23 July 2010
Israeli soldiers detained the former Vice President of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini, in Bil’in this afternoon, injured one Israeli activist., and arrested another.
Sixty nine-year-old Morgantini, an Italian Member of the Euopean Parliament (MEP) has long been an outspoken supporter of Palestinians. She has participated several times in demonstrations in Bil’in and in June 2008 was injured when Israeli soldiers attacked a group of non-violent activists.
Morgantini, who served as Vice President of the European Parliament between 2007 and 2009, today joined the people of the West Bank village in their weekly Friday protest, which began after midday prayers. She was among a group of about 100 internationals supporting the peaceful demonstrators. People were dancing, singing and shouting slogans, among others the flag of the European Union was held aloft by Morgantini’s 50-strong delegation.
Israeli soldiers starting firing tear gas about ten minutes after the demonstration reached the fence that has been built illegally and cuts off villagers from their land. They then chased the protestors and forcefully detained the politician who was held for approximately 30 minutes before being released when her identity became clear to soldiers.
One Israeli activist, Kobi Snitz, was arrested while trying to speak to the army in order to secure Morgantini’s release. British activist Jody McIntyre was also detained temporarily. Another Israeli activist was hit with a tear gas canister suffered a head injury.
Nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Morgantini was awarded the 2008 Peacemaker Award by the Rebuilding Alliance, an US non-profit organization committed to promoting respect for human rights and international law. She is a leading member of the Italian peace movement and a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Many people suffered from tear gas inhalation and stun grenades thrown into the field caused a fire among the olive trees.
Today’s protest in Bil’in proves once again that the army is continuing its policy of harshly suppressing demonstrations and arresting non-violent protesters. The demonstration called for the release of prisoners, Adeeb Abu Rahma, Abdullah Abu Rahme, Ibrahim al-Bornat, and Ahmed al-Bornat – all Bil’in residents jailed by Israel for resisting the occupation.