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French human rights activist arrested at West Bank protest

26 September 2010 | ISM Media

Beit Ummar, West Bank

French activist Bruno de Ginestet-Puivert, 21, was arrested by Israeli authorities on Saturday 25 September demonstrating alongside Palestinians in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar, near Hebron. He is believed to be charged with assaulting an officer, though witnesses say this allegation is completely baseless.

The regular weekly demonstration protests against the Israeli occupation, and against the theft of Beit Ummar’s land by the illegal Israeli settlement of Karmei Tzur in particular. This Saturday the march also demonstrated against Rami Levy, an Israeli supermarket chain selling settlement produce, and commemorated the twenty-eighth anniversary of the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. Activists showed solidarity with the people of Silwan, the East Jerusalem neighbourhood where a man was shot dead by a settler security guard on Wednesday, and with Palestinian political prisoners – in particular 17-year-old Beit Ummar resident Yousef Abu Maria who has a serious medical condition.

The demonstration was attended by around 60 Palestinians accompanied by 15 international and Israeli activists. Setting off at 1 p.m., the march proceeded through the Palestinians’ land in the direction of the illegal settlement, where their path was blocked by Israeli soldiers who put a rope across the path and threatened to arrest anyone who crossed it. Some youths were not deterred and crossed the rope, at which point the soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at all of the protesters. Several tear gas canisters were fired directly at the demonstrators, in defiance of the Israeli army’s own regulations.

The protesters burned cardboard boxes representing settlement produce in the path leading towards Karmei Tzur. The soldiers attempted to arrest one Palestinian campaigner but international activists managed successfully to shield him. He was beaten badly enough to lose consciousness. It was at this point that de Ginestet-Puivert was arrested. An Associated Press photographer was also detained but released before the demonstration ended.

De Ginestet-Puivert is currently in the custody of the Israeli authorities and is expected to be tried in a Jerusalem magistrates’ court on Sunday. Earlier in the summer a Swedish man and a British man were similarly accused by Israeli authorities of hitting soldiers at demonstrations; in both cases eyewitness reports contradicted the Israeli army’s allegations.