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Peaceful protest ends in deportation and imprisonment

International Solidarity Movement | January 20, 2014

Photo by ISM

Photo by ISM

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.

Photo by ISM

Photo by ISM

Photo by ISM

January 20, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Peaceful protest ends in deportation and imprisonment

Kifl Hares: Closure of village and settler harassment

International Solidarity Movement | January 12, 2014

Kifl Hares, Occupied Palestine – On Friday, 10th January 2014, at approximately 4 o’clock in the morning a group of twenty settlers from nearby illegal settlements entered the Palestinian village of Kifl Hares. Some of them arrived in cars, others on foot. The settlers made noise and broke windows of parked cars. Palestinians on their way to the mosque for the first prayers were harassed and settlers in cars tried to run them over. Children were frightened and the villagers were afraid to leave their homes.

DSC_0451-1-400x264Previously, on Tuesday 7th January, the Israeli army closed the gate at the main entrance to the village, which leads to the main road. When villagers asked the reason for this, the soldiers stationed in a watchtower nearby answered that the gate would be closed indefinitely for security reasons.

On Thursday, 9th January, an emergency occurred, when an ambulance attempted to take an elderly lady living near the entrance to a hospital in Nablus. The residents requested that the Israeli soldiers open the gate for just five minutes so that the ambulance could reach the main road. The Israeli forces refused and the paramedic had to carry the lady by hand on a stretcher from her house to the other side of the gate. This delayed her arrival at hospital.

The gate has been opened only once in the past few days. This happened on Friday, when the settlers entered the village, implying that the Israeli forces knew of the settler attack.

Illegal settlers and Jewish tourists have entered Kifl Hares on many occasions. The village is located in the northern West Bank in the Salfit district and close to Ariel, the largest of the illegal settlements. The pretext for the incursions into Kifl Hares is a pilgrimage to three disputed tombs. The centuries-old tombs belonging to the village are also important for Muslims. Large numbers of settlers arrive on visits organized by the DCO and with Israeli army protection. Settlers and Jewish tourists from all over the world arrive by bus, frequently during the night. During the incursions, Israeli forces declare the village a closed military zone and Palestinians are required to stay in their homes until the settlers have left. This event occurs around twenty times a year. Nevertheless settlers also come weekly without army protection to pray in the tombs and often to harass or attack villagers. Several years ago Palestinian youth would resist these incursions by throwing stones at the illegal settlers and Israeli forces. This resistance was invariably responded to with night raids and arrests that resulted in imprisonment for up to five years. Since then villagers have been afraid to resist these settler attacks.

January 12, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Kifl Hares: Closure of village and settler harassment

Picking olives in a cage

International Solidarity Movement, West Bank | October 25, 2012

I spent Tuesday inside a cage. Not my usual way to spend a sunny Tuesday – but for the Palestinian farmers I was with, this is routine.

This is because their land happens to be near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel – in fact, it is in the Israeli imposed ‘buffer zone’ between the largest settlement in the West Bank and the surrounding Palestinian villages – of course, the buffer zone is created out of land outside of the settlement, effectively grabbing yet more land from the Palestinians.

Many olive trees are trapped in this ‘buffer zone’ between a fence on one side and Ariel on the other. So, during the Palestinian olive harvest, the villagers who own the land must ask for Israeli permission to access their own trees – as is typical across the West Bank. However, they have a second hurdle to cross, as their trees are behind this fence, the soldiers need to let them in and out every morning and evening.

The gate is meant to be opened at six every morning, during the 20 days that villagers have permission to pick olives inside the cage – some farmers have to set off from home before 5am to get there on time to be allowed in. Five soldiers deigned to grace us with their presence at around 6.15, zooming down their patrol road in a military jeep. They opened the first gate onto the road, then past the rolls and rolls of barbed wire separating this from the next gate, eventually coming down to permit access to the sixty Palestinians, who were waiting patiently outside, as the sun rose over the hill.

The soldiers took the ID card of every person who passed, impatiently gesturing at people to hurry up with their guns. When we had all crossed the patrol road and into the third gate into the cage-proper, the door slammed shut behind us. We were locked inside until 4pm, when the soldiers would come and release us.

This length of time has severe implications for the farmers picking inside the cage – if anyone is ill or gets injured over the course of the day, there is no guarantee that medical help would be able to reach them. Children can’t join their families picking olives after school. If families don’t pick their olives within the permission time, they will lose them. Multiple trips can’t be made during the day – any olives that need to be removed have to be taken in one go at the end of the day – and this can be a lot. More than anything, the loss of autonomy and control over your own life and livelihood is devastating.

The family that I was picking with didn’t actually own the land – they rented it from another family who live in a village very near to the land. However, because of the cage, it would take them around three hours to reach their trees. So although the majority of Palestinian families have a deep connection to their trees and their land, this family needed to sacrifice this for the practicality of allowing someone who lives closer to farm their land.

Actually picking the olives was trouble free. We saw one settler, jogging past on the other side of the fence – apparently there are sports fields there. At the end of the day, we walked the forty minutes back to the gate and waited for the soldiers to let us back out. This time, they called people one by one, handing them back their ID cards. This took rather a long time. At the end, there was one woman left – for several tense minutes, the soldiers couldn’t find her ID card and held her back. Her relief was tangible when it was found, and she was allowed to follow the rest of her family out of the cage. Palestinians need their ID cards for all aspects of their daily life, to have it go missing would be a big problem.

Israel aims to humiliate and control the Palestinian farmers – with great dignity, patience and steadfastness, the Palestinians gather their olives year after year, waiting until the moment when they will break free from the cages.

October 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Picking olives in a cage