Amnesty: Israeli Detention of Palestinian Activists Must End

In an effort to curtail non-violent resistance to its 42 year occupation of the Palestinian people, in this case in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel has begun imprisoning prominent resistance leaders from various Palestinian communities. The dangerousness of these leaders to Israel's colonialism is apparently becoming more evident as their non-violent protests achieve wider international press coverage.

Amnesty International recently condemned these arrests/imprisonments which take place without charge.

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The Israeli authorities must immediately release, or bring before a fair trial, three Palestinian human rights activists detained in Israel following their protests against the construction of the West Bank fence/wall, Amnesty International said on Friday.

In a letter sent to Ehud Barak, Israeli Defence and Deputy Prime Minister on Thursday, Amnesty International expressed concern that Jamal Juma', Abdallah Abu Rahmah and Mohammed Othman were prisoners of conscience, held for legitimately voicing their opposition to the fence/wall.

"These men have all been involved in campaigning against the building of this construction, much of it on the land of the occupied West Bank, and we fear that this is the real reason for their imprisonment," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "If this is the case they must be released immediately and unconditionally."

Jamal Juma' is the co-ordinator of the "Stop the Wall" campaign and a prominent human rights activist. He was arrested by the Israeli authorities on 16 December 2009. He has not been formally charged with any offence since his detention and information relating to his arrest has not been shared with his lawyer.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah, head of the "Popular Committee Against the Wall" in the village of Bil'in, was arrested on 10 December 2009. He has been charged with three offences: incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms.

Amnesty International said it understands the possession of arms charge relates to Abdallah Abu Rahmah collecting used M16 bullets, and empty sound and gas grenades, employed by Israeli forces to disperse demonstrators against the wall, and exhibiting them in Bil'in museum to raise awareness of Israeli practices against protestors.

Mohammed Othman, a volunteer with the "Stop the Wall" campaign, has been detained continuously since 22 September 2009. He was arrested on his return from Norway, after meeting activist groups there campaigning against the fence/wall and is being held without charge or trial in Israeli administrative detention.

Read on HERE: http://www.alternativenews.org/english/2365-amnesty-international-israeli-detention-of-palestinian-activists-must-end.html

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On January 9, 2010, the wife of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Majida, who is a school teacher, wrote a “message” to Americans, which was frontpaged by Huffington Post (thank you Ariana for not being deceived during your recent trip to Israel). It was called, <b>A Message of Non-Violent Resistance From Within Israeli Prison</b>.

(Does anyone recall the arrest and jailing of Martin Luther King?)

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On Tuesday, January 5, I attended the trial of my husband Abdallah Abu Rahmah in an Israeli military detention camp. Ofer Military Base is a dark and dehumanizing place, but I was happy to go there because it meant that I would finally see my husband.

I joined my friend Fatima, wife of Adib Abu Rahmah in the crowd of families waiting outside the gates of the base hoping to be admitted. Fatima's husband is another committed nonviolent activist from Bil'in who, like my husband, is being accused of incitement, that is, of encouraging demonstrations against the Wall. Adib and Fatima have nine children. He has been in detention for over six months now.

Diplomats from the US, Germany, Sweden and Spain who know Abdallah also came to support him.

Just one month ago these diplomats had visited Abdullah in Bil'in and had seen for themselves how Israeli settlements and the Apartheid Wall have stolen over 50% of our village's land. They promised then that they would do what they could to help our popular struggle and here they were, true to their word. The Spanish consul who represents the new president of the European union tried to shake Abdullah's hand but the soldiers wouldn't let him.

Read on HERE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/majda-abu-rahmah/a-message-of-non-violent_b_415139.html

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I recall videoed scenes of the weekly protests in Bil'in, West Bank. The violence of the Israeli soldiers is reminiscent of the gas and water cannons used by southern policeman and state troopers to stop segregation protests in the US. Eerie.

Viva Palestina convoy breaks siege of Gaza

 Wednesday 6th January

Today Viva Palestina's third convoy of humanitarian aid from this British organization for the Gazan Palestinians entered Gaza after a long eventful trip, in which the Egyptian authorities attempted to block the convoy at every turn. The convoy had been on the road for a month, traveled through 10 countries to Aqaba, Jordan, was turned back to Syria, took a ship and several airplanes to El-Arish, Egypt, then fought with Egyptian riot police for a day before eventually being permitted entry into Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

The many obstacles imposed by Egypt made clear that Egypt was subjugating itself to the will of Israel and the United States. The Obama administration was silent throughout the ordeal.

Kevin Ovenden, the convoy leader, had these words to say:

"We are all emotional to see that all of Gaza are out to greet us! Our Viva Palestina convoy is symbolic! It shows the Palestianian people just how much the people of the West do care. We come in peace to deliver humanitarian aid and we hope that our convoy (and convoy's like ours) will help to build pressure on the Israeli government to break the siege."

LINK: http://www.vivapalestina.org/home.htm

Videos of the crossing itself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2M3yUhk5eU&feature=player_embedded

and commentary from British MP, George Galloway, leader of Viva Palestina:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8v5tK8i5yI&feature=player_embedded

(I'm certain that we will have video embedding shortly. Just click on the links for now)

Viva Palestina convoy breaks siege of Gaza

Wednesday 6th January

Today Viva Palestina's third convoy of humanitarian aid from this British organization for the Gazan Palestinians entered Gaza after a long eventful trip, in which the Egyptian authorities attempted to block the convoy at every turn. The convoy had been on the road for a month, traveled through 10 countries to Aqaba, Jordan, was turned back to Syria, took a ship and several airplanes to El-Arish, Egypt, then fought with Egyptian riot police for a day before eventually being permitted entry into Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

The many obstacles imposed by Egypt made clear that Egypt was subjugating itself to the will of Israel and the United States. The Obama administration was silent throughout the ordeal.

Kevin Ovenden, the convoy leader, had these words to say:

"We are all emotional to see that all of Gaza are out to greet us! Our Viva Palestina convoy is symbolic! It shows the Palestianian people just how much the people of the West do care. We come in peace to deliver humanitarian aid and we hope that our convoy (and convoy's like ours) will help to build pressure on the Israeli government to break the siege."

http://www.vivapalestina.org/home.htm

Videos of the crossing itself and commentary from British MP, George Galloway, leader of Viva Palestina, follows:

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US supports the siege of Gaza

....and indeed undoubtedly gave the go-ahead for Israel's massacre of Gazan Palestinians a year ago.

That was on Bush's watch. But there is no evidence that Obama is following a different policy, which was clearly evident in American acquiescence during the recent Gaza Freedom March, which brought over 1,300 internationals, including Americans, to Cairo one year later.

In this report from Al Jezeera (the American press was no where to be found) during the protest, Egyptian security forces attempted to prevent 41 US activists from reaching the American Embassy in Cairo. Hoping to ask the American ambassador for help in reaching the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, these activist-citizens instead found themselves surrounded by Egyptian riot police.

One activist, Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, told Al Jezeera: "We met with a political rep. in the embassy, Greg Legrefo, and talked about the dire situation in Gaza and international complicity for more than hour .... but the bottom line is the US supports the siege of Gaza.” That the US Army Corps of Engineers is providing technical assistance to Egypt to build an underground wall along the Egypt-Gaza border to stop Palestinian tunneling supports that proposition. The tunnels bring in much needed albeit black market food and even medical supplies to the besieged population.

On New Years eve, Jean Athey, a Maryland grandmother and human rights activist, wrote this Op-Ed for Truthout about her experiences at the American Embassy in Cairo as a member of the Gaza Freedom March along with Abunimah. And she appears to have come if indirectly to the same conclusion: that the United States supports the siege of Gaza. There is no other conclusion can one draw from the events that transpired in Egypt this past week.

Obama's silence only added to the impression.

"This morning, I was at the US Embassy with a group of about 40 other Americans. We went hoping to see the ambassador, but instead we were surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear and kept penned in for some five hours. The police told us that they did this at the behest of the American Embassy, but later the "political security officer" of the embassy denied it. So, who is lying? It is interesting that the French ambassador spent the night outside with the French protesters when they first occupied the sidewalk in front of their embassy, but the American ambassador refused to see us, apparently had us detained, and for no reason.

We went to the American Embassy to ask the US to prevail upon the Egyptian government and allow our nonviolent delegation into Gaza. The US has tremendous leverage with Egypt, of course, and if the US asked Egypt to allow us to go to Gaza, the border would surely be opened immediately. Three members of our group were allowed inside the embassy to speak to an American representative, while the rest of us were prevented from moving outside our temporary pen. Our spokespersons reminded the political officer with whom they met that when Barack Obama came to Cairo in June, he spoke movingly of the power of nonviolence as a way to resist oppression. The president said:"

"For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding."

"The Gaza Freedom March embodies that "peaceful and determined insistence" about which the president spoke. I wonder if the ambassador heard his speech.

In that same speech, President Obama acknowledged the dire circumstances of Palestinians in general and Gazans in particular. He said:"

"So let there be no doubt: the state of the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own ... Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security . . . Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress."

"And, yet, it seems that we Americans have turned our backs on the people of Gaza; we are doing nothing to end the siege, which is creating enormous suffering. We have done nothing to compel Israel to end the siege. Indeed, the US is presently facilitating a strengthening of the siege: it was announced last week that the Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in further isolating the people of Gaza by helping in the construction of a huge underground wall. This wall will cut off the only remaining sources of food, clothes, medicine, and all othera necessities of life, which now enter Gaza through tunnels from Egypt. How shameful that the US is working to increase the suffering of the people of Gaza rather than to diminish it."

"In his Nobel acceptance speech, President Obama said...."

Well it doesn't appear to matter what President Obama said, because it would appear that he only had words to throw at resolving this human rights situation. By his silence over the past week, and the actions of the American Embassy, President Obama has shown that the United States supports the siege of Gaza.

Should we be ashamed?

 (Note: links, quotes not working)

 

 

A stroll through Gaza on New Years Day

Passed on by Irish, at Gaza friends.

“As Egyptian police beat peace activists, reports for Gaza break our hearts. Never forget that it is Israeli war crimes and Israeli/U.S. pressure that is keeping the people of Gaza bombed back to the mud age, It is Israel who has maimed, arrested and killed Palestinians, Internationals and Israelis who stand in support. Egypt's orders come straight from Israel and the U.S. Greta”

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yT4tk2RiNIo

The following report is from one of the Free Gaza March activists, Donna Mulhearn, who entered Gaza with the 86 Egyptian authorities permitted through the Rafah crossing.

"He wasn’t like the other boys I met here in Gaza today. This boy, balanced on a piece of concrete jutting out of a high mound of rubble, had his arms folded and just looked at us.

Other boys run towards you and cry “Hallo mister” and they laugh, make funny poses for the camera and carry on. But the boy on the rubble was still. He stared in silence. His face defiant. His large, dark eyes piercing. He stood as though he was waiting. Waiting for us to do something perhaps, to say something. Just waiting.

The boy, perhaps nine or ten years old, was standing on wreckage where his house used to be. Now his family camps in a tent in the midst of the smashed concrete and tangled iron. He is no doubt waiting for his home to be rebuilt, but the siege of Gaza means his family cannot access the raw materials required to do so. “How can we rebuild when we haven’t had a sack of cement in four years?” one head of an NGO  asked us.
 
Our group, a contingent of the Gaza Freedom March, was on a tour of Gaza’s neighbourhoods devastated by the Israel Defence Forces attack on Gaza this time last year. Operation Cast Lead killed about 1400 people, 288 of them children and destroyed more than 3,500 homes.

This was unlike your average city tour, today the commentary was chilling, the scenes raising more questions, creating even more tears. “You can see where three houses used to be,” our guide says pointing to a large empty space along a busy street.

“Here is the Schiffa Hospital where 700 victims were brought on the first night of the attack. Those factories over there are closed because of the siege. And up ahead a school.” He points to a massive mess of concrete and steel where 1000 children used to go to learn. “And on your right a tall apartment tower ripped in two by an Israeli missile, 15 innocents dead at this spot, and in this sports gym 50 dead, and here you can see more tents where the families are sleeping where their houses used to be and in this neighbourhood there were 200 killed.” And so it goes on and on.

As we walked through the remains of a bombed out sports/entertainment complex right on Gaza’s beachfront, Ahmed, our guide - a smartly dressed, well spoken young man - wanted to tell us the story of Houda Ralia. A girl of nine, she was swimming at the beach when missiles struck,  Houda rushed back to her family who were on the beach. She saw them killed right in front of her. Mother, father and four brothers.

After an hour of proving this detailed account of last year’s attack, Ahmed sighed, “however long we talk about the suffering, it will never be long enough.”

It’s rainy, windy and cold here, the families in tents have a winter to endure and, because of the siege, no prospect to be in a home by next winter. Hours after I saw him, I still feel the stare of the boy on the rubble – the boy who is not playful with us because he’s angry, he’s tired and he‘s homeless. His stare haunts me because I know that he knows.

He knows the reason he won’t have a home by next winter is because the international community has allowed the siege of Gaza, an illegal and morally reprehensible blockade to continue with barely a comment from our political leaders. UN Human Rights Rapporteur for Palestine, Richard Falk says that because there has been no meaningful international pressure coming from Governments it is up to civil society, you and me, to step in.

There are many reasons we should step in: because of the 288 children killed last year, the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe caused by the siege, the physical and mental trauma of the population, but also for the boy in the rubble.

The boy in the rubble is waiting. Until he feels some hope he will maintain his defiant stance, his challenging stare.

He wants to be playful again, but he’s waiting for us to end the silence that has left his community in a state of constant struggle.

This little boy from Gaza city, living in a tent surrounded by the rubble where his house used to be, folds his arms and stares in our direction because he is waiting for us to act.

May his eyes haunt us until we do.

PS: Meanwhile in Cairo, our colleagues are maintaining a powerful protest against the Egyptian Government’s refusal to allow the 1300 or so activists there to join us in Gaza. Many have been barricaded in their hotels by riot police, others have been injured by police at a peaceful protest in the city. This is receiving world-wide press coverage, although perhaps not in Australia."

Australia? How about the US?

 

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