Israeli Soldiers prevent an international solidarity worker from entering Khatib’s home tonight. (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahmah)
On the day that Bil’in protest leader Mohammad Khatib was arrested for the second time in six months, the New York Times has finally caught up to the story of Israel’s ongoing campaign against Palestinian dissent. Isabel Kershner’s article, Israel Signals Tougher Line on West Bank Protests, gives an overview of the "creeping, part-time intifada" that continues to spread across the West Bank, as well Israel’s effort to quash it.
Kershner quotes Khatib in the article and notes his arrest today:
“Bilin is no longer about the struggle for Bilin,” said Mr. Khatib, who was arrested in August and has been awaiting trial on an incitement charge. “This is part of a national struggle,” he said, adding that ending the Israeli occupation was the ultimate goal. Before dawn on Thursday soldiers came to Mr. Khatib’s home in Bilin and took him away again.
It’s clear Israel is growing increasingly concerned as Kershner also quotes military spokesperson Maj. Peter Lerner, “’These are violent, illegal, dangerous riots.’ Other Palestinians are ‘jumping on the bandwagon,’ he said, and the protests ‘could slip out of control.’"
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee released a statement following Khatib’s arrest placing it in a broader context:
The recent wave of arrests is largely an assault on the members of the Popular Committees – the leadership of the popular struggle – who are then charged with incitement when arrested. The charge of incitement, defined under Israeli military law as "an attempt, whether verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order," is a cynical attempt to punish grassroots organizing with a hefty charge and lengthy imprisonments. Such indictments are part of the army’s strategy of using legal persecution as a means to quash the popular movement.
Similar raids have also been conducted in the village of alMaasara, south of Bethlehem, and in the village of Ni’ilin – where 110 residents have been arrested over the last year and half, as well as in the cities of Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem.