When non-violence is criminal: Palestinian women stand trial for West Bank protest

By |+972 Magazine: July 8, 2013

 

The IDF did not charge the two protesters with stone throwing, violent conduct or illegal gathering – but rather for violating a ‘closed military zone order,’ a highly unusual indictment. If the pair are convicted in court, it could set a precedent that demonstrates Palestinians are forbidden by Israel to oppose the occupation in any way.

 

The IDF’s Ofer Military Court in the West Bank will hold its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) in the trial of Nariman Tamimi and Rana Hamadah, two Palestinian women who were arrested on Friday, June 28 at the weekly demonstration against the occupation in Nabi Saleh.

The two women were held in Sharon Prison, in Israel, for more than three days before being brought before a military judge and indicted for entering a “closed military zone.” Rana Hamadah was also charged with obstructing a soldier in the execution of his duty.

Hamadah told +972 that during her arrest she asked the IDF soldier why she was being handcuffed, to which he replied: “Because I feel like it.” Hamadah said the pair were left handcuffed and blindfolded for nine hours, and were driven around in a vehicle with two male soldiers for seven more hours before being booked in Sharon Prison.

“Seeing the prisoners’ struggle from the inside gives an incredible urgency to their cause,” she said, adding that, “what we don’t see, and easily forget, is that the prisoners really must struggle for every passing minute.”

Nariman Tamimi told +972 this was the fifth time she has been arrested. She speculated that her arrest was part of the IDF’s efforts to crack down on the village’s right to protest, saying that Israel is “trying to make an example out of the village” by inflicting collective punishment.

A foreign national arrested along with the two Palestinian women was released later the same night and barred from entering the village for 15 days.

According to Israeli military law, under which Palestinians live, there is no such thing as a legal protest without permission from a military commander, which is rarely if ever granted (which is why arrests for stone throwing or organizing protests are so rampant).

According to B’Tselem, the legal proceedings initiated against Tamimi and Hamada since their arrest – and especially the IDF request for their remand for duration of proceedings (which was denied) – are unprecedented given the minor nature of the offense they are charged with. The indictment does not claim that the two women acted violently – which is usually the pretense for IDF arrests –  and the military prosecution rarely issues indictments for violating a “closed military zone.” From personal experience, I can attest that the IDF often baselessly issues such orders as a tool to repress protests, and in violation of Israeli High Court rulings, so the suspicion is that Israel is using its military legal control in the West Bank to repress legitimate protests.

As indicated by video footage, the demonstration was not violent and the women were not involved in any stone throwing or other act that could be construed as violent. Two military judges who watched video footage of the women’s arrest stated that they found no evidence of violent or menacing behavior on their part. It will therefore be interesting to see if and how the courts uphold the IDF’s arrests.

IDF arrests Nariman Tamimi at Nabi Saleh weekly protest June 28, 2013 (Activestills)

Like other high-profile arrests in Nabi Saleh, the women’s case is also attracting international attention. Amnesty International issued a statement on July 4 demanding that Israel stop the “bullying of Palestinian activists.” Its Middle East and North Africa program director said of the two women’s arrest: “They have been denied the basic human right to peacefully protest over land illegally seized by Israeli settlers, and the Israeli judiciary has used spurious legal tools to punish them for exercising their basic human right to peaceful protest.”

Since 2009, Nabi Saleh has been holding weekly protests against Israeli occupation, the wall and annexation of their land, including their spring, which has been seized by settlers from Halamish. Nairman’s husband, Bassem Tamimi, the village’s well-known Palestinian activist and non-violent leader, has been arrested several times and spent years in Israeli jail. Amnesty International declared  him a prisoner of conscience last year.

In this interview below, Nariman Taimimi describes the ordeal of their arrest, which she claims was the first time she was NOT beaten, but included other abuses such as being held overnight in a car and threatened with being strip-searched by male officers:

Video by International Solidarity Movement.

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