Although attention is focused on New York, the real struggle for Palestinian rights is playing out on the ground

on 15 Comments

While the PA’s Statehood bid dominates the media and public attention, those involved in the true movement for Palestinian rights continue to be overlooked.

One such organizer is Bassem Tamimi from Nabi Saleh. Although he has been jailed since March, the first witness only testified on September 25th. The questionable evidence presented during Sunday’s sole testimony was from former deputy battalion commander in Nabi Saleh, Major Michel Dahan. Dahan accused Tamimi of directing an elaborate network of stone-throwers because, from 300 meters away and with the help of binoculars, he witnessed Bassem shout in Arabic and make hand gestures from a rooftop. Despite admitting that he didn’t see anything more than what was described and the fact that he couldn’t understand what Tamimi was yelling because he doesn’t have knowledge of the Arabic language,  he was certain of Tamimi’s guilt.

As Palestinians have little legal recourse under the military Occupation, Bassem is in the same predicament that forced his village to organize a campaign in the first place. With no legitimate court to turn to about the theft of their natural springs and farmland, Nabi Saleh has been protesting weekly since January 2010.  In response, the village has been subjected to intense repression. But when the deliberate misuse of “crowd dispersal” weapons, including US made tear-gas and live ammunition failed to coerce protestors into abandoning their claims; the Army began to conduct nightly raids, arresting any suspected demonstrators including underage children.

The experience of Nabi Saleh isn’t an anomaly. Bi’lin, Ni’lin, al-Ma’asara, al-Walaja, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Beit Hanoun – all Palestinian resistance is met with violent repression.  Israel acknowledges but remains indifferent to the non-violent tactics of the protesters, as proven by a recently leaked cable where Israeli Minister of Defense Amos Gilad is quoted as saying that “we don’t do Gandhi very well”. 

The UN bid has been rightly criticized for being a false assertion of the Palestinian struggle as a matter of statehood, rather than of fundamental rights.  And as the international community focuses on the PA power play in New York, the real struggle, happening in Palestinian villages, is ignored.

About Sasha Gelzin

Sasha Gelzin is a student organiser and member of the Students for Justice in Palestine - National steering committee.

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15 Responses

  1. Les
    September 27, 2011, 10:38 am

    The US media has failed to inform readers that Abbas said negotiations will not resume until Israel stops building/expanding settlements. I suppose they consider consider that demand to be still another Palestinian gambit.

    • mig
      September 27, 2011, 11:09 am

      But now we now. Israel today announced 1100 more buildings in EJ. That means that Israel dont want negotiations.

    • DBG
      September 27, 2011, 4:17 pm

      what was Abbas’ excuse when there WAS a settlement freeze.

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 27, 2011, 4:55 pm

        “what was Abbas’ excuse when there WAS a settlement freeze.”

        When was that? There’s never been a time since 1967 where the Israelis weren’t engaged in one step in the construction process or another. Certainly not during Bibi’s extended weekend if, for no other reason, than it didn’t include Arab East Jerusalem.

      • mig
        September 27, 2011, 5:15 pm

        Actually there was NO freeze at any time. Ask from Peace Now.

      • john h
        September 27, 2011, 5:33 pm

        That was only a partial freeze, it didn’t include East Jerusalem.

      • Chaos4700
        September 27, 2011, 6:58 pm

        Trick question, there was never a settlement freeze. You will not be able to find any time period, DBG, when construction halted COMPLETELY. You can’t even use Gaza — more people were shuttled on to the West Bank than were removed from Gaza in that year! There is no period in which Israeli colonization has done anything other than increase.

        You’re welcome to try, of course, although I suspect the right-wing site that’s spoon-feeding you your responses here will just give you a non sequitar to dodge into.

  2. Ofer Neiman
    September 27, 2011, 10:38 am

    Good article.

    The circus of Israel’s military courts is a fascinating surreal world. MachsomWatch often document these procedures and post it on their website.

    I somewhat disagree about the statehood bid, since it’s a bid which (if accepted) will render the settlements illegal (in an additional way). That’s quite a lot in terms of human rights.

    • mig
      September 27, 2011, 11:13 am

      “That’s quite a lot in terms of human rights.”

      ++++ No. In gaza pullout this was tested in Israel high court, and it was legal. So nobody’s human rights was in stake. Same thing apply to west bank.

      • Ofer Neiman
        September 27, 2011, 4:09 pm

        In case I wasn’t clear, I am all for dismantling the Israeli settlements.

      • mig
        September 27, 2011, 5:25 pm

        I’m too, all thou it would be imho good if settlers would be allowed to stay in palestinian areas. In Israel is arab minority, why should not be in palestinian state jewish minority. But, im not palestinian leader, i just look what international law says. But if palestinians ok’s that, thats it then. Other thing is what settlers say about it. So far looks like they dont wanna be under palestinian rule. We will see then.

  3. john h
    September 27, 2011, 4:27 pm

    “those involved in the true movement for Palestinian rights continue to be overlooked.

    One such organizer is Bassem Tamimi from Nabi Saleh. Although he has been jailed since March, the first witness only testified on September 25th. The experience of Nabi Saleh isn’t an anomaly.”

    This was non-violence activist Bassem Tamimi’s address to Israel’s Ofer military court during his trial for organizing protests in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. A military judge refused to allow Tamimi to read his full statement in court.

    “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 [period] 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 has 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 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 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 tried 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 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 conscience 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.”

  4. Sasha Gelzin
    September 27, 2011, 9:57 pm

    Thanks John for posting Bassem’s address to the court. Bassem wasn’t even allowed to read the statement in full to the judge.

    Meanwhile Abbas is the main puppet in Statehood theater at the UN

    • annie
      September 27, 2011, 10:32 pm

      thank you for writing about bassem sasha. i knew his trial had started. if you could call it a trial. it’s so horrible for him and his family.

      there is a moving photo of him here. he has so much dignity. look in his pure eyes.

  5. Hostage
    September 28, 2011, 1:50 am

    While the PA’s Statehood bid dominates the media and public attention, those involved in the true movement for Palestinian rights continue to be overlooked.

    The PA’s Statehood bid is part of the true movement for Palestinian rights and ultimately recognizing the right of Palestinians to establish Courts of their own to decide what the law is inside their 67 borders.

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