From Beyond the Walls and the Barbed Wire: A Message From Abdullah Abu Rahmah

December 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

Last Friday, the 10th of December was International Human Rights Day. In the village of Bil’in, we protested a year to Abdullah Abu Rahmah’s arrest.

Abu Rahmah has yet to be released. Through his lawyer, he was able to pass on a very loaded message; From the details of his arrest and the stalling of his release, to the impact on his family, to the impact on the village, to prison torture of children, to military court violations, to support for BDS and implementation of international law. The letter was published in full, in the Huffington Post and I bring it to you in full. This is what hope in spite of apartheid looks like:

A year ago tonight, on International Human Rights Day, our apartment
in Ramallah was broken into by the Israeli military in the middle of
the night and I was torn away from my wife Majida, my daughters Luma
and Layan, and my son Laith, who at the time was only nine months
old.

As the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall
and Settlements I was convicted of “organizing illegal demonstrations”
and “incitement.” The “illegal demonstrations” refer to the nonviolent
resistance campaign that my village has been waging for the last six
years against Israel’s Apartheid Wall that is being built on our
land.

I find it strange that the military judges could call our
demonstrations illegal and charge me for participating in and
organizing them after the world’s highest legal body, the
International Court of Justice in The Hague, has ruled that Israel’s
wall within the occupied territories is illegal and must be
dismantled. Even the Israeli supreme court ruled that the Wall’s route
in Bil’in is illegal.

I have been accused of inciting violence: this charge is also
puzzling. If the check points, closures, ongoing land theft, wall and
settlements, night raids into our homes and violent oppression of our
protests does not incite violence, what does?

Despite the occupations constant and intense incitement to violence in
Bil’in, we have chosen another way. We have chosen to protest
nonviolently together with Israeli and International supporters. We
have chosen to carry a message of hope and real partnership between
Palestinians and Israelis in the face of oppression and injustice. It
is this message that the Occupation is attempting to crush through its
various institutions including the military courts. An official from
the Israeli Military Prosecution shamelessly told my Attorney, Gaby
Lasky, that the objective of the military in my prosecution is to “put
an end” to these demonstrations.

The crime of incitement that I have been convicted of is defined under
Israeli military decree 101 regarding the prohibition of hostile
action of propaganda and incitement as “The attempt, verbally or
otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may
disturb the public peace or public order” and carries a 10 year
maximal sentence. This definition is so broad and vague that it can be
applied to almost any action or statement. Actually, these words
could be considered incitement if they were spoken in the occupied
territories.

On the 11th of October of this year I was sentenced to 12 months in
prison, plus 6 months suspended sentence for 3 years, and a fine. My
family and I, especially my daughters, were counting the days to my
release. The military prosecution waited until just a few days before
the end of my sentence before appealing against my release, arguing
that I should be imprisoned longer. I have completed my sentence but
remain in prison. Though international law considers myself and other
activists as human rights defenders, the occupation authorities
consider us criminals whose freedom and other rights must be denied.
In the year that I have spent in prison, the demonstrations in Bil’in,
Naalin, Al Maasara, and Beit Omar have continued. Nabi Saleh and other
villages have taken up the popular struggle. Within this year, the
International campaign calling for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions of
Israel until it complies with International law has grown
considerably, as have legal actions against Israeli war crimes. I hope
that soon Israel will no longer be able to ignore the clear
condemnation of its policies coming from around the world.

In the year that I have spent in prison, my son Laith has taken his
first steps and said his first words,  and Luma and Layan have been
growing from children to beautiful young girls. I have not been able
to be with them, to walk holding their hands, to take them to school
as they and I are used to. Laith does not know me now. And my wife
Majida has had to care for our family alone.

In 2010 children in Bil’in and throughout the West bank are still
being awakened in the middle of the night to find guns pointed at
their heads. In the year that I have spent in prison, the military has
carried out dozens of night raids in Bil’in with the purpose of
removing those involved in the popular struggle against the
occupation.

Imagine if heavily armed men forced their way into your home in the
middle of the night. If your children were forced to watch as their
father or brother was blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken away. Or if
you as a parent were forced to watch this being done to your child.

This week the door of our cell was opened and a sixteen year boy was
pushed inside. My friend Adeeb Abu Rahmeh was shocked to recognize his
son, Mohammed, whom Adeeb had not seen since he himself was arrested
during a nonviolent demonstration 16 months ago.

Mohammad smiled when he saw his Father, but his face was red and
swollen and it was clear that he was in pain. He told us that he had
been taken from his home two nights previously. He spent the first
night blindfolded and shackled, being moved from one place to another.
The next day after a terrifying, disoriented, and sleepless night he
was taken to an interrogation room, his blindfold was removed and an
interrogator showed him pictures of people from the village. When
questioned about the first picture he told the interrogator that he
did not recognize the person. The interrogator slapped him hard across
the face. This continued with every question that Mohammad was asked:
when he did not give the answer that the interrogator wanted, he was
slapped, punched and threatened. Mohammad’s treatment is not
unusual.

Young boys from our village have been taken from their homes violently
and report   being denied sleep, food, and water and being kept in
Isolation and threatened and often beaten during interrogation.

What was unusual about Mohammad is that he did not satisfy his
interrogator and with competent representation was released within a
few days. Usually children, just because they are children, will say
whatever the interrogator wants them to say to make such treatment
stop.  Adeeb, myself, and thousands of other prisoners are being held
in prison based on testimonies forced or coerced out of these
children. No child should ever receive such treatment.

When the children who had testified against me retracted what they
said in interrogation and told the military judge that their
testimonies where given under duress, the judge declared them hostile
witnesses.

Adeeb Abu Rahmah and I are the first to be convicted with incitement
and participation in illegal demonstrations since the first Intifada
but, unfortunately, it does not seem that we will be the last.

I often wonder what Israeli leaders think they will achieve if they
succeed in their goal of suppressing the Palestinian popular struggle?
Is it possible that they believe that our people can sit quietly and
watch as our land is taken from us?  Do they think that we can face
our children and tell them that, like us, they will never experience
freedom? Or do they actually prefer violence and killing to our form
of nonviolent struggle because it camouflages their ongoing theft and
gives them an excuse to continue using us as guinea pigs for their
weapons?

My eldest daughter Luma was nine years old when I was arrested. She is
now ten. After my arrest she began going to the Friday demonstrations
in our village. She always carries a picture of me in her arms. The
adults try to look after her but I still  worry for my little girl. I
wish that she could enjoy her childhood like other children, that she
could be studying and playing with her friends. But through the walls
and barbed wire that separates us I hear my daughter’s message to me,
saying: “Baba, they cannot stop us. If they take you away, we will
take your place and continue to struggle for justice.” This is the
message that I want to bring you today. From beyond the walls, the
barbed wire, and the prison bars that separate Palestinians and
Israelis.

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§ One Response to From Beyond the Walls and the Barbed Wire: A Message From Abdullah Abu Rahmah

  • a m malik says:

    All you westerners have made sure that the dirt of your house is thrown else where. What better place then Israel.
    U call the suicide fellows as terrorist. This negates the whole action. You must realise that it must have been extreme cruelity,injustice and out right gross violation of human dignity and respect taht one is forced to take the extreme steps to sacrifice the most valuable asset-his own life. And you label them as “terrorists”??!!
    am

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