20th January 2014 | International Solidarity Movement | Occupied Palestine
On Saturday 18th January during a peaceful protest in the Jordan Valley, 19-year-old Ahmad Walid Atatreh, a Palestinian activist and 24-year-old Sven W, a German activist who lives in Switzerland, were arrested and beaten after a march held in Jiftlik Adam Junction. Ahmad is a law student, studying at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
The march in Jiftlik was organized in protest against a legislation bill recently approved in the Knesset to annex the Jordan Valley to the current state of Israel. While the Israeli government declares that the move is purely for security reasons, the large number of illegal agricultural settlements and theft of Palestinian water rights demonstrate that the motives are largely economic.
Almost 95% of the Jordan Valley lies in Area C, under full Israeli civil and military control. Palestinian Bedouin herders suffer repeated demolitions of their homes and animal shelters, and water tanks are frequently confiscated. A large section of the area is reserved as a firing zone and residents are often forcibly removed from their homes to make way for military exercises.
Approximately 60 people gathered in the Jordan Valley and began a protest holding banners and chanting against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As the march ended, Israeli forces invaded the area and began to arrest Palestinian demonstrators. Sven W and a British volunteer succeeded in stopping the detention of a Palestinian youth and in the process were both arrested by the Israeli army.
The two international activists were violently pushed to the ground by an Israeli soldier and handcuffed. The British activist managed to escape detention, whilst Sven was blindfolded and forced to kneel on the ground.
One Israeli soldier purposefully pushed Sven’s face in dirty water before taking him behind a military jeep and repeatedly kicking him in the ribs. Ahmad was also beaten after his arrest and received injuries to his knee. The British activist received a similar assault before escaping detention.
During the arrests, Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition into the air, and on several occasions pointed their rifles at protesters’ faces.
Sven and Ahmad were blindfolded for 3 hours and were driven to an Israeli military base. While they were blindfolded, Israeli forces attempted to intimidate and frighten the activists by pointing guns in their faces.
At the military base Sven was told he was a “terrorist” and was arrested because he “threw stones”.
Sven is committed to non-violent resistance and during this particular demonstration, no stones were thrown.
Both activists were taken to a ‘medical’ room in the military base where their blindfolds were briefly removed, although their handcuffs remained. Sven told the Israeli soldiers that he had a headache after being unable to see for such a long period of time, and also that his ribs were sore due to the beating he received after his arrest. According to Sven this information was noted down although Israeli forces did nothing to assist with his pain. During this time in the medical room, many Israeli soldiers entered and took pictures of both Sven and Ahmad using their mobile phones.
Ahmad and Sven were then blindfolded again and driven to a police station in the illegal settlement of Ariel, neither activist was given any information with regard to where they were being taken or allowed to contact legal representation. During this drive Israeli forces stopped the car, tightened Ahmad’s blindfold and stole a camera from Sven’s bag, using it to take pictures of the two blindfolded men.
When they arrived at Ariel, Sven was finally informed of the three charges against him, assaulting an Israeli soldier, attempting to steal a rifle from a soldier and blocking a highway and therefore ‘”endangering” lives (however at no moment was anyone blocking the main highway, activists were gathered at the side of the road). The same charges were also given to Ahmad and are completely fabricated for both activists.
Sven and Ahmad spent the night in Ariel police station along with five other Palestinian prisoners. The light was kept on all night with Israeli forces constantly entering the cell, ensuring that none of the prisoners were able to sleep. At one point Sven was woken by a police officer and told he would have court in the morning.
Under Israeli law internationals must be taken before a judge within 24 hours.
In the morning of the 19th, Sven repeatedly asked when he would be transferred for his court hearing and he was ignored by Israeli police. At this point neither Sven nor Ahmad were allowed to contact legal representation. Ahmad also requested to speak to his lawyer and was told that unless he gave information about the demonstration he would not be allowed to contact anyone.
At 5pm, Sven was transferred from Ariel police station to a terminal at Ben Gurion airport. He was never taken before a judge and was instead asked to sign a piece of paper saying he agreed to be deported to Germany, although he has been living in Switzerland for the last 4 years.
Sven refused to sign unless he was allowed to speak to legal representation. Finally he was allowed to make a phone call, though was unable to get through to his lawyer and therefore unwilling to sign the document.
Sven was transferred to a prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, which is where he currently resides. He is expected to be deported on Thursday. When Sven left the illegal settlement of Ariel, Ahmad was still imprisoned. He has now been transferred to Hadarim prison in Netanya and should attend Salem court within the next few days. However he has still not been allowed to contact his lawyer, the first time Ahmad will speak to him will be when he is taken before a judge.
When Sven is deported this week, he will be the third international activist in less than two weeks to be arrested and deported by Israeli forces. Vincent Mainville and Fabio Theodule were arrested on the 8th January and deported a week later. Their arrest was ruled illegal by an Israeli court in Jerusalem, although this did not stop their transfer to the immigration center.