live with the insecurity of knowing that they could be arrested at any moment. Nobody shares the confidence I had growing up that I am innocent until proven guilty. Here, if you can’t prove your innocence, you are guilty. If you even have an opportunity to speak for yourself or see a lawyer.

How many stories have you heard of these prisoners since they’ve been released? Do you know that there has been a price placed on the head of many of them? Do you know that many of them have been visited by the Israeli armies in their homes at 2 in the morning – a reminder that just in case they began to feel safe at home, Israel is still in control. Do you know that many were exiled to Gaza, Turkey, or Egypt instead of being reunited with their families?

***

As the hour nears 9pm, everyone gets excited, boys stop throwing stones: it was almost time for release. At 9:10, reporters began stating to their cameras that the time has been delayed to 10pm. Every fifteen minutes a friend waiting at the presidential compound in Ramallah, where the several buses will be letting the prisoners off, calls me and I tell them that they must wait a little bit longer.

Stones came up against weapons for the next hour as we huddled behind a van’s engine for heat. A group of boys run out from behind some cars carrying something on fire – a molotov? Nope – wave after wave of fireworks flew out of his arms towards soldiers. Everyone around me is on the ground laughing at how the tense moment was broken into flashing colours.

My favourite part is when you see them leave those gates my friend tells me. He has been imprisoned five times. Though he hasn’t looked through the names, he knows he will see many brothers today. He won’t get to see them leave the gates today. They’ve let them out through another entrance! They’re on their way to Ramallah! we hear people shouting. People are running into cars and zooming away. We hitch a ride without any issues, and I stop and pick up my camera before we go.

It is a sea of people searching for people. The prisoners are greeted the moment they come out, grabbed into an embrace, or lifted into the air. Women sing, men clap, everyone cries.

Arrested by IOF for nearing a Jewish-only settlement

Yesterday was the one-week anniversary of Mustafa Tamimi’s death. The weekly protest in Nabi Saleh was going as usual last week: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were responding to peaceful protesting with, among other weapons, tear gas canisters aimed like large bullets. The difference is that last week they didn’t miss. Mustafa was shot from a few meters away directly in the head. Two days later, IOF arrived with mourners at Mustafa’s funeral and began to fire the same tear gas projectiles only a few minutes after the funeral. The day ended with soldiers violently attacking us when confronted about Mustafa’s death, and arresting several.

This week was no better.

Car after car packed with people began arriving in Nabi Saleh from as early as 8am to avoid expected Israeli checkpoints. People wanted to commemorate Mustafa’s death. A bus arrived full of Israeli activists. By noon, everywhere I looked I saw Palestinian flags and keffiyehs.

Crowds of people head to confront soldiers | 16/12/2011 ICAI

As the protest left to confront soldiers at the entrance to the village, I headed in a car with others to the entrance of the illegal Israeli settlement Halamish, which along with annexing land has claimed Nabi Saleh’s only fresh-water spring for themselves. We wanted to make ourselves shown wearing t-shirts bearing the face of Mustafa Tamimi.

Other cars showed up with the same idea and at the entrance to Halamish, some ten people sat down peacefully just in time for three Israeli jeeps to arrive. Soldiers jumped out raid-style and began to arrest everyone they could get their hands on, but particularly those that were sitting, doing nothing other than sitting. There was no warning or threat – just a quick and violent arrest.

Soldiers make arrests outside Halamish settlement | 16/12/2011 activestills

It happened quickly. Women were desperately trying to hold onto each other, screaming and shaking from shock. Others were being dragged away, handcuffed, and gathered on the sidewalk. An older woman was screaming as four soldiers attacked her for arrest. I was torn between being a photographer or partaking, but as I kept going back and forth a commander recognized me from last week’s struggle and came directly for me. I tried to resist but they began to drag me, then another soldir came and grabbed one leg.

My arrest outside Halamish settlement | 16/12/2011 Ahmad Daghlas

I was piled with the others infront of a jeep. When I stood up, a soldier tried to push me down but I dodged him. I rushed back to see my friend from England was being grabbed by a soldier and was really panicking. I held her thinking we might resist arrest, but we were in a sea of soldiers, and instead they handcuffed me and her and stuffed us into a military jeep.

English activist, Holly and I are arrested | 16/12/2011 ICAI

Inside we were met with the older woman and soon after by an Israeli girl and Mohammed Khateeb who had just been attacked by an Israeli settler who had stopped. Of course soldiers arrested us for sitting, and not the settler for actual violence.

The Israeli girl who would later be hit by an Israeli settler while soldiers look on | 16/12/2011 Fadi Arouri

In the jeep there wasn’t enough room for us. Mohammed Khateeb was lying on the floor handcuffed and the soldier suggested the Israeli girl sit on a bucket full of tear gas canisters. She refused and brought our attention to the bags and bins full of weaponry and ammunition at the back of the jeep. There was no woman soldier in the jeep with us.

We were driven deeper into Halamish, and stopped outside a military base. Soldier men and women were walking around, some curious, most just laughing and making fun of us. None of them could look you in the eye for more than a couple seconds. A soldier opened my purse and pulled out my camera. I tried to stop them but was just shoved around between the many soldiers that were there. They pulled so hard on my arm that the plastic-tie handcuffs came loose and they had to redo it, this time behind my back and so tight that my hands instantly started swelling.

Meanwhile the same soldier that had attacked Khateeb had stopped his car infront of us. A man and his son. Soldiers didn’t interfere as he came up to us and began to take photographs of our faces. The Israeli girl stood up infront of him  and he slapped her across the face, knocking her back. This infront of at least ten soldiers. No one stopped him or arrested him. We began to chant the numbers of his license plate so we could later file a charge: 44322, 44322, 44322….but if history teaches us anything he won’t be charged.

The soldiers let us know we didn’t have the right to get angry. Khateeb was being pressed against the stone stairs by two soldiers. One soldier had his hand around Khateebs neck, and I tried to put my leg inbetween his head and the stones. Soldiers picked him up and threw him to the ground face-down. They were pulling at his arms, which were handcuffed underneath him. “I’ll give you my hands by myself!” He screamed repeatedly in Arabic, English and Hebrew.

It went on like this, leaving him with blood on his face and arm and dirt on his cheeks. I was thinking how he has such a warm face, wrinkles around his eyes and often smiling. Later on they would say he assaulted a soldier. I don’t know when this allegedly happened, him being in handcuffs the entire time. I do know that 99.74% of Palestinians tried in Israeli military court are convicted and that just the word of a soldier is proof.

We were taken to a room where we met a few others. Nothing was said to us, and we waited sitting on old cushions and mattress-less metal bed frames for hours. The entire time we were handcuffed. If your phone rang, a soldier would take it away. If we talked too loud, soldiers would interfere. The windows didn’t close and as the hours passed, we began to huddle together for warmth. When we needed to use the bathroom, we were told to wait. After half an hour, they started to take one person at a time to a bathroom outside the building, about a 10 minute trip. There were 23 of us.

Arrested we were 23 people in total, including 7 Palestinians, 12 Israelis, and 4 internationals – among them 12 women. Among them was Mohamed Tamimi, a young man my age, braces still on and resembling his late cousin, Mustafa Tamimi. Everytime he walked into the room he would put his cuffed arms in the air, resembling the famous picture of Marwan Barghouti. We would clap for him. He was pacing most of the time, red eyed. He was going to be charged with stone-throwing, which could land him 6 months. He doesn’t throw stones, he photographs and reports. He kept trying to talk to the soldiers – You killed Mustafa, isn’t that enough? How can you sleep at night, I just want to know….How can you sleep?

Mohammed Tamimi being arrested. He is currently in Ofer prison. | 16/12/2011 Activestills

The older woman that was arrested with us had a ring of purple bruises around her upper arm and her entire arm was numb. We requested a doctor. Half an hour later, a medic-soldier came and did nothing but accuse her of making it up. I flipped out when he said it! She got to see a doctor after an hour of waiting, but nothing came out of it.

The entire time we were in Halamish we didn’t see one soldier or officer that spoke Arabic. Can you imagine if you were a Palestinian arrested alone without anyone to advise you not to sign or say anything – everything was done in Hebrew and if those among us didn’t translate, no one would have.

We were in Halamish for 9 hours. They filmed us while our charges were read in Hebrew, one by one. They searched us, took away everything except our money, and escorted us to the bus, one by one. When everyone was on the bus they started to call people, one by one, to have their charges read to them in Hebrew. Mohammed Khateeb translated. Most of us were charged with entering a closed military zone, then refusing to leave when asked. Do you have anything to add? no I replied. Do you want to sign? no. We were not in a CMZ  and were never asked to leave, but had we signed, we wouldn’t have gotten out.

The bus drove to Benyamin Gate police station, with soldiers posted at the back and the front.  They had taken our belts, and I wanted to tie a scarf around my waist: it took me about twenty minutes to manoeuvre with the handcuffs on. In Benyamin we were piled into a tiny room, some of us sitting on tables or the ground. Everyone had their handcuffs removed except Mohammed Tamimi. The smokers were still denied to smoke, and honestly this was the biggest object of stress in the room. At one point, soldiers agreed, then changed their mind when they reached outside. Taunting. We had been arrested for 10 hours before a soldier walked in, and threw a box of food on the ground. Before, two Israeli activists had come around giving everyone one bite of the food they happened to have. Inside the box was some fruit, several loaves of white wonder bread, a hundred small packages of chocolate spread, and two huge bags of yogurt (which remained largely untouched…).

This post is a jumble of words, but it expresses this experience. It was a jumble of confusion, anger and sadness. I felt so powerless without my camera in my hands. Everything in those rooms was between us and the IOF with no way to prove that we were treated like caged animals. As for the protest happening in Nabi Saleh, I obviously can’t testify but the pictures speak for themselves:

Tear gas is fired into a crowd of protesters | 16/12/2011 ICAI

A sound bomb explodes among protesters | 16/12/2011 Ahmad Doghlas

In Benyamin they began to take Israelis and Internationals for interrogation. Two hours passed and finally an officer who spoke Arabic came. He dealt with me and the four other Palestinians excluding the two Mohammeds with worse charges. As we walked by some officers, shivering, one of them looked at us pitiyingly and asked – did they get food? How ridiculous that these people, the backbones of the Israeli occupation, like to play the “humanitarian”. Am I supposed to thank you? My people wouldn’t be imprisoned if it weren’t for people like you. They may try to ease their conscience with small gestures, but until they put down the gun and stop invading our lands they must carry the responsibility on their backs.

An hour later, at almost 1 am after over 12 hours, he told us that he was going to do us a ‘favour’ and let us go.

We received our belongings in plastic bags, and weren’t allowed to say bye to the people we left behind. Mohammed Tamimi and Mohammed Khateeb were eventually transfered to Ofer prison. Throughout the night they joked that they would send our Salaams to Bassem Tamimi, a prisoner from Nabi Saleh. Somehow I thought that they would find a way to get out of the mess, but in reality there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. 30% to 40% of the population have been in prison and between 3 and 4 out of 5 Palestinian men have been in prison. Why would these two be any different?