By Rae Abileah, Mondoweiss: 27 June 2011
The people of Nabi Saleh have been challenging the illegal theft of their land and natural spring by the settlement of Halamish since January 2010. Dozens of men and women gather every Friday to voice their opposition to the injustice they face. International and Israeli supporters of Nabi Saleh’s just cause join these weekly creative, non-violent actions.
In an attempt to silence dissent, the Israeli army uses banned high-velocity tear-gas projectiles, rubber-coated steel bullets and at time live ammunition against unarmed civilians. Additionally, between January 2010 and April 2011, the Israeli Army carried out 73 protest-related arrests, rounding up men, women and children. Two of the arrested are cousins Bassem and Naji Tamimi, main organizers and members of the local Popular Committee. The Tamimis are key organizers in the Nabi Saleh resistance and have been arrested under the blanketed charge of ‘incitement’, similarly to the case last of Abdallah Abu Rahmah of Bil’in who was convicted in an unfair trial and served 16 months in jail.
Bassem and Naji were scheduled to appear before a judge yesterday, Monday, June 27th at the Ofer Military Court. Naji Tamimi took a plea bargain and will be jailed for 12 months, and is barred from organizing protests for five years after his release. (As a side note: Palestinians who are held for the duration of trial usually take plea bargains because often times the length they spend in jail for the duration of the trial is greater than the amount of time they would get if they took a plea bargain.) Bassem’s court date was postponed until late August because a witness didn’t show up and it looks like he is determined not to take a plea bargain. Present in court were diplomatic representatives of the UK, the EU and France.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Ambassador András Dékány stated last week, “The rights of Israeli and Palestinian Human Rights Defenders protesting peacefully against settlements and the separation barrier are severely curtailed… The EU is observing the trial, which opened on 5 June before an Israeli military court, of Bassem Tamimi… an activist of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh affected by the illegal settlement expansion.” (Read the full statement here).
While the EU has been outspoken about the arrest of “Palestinian Gandhis” and has condemned the arrest of Bassem Tamimi, the US government remains silent.
The US government, conspicuously absent, continues to stand idly by while the Israeli army unjustly assaults and jails peaceful protesters. The Palestinian Popular Committee initiated an online campaign to contact US officials and urge them to tell Israel to stop targeting the non-violent Palestinian demonstrators and insist that an American representative be present at the Tamimis’ upcoming court appearances. Jewish Voice for Peace and CODEPINK have also put out this call to action online.
When I stood up and disrupted Netanyahu’s address to Congress in the US Capital with a message for my elected officials, “No more occupation! Stop Israeli War Crimes! Equal rights for Palestinians!” Netanyahu retorted that only in democratic nations are such protests allowed. But the violent attack that I faced in the Congressional Gallery (for which I was hospitalized), and that five activists experienced inside the AIPAC Gala, and the jailing of non-violent organizers across the Palestinian Territories suggests otherwise. And while we may be bruised, Bassem, a father of four and a respected member of his community, is sitting in jail for the crime of non-violent organizing.
In a speech prepared for his court appearance, Bassem Tamimi, a father of four and a respected member of his community, stated, “Land theft and tree burning are not just. Your military laws are not legitimate. Our peaceful protest is just. I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people.” (See Tamimi’s full statement posted to Mondoweiss).
Despite the jailing of two of its leaders, the village of Nabi Saleh will continue its non-violent struggle against the theft of its land and resources. But how much longer will the global community countenance Israel’s imprisonment of Palestinian Gandhis?
Rae Abileah is a 28-year-old Jewish-American and is a national organizer with CODEPINK Women for Peace and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. She lives in San Francisco, CA and can be reached at email@example.com.