Photos by Haim Schwarczenberg: 8 February 2013
Settlers and Israeli forces arrived at dawn with trucks and bulldozers and set up 50 mobile homes on land belonging to Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah, witnesses told Ma’an.
Nabi Saleh is a center of popular resistance in the West Bank, and holds weekly demonstrations against the confiscation of its land and the takeover of its natural spring.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal under international law.
The 16-year-old son of Bassem Tamimi, a detained Palestinian rights activist in the occupied West Bank, was himself arrested by Israeli soldiers today during the regular weekly protest against the encroachment of Israeli settlers onto Palestinian land.
Wa’ed Tamimi was arrested along with four activists during the demonstration on Friday afternoon in the West Bank village of al-Nabi Saleh, 21km northwest of Ramallah.
“Today’s arrest of Wa’ed Tamimi while he was walking peacefully in his village points to the continuing harassment of activist Bassem Tamimi, his family, and the community of al-Nabi Saleh by Israeli military forces,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. “This harassment must stop”.
“Wa’ed Tamimi and the four others arrested in al-Nabi Saleh today must be allowed access to lawyers and should be released immediately unless they are to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence. His father Bassem is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully protesting Israel’s illegal settlement expansion, and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Nariman Tamimi told Amnesty International how she witnessed her son’s arrest: “I saw him being dragged violently by a soldier who immediately put him in a jeep,” she said. “Right now I am very tired and worried, and I am not sure what to do.”
Wa’ed Tamimi was taken to the police station in Sha’ar Benyamin settlement north of Ramallah.
Bassem Tamimi has been detained since his arrest on 24 October following a non-violent demonstration in a supermarket in the settlement of Sha’ar Benjamin. He faces a further prison sentence after appearing before the Ofer Military Court on Wednesday.
All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law. Amnesty International is calling for their construction and expansion to stop as a first step towards removing the Israeli civilians living there.
Once again, Bassem Tamimi is being held solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We believe he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
The Israeli military authorities must end their campaign of harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention against a Palestinian activist in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said.
Bassem Tamimi, who has been detained since his arrest at non-violent protest against the encroachment of Israeli settlers onto Palestinian land last week, faces a further prison sentence after appearing before the Ofer Military Court on Wednesday.
“Once again, Bassem Tamimi is being held solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We believe he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Tamimi was arrested on 24 October following a non-violent demonstration in a supermarket in Sha’ar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah. More than 100 protesters had gathered to call for an end to the occupation and a boycott of all Israeli products.
He faces charges of assaulting a police officer, participation in an unlicensed demonstration, and activity against the public order.
If convicted of either of the latter two “offences”, he will also have to serve one or more suspended sentences from a previous trial: two months for participation in an unlicensed demonstration, and 17 months for “activity against the public order”.
After viewing footage of the protest, the military judge ruled that he should be released to house arrest for the duration of legal proceedings. The military prosecution is appealing this decision, and he remains at Ofer prison.
Tamimi was previously sentenced in May 2012 to 13 months in prison for his role in organizing regular non-violent protests against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. At the time, Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience, and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
The establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violates international humanitarian law.
According to eyewitness and media reports, as the protesters left the supermarket on 24 October they were beaten by Israeli police and security forces who also fired stun grenades.
Bassem’s wife Nariman Tamimi attended the protest and told Amnesty International: “The police were brutal during the arrest. They threw Bassem on the ground and pressed him down while putting the cuffs on his hands. Anyone who tried to approach them was beaten up. The police seemed scared and nervous. They wanted to make arrests fast.”
Despite the police use of unnecessary and excessive force, the military prosecution has charged Bassem Tamimi with assault, based on the testimony of one police officer who alleges that the activist hit him on the hand.
Amnesty International spoke to witnesses and reviewed numerous videos from the protest, and found no evidence that he or the other protesters used violence. Tamimi is committed to non-violent resistance and has a long record of peaceful protest. Another Palestinian protester, now released on bail, faces similar charges.
Tamimi managed to contact his wife after his arrest.
“He still had his phone with him, he told me that he was in a cell somewhere, and he said that he felt like there was something broken in chest, he said ‘I cannot move or breathe and I am very tired’. Then they took the phone away so we could not talk more,” she told Amnesty International.
Encroachment of settlers
Bassem Tamimi is from the West Bank village of al-Nabi Saleh, 21km northwest of Ramallah.
In July 2008 Israeli settlers from nearby Halamish began to use the Qaws spring, which is on al-Nabi Saleh land and used to irrigate crops there and in the nearby village of Deir Nitham. In February 2009 settlers began to build structures on the spring site.
The Palestinians complained that settlers were building on private Palestinian land, and that the work damaged other property including trees. Israeli police routinely close Palestinian complaints against settlers due to “lack of evidence”.
Israel’s Civil Administration, the military body which controls most of the West Bank, prohibits Palestinians from visiting the Qaws spring site in groups and on Fridays, while settlers are allowed unfettered access.
Weekly demonstrations began on 9 December 2009. Every Friday residents of al-Nabi Saleh and solidarity activists gather around noon in the village centre and march peacefully towards the spring. They have been met repeatedly with unnecessary and excessive force by the Israeli army including the use of stun grenades, pepper spray, batons and guns.
Demonstrations are dispersed as soon as they begin and are usually not allowed to reach the spring. The Israeli army raids the village regularly, usually during the night, and conducts house searches and arrests, including the arrest of children under the age of 15.
Israeli military laws in place in the West Bank impose sweeping and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, requiring people to obtain advance permission from the Israeli military for any proposed gathering of 10 or more persons “for a political purpose or for a matter that could be interpreted as political”.
Nariman Tamimi told Amnesty International that in al-Nabi Saleh and all areas where there is popular resistance, police use extreme violence, noting that “there is nothing [to the protests] except that you chant and express your opinion.”
As one of the organizers of the al-Nabi Saleh protests and a coordinator of the village’s popular committee, Bassem Tamimi and his family have been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army.
Since the demonstrations began, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times. His wife has been arrested twice and two of his children have been injured – Wa’ed was in hospital for five days after he was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet and Mohammed was injured by a tear-gas canister that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder.
Bassem Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he has only once been convicted by a military court – on charges that Amnesty International believes were unfounded.
Video by Bilal Tamimi
Video by Israel Puterman
by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 24 October 2012
Photos by ActiveStills
Activists called for the boycott of occupation and its products. Four activists were detained and several injuries due to soldiers’ brutality
This morning, more than 100 Palestinians, joined by number of international activists staged an action protest at the entrance of Rami Levi’s supermarket in Sha’ar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah, to protest occupation and settler terror. They entered the market and walked up and down the aisles chanting for freedom and waving Palestinians flags. As activists exited the building, about forty policemen and soldiers were waiting outside, they attacked physically the demonstrators and fired stun grenades at them, causing several injuries, two of which were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Four people, including Basim Tamimi, the head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh, were beaten and arrested by Israeli police. Tamimi’s ribs were broken and several Palestinians were injured. Protesters called for the boycott of occupation and all its products, and stressed that “as long as there is no justice to Palestinians, Israeli and settler daily life can’t continue on as normal.” Two of those arrested were Palestinians including Bassem Tamimi in addition to two international activists, an American and Polish. The protest was part of Popular Struggle Committees’ actions to protest the occupation and settlers terror against Palestinians. Last week about 50 Palestinian activists blocked the Apartheid Road 443 (known as Modi’in, which passes on West Bank lands, connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem). The road was blocked for about 30 minutes to Israeli and settler traffic.
I have just been released from jail, after three days inside. I was arrested last Friday, together with 22 others, in the village of Nabi Saleh, during a demonstration commemorating the murder of Mustafa Tamimi. Our arrest took place as we peacefully protested near the entrance to the Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, which is built on lands stolen from Nabi Saleh.
Minutes after we got to the gate, Israeli Border Police officers moved in to remove us from the scene. Palestinians, Israeli and international activists, we were all shackled and dragged away into military jeeps that transported us to the adjacent military base, which is in fact part of the settlement.
In the military base, still shackled, I was assaulted by a settler who hit me in the face, leaving me with a bloody nose. Shortly after, the settler also attacked a female Israeli activist who was by my side. The soldiers and policemen present did not prevent the attack, nor did they bother to detain the settler after the fact. Instead, the zip-tie locks on my hands were removed, only for my arms to be bound again, this time behind my back.
Hours later, at the police station, I learned that to cover up their responsibility for my attack, the soldiers have laid a bogus complaint against me for assaulting them. My hands were tied, my face was bleeding, but it was I who spent the night in the inside of prison cell.
Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh was also arrested during that same demonstration. While the police decided to release all the others, he and I were to remain in jail. During our demonstrations, soldiers often take pictures, to later use them as “incriminating evidence”. This time, the soldiers used one such picture to accuse Mohammed of throwing stones during a demonstration a few weeks or months back. The man pictured in that photograph is not Mohammed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, regardless, he remains in jail. Military law allows Israel to keep us Palestinians in jail for eight days before seeing a judge, and even then, it is a soldier in uniform who is the so called neutral arbitrator.
As the prison doors closed behind me, my happiness was clouded by the fact that Mohammed Tamimi was not released. The battle for his freedom is only beginning, as our lawyers prepare the petition for his release. If you can, please help us fund legal aid for him and for the countless others who are regularly arrested protesting Israeli Occupation.
I would also like to use this letter to extend my gratitude to Ayala Shani, an Israeli comrade who was arrested with me. She refused the injustice of being released while both me and Mohammed Tamimi were still detained. As these words are written, she is still in jail, despite having been offered her freedom twice already by Israeli courts.
Translated to English by Judith Ronen
Mustafa Tamimi, Palestinian resident of the village of Nabi Saleh was killed last weekend, when he was shot in the head by a tear gas grenade. Anarchist activist Ben Ronen bids farewell to his good friend.
“Ola is somewhere, I don’t know, Saddam is in Jordan, back soon, Louai is up there with all the shebaab (youths), Oudai – you know where he is……..in a fortnight he will be released from prison and will return to the village, and Ziad is at a wedding in Ramallah.” “And where is your son?” I ask Abd al-Razak as we sit outside under his olive tree with his wife Ikhlas, just a few minutes before the start of the weekly demonstration. “Mustafa?” He went out early today. One of his friends came by to collect him and they went to Nablus.” Maybe it’s a good idea that he keeps away from the village for one Friday,” I say. “He can be wherever he wants, he’s grown up,” Abd al-Razak replies.
I haven’t been to Nabi Salah for two weeks and coming back now gives me a powerful feeling, a feeling of coming home. Even the knowledge that in just a few minutes this special calm will be replaced by a war-like atmosphere doesn’t change it. On the contrary, it is strengthened by this knowledge, and adds meaning to it. “Were you here when the army came looking for Mustafa?” Abd al-Razak asks me.
“They were always looking for him. They came at night, surrounded the house from every direction. He managed to jump out of the window and get away. I was here inside when I heard them firing. One of the soldiers aimed his weapon at me. He was only a kid, about 19, and I started to yell at him to move the gun away from me. Then the officer came down from the roof to see what was going on. I said to him: ‘I’m a sick man, you come into my home and your soldier points his gun at me?’ The officer replied: ‘I know that your son Mustafa was here, and that he throws stones every week.’ I held my wife tightly and said to him: ‘We also throw stones at you, we all throw stones at you.’ I held out my hands and said: ‘Here you are, arrest me and my wife.’”
In the evening, after the last of the demonstrators had dispersed, the soldiers had abandoned the village and the clouds of tear gas were hanging in the chilly evening air of the pastoral village, I went back to say goodbye to Abd al-Razak and Ikhlas. Everyone was sitting outside, Mustafa too, dressed up stylishly, as was his way.
Friday evening. We are sitting at the entrance to the recovery room at Beilinson Hospital, waiting. Two hours ago we were sitting in the doctor’s room and he was explaining to us Mustafa’s condition. Someone was trying to translate his explanation, and I understood that his condition was not as severe as we had thought. It’s going to be alright, they said. One of the doctors emerges and tells us that Mustafa has been transferred to the neurosurgical department. We go up in the elevator and walk towards the admissions desk, Ikhlas is worried but we reassure her. Waiting.
Another nerve-calming cigarette, before making our way back up to the ward. At the entrance, someone stops us saying quietly: “We have just been told that it is a matter of hours until he dies.” I don’t understand – none of us understand – just a few moments ago we were talking about taking everyone on a trip to the beach and to eat in Jaffa and now you are saying that he is about to die? We go into the lobby, Ikhlas’s cries split through the dreadful silence of the hospital. We try to calm her, to comfort her and give her a little hope. But she knows. She can feel it.
In a dream. We are standing outside the hospital elevator early in the morning. Ikhlas smiles and says “Let’s go to the beach now” My phone buzzes indicating that I have a message. I wake up with a start. The message says: The doctor said that Mustafa’s brain failed at 5am. He won’t live out the day” It is 7:46am and I slip back into the dream about the beach. The phone buzzes again. It just says: “He died.”
We are waiting in the lobby of the funeral hall, I look towards the elevator and wait for it to start coming down. The numbers move slowly, the elevator stops, the doors open and a stretcher emerges, bearing a figure shrouded in a white sheet. Living people are in the room, but death is in the air. The ambulance driver has forgotten something upstairs, and we stand silently around the body, waiting for him to return, to save the situation. I sit at the back of the ambulance, as it races along the highway towards the Rantis checkpoint, I reach out and dare to touch him, first his arm and then, his head. I don’t know if this is real or not, but I do know that this is the last time that I will be close to him.
After the earth had covered the last piece of the flag that the covered you, I didn’t know where to go. Then, the familiar Friday shouts started. I went closer and saw faces shouting the same familiar slogans, but their faces were different today, their tears were barely dry but they were already holding rocks, going down once again to the roadblock, to the jeeps. One of them hugs me tightly, and says: “Better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees.” I nod in agreement and think that maybe he is right and it will never end, but we will not give up.
Ben Ronen is an anarchist activist and a freelance journalist.
Mustafa Tamimi of Nabi Saleh died yesterday morning in Beilinson Hospital. There’s no debate over the cause of death: Tamimi was shot in the head at close range during the weekly demonstration in his village. The weapon: a high force, long range tear gas canister. According to a number of witnesses, backed up by photographs, the canister was fired point-blank, in total contravention of army regulations, from a distance of less than ten meters. The shooter: an Israeli soldier, from a Jeep.
Mustafa Tamimi is on the left. The weapon and the tear gas canister are circled in red (photo: Haim Scwarczenberg)
It’s not every day that the authorities come in possession of such a picture, which can supply more than 1,000 words in an indictment. The picture shows, firstly, the shot, an instant before the canister strikes him. This picture also shows that Tamimi may have thrown stones at the military Jeep, but it’s also clear that the Jeep is both closed and armored, and there is no doubt that Tamimi constitutes no danger to the lives of the soldiers – especially had they shut the door. In the picture you can also see the canister in the air, and the forbidden angle at which it’s flying toward Tamimi. You can’t see the shooter, but you can easily see that he was driving in military jeep S0661410. You can easily figure out who drove it by calling 02-5694211. From there it probably won’t be too hard to figure out who else was in the vehicle, and who opened the door to fire at Tamimi.
But this won’t happen. Unlike Bassem Tamimi – an organizer of the demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, who has been in jail since March and whose trial used testimonies taken from minors pressured by illegal interrogation methods – it’s safe to assume that the soldier who shot Mustafa Tamimi won’t be arrested in the near future. He won’t sit in jail while awaiting trial for murder, or manslaughter, or even negligent manslaughter. The past has proven to us that maybe, just maybe, if some organizations and dedicated attorneys invest in a prolonged military struggle, the soldier will be charged with firing against regulations, or illegal use of a weapon, or a moving violation like driving in a military vehicle with the door open. Maybe, just maybe, he will be convicted and demoted, and maybe he’ll even be fined or get a two-month sentence. Suspended sentence, of course. But maybe not.
I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh. They have been protesting there against the occupation for two and a half years, against the army-supported settler seizure of the village’s lands and spring. But I haven’t made it there. I have written on several occasions about the struggle there, but I didn’t join the demonstrations. I’ve been to Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’asara, Um Salmona, Jius, Hebron, Susya, Salfit, Azon, Jenin, Beit Ommar, Ramallah, Jericho, Walajeh, and more – but I haven’t been to Nabi Saleh.
The photographs of violence that have come out of Nabi Saleh simply scared me. The beatings, the rubber bullets from close range, the many wounded, and the army that roams the streets and fires tear gas into homes around the village – there’s nowhere to hide. Nobody had been killed until now, but it was just a matter of time. My friends told me that things had calmed down there lately, that it wasn’t like it had been at the beginning, that it was manageable, that you could fade back and find safety if you wanted to – I started to consider going.
More and more friends on Facebook are sharing the close-ups of Tamimi’s head after he was shot – covered in blood – and the video clips of his evacuation. I have no choice but to look at the photographs, and my body stiffens, freezes, shakes a bit. Before I was notified of Tamimi’s death, the photographs reminded me of Tristan Anderson, the American whose skull was shattered by a similar canister by similar soldiers in Ni’lin, in a demonstration at which I was present. I remembered the horror of that day, and the time that Anderson then spent in the hospital, hovering between life and death until he left in a wheelchair, in which he’ll probably remain for life. I remembered Matan Cohen, and Limor Goldstein, and their injuries, and my own light injuries. I remember Bassem and Jawaher Abu Rahma, who were killed in Bil’in, and 10-year-old Ahmed Moussa, who was killed by soldiers in another demonstration – and more.
It is simply shocking. Truly shocking. I look around, and I don’t see my society shocked. Not shocked at all of these people, or at the two head injures in Nabi Saleh yesterday, or at the two arrests in a peaceful demonstration in Ma’asara, which didn’t even get any coverage. I see the careful reports reading, “Palestinians claim that…” and the blind faith in the stance of the IDF Spokesperson. And the lack of shock shocks me even more. Especially shocking after all this are the reader comments, which claim that “they deserved it” or that describe the weekly popular demonstrations in the occupied territories, despite the repression and the injuries and the arrests and the terror and the death, as a “game,” or “theater,” or a “hangout of anarchists and bored Arabs.” And I hope that somehow, the UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech, who spent Friday in Nabi Saleh when Tamimi was shot, sees and understands what is happening here, and maybe will manage to give us some assistance from outside. He, or the European consuls who are witnessing the trial of Bassem Tamimi, or diplomats who document the destruction of the caves and wells in the South Hebron Hills. But I have a hard time believing.
But – a shred of hope? Despite it all? Is there a source of encouragement, alongside all these killings, alongside the father of son who were killed in Gaza, and the death and bereavement that follows us everywhere thoughout this land of occupation and repression and war? Yes. The human spirit. It may be a cliché, but I believe in the words of Charlie Chaplin: We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t give up on the eternal struggle for a future that is better, freer, more equal, more just, and in the long run, we achieve something. Capitalism and racism may incite us to selfishness and war, but ultimately, occupations collapse, empires fall, and humans continue to create and protest and build and love. And alongside such pictures of murder, this must be remembered.
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist, focusing mainly on the struggle against the occupation. He currently works at Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Maariv newspaper, and at the independent Hebrew website MySay. This piece originally appeared on MySay. Translated by Noa Yachot.