Activists close entrance to illegal Israeli settlement

On May 13, as some 2000 Palestinian prisoners were in their 27th day of hunger-striking, Palestinian and solidarity activists blocked the entrance to one of the largest Israeli colonies in the West Bank.

Around 50 activists arrived at the entrance of the illegal Jewish-only settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and were successful in blocking traffic for at least 20 minutes. Israeli forces arrived quickly and detained two Palestinian men from the crowd, taking them to the nearby police station. As the activists left the area, they climbed to a nearby hill overlooking the same street and raised Palestinian flags. Israeli soldiers climbed the hill and forced them to descend. The activists then climbed an adjacent hill, prompting the same reaction from Israeli soldiers. The action was successful in its goal of civil disturbance.

The following day, the mass hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons reached a deal and the strike was finished. Many human rights groups have since criticized Israel for not maintaining parts of the agreement.

The importance of perseverance and creativity in the popular struggle cannot be stressed enough. As Palestinians battle normalization and apathy from several years of repetitive resistance and little gains, new ideas and forms of struggle are needed to keep the passion and dedication alive.

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Global solidarity builds awareness of Palestinian political prisoners

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh | April 19, 2012 | originally posted on Rabble

Tuesday, April 17 marked a global day of action for Palestinian prisoners and some 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons began an open-ended hunger strike. This past year, two prisoners in particular risked their lives in protest of their mistreatment by Israeli authorities and brought international attention to Israel’s illegal practice of administrative detention.

Administrative detention

Administrative detention is imprisonment without charge or trial, and is authorized by an administrative order rather than a judicial one. Under international law, its use is reserved for emergency situations, as a last means for preventing danger. It still requires that basic rules are followed, such as a fair hearing where the detainee can argue the basis of their detention.

Israel’s practice of administrative detention is in clear violation of international law. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been held as administrative detainees. They are not informed of the charges against them, let alone prosecuted for their alleged crimes. In many cases they are held not necessarily for an offence that they have committed, but out of suspicion that they will commit a crime in the future. The evidence against them is regarded as “secret information” and is thus not available to the accused or their attorneys.

Administrative detention sentences can be up to six months long, and can be renewed an indefinite number of times, without a trial or evidence shown. The detainee sits in prison not knowing if they will be held for another month, or for several years more.

Israel’s practice of administrative detention disregards the right to liberty and due process, the right of defendants to make a case, and the presumption of innocence.

A Palestinian woman holds a framed picture of her son, a political prisoner held by Israel, at a prisoners support rally in Ramallah, West Bank. | Rana Hamadeh 13/12/2011

Khader Adnan and Hana Al-Shalabi: Hunger strikers gain world attention

Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old father of two, began a hunger strike in mid-December after he was arrested from his home in the terrorizing style of a night raid, while his wife and young daughters looked on. He received no charge, and was not informed of the reason for his arrest. Rather than confusion, Adnan was facing a process that Palestinians have grown to be familiar with: administrative detention.

According to Addameer, a prisoners support and human rights association, Adnan was insulted and humiliated by interrogators, especially with their use of abusive language about his family. He was interrogated for six hours a day, and tied to a crooked chair during the sessions, causing him extreme pain.

Adnan was on hunger strike for 67 continuous days. Among his reasons were: his detention being a violation of his rights and identity; the ill-treatment he suffered from Israeli authorities; and the unjust system of administrative detention.

His case only became known internationally after the fiftieth day of his strike when it exploded on social networks such as Twitter, and supporters followed with fear as his health rapidly deteriorated.

After 67 days of refusing food, and on the brink of death, a deal was reached with Israel that Adnan would be released at the end of a four-month term, unless new “secret evidence” surfaced. 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.

Hana Al-Shalabi then took the stage to continue the demands that Khader had nearly perished fighting for.

Al-Shalabi was an administrative detainee held for two years without a charge before she was released in October 2011 in the prisoner swap. In mid-February 2012, fifty soldiers arrived at her home in the night and she was re-arrested, again without a charge or trial, and immediately began to refuse meals.

On the nineteenth day of Hana’s hunger strike, an Israeli military court ruled to shorten her administrative detention sentence from six months to four months. Hana did not accept this deal as a valid response to her demands and she continued her hunger strike.

After 43 days of hunger striking, and in considerably bad health, Hana accepted a deal that can hardly be seen as a victory. She was released, but not to her waiting and grief-stricken family and friends. Hana was internally exiled to the Gaza Strip. For the next three years, she will live in what has commonly been described as an open-air prison due to the years of blockade and closure imposed on it, and unable to access her family living in the Northern West Bank.

Palestinian prisoners affairs minister, Issa Qaraqaa reportedly said, “she had to accept because Israel put pressure on her. But we are totally opposed to all deportation measures.”

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters on his first day out of Israeli jail. | Oren Ziv/ Activestills 18/4/2012

The price of a Palestinian prisoner

In the prisoner swap last October 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 glad to be reunited with family or friends, they were also reminded of an ugly reality of Israeli apartheid: one Jewish Israeli life is exchangeable with over a thousand Palestinian lives.

For the five years that Shalit was imprisoned, his face and name were repeated in international media. Yet of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, little was heard. Seven hundred thousand Palestinians have been detained since 1967 (that is approximately 20 per cent of all Palestinians in the occupied territory, and 40% of the male population). Yet it is Shalit, an adult military soldier, arrested while serving in the Israeli Occupation Forces – an army repeatedly accused of committing war crimes against Palestinians – who was worthy of global news and sympathy while the 7,000 Palestinian children arrested since the year 2000 have largely been ignored.

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 being that often the family and/or lawyers of the prisoners are denied permits to Israel and cannot visit the prisons.

There is also repeated complaints of prisoner abuse in the hands of Israeli officials. These go largely unmentioned by the international community. Over two hundred Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 while detained by Israel, due to inadequate medical care and food, torture, or other abuse. Hundreds more have suffered serious illnesses.

Prisoners set to unite with mass hunger strikes

On Tuesday, April 17 one third of all Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli facilities, about 1,600 prisoners, began an open-ended hunger strike. Another 2,300 prisoners refused food for the whole of Tuesday. Among the demands presented are:

1. Ending administrative detention

2. Ending solitary confinement

3. Reinstating the right to education

4. Halting all invasions targeting detainees’ rooms and sections

5. Allowing family visitations, especially to detainees from the Gaza Strip

6. Improving medical care to ailing detainees

7. Halting the humiliation, and body-search of the families of the detainees

8. Allowing the entry of books and newspapers

9. Halting all sorts of penalties against the detainees

Internationally and within Palestine, actions took place in solidarity with the 4,600 some Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including a demonstration at the BBC Scotland headquarters demanding mainstream media coverage of the Palestinian hunger strikers. Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations also issued a call for action against G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system.

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh is a Canadian-Palestinian and one of the North American delegates who took part in the Global March to Jerusalem.

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

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

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?

Israel sends military to funeral of Mustafa Tamimi, ending in violence against mourners

The Israeli Occupational Forces murdered Mustafa Tamimi last Friday at Nabi Saleh’s weekly protest, as he and a friend followed the armoured jeeps demanding that they leave the village. They were unarmed. They were facing one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. The photos are candid; an Israeli soldier is hiding behind the doors of his jeep, just the barrel of his tear-gas gun emerging.  But Mustafa and his friend Ibrahim were not afraid. The soldier shoots the canister as a bullet, from a couple meters away, aimed for Mustafa’s head. Then the jeep drives away.

Yesterday, Ibrahim told me of moment he thought his friend had just ducked down. He goes, rolls his friend over, and “of what I can say about it, it is worse than words can say. The whole half of his face was blown off … there was a pool of blood gathering under him. His whole body was trembling. It started from his feet, then up to his arms, then it reached his chest, and then his head, and then a gasp came out and I’m sure at that moment he died… Maybe later on they revived his heart for a while, but I knew that his soul had left.”

May he rest in peace, the martyr Mustafa Tamimi, 28 years old | Fri 9/12/2011 Active Stills

Commemoration

On Saturday we took to Ramallah’s streets chanting slogans like “the blood of our martyrs is not cheap!” and calling for the next Intifada. In my parents’ time the stores would have closed and the streets would be packed, instead many people walked by on the sidewalk and continued their conversation. What happened to the respect we had for our martyrs who die fighting against everyday Israeli brutality? Nonetheless, emotions were high. The youth were angry. This was their brother, their friend, or their comrade in the struggle for freedom. Many people broke down into tears in the streets, wailing. One who had sustained a rubber-coated bullet to the head at the same protest passed out and was sent to hospital. Women screamed out and grabbed each other for support. And hardest of all for me was to see the men turn into boys, because it reminded me that even the strongest and bravest people are just human and still have a heart that can shatter.

People gathered to commemorate the life and death of Mustafa Tamimi in Ramallah | Sat 10/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Marching through Ramallah's streets for the martyr Mustafa Tamimi | Sat 10/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Sunday morning a couple hundred people gathered at the hospital to receive Mustafa’s body into the ambulance. Men carried Mustafa on a plank on their shoulders, as I’ve seen time and again in photos. This time we marched, we marched with him. We got into cars and followed Mustafa to Nabi Saleh. As we neared the village, we began to see Israeli soldiers stationed along the route. Two military jeeps joined the caravan of cars. We saw the jeep equipped to fire gas, and the truck that shoots skunk-water. A girl in my car pulled down the window and screamed “you killed him!” at a group of soldiers. “Fuck you!” replied one.

My hands were shaking. It wasn’t a surprise but it still hurt to see – how could Israel send military to this man’s funeral after murdering him? Was it purely to disrespect Mustafa & his family?

There were at least 2000 people once we congregated in the village. Although Ramallah has become distracted, the surrounding villages are still united and came to pay respects. We marched to the mosque and as many people as could fit went in and prayed the noon prayer, and the janazah prayer for Mustafa. His body was then taken to his house, then to the cemetery and placed into the ground. People chanted and gave speeches with a deep seated conviction.

Mustafa Tamimi's body is brought to his home one last time | Sat 11/12/2011 Int'l Communities Against Israel

A few images stay stark in my mind. A little girl looking concerned as her mother breaks into tears. A young boy holding his friend and nuzzling him, trying to comfort him – his expression saying that he wished there was something more he could do. A young man collapsing and being held by his friends as he weeps. Women leading the chanting as their shouts broke into wails. And of course, the men carrying Mustafa’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag with keffiyeh on his head.

Only minutes after the funeral ended, the Israeli military is shooting tens of the same tear gas canister that killed Mustafa. Once again, they were breaking the law by aiming them at people instead of shooting them in an arch. I jump to the side and one speeds past me at stomach level. Cars are trying to get home and are being hit by the canisters. Tear gas fills our lungs and make it impossible to get air in; our eyes and faces burn. The worst part is if you panic. You hyperventilate and feel yourself suffocating. So I stay calm.

A man is hit in the arm by a tear gas canister fired minutes after the funeral of Mustafa Tamimi ended | 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

I cannot understand why the soldiers operating these weapons did not feel shame at what they were doing. The next thing to come out was the skunk-water truck: this shoots, at far distances, a clear liquid with a sewage-like smell that will likely cause you to burn or throw out your clothes if you’re touched. Mostly it just leaves the village smelling like shit.

Israeli "skunk truck" shoots a sewage-like liquid at protesters just minutes after Mustafa's funeral draws to a close|Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Suddenly people were calling us back. At the bottom of the valley were several more soldiers stationed, and people wanted to confront them. I arrived to many of the women holding posters of Mustafa Tamimi into the face of these soldiers and screaming, WHO KILLED MUSTAFA? over and over again. A man was beside me, chanting “who killed him? Who killed him?…. Who killed my brother?” My heart plummeted.

"Who killed Mustafa?" | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

For a moment, I saw true fear in these soldiers’ eyes. They retreated, tripping over their feet. MURDERERS, MURDERERS, chanted the crowd of mostly young women. I noticed their commander budge past me and felt something hit my foot. I looked around for it as I saw him run to the side. 5 seconds later a sound bomb exploded. The ground moved under our feet and I couldn’t hear anything for half a minute. Tear gas went flying at protesters that had moved away slightly from the soldiers. They kept throwing sound bombs into our midst. One exploded on the back of my leg and I felt the burn.

Suddenly out of the commotion I saw two soldiers had an Israeli activist strangled and pressed to the concrete.

An Israeli activist is pressed by the neck into the concrete then arrested | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Then soldiers moved in to grab Jonathon Pollack, a well known Israeli activist. There was a railing inbetween them and a soldier had him in a chokehold and was strangling him against the railing. People grabbed onto him and soldiers tried to shove and kick them out of the way. I saw Jonathon’s face, so pale. More soldiers approached and me and a Spanish friend tried to stay inbetween. One soldier pushed the Spanish man backwards over the railing, landing on his back. Another shoved me, then lifted his leg and kicked me to the ground.

A soldier raises his fist towards a Palestinian woman, while another attempts to make an arrest, although an Israeli woman stands in his way (both wearing black) | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

People managed to protect Jonathon from arrest, but he was visibly weak. He had to be carried by others to safer ground but as they tried to get away, soldiers shot gas at them even though he was visibly injured and they were retreating. They had nowhere to go. They couldn’t carry him up the hill or take him to the road with the soldiers. It was only after all the commotion I’m about to describe that an ambulance arrived on the road and took Jonathon while soldiers attempted to arrest him.

An Israeli activist is carried after being choked by Israeli soldiers and inhaling tear gas | Sun 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

On the street, soldiers had officially given way to their brutal nature. A soldier grabbed a picture of Mustafa out of a girls hands and crumpled it up. I could see the fury and sorrow build up in her as she tried to get it back from him, screaming from her depths at this arrogant soldier. Not one soldier interfered when another kicked a woman, grabbed her by the hair, or dragged her across the street. Soldiers had decided to go for a friend of mine from France. I grabbed onto his body. We were knocked to the ground. Another girl grabbed onto me.

Being knocked over while trying to hold onto a French man targeted for arrest | Sun 11/12/2011 Anne Paq/Activestills

In the chaos I remember struggling to hold on as we were hit from behind. One soldier had his elbow on the French man’s neck turning his face red. It became clear to me that the soldiers were trying to arrest the men that were with us. My Spanish friend was targeted. All the women began to throw their bodies over these two men. One of the girls, Linah, was shouting like a mantra: “You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us,” and it still rings in my ears.

Women throw their bodies over those of the men that Israeli soldiers arbitrarily targeted for arrest | Sun 11/12/2011

A soldier presses a French activist to the ground with his elbow and later arrests him | Sun 11/12/2011 Int'l Communities Against Israel

They did manage to arrest the French man, but the Spanish one, the women clung onto, and some men made a circle around the women, and they walked him to the rail and let him go to run up the hill. While the others were busy with one man I saw the soldiers go for a man I don’t know. We clung on to each other to try to resist arrest but soldiers were trying to pull me away. One finally grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the ground. A pair of legs were over my head and a man, that seemed to come from one of the cars that stopped to watch, began shouting at the soldier in Hebrew: She’s my sister! My sister! The soldier didn’t care.

I don't know who snapped this photo, it was in the newspaper this morning. It's not the kind of picture I ideally would like to circulate but if it shows a hint of reality, I can get over it.

The rest is chaos in my mind. We refused to leave anyone behind as we finally retreated up the hill. We took our time though and screamed Criminals! Animals! at the soldiers as they aimed for us with tear gas. One of the men photographing was on the brink of unconsciousness and others struggled to get him up the hill. They urged him to breathe, “I can’t…” he whispered, and they quickened their step.

This experience is a drop in the sea of the systemic oppression of living in an occupied state without basic civil rights. Not to mention the influence of the media.  “You were let off easy,” one Palestinian man told me, “once my mother tried to get in the way of my arrest and was punched in the face, then truly beat. A camera is our strongest tool.”

May the people of Nabi Saleh see their land returned and live to see a day without an occupation over their heads.

As I’ve reported before, every week since 2009, the village of Nabi Saleh goes out to demonstrate against the theft of their land and water spring by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. The final and symbolic goal of their protest is to reach the spring although it is always guarded by several soldiers. This week after the protest ended, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the hill. So instead a friend and I picked flowers while soldiers watched us suspiciously from a distance. Eventually we climbed our way back down to near the soldiers, picking flowers, and in the end I wanted to see what the fresh water spring looks like.

I walked alone up to a stunned soldier standing outside his jeep. ‘I just want to take a picture and leave,’ I told him.
‘But there are soldiers up there’ he replied, seeming to have no idea how they would react. I quickly moved on.
Up at the spring were about eight soldiers, who all got up and squinted at me. When I told them what I wanted they huddled and began to speak on the radio. ‘Don’t move until we get a reply’ one told me. The spring was more beautiful than I had expected, but the pictures can speak for themselves.
The soldier who had met me at the bottom had followed up, probably interested to see what would happen. ‘You just want to take pictures and go? Do it then. Then go.”
I snapped a few, then the radio seemed to get back to the group of soldiers. “You have to leave now. This is a closed military zone. You have thirty seconds. Where are you from?”
Palestine, I replied, and kept taking pictures. Another soldier came and kicked the flowers I was photographing. I looked up at the others, “who is this animal?”
“Be careful with your words” was the only reply.

Nabi Saleh's water spring, currently annexed by the illegal settlement of Halamish | 11/12/2011 Rana Hamadeh

Nabi Saleh has been a victim of IOF violence, night raids, siege, curfew, checkpoints, and arrests, but until Friday no one had ever been martyred. When witnessing the violence iniflicted by the IOF during the weekly protest, this was seen as a a miracle [hence Lina Alsaafin’s article “No Miracle Yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Mustafa Tamimi murdered“]. As of March 31, 2011, 64 village residents have been arrested.  All except three were tried for participating in the non-violent demonstrations.  Of those imprisoned, 29 have been minors under the age of 18 years and 4 have been women. With a population of only 550, Nabi Saleh was visibly profoundly affected by the death of Mustafa Tamimi. We will see in the coming months how it changes the nature of Nabi Saleh’s struggle against occupation. May he rest in eternal peace. Allah Yerhamo

No Miracle yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Tamimi murderedElectronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: My humanity is only human. I hate my enemy. A deep vigorous hatred that courses through my veins whenever I come into contact with them or any form of their system. My humanity is limited. I cannot write a book titled I Shall Not Hate especially if my three daughters and one niece were murdered by my enemy. My humanity is faulty. I dream of my enemy choking on tear gas fired through the windows of their houses, of having their fathers arrested on trumped-up charges, of them wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets, of them being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged away for interrogations that are spliced with bouts of torture…

Funeral of murdered Mustafa Tamimi ends in more IOF violence & savageryblog account of funeral, Holly Rigby: Covering and protecting the bodies of those trying to be arrested, the women were screaming so loudly for the soldiers to stop and this sound pierced my heart more deeply than any sound bomb could ever have done. As I stood a few paces back from what was happening, my whole body was wracked with uncontrollable sobs as I helplessly looked on as the scene unfolded…

…But we will keep goingblog account of the murder & funerals, Maath Musleh: “It is Mustafa!” someone said. And memories rushed through my head.  I saw the rainy days of spring when we used to climb mountains and hills to avoid the IOF checkpoints blocking entrance to the town. I saw the day I finally managed to reach the town after an hour of hiking through the mountains. I was limping. I was not injured, but my  shoes were torn. I head to Mustafa’s house where I took a nap on mattress near him. I had my tea and cigarette. Mustafa got me his shoes to wear. He refused to take them back at the end of the day…

A courageous Palestinian has died, shrouded in stonesHa’aretz, Jonathon Pollack: The army spokesman was right. Mustafa died because he threw stones; he died because he dared to speak a truth, with his hands, in a place where the truth is forbidden. Any discussion of the manner of the shooting, its legality and the orders on opening fire, infers that the landlord is forbidden to expel the trespasser. Indeed, the trespasser is allowed to shoot the landlord…

Video & testimony: Israeli soldier savagery at Mustafa Tamimi’s funeralElectronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: I still can’t comprehend why arrests were made and violence was used by the Israelis. Were our words of truth threatening to them? Were our words of truth threatening their security? Did our words of truth penetrate so deep into their conscience that caused insecurity within themselves?

 Tamimi was killed because of occupied village’s insistence on access to its only wellMondoweiss, Andrew Haas: It was David vs. Goliath, inaccurate slingshots vs. scoped rifles firing lead-cored rubber bullets, taunts and jeering vs. concussion grenades and tear gas, and teens in t-shirts vs. soldiers in body armor. My image of myself as fearless faded as I watched little girls lightly skip out of the way of concussion grenades, and boys compete over who threw the tear gas canisters up wind. To me, this was the next world war. For them, this was a regular day off from school.

I was Mustafa Tamimi – blog, Refaat Alareer: Fifteen years ago I was Mustafa Tamimi. Two months before that it was a relative who had his skull smashed by an explosive bullet from an Israeli sniper. Later that same week another neighbor lost his eye. Before and since then, the same situation has been repeating itself again and again: an armored jeep, a soldier armed to teeth, a tiny figure of mere flesh and bones, and a stone smeared with blood on the side of the road. That’s the saga of Palestine. That’s our tale, full of injustice and oppression, whose hero struts and frets and whoever gets in his way is doomed. But we get in his way anyway.

Nabi Saleh: Night Raids and the weekly protest

Nov 18 & 25 in Nabi Saleh

Specifically, the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh is against the theft of their land and water spring by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. More generally, the village is protesting Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid. Every week, the residents hold a march and are joined in solidarity by other Palestinian, International, and Israeli activists.

In the past week, Israeli military held siege and curfew on the village, and performed a massive night time raid, arresting three residents. Journalist and former Israeli soldier Noam Sheizaf, reported about the incidence of night raids:

“[The occupation] is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.
The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.” [Organized Chaos and Bare Life the Non-Story of the Night Raids]

During a night raid in Nariman & Bassem Tamimi's home, a child reacts to | 24.11.2011 | Tamimi press

 To many Palestinians, night raids are such a common occurrence they often go unreported. In reality they are a symbol of the normalized oppression the Palestinians deal with. Armed soldiers entering a home at 2 am and asking for the children to be woken up so their photo can be taken in case they commit a crime in the future – to an outsider this would be worthy of a lawsuit; to the Palestinians, it is a reality that the youngest children are familiar with.

The occupying nation, under international law, is responsible for the safety of the people it occupies; instead the Palestinians are subject to terrorizing invasions, and there is no force they can call for protection.

Soldiers entered over 25 houses in Nabi Saleh while families slept, took pictures of people and rooms, and harassed residents, including a number of women, children, and elders, “filling the village with a state of fear and horror” the Tamimi Press reports from Nabi Saleh. [Nabi Saleh Solidarity WP]

Three young men were their arrested in these raids, including a child: Rami Tamimi, 33, Oudai Tamimi, 19, and Mo’atasim Tamimi, 15. The former two were arrested on the justification that they are needed to testify against Bassem Tamimi in his hearing next week.

Bassem has continually been targeted by the Israeli military. Though he has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, he was never convicted of any offence. He has spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. His house is one of 10 that have received demolition orders since the village began weekly protests. Bassem’s wife, Nariman Tamimi, has been arrested twice, and two of his young sons have been critically injured.

His trial is due to resume this Wednesday, but Bassem has already been behind bars for over seven months, with only five of the 25 prosecution witnesses having been heard to date. Mo’atasem (15) and Oudai (19) are due to testify. There are several legal issues with the way Israel has treated this case. As the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee in Nabi Saleh reported:

“Mo’atasem Tamimi, the fifteen year-old, was grabbed from his bed at gunpoint in the middle of the night on January 27th, 2011, and questioned unlawfully the next morning…

  • Despite having been arrested at 2:30 AM, his interrogation at the police station in the Ma’ale Edomim settlement started at 8:47 AM, in the interim, and despite his young age he was not allowed sleep. Such form of interrogation is forbidden under amendment 14 to the Israeli Youth Law.
  • Despite his young age, Mo’atasem was not offered the opportunity to have his parents present in the room during the interrogation, in violation his rights as set forth by amendment 14 to the Israeli Youth Law.
  • Only one of his two interrogators was a qualified youth interrogator.
  • Contrary to the official transcript of his interrogation, Mo’atasem was not informed of his right to remain silent until he has already started incriminating others. Instead, his interrogator told him: ”You can tell us the truth, or you can lie. Everything you say, will be noted down and be used as evidence against you in court. If you won’t speak, it will strengthen the evidence against you. I say, in your own interest, i say this for you, you had better tell the truth.” The interrogator then went on to tell him, “You are a young boy, if you tell the truth, the court will take this into consideration and go easy on you. Now, you are going to tell us everything as it happened.”” [Nabi Saleh Solidarity WP]

Bassem’s case is not an isolated exception. A study made by the Public Committee Against Torture and Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, and written by Dr. Maya Rosenfeld, says that as many as 90% of Palestinian prisoners in the Shin Bet, Israeli security service, are denied access to a lawyer, and are subject to torture methods.

Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh

As is the case in occupied Palestine, the peaceful weekly demonstrations are met with Israeli army attack. The crowd is bombarded with tear gas grenades, shot alone and aimed directly at individuals, or shot around ten at a time from a mechanism on their military jeep. A hit to the head or the chest has been proven to kill. They can also cause paralysis, and are lethally dangerous to children. Rubber-coated steel bullets are also commonly used and fired directly at the crowds. Israel claims these are a non-lethal crowd dispersal method but a 2008 study by BTselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights, indicated that over twenty Palestinians had been killed by them since the second Intifada began, and that the Israeli military has “adopted a practice of reckless firing of rubber-coated steel bullets.” [B’Tselem 2008 Annual Report]

Rounds of tear gas are fired at protesters in the valley during the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh | 18.11.2011

Quite often in Nabi Saleh, and particularly in recent weeks, the Israeli military arrives with a “skunk truck”, equipped with a cannon that shoots out an oppressively foul-smelling liquid. Last Friday, November 25,  the truck entered the village, past where the demonstration was held, and indiscriminately sprayed houses and people not involved in the protest. The 1949 Geneva convections explicitly label collective punishment as a war crime. Article 33 of the fourth Geneva convection state that “no protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed…collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited.”

A woman jumps out of the way as a high velocity tear gas canister lands in her place | 18.11.2011 Nabi Saleh

As well last Friday, a group of demonstrators managed to approach the soldiers, despite threats: “if you come near we will shoot.” They held their arms in the air and walked up to the soldiers. A group of Palestinian women in particular confronted soldiers about their presence in the village, the night raids, the violent reaction to peaceful demonstrators, and the general occupation in Palestine. “We are all chosen people! We will coexist!” shouted a woman when a soldier said he was willing to risk himself for the illegal Jewish settlers.

Palestinian protesters approach Israeli soldiers | 25.11.2011 | Active Stills

“I’m from this land you’re standing on. Where are you from and what are you doing here?” a young Palestinian girl asked a soldier who spoke very American English. After an hour-long stand-off, the soldiers received orders and began to descend the hill. About two-hundred metres down, they fired rounds of tear gas at the area they knew was full of women and children, and far from any paramedic, causing many to suffer from severe tear gas inhalation.

A Palestinian bravely confronts Israeli soldiers | 25.11.2011 | Active stills

One of the protesters stood in the face of a soldier with his finger on the trigger, “lift this illegal occupation,” he shouted into the soldier’s face, “lift this criminal occupation! Leave our land!”

Palestinian Freedom Riders challenge segregation

At the media meeting point, journalists jumped out of their cars, blocking both lanes of the road, and rushed to catch a glimpse of the freedom riders. Inspired by the US civil rights movement Freedom Rides, 6 Palestinians were on their way to (attempt to) board segregated Israeli settler buses to occupied East Jerusalem.

Public statements from the Palestinian Freedom Riders:

Badee’ Dwak, who was arrested during the ride, said: “The companies operating Israeli buses, like Egged and Veolia, are directly complicit in Israel’s violations of our rights. They transport settlers in and out of our occupied land, on roads that we often can’t use into places that we can’t reach, including Jerusalem. They need to be divested from and boycotted. Not just here, but around the world. It is a moral duty to end complicity in this Israeli system of apartheid.”

Basel Al Araj commented prior to his arrest: “The settlers are to Israel what the KKK was to the Jim Crow South – an unruly, fanatic mob that has enormous influence in shaping Israeli policies today and that violently enforces these policies with extreme violence and utter impunity all over the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in and around Jerusalem.”

The freedom riders walked to the bus stop, followed by a mob of cameras and journalists. They carried signs reading – DIGNITY, DEFY UNJUST LAWS, WE SHALL OVERCOME

At the settler bus stop

Four buses passed without stopping to admit the Palestinians. As the fifth neared, Huwaida Arraf (Palestinian activist and lawyer) reached out her hand and hailed the bus to a stop, then lead the 5 other freedom riders, and a swarm of cameras, to the doors of the bus.

Once they boarded the bus, we ran to our car and did our best to follow them, despite an Israeli military jeep which appeared to be purposely driving slow to deter the cars behind it from catching up to the bus. We took a short cut and arrived at Hizmeh checkpoint.

Here, the bus was stopped, and some of the Israeli passengers got off when it became apparent that there was going to be delays. They had a stand-off here for about an hour. In the meantime, friends and I got out the posters we had prepared and began to demonstrate along the street leading up to the checkpoint and the bus. Many passing Israelis made rude gestures, refused to look at us, even shouted – but now and then, we would catch the smile of a 1948-Palestinian who holds Israeli citizenship, but whose heart lay with us.

Activists holding posters (Picture from the ISM)

The Palestinian Freedom Rides are specifically calling for a boycott against two companies profiting from Israel’s illegal settlement infrastructure: the largest Israeli public transportation company, Egged, which the freedom riders boarded, and Veolia, a French prominent transportation company in the Occupied Territory. For more information on companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations, visit BDS.

Veolia is involved in building a tramway that links illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Article 49th of the 4th Geneva Convention forbids an occupier from transferring its own civilians into the area it occupies.

Although there is no official prohibition against Palestinians on Israeli transportation in the West Bank, in practice, the buses are segregated. They pass through Jewish-only settlements which forbid Palestinian entry by military decree.

Palestinians need a rarely-given Israeli permission to enter Israel (1948 Palestine), Jerusalem, or any of the 224 illegal settlements within the West Bank. Peace Now’s interactive map shows all these settlements. Israel restricts Palestinian freedom of movement by means of temporary, permanent, and random checkpoints, by forbidding Palestinian use of certain roads, and the Occupation wall.

Israelis in occupied Palestine have very few limitations enforced to them. They are encouraged by the Israeli government to illegally, by International law, settle in the West Bank. The United Nations says the number of attacks by extremist Jewish settlers on Palestinians resulting in either injury or damage to property has roughly tripled since 2009. Around 10,000 olive trees have been burned or damaged by settlers this year alone. Despite this, the UN report says that in 90% of complaints filed to the Israeli police by Palestinians against settlers, nobody is ever indicted.

Although by the laws of occupation, Israel has a responsibility to protect the Palestinians from these settlers (in fact, Israel should not have illegal colonies within the country they occupy in the first place) – very little is done to prevent the violence. Settlers are most often free to travel to Palestinian areas, are not searched, are free to carry weapons, and are sometimes even trained by the army. When they do commit crimes, Israeli military and police often are delayed in bringing a stop to it, or do not interfere at all. Settlers are rarely indicted for these crimes, even murder.

My poster reads, "Freedom for Palestine." | Haitham Khatib

While it was stopped at Hizmeh checkpoint, border police had tried to aggressively drag one of the Palestinians off the bus, but unsuccessful, they decided to command the bus 200 metres up the road, in order to free up the blocked lane in the checkpoint, and attempt to evade some of the media. Here they planned to arrest them. When we tried to go, soldiers let through all the demonstrators except me – for the same reason the Freedom Riders were about to be arrested – I’m Palestinian. Instead of returning to sit in the taxi alone and accept the rules that allow anyone except the actual descendents of the land to enter, me and 3 others decided to try to walk through the checkpoint anyways, knowing that I risked arrest for it. Immediately soldiers surrounded us and blocked the way. They took a look at my Canadian passport, then walked away and began to do other work without returning it. I began to follow the soldier demanding he return it, until he passed it off to another soldier. Now three soldiers faced us.

“I’ll give you the passport if you go back,” said a soldier.

“Give me the passport, but I’m not going back,” I replied. The 3 internationals with me began to demand that he give me my passport, that he’s already seen it and has no right to detain it.

He handed it back to me, and tried to push me back, “alright, now go back.”

“Nope” we replied simply. He tried to grab the passport back, but I pulled my arm out of his reach, then snuck the passport into my pocket and the two other soldiers burst into laughter at how he managed to lose the passport, but not us.

We stood in confrontation for around an hour. I was speaking to only one of the three soldiers, because he was the only one who spoke Arabic. The soldier would say, “It’s not me, it’s the law.” But when asked about the illegality of the settlements they are blocking entry to, he was unable to look at me. “It’s not me, it’s the establishment. I’m not blocking you from going” he would say, trying to extinguish his role in this. It’s not you? So on his cue, I stepped to his right and began to walk through the checkpoint – only to be surrounded by even more soldiers.

Eventually we decided to turn back because we heard word that all six Freedom Riders had been violently arrested, and we wanted to go to the Atarot prison to protest. It didn’t feel good to turn away, but at least we showed a few soldiers that there are some people still not normalized to their rules of apartheid.

An Israeli soldier unsuccessfuly tries to intimidate protesters away.

We headed back to Ramallah, then crossed the Qalandia checkpoint into another area that according to Israel’s laws, I’m forbidden to enter, but we managed! We held a protest outside the Atarot prison where we knew the Freedom Riders were being held. For us it felt a little bit futile, as it was late at night, and the media had all gone home, but the Palestinians being held told us later that they could hear our chants and even had tried to shout back!

We soon after made the decision to leave, because soldiers came out and threatened to arrest us all if we weren’t gone in ten minutes. Although some of us were ready to defy this, we made the decision that it wasn’t worth it as there was no media left and we needed to get home to send our reports, photos, and videos of the day.

The large crew of cameras definitely had an influence on the turn-out of events.

On the one hand, they had a positive extinguishing effect on the likelihood of violence from Israeli settlers and soldiers.

The other hand is that it resulted in a non-realistic handling of the situation. Had the cameras not been present, the Palestinian Freedom Riders would very likely have been subject to much more abuse, may not have been able to get on the bus in the first place, and probably would have been held in Israeli detention for much longer.

Although no one wishes these things for the Palestinian Riders who boarded the bus, it is worth noting.

At the end of the day, we went home with the feeling that, as a fellow ISMer puts it, “like I was witnessing history.”

Freedom Riders: “I felt like I was witnessing history” – ISM

Israel Arrests “Freedom Riders” Challenging Apartheid Road System – Electronic Intifada

Palestine: Freedom Rides Expose Israeli Segregation – Green Left Weekly

Israeli Reactions to Freedom Riders – +972 mag

Palestinian “Freedom Riders” Arrested – AFP

Solidarity with Palestinian Freedom Riders – Jewish Voices For Peace

Arrests Greet Palestinian Freedom Riders – Salon

Freedom Riders Take on Israeli Segregation – Bikyamasr

Strength on a dark day.

Today in Kufr Qaddoum, our peaceful protest was quickly assaulted by the Israeli military in a way unprecedented in my past month attending protests here. Perhaps because it was the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, the soldiers were double their normal number, and were positioned on the hills above ahead of the protest. They planned the assault of the village that was to come.

Children led the procession holding posters of Arafat’s face and happily marching down the village’s main road.

The first time I saw them, these twins ran into the house in a panic, tripping over their words and finishing each others sentences. The soldiers!! - we saw them! - the jeep! - it's coming! - they're going to shoot us - and chase us - and arrest the boys!- HURRY!! As Palestinians manage to do with all things that might break another's heart and spirit - they laughed. What else can you do for the children?

The kids will be shooed back to their homes in a few minutes as we near the soldiers, so they take advantage of the time they have as part of the demonstration.

We continued down the street to reach the barbed wire that closes off their road. This is the cause of the demonstration. Israel closed their main road because it passes by an illegal colonial settlement. Now instead of a quick drive down to the city, Nablus, they must take a roundabout route of 45 minutes. When we stop in front of the barbed wire, a man talking into a speaker begins to remember Yasser Arafat.

Just moments before the demonstration was bombarded with tear gas from a close range.

The soldiers tried to shout orders at the procession through a loud speaker, but the Palestinian man continued his speech un-phased by the interruptions. As he finished his speech, tension grew, some people knowingly began to move back in anticipation for the usual bombardment. Before anyone could get out of the way, tens of high-velocity tear gas canisters were fired at a time, from close-range. If hit in the head, these are lethal. They’ve also been known to cause paralysis and kill children.

Article 14 of the UN Basic Principles:

“In the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary.”

Tear gas landing among us. Fired at high velocity, a hit to the head is lethal. Otherwise they are known to break bones and/or cause burns or wounds.

Israel is denying Palestinians the Human Right of peaceful assembly and association (UDHR Art. 20-1) by reacting to peaceful forms of protest with violence.

After the first assault of tear gas,  a group of soldiers began to make their way into the village. The soldiers arrested a Palestinian man, 30 year old Hazzem Barham, who was lying down suffering from the tear gas and being attended by a Red Crescent volunteer. They denied him medical attention.

While documenting the arrest of Barham, soldiers then targeted a US activist and arrested him.

Barham and the US activist were taken to the illegal settlement of Ari’el where they are being charged with throwing stones – a charge completely discredited by the video footage taken during the demonstration. The US activist later tells us that within the police station, Barham has been subjected to gross humiliation by both soldiers and settlers inside Ari’el – including being spat on, taken photos of and made to crouch down with his head between his legs.

A video of the two arrests taken by a colleague:

They fired several rounds of tear gas, including several about 200 metres away from the protesters, right in between civilian homes. A few minutes later a young boy emerged vomiting, and in a second was picked up by men, passed to a Red Crescent worker, and brought to the ambulance where he was treated with an oxygen mask. He appeared to lose consciousness when lying in the ambulance.

Soldiers began to chase the procession deeper into the town. They fired several tear gas canisters, and we began to run.

But as people ran, countless more began to be fired, following the protesters as they ran. They continued to shoot tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at a crowd that was running away. We were choking and running as fast as we could for a single breath of air.

A Red Crescent worker unconcious from severe tear gas inhalation is brought into the mosque which shortly after is hit with tear gas. (The same RC worker that is helping others in the previous 2 pictures)

Many of the protesters ran to the mosque nearby, the place injured protesters are always taken for treatment because it is the safe-haven during the protester. Six were treated with tear gas inhalation, and three were hit with tear gas canisters. Tear gas began to be fired in rounds from an adjacent mountain, and even hit the mosque.

It was two hours of this before the soldiers withdrew, followed by a crowd of villagers to ensure that they left.

At the end of this assault, much worse than I’ve seen in my time visiting Kufr Qaddoum, it seemed that everyone at the protest went to the city council centre and was fed a traditional Palesitnian meal, msakhan, served by the tons! Out of context this is a sad day. We lost two protesters, many were injured, the town is littered with tear gas canisters, sound bombs, and rubber-coated bullets. Kids ran to me and showed me live ammo bullets they had found afterwards. But in reality, the procession left smiling and ready for the next moment because after years of having their road closed, they are finally fighting for their rights. I know that Palestine is strong because her people do not consume themselves in self-pity, but in courage, passion, and an unwavering joy for life.