Home / Bilin / Criminalization of peaceful protest continues: More arrests at weekly demonstrations

Criminalization of peaceful protest continues: More arrests at weekly demonstrations

23 August 2010 | ISM Media

Bilin protestors pose as prisoners in front of Israeli soldiers following the release of photos of abuse of Palestinian detainees.

Bilin protestors pose as prisoners in front of Israeli soldiers following the release of photos of abuse of Palestinian detainees.

Bil’in

The weekly demonstration in the village of Bil’in this week saw protesters draw attention to the recently published photos of the abuse of Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli army. A handful of the protesters blindfolded and handcuffed themselves to draw attention to the mistreatment of prisoners and marched at the front of the demonstration. Two arrests were made, including one of these protesters, a Norwegian student, who was grabbed while still blindfolded and dragged away.

Israeli soldiers detaining a Norwegian protestor who had blindfolded herself like a Palestinian prisoner

Israeli soldiers detaining a Norwegian protestor who had blindfolded herself like a Palestinian prisoner

As well as local Palestinian residents, around 30 internationals and about 10 Israelis took part in the demonstration against the Apartheid Wall and the theft of land belonging to the residents of Bil’in. Despite it being the second Friday of Ramadan and a swelteringly hot day, the protesters chanted slogans against the occupation and called for the release of the village’s prisoners, as well as the prosecution of Israeli soldiers found to have been abusing prisoners in their custody. Many demonstrators carried reproductions of a photograph of Israeli soldiers posing by the body of a dead Palestinian man – an image they termed a “souvenir shot” which bears comparison to pictures of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib which shocked the world in 2004.

The protesters marched up to the soldiers and the blindfolded and cuffed ‘prisoners’ sat at their feet (to offer the soldiers an opportunity for photos they could later upload to facebook.) Without warning tear gas started to be fired and – while still blindfolded – a Norwegian citizen was forcefully arrested. She was later released but told to return to meet Israeli authorities on Sunday, when they admitted she could not have been aware of the fact that the area had been declare a ‘closed military zone’ but then accused her of being a member of the International Solidarity Movement and imposed conditions banning her from going to Bil’in for 15 days. An Israeli activist was also arrested but released later the same day.

The route of Israel’s separation wall in Bil’in cuts off villagers from large areas of their land. It was declared illegal in September 2007 by Israel’s own High Court, but despite this – and the International Court of Justice’s 2004 ruling that the wall in its entirety is illegal and should be dismantled – it remains in place. Bil’in have been holding weekly protests since March 2005 and the creativity and perseverance of the nonviolent struggle there has drawn international attention to the Palestinian resistance to occupation as a while.

Ni’lin

On Friday about 25 Palestinians were joined by a small group of internationals for the village of Ni’lin’s weekly protest against the Apartheid Wall. Five international and two Israeli protesters joined the demonstration which started after Friday prayers. The group marched to the wall which cuts off Palestinians from their farmland, annexing it to Israeli settlements like Modi’in Illit.

Perhaps due to the intense heat and it being the second Friday of Ramadan, the demonstration this week was fairly quiet. Despite huge aggression for the Israeli army in the past, they refrained for once from even using teargas or sound bombs against the unarmed protest so the situation remained peaceful. After the demonstration the internationals present were given a tour of the village and its small museum commemorating important events in the history of Ni’lin’s struggle.

An Nabi Saleh

Around 50 people took part in this Friday’s demonstration against the illegally built Halamish settlement encroaching on land belonging to the village of An Nabi Saleh, this Friday, and this number included approximately 15 Israeli and international human rights activists.

As usual the protest began after noon prayer, and continued until around four o’clock, despite the fact that the majority of the participants are currently fasting for Ramadan. The march down to the entrance of the village was once again met with a blockade, and after several attempts to gain access to the village’s main road, the protesters retreated back up the street to the centre of the village.

Soldiers later began throwing sound bombs and shooting tear gas projectiles directly at Palestinian children. The children stones at the soldiers’ armored jeeps. One of the children was hit in the leg by a ricocheting tear gas canister, but was not seriously injured.

Subsequent attempts to reason with the soldiers resulted in two international activists being detained in Halamish military base for several hours. Other attempted arrests were scuppered by fellow activists. A lot of teargas was fired at the houses nearby and a lot of people including children suffered from teargas inhalation, but the protesters declared the lack of serious injuries and spirited protest a success.

Al Ma’sara

Palestinians from Al Ma’sara and nine surrounding villages south of Bethlehem were joined on Friday by internationals and Israelis in solidarity with their cause. The weekly demonstration against the Apartheid Wall and illegal settlements reacted to the pictures of Palestinian prisoners humiliated by Israeli soldiers in ‘souvenir photos’ posted on Facebook – and so several protesters wore handcuffs and blindfolds while others carried enlarged photographs of the abuse.

Al Ma'sara protestors hold copies of photos showing captured, injured or killed Palestinians - posted on facebook by Israeli soldiers

Despite some suggestions that they are a one-off, the demonstrates hoped to make the point that in fact these images and such incidents are common and form part of the systematic abuse that goes hand in hand with Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. In chants and speeches, protesters called for an end to the continuing violations of the Geneva Accords and international law.

The protesters proceeded to the road that Israel illegally constructed on Palestinian land to connect the Jewish-only settlements of Gush Etzion but they were intercepted by the Israeli army. Sound bombs were thrown at the unarmed and nonviolent protesters who were denied the right to access their land once again. However, organizers stated that despite the soldiers’ violence they would continue their peaceful fight for freedom and justice which is their right.

Hebron

At 4:00 PM on Friday August 21, people began gathering in the Old City centre of Hebron. The resistance organized a peaceful march through the Old City markets. The purpose of the march was to thank the shopkeepers for their support of the demonstrations that take place on a weekly basis, calling for an end to the military occupation and settler violence – and to reiterate this call.

During the last few weeks, soldiers have been attacking peaceful protesters. Many Palestinians, internationals and Israelis have been assaulted and arrested by the Israeli army. Some of the Palestinians were also beaten in prison.

The soldiers have also threatened leaders of the movement with lengthy prison terms, up to 10 years. In addition to this, they have sent agents to threaten and intimidate shopkeepers. Three shops were forcefully closed down last week.

A young boy watches Israeli soldiers patrolling in occupied Hebron

In light of all of this repression, the leaders have decided to temporarily suspend the protests. The crowd met and marched through the Old City. Shopkeepers were given certificates thanking them for supporting the struggle.

There were soldiers watching the procession from the roofs, and six of them followed the people from behind. They did not try to interfere and in the end went back to their base. The group Youth Against Settlements will be organizing more events in the future to continue the struggle for justice in Hebron.

Iraq Burin

Yesterday in the small village of Iraq Burin, nonviolent demonstrators were attacked by the Israeli army and Border Police, who fired tear gas and sound bombs at the protestors. Since a flying checkpoint is regularly used to close the road into the village along the main road from Nablus, preventing access to internationals and media, and the young men of the village suspected of taking part in the demonstrations, a long hike across a valley leads up to the hill-top village. Demonstrations happen every Saturday, but tensions have been high since the murder of two young boys by an Israeli military sniper took place inside the village in March this year.

A large group of Palestinians gathered on the outskirts of the village and three internationals who had skirted the checkpoint were also present. The demonstration began with around thirty or more Palestinians attempting to scale the steep hill opposite the village, where Israeli soldiers were already in position. The soldiers responded to the demonstration by – illegally – firing teargas canisters directly at Palestinians and internationals, firing downhill at the upper body. At least two Palestinians received injuries from the canisters on the neck and shoulders, and one international was hit in the back although none were seriously hurt because each ricocheted off a rock first. Tear gas and sound bombs were also shot in the direction of the village and those not even taking part in the demonstration but watching from the opposite hill. The demonstration continued for approximately an hour, when Israeli Border police arrived and the demonstrators were forced to retreat. Thankfully, no live fire has been used since the murders but the isolation of the protest by the military creates a dangerous situation, as it is difficult for media and international volunteers to be present, increasing the chances that the Israeli army will use weapons with reckless disregard for human life.