18 August 2009
At 3AM on Monday, August 3, the Israeli army raided Bil’in and arrested Mohammad Khatib, along with six other Palestinian community activists and one American human rights observer from the village. This move is an attempt by Israeli authorities to silence a popular resistance movement gaining international attention and inspiring other Palestinian communities. This West Bank agricultural village, known for its weekly protests against the Israeli apartheid wall, has become a symbol for the Palestinian popular resistance to Israel’s ongoing military occupation.
While many are quick to condemn Palestinians when they resort to armed resistance, Israel has been left free to harass, imprison and sometimes kill Palestinians who nonviolently resist the confiscation and destruction of their land in Bil’in and elsewhere.
In June 2009, Mohammed Khatib traveled to Canada for preliminary hearings on an historic lawsuit launched by Bil’in village against two Quebec-based companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International. Both companies are building illegal Israeli-only settlements on Bil’in’s land.
Mohammad’s arrest is just one in a series of many carried out by the Israeli military in Bil’in since June 2009, coinciding with the beginning of these legal proceedings. Video of the ongoing struggle in Bil’in, including interviews with Mohammad Khatib and Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TySr95aKSlU.
To date, 25 people (most under 18) have been arrested, and 18 of them remain in detention. Having experienced Israel’s interrogation/ intimidation/torture tactics, two of the arrested minors ‘confessed’ that the Bil’in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. Then based on these forced ‘confessions’, Israeli forces arrested Mohammad Khatib and other leaders in Bil’in. They have been charged with “incitement to damage the security of the area.”
An August 13, 2009 statement issued by the Bil’in popular committee declared that Mohammad Khatib, Adeeb Abu Rahmeh and other leaders of the Palestinian popular struggle, “are being targeted because they mobilize Palestinians to resist non-violently. “Israel is stealing our land from us and then prosecuting us as criminals because we struggle non-violently for justice,” said the statement.
In September 2007, after four years of Friday afternoon protests in Bil’in that underscored the violence and injustice of the Israeli occupation, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the village. Contrary to the Opinion of the International Court of Justice, the Israeli Supreme Court did not find the apartheid wall was illegal. But it did find the wall’s route through Bil’in was not designed to separate settlers from potential Palestinian terrorists; it was designed to make Modi’in Illit, the giant orthodox Jewish settlement next to Bil’in, bigger by about 2,000 dunams of farmland owned by Bil’in villagers. The Court ordered the army to reroute the fence and give the people of Bil’in back at least part of the land taken from them.
The very next day, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to legalize the Israeli settlement of Mattiyahu East (part of Modi’inIllit’s expansion), built on Bil’in’s land to the west of the wall, which separates the village from 60% of its farming land. The villagers vowed to continue their resistance against the wall and settlements on its land and hundreds of them along with other Palestinians, international and Israeli supporters are still protesting every week.
Israeli soldiers are still injuring and killing them every Friday afternoon with Billy clubs, tear-gas canisters fired at close range, and rubber bullets. With no justice from Israeli courts, the villagers of Bil’in turned to the international arena and, with the help of Canadian lawyers and backed by the Canadian solidarity movement, filed litigation in Canada.
Mohammad Khatib’s arrest is an attempt by Israel to thwart such international support for justice for Palestinians.
Mohammad Khatib joins an estimated 11,000 Palestinian prisoners – including over 400 children -detained by Israeli authorities, many without charge or trial. According to a recent report from Amnesty International, many Palestinian prisoners “face medical negligence, routine beatings, position torture and strip searches by Israeli prison authorities.” According to the Palestinian section of Defense for Children International, “each year, hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated, abused and imprisoned by the Israeli military authorities often amounting to torture.”
Lamya Khatib, whose husband, Mohammad as well as her younger brother, Abdullah, are both imprisoned at Ofer military base, stated: ” It is obvious that the Israeli authorities will do all they can to prevent Palestinians and Israelis from working together towards a just peace, but I know that Mohammed, Abdullah and I, and everyone in Bil’in, will continue our struggle for justice.”
Inspired by their commitment and dedication, the Free Gaza Movement stands with the Bil’in resistance movement and the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice throughout the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Palestine48.