29 December 2009
Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was arrested at his home during a military operation in Ramallah by the Israeli Army on December 10.
FFIPP interns and members of faculty delegations know Abdallah Abu Rahmah well. For the past two years, he has received our students and faculty at his home in Bil’in and has taken them to see the Separation Wall on the village’s land.
Abdallah is currently in military prison and is being charged with illegal weapons possession, in response to his creative exhibition of discharged tear gas canisters, bullets and sound grenades used by the Israeli military in Bil’in against non-violenet protestors. As many of our students and faculty have witnessed, the exhibition was created for educational purposes and does not have live ammunitions but only the remains of weapon used by the Israeli Army.
In th e last 20 years Israel confiscated more than 50% of Bil’in land for Israeli settlements and the construction of the separation wall. Supported by Israeli and international activists, Bil’in residents have peacefully demonstrated every Friday in front of the Separation Wall on their land for the past five years.
Under international law the confiscation of land in Bilin for the construction of the settlements on the village’s land is illegal. The ongoing construction of the Wall is also condemned by the UN and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 2007 the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the government to reroute a section of its separation barrier that is on the village’s land.
Abdallah’s arrest appears to be part of an ongoing campaign conducted by the Israeli military to undermine the efforts of residents of Bil’in and leaders of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, in an attempt to discourage them from continuing their non-violent struggle and spreading their non-violent, creative and inclusive struggle to other villages. Since June 2009, 31 residents of Bil’in have been detained by the Israeli military. Recently, other leaders of the grassroots and non-violent Palestinian movement for the removal of the Wall and for freedom have been arrested, such as Jamal Juma’ and Mohammad Othman.
By imprisoning leaders of the non-violent struggle against the confiscation of Palestinian land, what is the message that the Israeli military intends to convey? If the leaders of this struggle, who work openly and jointly with Israeli and international peace activists, are taken away by the Israeli military, what options are left open to a new generation of Palestinians who desire to fight for their freedom and their dignity?
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who met with Abdallah Abu Rahma last summer during a visit to Israel, under the auspices of The Elders, a group of global leaders formed by former South African president Nelson Mandela, condemned Abu Rahma’s arrest and indictment.
Archbishop Tutu said that he and his fellow delegation members – who included former American president Jimmy Carter, former Irish president Mary Robinson and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Brundtland – were “impressed by [Abdallah Abu Rahma] commitment to peaceful political action, and their success in challenging the wall that unjustly separates the people of Bil’in from their land and their olive trees.” He called Abu Rahma’s arrest and indictment “part of an escalation by the Israeli military to try to break the spirit of the people of Bil’in.”
All of us who met with Abdallah Abu Rahmah in Bilin share Desmond Tutu’s evaluation and condemnation.
We urge students and faculty to
1) Send a message of support and solidarity to the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements,
2) Contact Israeli embassies to request the release of Palestinian popular leaders from Israeli prisons,
3) Ask President Obama to put pressure on Israel to release the leaders of the non-vilolent struggle against the Wall and settlements