Published on Friday, September 3, 2010 by Electronic Intifada
by Mohammed Khatib
When I was a boy I was still allowed to travel in
And just as
Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of the Bilin Popular Committee and my best friend, is one such man. He made the international news after the EU's foreign policy chief issued a statement condemning his conviction in an Israeli military court on 24 August. He was convicted of "incitement" -- an intentionally vague charge that criminalizes freedom of speech -- and of organizing "illegal" demonstrations. Direct negotiation between
Abdallah, a school teacher and father of three, has been imprisoned at the Ofer military prison since 10 December 2009 -- International Human Rights Day, no less. Israeli soldiers raided his occupied West Bank home in the middle of the night, and dragged him from his bed in front of his wife, Majida, and their three children, Luma (7), Lian (5) and eight-month-old baby Laith.
The protests that Abdallah was convicted of organizing began on 16 December 2004, the day Israeli military bulldozers first came to uproot olive trees on our village's lands and plant a wall in their stead. Since that day we have held hundreds of demonstrations in which Israelis and internationals joined Palestinians to say no to Israeli apartheid and yes to partnership and peace based on justice. In Bilin we believe that creativity and hope are our most effective tools to break the shackles of occupation and realize our rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed to us by international law.
In July 2004, months before the construction of
Every day, more and more Palestinians choose to oppose injustice and occupation with grassroots unarmed resistance, challenging Israeli hegemony. Threatened by our movement's growth, Israel has launched a campaign of repression, targeting activists and members of popular committees -- the bodies mobilizing protesters -- across the West Bank with arrests and violence.
Last March, in another draconian attack on free speech, the lands of Bilin and the neighboring
Between February 2004 and June 2009, twenty unarmed demonstrators have been killed, hundreds imprisoned and thousands injured. The soldiers and settlers who regularly violate international law do so with almost complete impunity. Meanwhile, Palestinian civilians who organize protest are charged with incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations.
In fact, it is only by coincidence that I myself am not imprisoned in Ofer prison together with Abdallah. Like Abdallah, I have been arrested by soldiers who broke into my home at the middle of the night. I too was charged with incitement and organizing demonstrations. Like they did with Abdallah, the military also claimed that I had been throwing stones.
Their mistake was, that unlike in Abdallah's case, they tried to use not only unlawfully extracted testimonies of minors, but they also provided a falsified picture of me with a stone in my hand. But I was lucky. I was abroad on the date that the picture was taken and could prove that I was not the man in the picture. When the fraud became evident, the judge had no choice but to order my release. Otherwise, like Abdallah and many other Palestinian organizers and activists, I would have been considered dangerous and held at least until the end of my trial, which is still ongoing.
If what Abdallah has done is illegal, then we are all proud offenders. Israel better round us up and throw us to its jails and prisons by the hundreds, as the perverse reality
The EU's statement denouncing Abdallah's conviction is an important first step. But it must be followed by serious action to ensure that
© 2010 Electronic Intifada
Mohammed Khatib is the secretary of the Bilin village council and the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/09/03-5
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs