The battle for freedom

This message arrived yesterday from Mohammed Khatib, one of 22 people arrested by Israeli border police last week in Nabi Saleh at the funeral for Mustafa Tamimi.

Mohammed Khatib is a village leader in the village of Bil’in [see chapter 18, Our Way to Fight], and coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which links grassroots protest movements across the occupied West Bank.  He writes:

“I have just been released from jail, after three days inside.  I was arrested last Friday, together with 22 others, in the village of Nabi Saleh, during a demonstration commemorating the murder of Mustafa Tamimi.  Our arrest took place as we peacefully protested near the entrance to the Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, which is built on lands stolen from Nabi Saleh.

Minutes after we got to the gate, Israeli Border Police officers moved in to remove us from the scene.  Palestinians, Israeli and international activists, we were all shackled and dragged away into military jeeps that transported us to the adjacent military base, which is in fact part of the settlement.

In the military base, still shackled, I was assaulted by a settler who hit me in the face, leaving me with a bloody nose.  Shortly after, the settler also attacked a female Israeli activist who was by my side.  The soldiers and policemen present did not prevent the attack, nor did they bother to detain the settler after the fact.  Instead, the zip-tie locks on my hands were removed, only for my arms to be bound again, this time behind my back.

Hours later, at the police station, I learned that to cover up their responsibility for my attack, the soldiers have laid a bogus complaint against me for assaulting them.  My hands were tied, my face was bleeding, but it was I who spent the night in the inside of prison cell.

Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh was also arrested during that same demonstration.  While the police decided to release all the others, he and I were to remain in jail.  During our demonstrations, soldiers often take pictures, to later use them as “incriminating evidence”.  This time, the soldiers used one such picture to accuse Mohammed of throwing stones during a demonstration a few weeks or months back. The man pictured in that photograph is not Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh; regardless, he remains in jail.  [MR: Mohammed Khatib is familiar with this false-photo tactic, which was also used against him in military court.]  Military law allows Israel to keep us Palestinians in jail for eight days before seeing a judge, and even then, it is a soldier in uniform who is the so called neutral arbitrator.

As the prison doors closed behind me, my happiness was clouded by the fact that Mohammed Tamimi was not released.  The battle for his freedom is only beginning, as our lawyers prepare the petition for his release.  If you can, please help us fund legal aid for him and for the countless others who are regularly arrested protesting the Israeli occupation.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to Ayala Shani, an Israeli comrade who was arrested with me.  She refused the injustice of being released while both me and Mohammed Tamimi were still detained.  As these words are written, she is still in jail, despite having been offered her freedom twice already by Israeli courts.

Sincerely,
Mohammed Khatib.”

Please give his message wings by passing it on, far and wide.

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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