Thursday, June 10, 2010

Human Rights Activist Held by Israeli Police, then Released

I have frequently used the postings of Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh to tell the story of what is happening in the West Bank, as Israel continues to confiscate land, building the wall ever closer to Palestinian towns in the West Bank to “protect” the Israeli settlements that have been built to colonize the Palestinian areas. For example, see my May 10 posting about Israel’s confiscation of land in Al-Walaja.

On my May trip, as we traveled from Beit Jala (one of the towns in the Bethlehem region, where the wall was being built directly in front of our hotel--see picture) back to Jerusalem, our bus headed for the nearest checkpoint. When we arrived, we were told that it was not a checkpoint for tourists. We had to turn around and drive for about 45 minutes back through Bethlehem and the main checkpoint there. The checkpoint where we tried to cross was Al-Walaja. You can see the town on the map—it’s just northwest of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. It’s the town with the red dotted line around it—showing the wall being constructed in a circle around the town, cutting it off from its olive groves, which are being uprooted for the construction of the wall. All to protect the large Israeli settlement of Gilo and the tiny Har Gilo, built on Beit Jala’s orchards.

On the map, the green line is the Green Line, the 1949 armistice line after the war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It was drawn as a tentative boundary between Israel and the West Bank. The solid red lines are where the wall has already been built. The dotted red lines are where the wall is currently being built and the purple lines are where the wall is planned.

When we toured Gilo with a guide from Ir Amim, he told us that in the early 70s, the site for Gilo had been chosen because they were looking for a place where people were not already living—he said there were “only 100 Palestinians living here, with a few olive and fruit trees.” So Gilo was built—on Palestinian land. And now the settlements are expanding and wanting to create a buffer between themselves and the Palestinian towns, so they are digging up more olive trees to make way for the 24-foot high security wall.

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh has been organizing non-violent demonstrations against the wall and yesterday he was arrested, but this morning he was released.

He writes (you can also read his posting on his blog: )

I was released from detention after investigation only with minor bruises, threats and warnings but both Israeli activists Shy and Yotam were brought in front of a judge on some false charges and judged to stay away from the wall for 30 days (last time for me it was 15 days) with hefty fines if they violate the order. I was honored to share a few hours with them in detention.

The past two days have not been easy (videos below). Yesterday (Tuesday June 8th), we witnessed how the land of Al-Walaja was being destroyed. Abu Nidal watched as Israeli colonizers uprooted olive trees that his family has planted decades ago and trees donated by Europeans 8 years ago. After the devastation, activists were determined to do something and this morning some even chained themselves to a bulldozer. The 'Border police' are known for being ruthless and mean. In this case, there was also the added complication of the Israeli army deciding to put a unit headed by a Druze officer named Asa'ad that included a mix of Ashkenazim and Druze and a token black soldier. One of the Ashkenazi soldiers was particularly aggressive. The Druze soldiers appeared out of place. Some soldiers confided that they are merely forced to serve. But Captain Asa'ad was clearly in command and interested in action. He was busy ordering his soldiers to push us around, instructing them to not talk to us, telling them to arrest us etc. After Yotam was arrested for chaining himself to the bulldozer, we were pushed up the hill toward the paved village road past the old destroyed fig tree that Zakhariya used to sit under every day for decades. We had a sit-in for over an hour at the side of the street.

Towards the end of it, it was clear that this commander had it in for us.

At two times as I was trying to talk to him and his soldiers, he came to tell me that I would be arrested. As we finally ended our sit-in and were moving away from the soldiers, the commander called for me and took my ID card and told me I was being detained. As his soldier led me away, other activists rushed to talk to the soldiers including the commander. I was thus not surprised to see Shy also arrested even though he did not do anything other than trying to talk to the occupation soldiers about why they detained me. I was released without charges four hours later with a strong warning and threat from Asa'ad that he would shackle me, hurt me, 'and worse' if he caught me near the wall work areas again. Shy and Yotam were given a suspended sentence but they must stay away from the wall areas for 30 days. If you know any Druze, I urge you to write to them. It is a shame what they are doing serving in an army of occupation. But it is also a shame for any human being to serve in such a sadistic brutalizing colonization force.
Heartbreaking video of devastation Tuesday June 8th at
And the action and arrests on Wednesday June 9th
And here is a report from Palestine monitor with great photos

This destruction is carried on while the US administration bribes Mahmoud Abbas with more millions in aid for more streets and government buildings and security forces to ensure we do not have any demonstrations against the occupation. This is done as the US shields Israel from International law and sends more arms shipments to Israel in violation of US law (which demands weapons not be used to violate human rights)

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