Nonviolent Palestinian Activists Arrested as Israel Cracks Down on Wall Protests

By Ben White 09-24-2009

090924-israel-palestine-separation-wallEarlier this year, I was shown around Jayyous by Mohammad Othman, Youth Coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, a nonviolent grassroots movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. His community, like many others, has been hit hard by Israel's Separation Wall, their very livelihoods threatened by Israel's drive to carry out a land grab under the claim of security.

Yesterday, Othman was detained and arrested by Israeli soldiers as he attempted to cross back into the West Bank from Jordan, returning from a trip to Norway. He will apparently meet with his lawyer tomorrow, and there is a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday next week.

Across the Occupied Territories, the Israeli military has been cracking down on Palestinian civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, particularly as it relates to the Separation Wall. Bil'in, a village now famous for its protests against the Wall that Desmond Tutu compared to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., has been repeatedly raided by Israeli soldiers, with nonviolent activists and their families intimidated, beaten, and snatched from their homes.

The Separation Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague in an Advisory Opinion in 2004, cuts through the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories under Israeli military occupation:

About two-thirds of the 700km+ route, featuring a 8m-high wall, electric fences, sniper towers and "buffer zones" up to 100m wide, is completed or under construction. Of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 8.5% will be on the "wrong" side of the wall.

090924-mohammad-othmanIn the absence of foreign governments applying pressure on Israel to abide by international law with regards to its military occupation, the settlements, and the Separation Wall, courageous individuals like Mohammad Othman have sacrificed much in order to stand up for Palestinians' basic rights. Hindi Mesleh is a volunteer with the Stop the Wall campaign, and a friend of Mohammad's. He told me today that Mohammad is motivated by his concern for "the youth of Palestine -- he wants to support them, and always encourages them to stay, not to leave, and to fight for Palestinian rights".

This is not the first time I have written here of peaceful protestors being detained for speaking up for equality for Palestinians. Let's hope that there is a similar clamour for the release of Othman -- and indeed the many other Palestinian political prisoners jailed solely for nonviolently exercising their rights of free expression.

Ben White is a journalist and writer based in London. He blogs at www.benwhite.org.uk. Keep updated on Mohammad Othman via this blog and Facebook group.

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