Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crackdown on Popular struggle

Danger: Popular struggle
By Amira Hass

There is an internal document that has not been leaked, or perhaps has not even been written, but all the forces are acting according to its inspiration: the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces, Border Police, police, and civil and military judges. They have found the true enemy who refuses to whither away: The popular struggle against the occupation.

Over the past few months, the efforts to suppress the struggle have increased. The target: Palestinians and Jewish Israelis unwilling to give up their right to resist reign of demographic separation and Jewish supremacy. The means: Dispersing demonstrations with live ammunition, late-night army raids and mass arrests. Since the beginning of the year, 29 Palestinians have been wounded by IDF snipers while demonstrating against the separation fence. The snipers fired expanding bullets, despite an explicit 2001 order from the Military Adjutant General not to use such ammunition to break up demonstrations. After soldiers killed A'kel Srour in June, the shooting stopped, but then resumed in November.

Since June, dozens of demonstrators have been arrested in a series of nighttime military raids. Most are from Na'alin and Bil'in, whose land has been stolen by the fence, and some are from the Nablus area, which is stricken by settlers' abuse. Military judges have handed down short prison terms for incitement, throwing stones and endangering security. One union activist from Nablus was sent to administrative detention - imprisonment without a trial - while another activist is still being interrogated.

For a few weeks now, the police have refused to approve demonstrations against the settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, an abomination approved by the courts. On each of the last two Fridays, police arrested more than 20 protesters for 24 hours. Ten were held for half an hour in a cell filled with vomit and diarrhea in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem.

Israel also recently arrested two main activists from the Palestinian organization Stop the Wall, which is involved in research and international activity which calls for the boycott of Israel and companies profiting from the occupation. Mohammad Othman was arrested three months ago. After two months of interrogation did not yield any information, he was sent to administrative detention. The organization's coordinator, Jamal Juma'a, a 47-year-old resident of Jerusalem, was arrested on December 15. His detention was extended two days ago for another four days, and not the 14 requested by the prosecutor.

The purpose of the coordinated oppression: To wear down the activists and deter others from joining the popular struggle, which has proven its efficacy in other countries at other times. What is dangerous about a popular struggle is that it is impossible to label it as terror and then use that as an excuse to strengthen the regime of privileges, as Israel has done for the past 20 years.

The popular struggle, even if it is limited, shows that the Palestinian public is learning from its past mistakes and from the use of arms, and is offering alternatives that even senior officials in the Palestinian Authority have been forced to support - at least on the level of public statements.

Yuval Diskin and Amos Yadlin, the respective heads of the Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence, already have exposed their fears. During an intelligence briefing to the cabinet they said: "The Palestinians want to continue and build a state from the bottom up ... and force an agreement on Israel from above ... The quiet security [situation] in the West Bank and the fact that the [Palestinian] Authority is acting against terror in an efficient manner has caused the international community to turn to Israel and demand progress."

The brutal repression of the first intifada, and the suppression of the first unarmed demonstrations of the second intifada with live fire, have proved to Palestinians that the Israelis do not listen. The repression left a vacuum that was filled by those who sanctified the use of arms.

Is that what the security establishment and its political superiors are trying to achieve today, too, in order to relieve us of the burden of a popular uprising?

Bil'in protest leader indicted over spent tear gas canisters
Published today (updated) 23/12/2009 14:07

Ma’an – Israeli prosecutors filed an indictment in a military court against Abdullah Abu Rahmah on Monday, a leader of popular demonstrations against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

The charges against Abu Rahmah included incitement, stone throwing and arms possession, according to his attorney, Gaby Lasky. The arms referred to in the indictment are spent tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army at protesters over four years of weekly demonstrations. In November, protesters gathered the canisters and launched them at Israeli troops in response to further tear-gas fire.

“The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting presenting the remnants – they are persecuted and prosecuted,” Lasky said in a statement.

“What's next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?”

Abu Rahmah is the coordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee, the body that organizes weekly demonstrations against the wall, which Israel is building across the village’s land.

In 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the military to move the barrier surrounding the village so it did not cut though locally owned agricultural land, but the decision was never implemented. The International Court of Justice also ruled the wall illegal in 2004.

Abu Rahmah was seized by Israeli soldiers from his Ramallah home on 10 December and remains in prison.

Anti-occupation campaigners say the arrest was part of a wave of repression tactics aimed at popular resistance movements like the Friday demonstrations against the wall and illegal settlements.

Israel has charged numerous grassroots organizers with both stone throwing and incitement. In at least one case, that of Mohammed Khatib from Bil'in, the court found evidence presented on a stone-throwing charge to be falsified, according to a statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

It emerged on Sunday that another prominent campaigner, Jamal Juma of the Stop the Wall Campaign, had been arrested. He was charged in a Jerusalem court on Monday with suspicion of incitement.

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