The following edited press release was issued today by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:BILIN, occupied West Bank - At 1:45am today, Mohammed Khatib, his wife Lamia and their four young children were woken up by Israeli soldiers storming their home, which was surrounded by a large military force. Once inside the house, the soldiers arrested Khatib, conducted a quick search and left the house.
Roughly half an hour after leaving the house, five military jeeps surrounded the house again, and six soldiers forced their way into the house, where Khatib’s children sat in terror. The forces conducted another very thorough search of the premises, without showing a search warrant. During the search, Khatib’s phone and many documents were seized, including papers from Bilin’s legal procedures in the Israel high court.
The soldiers exited an hour and a half later, leaving a note saying that documents suspected as “incitement materials” were seized. International activists who tried to enter the house to be with the family during the search were aggressively denied entry.
Mohammed Khatib was previously arrested during the ongoing wave of arrests and repression on 3 August 2009 with charges of incitement and stone throwing. After two weeks of detention, a military judge ruled that evidence against him was falsified and ordered his release, after it was proven that Khatib was abroad at the time the army alleged he was photographed throwing stones during a demonstration.
Khatib’s arrest today is the most severe escalation in a recent wave of repression again the Palestinian popular struggle and its leadership. Khatib is the 35th resident of Bilin to be arrested on suspicions related to anti-wall protest since 23 June 2009.
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 imprisonment. 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 al-Maasara, south of Bethlehem, and in the village of Nilin — where 110 residents have been arrested over the last year and half — as well as in the cities of Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem.
Among those arrested in the recent campaign are three members of the Nilin Popular Committee, Said Yakin of the Palestinian National Committee Against the Wall, and five members of the Bilin Popular Committee — all suspected of incitement.
Prominent grassroots activists Jamal Juma’ (East Jerusalem) and Mohammed Othman (Jayyous) of the Stop the Wall nongovernmental organization, involved in anti-wall and boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigning, have recently been released from detention after being incarcerated for long periods based on secret evidence and with no charges brought against them.