54. “We need your help.”

An urgent message from Bil’in village leader Mohammed Khatib:

We need your help.

On Friday, October 21st, during the weekly demonstration in our village of Bil’in, Israeli soldiers arrested Ashraf Abu Rahmah yet again.

On any Friday morning, no demonstration begins without Ashraf Abu Rahmah walking at its front, holding the Palestinian flag.  Usually, he is the last to walk home.  That is, if he is not injured or arrested.

This week, demonstrators marched as usual to demand the dismantling of the Wall, but Ashraf was not among us.  One day before, on Thursday, October 27th, a military judge decided to extend Ashraf’s arrest indefinitely, for the duration of the legal proceedings against him, despite overwhelming evidence pointing to his innocence of any charges.

The judge ordered the extension of Ashraf’s arrest despite extensive evidence brought by the defense to prove the charges false.  The court was presented with two affidavits from a B’Tselem employee and a lawyer who were both present at the scene.  The depositions stated that Ashraf did not at any stage partake in stone-throwing.  Footage supporting the affidavits was also filed, showing Ashraf’s arrest.  The video depicts him walking peacefully towards the jeeps holding a flag, and the soldiers initially ignoring him.

His lawyers have already submitted an appeal.  It will be heard on Thursday.  [MR: That’s tomorrow, November 3, but in the strong likelihood that the military court upholds the original judge’s decision, as it nearly always does, Ashraf will still be held unjustly in prison.]

Now, we need your help to stop Ashraf’s persecution.  Please take action to demand that Israel release him.

Sincerely,
Mohammed Khatib.

[MR:  Mohammed, a village leader in Bil’in, has also suffered imprisonment on trumped up charges, though currently he’s free – as free as it’s possible to be free in a besieged village.  He is featured in the concluding chapter of Our Way to Fight, and in earlier posts on this blog.

Arbitrary arrests like these are common, and escalating, across the West Bank.  Why does the Israeli regime want leaders of the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement in jail?  A military state is very comfortable with violence – they always have much, much bigger guns –  but military leaders actually admit they don’t have a clue how to deal with non-violent resistance.  Their goal is to remove the leadership and infuriate the Palestinians, especially the young men, until they see no option but to meet violence with violence.  Mohammed Khatib puts it beautifully in Our Way to Fight:

It’s our right as Palestinians to resist the occupation, but we must choose the method that we think will have the most benefit.  Why engage your opponent in a fight that you know you will lose?  Instead you compete in a way that you think you can win, and show what we have as Palestinians.  We don’t have an army, or tanks, or nuclear weapons like Israel.  What we have is our rights and our own power.  How can we show this power?  By using non-violence.  What we are doing is difficult, it’s more dangerous than to shoot a gun and then run away.  If you tie yourself to a tree, you wait for the army to come, maybe to shoot you, to kill you.  You also have to learn how to control yourself, because when you react to violence with violence, you are out of control, and in that field your opponent will always win.”

If Palestine is ever to be free, and Israel with it, it is people like these who will have built the foundations.   All the more reason to do what we can to help get justice for Ashraf Abu Rahmah.

More about him:

Ashraf is the brother of two Bil’in residents who were killed while participating in the village’s non-violent protests against the wall and the occupation.  His brother, Bassem, was shot dead during a peaceful protest on April 17th, 2009, when soldiers fired a high-velocity tear-gas projectile directly at him from a distance of about 40 meters, crushing his chest.  Ashraf’s sister, Jawaher, died of cardiac arrest caused by poisoning, from inhaling massive amounts of tear-gas on January 1st, 2011.

Ashraf himself has been the subject of gross military misconduct.  On July 7th, 2008 in the entrance to the West Bank village of Ni’lin, soldiers shot him in the foot at close range while he was bound and blindfolded.  The event was caught on tape, and caused international outrage.  Due to the concern raised by people around the world, the Israeli authorities were eventually pressured to indict the shooting soldier and the officer who ordered the shooting.  Both were convicted of gross military misconduct, a rare occurrence in the Israeli justice system.

Given this history and the lack of current evidence, Ashraf’s arrest and continued detention strongly suggest that Israeli authorities are unjustly persecuting him for past events.

Click here to stand up for freedom and justice for Ashraf Abu Rahmah.

About Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.
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