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Israeli Soldier indicted for beating Palestinian grassroots leader Mohammed Khatib in Bil’in

Yesh Din

19 October 2009

On October 15, an indictment was filed against an Israeli soldier accused of beating up well-known nonviolent protester and secretary of Bil’in’s Regional Council Mohammed Khatib one month ago (September 15) during a night raid on the village. The organization Yesh Din filed a complaint and demanded that an investigation be launched immediately after the incident. The soldier was arrested on October 6th and remains in custody.

The alleged beating took place shortly after 1:30am on September 15th, when the Israeli military raided the Bil’in residence of Abedullah Abu Rahma, Coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, in an attempt to arrest him. However, he was not home at the time. Soldiers sealed off the house while operating inside. When Mohammed Khatib came to the house and attempted to enter to check on Abu Rahme’s family, he was severely beaten. He was taken to a hospital in Ramallah for treatment and returned to the village later.

Attorney Michael Sfard, Yesh Din Legal Council: “The Israeli Military record in its treatment of Palestinina complainsts against soldier violence is unacceptable. While of course we are glad to see the soldier who beat up Mohammed beginning the process of being brought to justice, the indictment filed today is the exception. Yesh Din has filed several complaints regarding severe violence in Bil’in over the past few weeks and in NONE of them were the offenders made accountable for their behavior.”

Mohammed Khatib: “This indictment – against the soldier who beat me – clearly shows how the Israelli Military’s attempt to quash the village’s resistance has gone completely out of control, forcing even the military investigative police and military prosecution to intervene. A simple glance at the statistics of indictments should be enough for anyone to realize how rare such intervention is and how impenetrable impunity is in the Israeli army. The real problem, of course, is not an individual soldier, but rather the fact that the army employs military means to deal with civic, unarmed resistance, as if we were an armed enemy.”

Indictments of Israeli Soldiers:
According to Yesh Din’s report “Exceptions”, of the 1,246 investigation files opened by the MPCID (military police criminal investigations department) from the start of the Second Intifada in 2000 until the end of 2007, only 78 (6%) led to indictments against one or more soldiers. Of the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed, perpetrators were convicted in only 4 cases.

Bil’in arrests and night raids:
On June 23rd of this year, the Israeli Military began conducting regular nighttime incursions into Bil’in, evacuating homes and searching for participants in the Friday demonstrations, particularly the leaders of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, as well as teenage boys accused of throwing stones at the wall. 28 residents of the village have been arrested over the past three months along with two internationals and one Israeli. Of the 28 residents arrested, 12 are minors (under the age of 16). Of the 28 arrested, 10 people have been released on bail, meaning that 18 are still held in custody, among them 10 minors. Of the 28, three members of the leadership have been arrested – Mohammed Khatib, Mohammed Abu Rahme (“Abu Nizar”) and Bassel Mansour. At least one other leader is wanted – Abedallah Abu Rahme – and the military has broken into his house several times over the past weeks in attempts to arrest him. The villagers and many of their Israeli supporters believe that these arrests are part of a targeted Israeli attempt to quash the years-strong non-violent Palestinian resistance movement, beginning with the village that has become its symbol.