As Israeli Apartheid Week events continue to take place across the globe, The Electronic Intifada brings you this roundup of recent activism news. Palestinian popular struggle leader Abdallah Abu Rahme was released from 16 months in Israeli detention, Palestinian women marched to commemorate International Women’s Day and faced violence from Israeli forces, Polish solidarity activists creatively protested a meeting between Polish and Israeli officials and anti-Zionist activists sponsored an initiative in the UK to remember all victims of historic and current genocide.
Jailed resistance organizer Abdallah Abu Rahme from the occupied West Bank village of Bilin was released from Ofer prison today after spending the last 16 months behind bars.
Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Abu Rahme’s release was originally scheduled for one day earlier on Sunday, 13 March, but Israeli officials held him for an extra day without giving a reason (“Israel Refuses Release of Palestinian Prisoner Abu Rahma,” 13 March 2011).
Abu Rahme was sent to prison on charges of “incitement” of protests in Bilin, where for the last six years weekly nonviolent protests against Israel’s wall and encroaching settlement colonies have been taking place.
Abu Rahme, who is a coordinator with Bilin’s Popular Committee, was arrested and imprisoned in December 2009. The Israeli government originally charged Abu Rahme with stone throwing and arms possession after he collected used tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army against protesters and displayed them at his house, but the latter charges were dropped. Convicted of incitement, the prosecution demanded that Abu Rahme be sentenced to up to two years in prison, in an attempt to deter other activists from organizing protests and actions against Israel’s policies in Bilin and elsewhere in the West Bank.
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee () stated in a press release distributed via email that Abu Rahme “was received by his family, friends and supporters at the prison’s gate and vowed to continue the struggle.”
Activists from the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar effectively shut down a part of Route 60, the road adjacent to the village that runs between Jerusalem and Hebron, preventing Israeli settlers from traveling to and from illegal settlements.
The Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) reported that approximately seventy local community members, supported by international solidarity activists, blocked the highway and brought traffic to a halt for nearly half an hour (“One Arrested as Palestinian Activists Block Route 60 Near Beit Ommar,” 9 March 2011).
“The demonstration was organized as a collective response to increasing settlement expansion in the West Bank and frequent attacks by Israeli forces on the Palestinian people,” the PSP stated.
“Israeli forces arrived at the scene just as the demonstrators were returning home,” the report adds. “Several of the soldiers chased the activists, catching Azmi Shoyorhi, a well-known anti-occupation activist who had been injured in his leg [by] a sound bomb thrown by Israeli forces during last Saturday’s demonstration in Beit Ommar.”
Last Saturday, 6 March, PSP reported that dozens of Palestinians from Beit Ommar, supported by residents of Hebron and international activists, held a rally in protest of the nearby illegal settlement of Karmei Tsur. Israeli forces opened fire on the protest with tear gas and sound grenades, and one journalist was beaten by soldiers (“Army, Settler Violence Mars Beit Ommar Demonstration,” 6 March 2011).
Israeli forces opened fire on a demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem on 5 March, injuring at least two women, Ma’an News Agency reported (“Injuries as soldiers fire on Qalandiya protest,” 5 March 2011).
The march was organized by women politicians and labor union activists in support of International Women’s Day. Israeli soldiers began firing tear gas and sound grenade canisters at the crowd and several persons had to be treated for severe tear gas inhalation. One international activist was taken to the local hospital after she was hit in the face with a sound grenade.
Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded the village of Nabi Saleh on 5 March, and arrested Naji Tamimi, a leading village organizer, and raided the home of Bassem Tamimi, another prominent activist in the village.
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) reported that this latest invasion and arrest comes on the heels of expanded arrests and violence against residents of the village who are engaged in anti-settlement protests (“Army arrests local protest leader in Nabi Saleh last night,” 6 March 2011).
“Over the last five weeks the army has arrested 16 of Nabi Saleh’s residents on suspicion of participation in protests in the village,” PSCC reported. “Half of the arrestees were minors, the youngest of whom merely 11 [years old]. The arrests were conducted based on incriminations extracted from a 14-year-old boy from the village, recently arrested and subjected to verbal and emotional pressure during his interrogation. Prevented from consulting an attorney, he was interrogated in absence of his parents, albeit obliged by law. The interrogators have also never bothered [to inform] the boy of his right to remain silent.”
PSCC stated that over the last 14 months of sustained protest against encroaching settlements and Israeli repression, more than 10 percent of the village’s population has been arrested.
Israeli forces arrested a leading activist with Youth Against Settlements (YAS) on 28 February, after summoning him for an interrogation at an Israeli police station near the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba. Issa Amro, 30, reported that a police officer threatened to raid his house later that night if he failed to appear for interrogation, according to a report by YAS (“Occupation Authorities Arrest Popular Resistance Activist,” 2 March 2011).
Joseph Dana, journalist and contributor to The Electronic Intifada, reported that Amro was released from jail a few days later on 3 March (“A rare instance of justice at the Ofer military court,” 3 March 2011).
YAS is a Palestinian youth organization involved in nonviolent popular resistance against settlement activity. YAS stated that Amro has been arrested several times during the last year because of his activism. On 25 February, Amro helped organize an international day of action calling for Shuhadeh street, a main road in Hebron, to be re-opened to Palestinians who have been denied access since 1994.
Ma’an News Agency reported that an estimated 1,000 Palestinians and international solidarity activists demonstrated in Hebron that day, and came under fire by Israeli forces who shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the crowd. Nine persons were injured, and six were detained (“Clashes as hundreds protest settlements in Hebron,” 25 February 2011).
The demonstration came on the anniversary of the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Ibrahimi mosque by a Brooklyn-born Jewish extremist settler. Following the massacre, Israel closed Shuhadeh street to Palestinians as Israeli settlers colonized apartments in the area.
Protesters “waved Palestinian flags, chanting ‘Down with the occupation!’ and ‘Hebron is Palestinian,’” reported Ma’an.
A local journalist who covered the protests, Widah al-Jabari, was arrested by Israeli soldiers and was also released on 3 March, Dana reported.
Palestinian families in Lydd, near Tel Aviv, called for a general education strike on Sunday, 6 March, the first school day of the week. The call was made in direct response to the demolition of several homes belonging to the Abu Eid family on 13 December, subsequent police beatings and further demolitions of tents and shelters belonging to the family the previous week.
Israeli daily Ynet reported on 6 March that parent committees imposed the school strike to bring attention to the suffering of the Abu Eid family and the mounting educational disparities along racial and religious lines in the city.
“ ‘About 7,000 students are on strike today because of the treatment the Abu Eid family received by police and by the [Lydd] city council,’” the chairman of the local parents’ council told Ynet. “ ‘They destroyed their lives after they demolished their homes. It’s a racist message to all of the [Lydd] residents’ ” (“No school for 7,000 Arab students in Lod,” 6 March 2011).
“[The chariman] added that Arab schools in [Lydd] suffer from neglect and nothing is being done to improve the situation,” Ynet reported. “According to him, there are classes consisting of 42 students which harm their academic achievements. ‘If [Lydd’s] city council doesn’t take notice, we’ll continue to fight,’ he warned.”
Lydd is a segregated city where decades of police brutality and discrimination against its Palestinian residents continue to escalate. Weekly demonstrations calling for an end to discrimination and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel in Lydd have been held since the demolitions of the Abu Eid family’s homes in December.
Israeli apartheid film contest
The Ramallah-based Stop the Wall Campaign, in coordination with the It’s Apartheid media collective, announced the winners of the first International Israeli Apartheid Short Film contest in early February.
According to a press release, the contest “encouraged the local Palestinian and larger international community to submit short films on the theme of Israeli apartheid” (“First International Israeli Apartheid Short Film Contest Announces Winners,” 3 February 2011).
An international panel of judges and Internet voters decided on the winning films of the top awards, which can all be viewed on the It’s Apartheid website (itisapartheid.info/).
Palestinian and Polish solidarity activists tied a traditional checkered kuffiyeh scarf around a famous sculpture in the middle of Warsaw on 24 February, in what activists said was in response to recent top-level meetings between Israeli and Polish officials in Jerusalem.
The Polish Solidarity Campaign with Palestine reported that Poland, “often described as Israel’s unofficial ambassador in Europe, seeks to upgrade military, research and development, and cultural ties with Israel” (“Polish Palm Tree Dons Palestinian Scarf Against Government Meeting in Occupied Jerusalem,” 24 February 2011).
Activists called the meeting “a normalization of occupation and apartheid,” and pointed out that numerous Israeli construction and transportation companies continue to operate in Poland.
Additionally, Polish activists marked International Women’s Day on 8 March by holding a silent vigil in front of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw to commemorate Palestinian women prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The Polish Solidarity Campaign with Palestine reported that more than a dozen women each held a photograph of a female Palestinian political prisoner and a candle, and that the call to action came from Palestinian prisoner support and human rights organization Addameer (“Female activists in Warsaw commemorate Palestinian female prisoners on International Women Day,” 8 March 2011).
Never Again for Anyone
An initiative is underway to expand the UK’s current Holocaust Memorial Day — a day centered solely around Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust — into a day of annual remembrance of all victims of genocide, including Palestinian victims of Israeli violence.
Coordinated in part by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), a petition was sent to the UK’s House of Commons. The initiative was welcomed by 23 members of the House on 27 January (“Never Again for Anyone Initiative,” 27 January 2011).
Dr. Haidar Eid, a Gaza-based academic and activist, became the first signatory to the petition during a visit to the UK as a guest of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and IJAN.
IJAN released a statement in support of the Never Again for Anyone initiative, saying that “[a]s Jews of conscience, we reject the claim that the Nazi Holocaust, or the long history of Jewish persecution in Europe, justifies such a state and the systematized oppression of Palestinians necessary to establish and maintain it. Self-segregation, political control and the persecution of others is never an answer to oppression and persecution” (“International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network Says: Never Again For Anyone,” 19 January 2011).