13 January 2010
Political prisoner Wa’el Al-Faqeeh has been detained without charge by Israeli authorities for over a month, and is now facing trial in Salim military court on the 19th of January. The abduction of Al-Faqeeh from his home, along with 4 other activists in the Nablus region, marked the beginning of the recent surge in Israel’s targeting of leaders of Palestinian popular resistance.
On the night of December 9th 2009 over 200 Israeli soldiers entered the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Their mission: to round up a list of local grassroots activists, whose promotion of popular struggle Israel had no answer for. Amongst those taken was 45 year old Wa’el Al-Faqeeh, when 50 soldiers stormed his home, pointing their weapons at him and his family as though the man they had come to arrest embodied a formidable threat. But those who know Al Faqeeh know that he worked tirelessly – and on a largely voluntary basis – in defense of human rights and the promotion of the strategies and philosophy of Palestinian non-violent resistance.
Al-Faqeeh’s membership to the Tanweer Palestinian Cultural Enlightenment Forum board of directors was a vehicle for the initiation of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) campaign at An-Najah University as well as countless cultural, social and educational projects for Nablus youth, championing the belief of freedom through the fulfilment of learning and expression. His organisation of Iraq Burin’s weekly demonstrations through the months of July to September played an instrumental role in the return of 30 dunums of land to the village annexed by neighbouring settlements and Israeli military forces. Al Faqeeh enthusiastically supported the cause of Palestinian farmers working under constant threat from settler and military violence, organising the annual olive harvest in the Nablus region and working year-round to defend agricultural communities’ connection to their land and economic livelihood.
His grassroots outreach across the political spectrum inspired all those he met and worked with, but Al-Faqeeh has suffered greatly for it. On more than one occasion he was threatened by Israeli officials for his involvement in popular struggle, severely limiting his movements for fear of arrest. This fear was realised on the 9th of December, when he was arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military, joining 8,000 other Palestinian political prisoners like him.
Upon his arrest Al-Faqeeh was taken to Huwara Detention Centre and transferred the following day to Jelemeh Prison in Haifa ,where he is now held. This is illegal under the IV Geneva Convention, which outlaws the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory to the state of the occupying force. He has been held for over a month under interrogation without charge, on the basis of Israeli officials’ alleged possession of secret evidence against him. His court date was finally announced on January 12, summoning him to appear before Salim military court in the northern West Bank on January 19.
4 other grassroots activists from seized in raids on their homes in Nablus the same night, including Mayasar Itiany and her brother Abdul-Nasser Itiany, both active in prisoners rights organisations, and Mussa Salama who is involved in the Labour Committee of Medical Relief for Workers. Abdul-Nasser Itiany has since been placed under administrative detention, a fate often reserved for Palestinian activists for whom investigators cannot gather sufficient evidence to make a specific charge.
Abdullah Abu Ramah, head of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall & Settlements, was seized by Israeli forces the night after the arrest of Al-Faqeeh. The international exposure and support gained as a result of Bil’in’s peaceful demonstrations against the illegal Apartheid Wall have culminated in a violent backlash on the supporters of the village’s popular struggle and the arrest of several of its leaders. Several other high profile Palestinian activists have been targeted in recent months, including the arrest and detainment of Jamal Juma’, head of Stop The Wall campaign and the administrative detention of Mohammad Othman, a youth co-ordinator for Stop The Wall. Othman’s case was similar to Al-Faqeeh’s in the prelude to his trial, his interrogation period spanning a significant length (2 months) and being held on the basis of secret evidence, unaccessible to Othman or hiw lawyers. Key players in the demonstrations and popular struggle in the villages of Ni’lin and Al-Masara have been subject to night raids, arrest and detainment in recent months also.
Almost all prisoners in Israel’s jails face some form of torture or mistreament during their arrest and detention. Their conditions of detention are extremely poor, and in some cases, life-threatening. Al-Faqeeh urgently requires medical attention, his lawyer reporting that his physical condition has worsened considerably during his detention as he suffers from high blood pressure and painful mouth ulcers. Prisoners report that provision of medical treatment is often used as another form of coercion against them by the prison authorities. When administered treatment is woefully inadequate, with Acamol (the Israeli version of aspirin) generally being the only form of medicine issued to detainees.
Arbitrary detention by Israel of human rights defenders is immoral, illegal and must be stopped. Messengers of peace such as Al-Faqeeh pose no threat to Israel: his ability to mobilize and inspire oppressed Palestinians only endangers the Israeli occupation by exposing the regime’s brutal and oppressive nature.