Thursday, June 9, 2011

Non-violent Protest in West Bank - Bassem Tamimi Speaks Out at his Trial

Almost every Palestinian man I have met, tells the same story you will read below. While the world has averted its eyes, Palestinians struggle every day to keep their homes, even when they live in areas "controlled" by the Palestinian Authority, on lands their families have lived on for centuries, or in houses where they fled for safety in 1948 (from Jewish paramilitary troops) or 1967 (from the Israeli Army as it conquered land placed under the administration of Jordan or Egypt). Bassem Tamimi lives in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, where he is the coordinator of his village’s "popular committee," organizing non-violent protests against Israel's demolition of homes. He was arrested in March. Photo shows Bassem Tamimi leading a non-violent protest in Bil'in in March.

American news media tends to present these demonstrations as a threat to public safety, while the participants characterize their actions as a challenge to the injustice they are experiencing, and a struggle for their human rights. As an occupied people, Palestinians have no rights in Israeli civil courts; when they sue there for the right to keep their homes, the courts either rule in favor of the Israeli government, or the authorities ignore the courts' ruling (this is the case in Tamimi's village of Nabi Saleh). You can read more of his story here, on Jewish Voice for Peace's (JVP) web site. Read a news account of his arrest and court appearance.

Bassem Tamimi, the subject of an action alert by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), speaks up for freedom on the 44th anniversary of Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, June 5th, 2011.

Tamimi’s statement, from JVP:

Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts’ decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Read the rest of his statement here....

No comments: