Bassem Tamimi to judge: ‘Land theft and tree burning are not just. Your military laws are not legitimate. Our peaceful protest is just’

From the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee [and all readers are urged to read Tamimi's statement below, as eloquent a statement of resistance as you will ever read]:

After more than two months in custody, the trial of Bassem Tamimi, a 44 year-old protest organizer from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, finally commenced yesterday. Tamimi, who is the coordinator for the Nabi Saleh popular committee, pleaded not guilty to the charges laid against him.

In a defiant speech handed before a crowded courtroom, Tamimi proudly owned up to organizing the protest in the village saying, “I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people.” Tamimi also challenged the legitimacy of the very system which trys him, saying that “Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws [...] that are enacted by authorities which I haven’t elected and do not represent me.” (See Tamimi’s full statement at court bellow).

Tamimi was interrupted by the judge who warned him that it was not a political trial, and that such statements were out of place in a courtroom. Tamimi was cut short and not allowed to deliver his full statement.

After Tamimi finished reading his shortened statement, the judge announced that the hearing’s protocol has been erroneously deleted. However he refused to submit the full written statement to the stenographer. She went on to dictate a short summary in her own words for official record.

The indictment against Tamimi is based on questionable and coerced confessions of youth from the village. He is charged with’ incitement’, ‘organizing and participating in unauthorized processions’,’ solicitation to stone-throwing’, ‘failure to attend legal summons’, and a scandalous charge of ‘disruption of legal proceedings’, for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act during police interrogation in the event that they are arrested.

The transcript of Tamimi’s police interrogation further demonstrates the police and Military Prosecution’s political motivation and disregard for the suspect’s rights. During his questioning, Tamimi was accused by his interrogator of “consulting lawyers and foreigners to prepare for his interrogation”, an act that is in no way in breach of the law.

Tamimi’s full statement:
Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.
 

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.
 

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.
 

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.
 

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.
 

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.
 

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.
 

The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.
 

These actions are what will expose the true face of the Occupation, where soldiers point their guns at a woman walking to her fields or at checkpoints; at a child who wants to drink from the sweet water of his ancestors’ fabled spring; against an old man who wants to sit in the shade of an olive tree, once mother to him, now burnt by settlers.
 

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts’ decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.
 

Each time we tried to approach our land, implementing these decisions, we were attacked by settlers, who prevented us from reaching it as if it were their own.
 

Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe, like us, that had it not been for the Occupation, we could all live in peace on this land. I do not know which laws are upheld by generals who are inhibited by fear and insecurity, nor do I know their thoughts on the civil resistance of women, children and old men who carry hope and olive branches. But I know what justice and reason are. Land theft and tree-burning is unjust. Violent repression of our demonstrations and protests and your detention camps are not evidence of the illegality of our actions. It is unfair to be tryed under a law forced upon us. I know that I have rights and my actions are just.
 

The military prosecutor accuses me of inciting the protesters to throw stones at the soldiers. This is not true. What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the Occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses. I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.
 

These demonstrations that I organize have had a positive influence over my beliefs; they allowed me to see people from the other side who believe in peace and share my struggle for freedom. Those freedom fighters have rid their conscious from the Occupation and put their hands in ours in peaceful demonstrations against our common enemy, the Occupation. They have become friends, sisters and brothers. We fight together for a better future for our children and theirs.
 

If released by the judge will I be convinced thereby that justice still prevails in your courts? Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy.” With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.

Background
Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children – Wa’ed (14), Ahed (10), Mohammed (8) and Salam (5).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date and has spent roughly three years in Israeli jails, though he was never convicted of any offence. He spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El – an allegation of which he was cleared entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days.

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village’s popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa’ed, 14, was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed, 8, was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder. Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi’s house was one of them, despite the fact that it was built in 1965.

Legal background
On the March 24th, 2011, a massive contingent of Israeli Soldiers raided the Tamimi home at around noon, only minutes after he entered the house to prepare for a meeting with a European diplomat. He was arrested and subsequently charged.

The main evidence in Tamimi’s case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was taken from his bed at gunpoint on the night of January 23rd. In his interrogation the morning after his arrest, Islam alleged that Bassem and Naji Tamimi organized groups of youth into “brigades”, charged with different responsibilities during the demonstrations: some were allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, others of blocking roads, etc.

During a trial-within-a-trial procedure in Islam’s trial, motioning for his testimony to be ruled inadmissible, it was proven that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following ways:

  1. Despite being a minor, he was questioned in the morning following his arrest, having been denied sleep.

  2. He was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.

  3. He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning.

  4. He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he is “expected to tell the truth”.

  5. Only one of four interrogators present was a qualified youth interrogator.

While the trial-within-a-trial procedure has not yet reached conclusion, the evidence already revealed has brought a Military Court of Appeals to revise its remand decision and order Islam’s release to house arrest.

Over the past two months, the army has arrested 24 of Nabi Saleh’s residents on protest related suspicions. Half of those arrested are minors, the youngest of whom is merely eleven.

Ever since the beginning of the village’s struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted 71 protest related arrests. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes approximately 10% of its population.

Tamimi’s arrest corresponds to the systematic arrest of civil protest leaders all around the West Bank, as in the case of the villages Bil’in and Ni’ilin.

Only recently the Military Court of Appeals has aggravated the sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the village of Bilin, sending him to 16 months imprisonment on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was released on March 2011.

The arrest and trial of Abu Rahmah has been widely condemned by the international community, most notably by Britain and EU foreign minister, Catherin Ashton. Harsh criticism of the arrest has also been offered by leading human rights organizations in Israel and around the world, among them B’tselem, ACRI, as well as Human Rights Watch, which declared Abu Rahmah’s trial unfair, and Amnesty International, which declared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    Wow. Powerful stuff .

    “I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.”

    This ties in with the settler woman in Sheikh Jarrah who told the nice Israeli lefty in that 8 minute Jerusalem Day video that they had done everything in accordance with the law.

    And of course there is John Trudell on settler colonialism

    Calling us red Indians
    We have been the colors
    On a chameleons back
    Changing with time
    Altering the larger pattern
    Surviving genocide
    Because we have to
    Living in reality
    We are targets of your unfairness
    With warriors for targets
    You create your own destruction
    This is how we bring you down
    Target by target you wound yourself
    Using your greed we watch
    Your spirit fade
    Living in reality
    We can endure your cages
    Your bullets your lies
    Your confusion
    We know you have
    Destroyed your peace
    Living in reality

    • patm says:

      Thanks for posting this John Trudell poem, seafoid. It is very evocative of the Palestinian reality.

      • seafoid says:

        Here is another one, Patm . It covers all the bad faith and the lying of the settlers and colonials.

        Hanging from the Cross John Trudell

        link to youtube.com

        link to indianermusik.de

        We weren´t lost and
        We didn´t need any book
        Then the great spirit
        Met the great lie
        Indians are jesus
        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross

        In the name of their savior
        Forcing on us
        The trinity of the chain
        Guilt sin and blame
        The trinity of the chain
        Guilt sin and blame
        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross

        In the name of the mother
        The child and the human spirit
        Indians are jesus
        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross

        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross
        Damnation or salvation
        Among the
        Terrorism of freedom
        A civilizing process
        Where the rule of law
        Is the law of rule
        The law is a lie
        The law is a lie

        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross
        Their ego empire
        The ethnic rich
        Their cruelty of class
        Imitation opulence
        Crumbs that look
        Like cake to the masses
        Cake to the masses

        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross
        We don´t care
        Who they think they are
        They look like
        Treaty makers to us
        Making one more promise
        So they´ll have
        Another promise to break
        Another promise to break

        Hanging from the cross
        Hanging from the cross
        They keep asking us
        What´s wrong with us
        We keep saying back
        What´s wrong with you
        What´s wrong with you
        Is what´s wrong with us

        • patm says:

          Carry the Stone 1st verse John Trudell

          Hidden in the beauties of babylon
          A civilized behavorial notoriety
          The more evil the empire
          The more paranoid the society

  2. chet says:

    A Palestinian Gandhi.

    “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take.”

  3. Every member of Congress should be given an opportunity to read Bassem Tamimi’s statement here. What a statement he tried to place on the record of that Apartheid court.

  4. seafoid says:

    I just got the NYT book “portrait of Israel” (1970) by Moshe Brilliant and Micha Bar Am in the post. I found it on Abe books.

    P 311
    “the Israelis acknowledge that their occupation must be offensive to Arabs.
    The most they can hope for is that it is possible to live with Jews without loving them. The hope is that once the idea sinks in among the arabs the seed will be carried across the open bridges of the Jordan into the neighbouring Arab states. So one day it is hoped that sensible Arab rulers will recognise the futility of their dream of erasing Israel and the feasibility of living side by side. To the Israeli mind a withdrawal from the occupied areas and the repatriation of refugees will then become negotiable. But only then.
    That infexibility has alienated friends and cost the Jewish state much sympathy. Israelis are sorry. But their experience has taught them that they’d be a lot sorrier if they’d staked their fortune on world sympathy instead of on themselves”.

    What a stunner. What a colossal self inflicted suicide machine did they create with YESHA.

    Now they have sensible Arab leaders but they won’t talk to them.

    And now, with the September vote coming along, the choice is being taken out of their hands. Because they messed it up real bad, those Hebrew speakers . They should have stuck to Yiddish but they were too smart for their own good.

    Hot a kop vee a shpilkeh kepl dee grais -Has a head the size of a pinhead

    Klert tsee a floy hot a pipik-wonders if a flea has a belly button.

  5. Bumblebye says:

    Israeli Military “Law” totally conflicts with international law and the rights of the Palestinian people! These kangaroo courts are Military PERsecutions, and anybody detained/imprisoned under them, either after a mock trial or for”Administrative Detention” should be considered a political prisoner. How many thousands of political prisoners are being held by Israel? Why are they rarely referred to as such, when IRA bombers could be so called AND so considered?

  6. More eloquent than a million hasbara lies and provocations. What I find particularly deceitful and wholly typical of the Israeli junta which rules Palestinians is the judge’s inept and dishonest statement that “this is not a political trial”. Had he listened or understood a word of Bassem’s far superior understanding of the situation he would have conceded that of course it is a wholly political trial of someone exercising their civil right to protest peacefully. Every military trial that Israel conducts is a dishonest political suppression of Palestine and Palestinians. The arrogance and deceit in pretending that this is merely some sort of civil, neutral trial is pathetic and is a desperate attempt by Israelis to convince themselves and no-one else that they are ‘normal’. Nothing could be further from the truth and it is a measure of the delusions that they have determined to live under, the denial and suppression of truth and justice. Bassem and thousands of others are heroes and put the gross callous dishonesty of Israelis in perspective. Their only answer to their pleas for justice and humanity are to silence, attack and lock up those people who are infinitely more humane and civilised than they are. Barbarians.

    • mig says:

      Proof again, how occupation is illegal. He should be civilian court ( if at all ), not in military court. Because in occupied areas should be under civilian administration, not under military.

      • actually isn’t it the opposite…occupying powers cannot impose civil law on territories they control…which is why Israel extending its domestic laws onto the Golan and East Jerusalem are a kind of de facto annexation?

        • Yes, but it is civil law if you are Jewish, military if you are Palestinian, in the SAME territory. Or apartheid, if you wish. It is all annexation, but contorted by the refusal to recognise Palestinians as citizens with equal rights. Which is apartheid.

        • mig says:

          Cannot impose occupier laws. And Golan & E-Jerusalem cases are anyhow illegal.

          Geneva conventions :

          ARTICLE 64

          The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be repealed or suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention. Subject to the latter consideration and to the necessity for ensuring the effective administration of justice, the tribunals of the occupied territory shall continue to function in respect of all offences covered by the said laws.
          The Occupying Power may, however, subject the population of the occupied territory to provisions which are essential to enable the Occupying Power to fulfil its obligations under the present Convention, to maintain the orderly government of the territory, and to ensure the security of the Occupying Power, of the members and property of the occupying forces or administration, and likewise of the establishments and lines of communication used by them.

          link to icrc.org

          link to icrc.org

          ARTICLE 66

          In case of a breach of the penal provisions promulgated by it by virtue of the second paragraph of Article 64, the Occupying Power may hand over the accused to its properly constituted, non-political military courts, on condition that the said courts sit in the occupied country. Courts of appeal shall preferably sit in the occupied country.

          link to icrc.org

          link to miftah.org

  7. patm says:

    I had the privilege of seeing and hearing the other Palestinian hero mentioned in the Legal Background piece: Abdallah Abu Rahmah.

    He visited Canada in 2009 to speak in Montreal about a lawsuit launched by Bil’in village against two companies registered in Quebec, Green Mount International and Green Park International.

    Here is a report on the lawsuit by the Canadian Centre for International Justice:

    In July 2008, the village council of Bil’in, located in the West Bank, and the head of the village council filed a lawsuit in Montreal against two Canadian companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International. The plaintiffs claim that Green Park and Green Mount constructed buildings in Bil’in as part of an illegal Israeli settlement that violates the Geneva Conventions. The lawsuit alleges that Green Park and Green Mount are therefore liable for conspiring with and aiding and abetting Israel in committing war crimes. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from “transfer[ing] parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

    On September 18, 2009, Justice Louis-Paul Cullen dismissed the lawsuit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Although the judge found that a defendant’s participation in war crimes could potentially lead to civil liability in a Quebec court, he ruled that Israel was a more proper forum for the lawsuit. Bil’in had argued that the Israeli courts would not consider a case about the legality of settlements in the West Bank (i.e. the courts would rule the case non-justiciable) and so they were forced to pursue the lawsuit in Canada. Justice Cullen, however, looked at various Israeli cases submitted to him and found that those judgments did not completely close the Israeli courts to Bil’in. He ruled, rather, that the Israeli courts might consider Bil’in’s claim that the construction of the specific settlement violates the Geneva Conventions, and because the case has a much closer connection to Israel than Canada, Justice Cullen dismissed the lawsuit.

    Importantly, Justice Cullen ruled that a war crime could be the subject of a civil lawsuit in Quebec: “A war crime is an indictable offence. As such, it is an imperative rule of conduct that implicitly circumscribes an elementary norm of prudence, the violation of which constitutes a civil fault [in Quebec]… In theory, a person would therefore commit a civil fault [in Quebec] by knowingly participating in a foreign country in the unlawful transfer by an occupying power of a portion of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, in violation of an international instrument which the occupying power has ratified. Such a person would thus be knowingly assisting the occupying power in the violation of the latter’s obligations and would also become a party to a war crime, thereby violating an elementary norm of prudence.”

    Among the issues of interest to the CCIJ was the defendants’ assertion that they are immune from suit under the State Immunity Act. Justice Cullen refused to grant them immunity, ruling that they were alleged to be acting in their own capacity and not as agents of Israel.

    On August 11, 2010, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld Justice Cullen’s dismissal of the case on forum non conveniens grounds. The Supreme Court denied leave to appeal, so the case in Canada has come to an end.

  8. seafoid says:

    “Tamimi was interrupted by the judge who warned him that it was not a political trial, and that such statements were out of place in a courtroom.”

    It is all political but beyond the political it is ultimately about economics and it is in the realm of economics that Israel is going to meet its destiny

  9. Les says:

    What logic causes the judge to rule that occupation and ethnic cleansing are not political?

  10. Mndwss says:

    Another Gandhi?

    Your Honor, i hold you in contempt of international law…

    “I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror”

    • I hold you in contempt.
      Why should he be responsible for people attacking him?

      • Mndwss says:

        “I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror”

        In my opinion that was one of the best parts of Mr. Tamimi’s statement.

        It made me sad that he was not allowed to read the entire statement.

  11. Red says:

    International activists working in solidarity with the people of Nabi Saleh have established an english language solidarity blog and an english language solidarity page on facebook for the village and to help raise awareness about both their struggle and the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation and apartheid.

    You join the facebook page here: link to facebook.com

    You can check out the web/blog here: http://nabisalehsolidarity.wordpress.com