Bil’in holds weekly protest as Abdallah Abu Rahmah faces two-year sentence

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Here’s an update from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee on the case of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader in the Bil’in protests against the Wall:

The sentencing phase in the trial of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, began Wednesday at the Ofer Military Court. Abu Rahmah was convicted of organizing illegal marches and of incitement last month, but cleared of the violence charges he was indicted for – stone-throwing and a vindictive arms-possession charge for collecting used tear-gas projectiles and displaying them.

The prosecution demanded Abu Rahmah will be sent to prison for a period exceeding two years, saying that as an organizer, a harsh sentence is required to serve as a deterrence not only for Abu Rahmah himself, but to others who may follow in his footsteps as well. This statement by the prosecution affirms the political motivation behind the indictment, and the concern raised by EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, that “the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non violent manner.”

Another argument made by the prosecution in their demand of a harsh sentence, were the repercussions and expenses caused to the army by anti-Wall demonstrations. These which were presented in detail in a report by what the prosecution called an “expert witness”, who, in fact, is the Army’s Binyamin Brigade’s operations officer, Major Igor Mussayev.

The document includes many factual errors, such as mentioning seven Palestinian fatalities in Bil’in and Ni’ilin demonstrations, while in fact there were only six. In a ridiculous attempt to show that the military has no superiority over demonstrators, the “expert opinion” also claims that the effective range of rubber-coated bullets or 0.22″-caliber live ammunition is significantly lower than that of a slingshot. The report, in fact, claims that the effective range of a rubber-coated bullet is 50 meters – the minimal range of use according to army open fire regulations.

During the hearing, Major Mussayev claimed that all the weapons mentioned in the document are non-lethal crowd control measures. When asked specifically about the 0.22″ caliber bullets, which were explicitly classified as live ammunition by the military’s Judge Advocate General and banned for crowd control use, he replied that they too are crowd control measures. Such a reply from the officer in charge of operations in the brigade that deals with most West Bank demonstrations points to the army’s policy of negligent use of arms in the attempt to quash the Palestinian popular struggle.

The highly biased document presented to the court also detailed the expenses on ammunition shot at demonstrators (almost 6.5 million NIS between August 2008 to December 2009). It also mentioned the costs of erecting a concrete wall in Ni’ilin in order to prevent damage to the barrier (8.5 million NIS), but failed to mention the costs of rerouting the Wall in Bil’in due to the original path’s illegality, or the fact that even now, three years after the Supreme Court decision to reroute the Wall, it is still standing on its original path.

The hearing, which lasted more than three hours, saw a court-room packed with diplomats, representatives of international and Israeli human rights organizations, as well as friends and family members.

For the hearing’s protocol (in Hebrew) see here.

4 Responses

  1. potsherd
    September 17, 2010, 2:28 pm

    Abu Rahmah needs to be publicized by Amnest as a Prisoner of Conscience

  2. syvanen
    September 17, 2010, 5:47 pm

    Next time we hear “where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” the answer is ‘they are in Israeli jails’. The notion that Israel would accept non-violent resistance is absurd in the extreme. As many have pointed out here on numerous ocassions the Israelis realize that non-violent resistance is even more threatening to their goals than is violent resistance. Why? Because that is a form of resistance that could move the West to support justice for the citizens of the West Bank.

    • RoHa
      September 18, 2010, 12:43 am

      Insofar as Ghandi’s satyagraha was politically influential, that influence was a result of more factors than the simple non-violence itself.

      First, it should be remembered that the influence was on the British people and the British government. Many of the people were of the opinion that Ghandi was appealing for the application of British principles. Many were still appalled at the memory of Amritsar. The British Government itself was trying to restore a country exhausted by WW2.

      Second, Ghandi won the backing of the U.S. press, and the pressure of the U.S. Government in its push to disband the European colonial empires.

      Third, the British thought of the Indians as comrades-in-arms, not as a threat.

  3. Kathleen
    September 17, 2010, 6:38 pm

    Art and Peggy Gish have told me the names of non violent Palestinian protesters and organizers over the decades that the Israeli government have taken out of commission.

    Israel does not want the world to see what they are and have done. Peaceful protest bring way too much attention.

    Brave protesters. Wonder if Phil and his wife will be going to any protest

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