Slingshot found on Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi (photo: IDF Spokesperson)
Following the killing of Mustafa Tamimi in his village Nabi Saleh, Spokesperson for the IDF presented pictures of a slingshot Tamimi had on him when he was brought to the hospital. This was to be the indicting evidence that the protester was taking part in hostile action against the army – i.e. throwing stones – and therefore responsible for his own death.
Only in the context of the occupation can throwing stones at a bullet-proof army jeep be seen as an offense deserving the death penalty, carried out on the spot (clearly, the soldiers weren’t acting in self-defense). Furthermore, as recent attacks by settlers on soldiers – including a brick thrown from close range on the IDF regional commander – demonstrated, the army’s treatment of Jews is very different (to be clear, I don’t call for shooting Jewish stone-throwers either). But there is a larger issue here, concerning the whole notion of “legitimate” resistance to the occupation.
Facts and context are important: Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza more than 44 years ago. Since then, the Palestinians have been under military occupation, which denies their basic human and civil rights. The Palestinians can’t vote. They are tried in military court, where the conviction rate is astonishing. They don’t enjoy due process. Their property rights are limited, and their lands – including private lands – are regularly seized by Israel. All this is well-known and well-documented.
As far as Israel is concerned, this situation can go on forever. Israel is not attempting to leave the West Bank – it actually strengthens its hold on the territory – and it doesn’t plan to give the Palestinians equal rights within the state of Israel.
The Palestinians therefore have a moral right to resist the occupation. It’s as simple as that.
Asked how what form of protest against the occupation Israel can allow, Peter Lerner of the IDF spokesperson unit wrote this tweet:
To start, this is simply a lie. Israel doesn’t allow any form of protest in the West Bank (well, except for settler protest). Military law demands IDF permission for any demonstration of more than 10 people. The IDF regularly declares the villages of Nabi Saleh, Bil’in and Ni’lin, where protests take place, as Closed Military Zones, and it charges Israelis who attempt to join those demonstrations with violating of this order. Palestinian protest organizers are tried for long prison terms in military courts.
But more important, the kinds of protest Major Lerner is suggesting are effective under civilian authority, not under military control. Major Lerner is part of Israel’s media war for the hearts and minds of Westerners, and the answer he gives is something that people in democracies can identify with. But this is not the situation in the occupied territories: For all Israel cares the Palestinians can have sit-ins and rallies until second coming; it wouldn’t affect Israeli policy one bit. It is worth remembering that in the two decades following 1967, strikes, rallies and general assemblies were the main protest methods in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel used these years of relative calm to introduce its massive settlement project. The only thing that made Israelis notice the Palestinians and start seriously discussing their rights is the the first Intifada.
In recent years, it seems that the West’s favorite sport is to tell the Palestinians what constitutes a “legitimate” way to fight for their rights, and what doesn’t – as if the Palestinians were full members of society and not subject to a form of control that Amira Hass rightly calls “Israeli dictatorship.” Nobody would denounce Egyptian or Tibetan protesters for such acts, but reports of unarmed Palestinian resistance are usually met with Israel claiming evidence of Palestinian “violence” – mostly stones thrown at soldiers, with the occasional Molotov cocktail. As if those could justify the occupation, while in reality they are the reaction to it.
The same goes for those organizations and Israeli propaganda units specializing in the hunt for “Palestinian incitement.” Any suggestions of the Palestinians not viewing IDF soldiers in a positive light is presented as proof of the fact that “they are not ready” to enjoy their rights to justice, freedom and dignity – as if those are someone’s to give. What is the meaning of the word “rights,” if they can be denied collectively for half a century? Is freedom a trophy you need to win from your oppressor? What do people expect of a prisoner to think of his or her guards? Good relations and understanding can be built after the resolution of the occupation – not in the midst of it. Yet Palestinians are expected by the world not only to live under Israeli military control, but also to like Israelis.
Strange as it may seem, even critics of Israel repeat such demands, or ask, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?,” as though a failure to present one means that Palestinian demands are not to be taken seriously.
I oppose violence, in whatever form. More than anything, I oppose violence against civilians. I think that the Palestinian choice of unarmed resistance and of civil society campaigns against the occupation is both wise and heroic. But the real violence is the occupation, and all its victims are civilians.
It is not for Israel to tell Palestinians how to resist our occupation.
In a letter to the French-Palestine Solidarity Association, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé slams Israel for arresting and trying Bassem Tamimi in military court. Mr. Juppé states that “an official demarche has recently been delivered on his behalf to the Israeli authorities by the chief representative of the European Union delegation in Tel Aviv”
Bassem Tamimi at Ofer military court, West Bank (image: activestills.org)
Palestinian protest organizer Bassem Tamimi was arrested by the Israeli army last March, and has been in prison ever since. Tamimi, a father of four from Nabi Saleh, has been the target of the Israeli security forces since the beginning of the unarmed protest in his village a couple of years ago. The Palestinians in Nabi Saleh are demanding the return of the lands that were taken from them by the army and settlers of nearby Halamish. The regular protests erupted after the settlers took over a pond used by the village’s people. you can read more about the protest in Nabi Saleh here.
Last week, Alain Juppé, the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, sent a letter to the French-Palestine Solidarity Association, in which he expressed his deep concern over the indictment and incarceration of Bassem Tamimi.
“Tamimi’s situation is just as much of a concern to me as it is to you,” Mr. Juppé wrote, “The European Union has taken this case and considers Mr. Tamimi a human rights defender and a non-violent demonstrator.”
Here is Mr. Juppé’s letter (translation from a press release by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee; French original can be read here).
OF FOREIGN AND
REPUBLIC OF FRANCE
Paris, November 25th, 2011 – 010286CM
The Minister of State
Mister President [of AFPS],
You have brought to my attention the case of Mr. Bassem Tamimi, coordinator of the popular committee of Nabi Saleh, for which I thank you.
Mr. Tamimi who was arrested on March 24th has been charged of five offenses. Three of these charges are based on a military edict which amounts to a denial of the right to demonstrate of all Palestinians under military occupation, a right which is nevertheless universally recognized.
Tamimi’s situation is just as much of a concern to me as it is to you. The European Union has taken this case and considers Mr. Tamimi a human rights defender and a non-violent demonstrator. An official demarche has recently been delivered on his behalf to the Israeli authorities by the chief representative of the European Union delegation in Tel Aviv. The aforementioned intervention also denoted the European support for the right to demonstrate non-violently in the Palestinian territories.
Regarding the issue of colonization, that Mr. Tamimi denounces, I remind you the firm position that France has taken in condemning this type enterprise, which we have recently qualified as “provocation”. Colonization is contrary to international law and is an impediment to peace.
I thank you, Mr. President, and you have my deepest consideration.
It is worth reading Bassem Tamimi’s statement before the military court (here).
Unlike Jews, Palestinians under Israeli control in the West Bank are tried in military courts, where the rights of defendants rights are minimal, and the prosecution enjoys a low burden of proof and – most importantly – wears the same uniforms as the judges – IDF uniforms. In a military court, the testimony of a soldier who arrested a Palestinian can be enough to send a minor to prison. The results are staggering: Palestinians have no chance to walk free from an Israeli trial.
A new internal IDF document revealed today by Haaretz shows that in 2010, 99.74 percent of the trials of Palestinians in Israeli military courts ended in convictions. That’s 25 acquittals, out of 9,542 cases.
It seems that the system is getting better: In 2006, a report by Human Rights NGO Yesh Din showed that 99.71 percent of Palestinian defendants in Israeli military courts were convicted. That’s 26 acquittals out of 8,854.
Between 2005-2010, 835 Palestinian minors were accused of stone-throwing in Israeli military courts. One was acquitted.
Military justice is to justice as military music is to music, the saying goes. The system that Israel employs to arrest, prosecute and punish Palestinians over the last almost half century is the best proof of that.
There exists a general, intentional, cleverly constructed misunderstanding surrounding the true nature of the Israeli occupation. Some say it’s a simple dispute over land, like many others in the world; other think the conflict is about national independence for the Palestinians, prompting statements like, “The Basques and the Kurds aren’t independent either, so why do people pick on Israel?”
But the occupation is something else. It is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.
Night raid in Nabi Saleh, 24 November 2011.
Joseph Dana posted this picture today, of a military raid on the home of an imprisoned Palestinian activist in Nabi Saleh. This is a non-story in the West Bank: The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.
To illustrate this issue, here is a video from a couple of weeks ago. It was taken in Nabi Saleh, the same village where the picture above was taken. The soldiers enter a man’s house at night, and demand he wakes up his children, so they can take their pictures in order to keep them for identification in case of stone-throwing. I think that it is the calmness of the entire scene, the fact that the soldiers are polite and that nothing “horrifying” happens, which makes this video truly shocking.
You can say that everything is okay, as many Israelis would. But you can also ask yourself – why do the soldiers come at night? Or why do they come at all? After all, you don’t normally take people’s photos in the event they might be involved in illegal activities. And from there, you can also start questioning the whole logic of a permanent situation in which the army runs civilians’ lives.
I wonder what is the real effect of this scene, on all parties involved: The kids who are being awakened in the middle of the night; the humiliated father; the soldiers, who know that they can do whatever they want to this man and his family. And what is the effect of this scene taking place again and again and again, for 44 years?
Most important is to truly ask ourselves whether we can imagine the same thing happening to us, the same army visit taking place in our home. Would we respond so calmly? Probably not, because we have a different understanding of our existence than the Palestinians and soldiers in this clip. In many ways, we live in a different world.
* Bare life: A term associated with the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, describing a state of existence outside the political and legal order, in which a person is stripped of all forms of protection.
Activists seek to reenact the US civil rights movement’s campaign in order to highlight Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank
Palestinian activists are increasing their efforts to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, as well as violations on their civil and human rights. In a message to the press, the Popular Struggle Committee announced that on November 15, Palestinian activists “will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public buses in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military control since 1967. Among other restrictions, they can only vote in elections to the Palestinian Authority, which has very limited power on the ground. They cannot travel out of the West Bank or receive visitors without Israeli permits, and they are tried in military courts, which curtail the rights of defendants. Jews living in the West Bank enjoy full citizenship rights.
The occupation is often portrayed as a diplomatic problem of war and peace between two equal parties, Palestine and Israel. The Freedom Riders campaign is part of an effort to emphasize the nature of the Palestinian problem as a human rights issue.
The message from the Popular Struggle Committee states that:
Several Israeli companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli settlements, connecting them to each other and cities inside Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beit She’an, are also routed to pass through the West Bank.
Israelis suffer almost no limitations on their freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, and are even allowed to settle in it, contrary to international law. Palestinians, in contrast, are not allowed to enter Israel without procuring a special permit from Israeli authorities. Even Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territories is heavily restricted, with access to occupied East Jerusalem and some 8% of the West Bank in the border area also forbidden without a similar permit.
While it is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use Israeli public transportation in the West Bank, these lines are effectively segregated, since many of them pass through Jewish-only settlements, to which Palestinian entry is prohibited by a military decree.
Here is the video again. After the army cars stop, you can hear the weapons being loaded. Then there are the blasts, and the silhouettes of the soldiers throwing more and more grenades at the local houses. The occasional shots you see are the gas launchers, fired in several directions. Around one minute into the clip, you can hear the tear gas spreading near the Palestinian photographer (and later again around 1:20). Note that there is nothing else happening in the street, and there is no Palestinian in site. The soldiers aren’t under any kind of threat.
On Sunday morning, I contacted IDF Spokesperson for a comment on the video. It took them the entire week, but I finally got a reply:
“At the time of the described event, tires were set on fire near Nabi Saleh, and a roadblock made of stones was set on a nearby road, which interfered with routine security activities. It should be noted that disturbance of public order takes place in Nabi Saleh every week, as well as popular H.S.A (Hostile Sabotage Activity – an army codename to terrorism).
Regarding the burning tires and the roadblock, the army is basically confirming that the action which was caught on tape was a form punishment against the village’s people. After all, even if you accept the army’s version, nothing in the video indicates an attempt to deal with the security issue itself – i.e. the tires and those who put them there – the soldiers are simply shooting in all directions. This is the heart of the matter: even the army doesn’t try to portray the event shown in the clip as direct action against a security threat, but instead uses things that [may have] happened outside the village, on a nearby road, to justify the soldiers’ behavior.
The last part of the comment is inaccurate, to say the least: No terrorist activity has taken place in Nabi Saleh in recent years. Stones are hurled during demonstrations, and I heard reports of Molotov cocktails, though those were very rare. The protests taking place in the village are strictly unarmed – even the army doesn’t dispute that.
The fact that IDF spokesperson felt a need to add a comment about the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh only goes to show that as I suggested, this was an attempt to terrorize defenseless people, so that they would stop protesting.
From my own personal experience as a soldier and an officer in the West Bank, I can testify that these forms of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians who happen to live where protest is taking place is very common. The only unique thing about this incident is that it was caught on tape.
I try not to use loaded words like “terrorizes” in my writing, but there is simply no other way to describe this video, showing four army vehicles enter the small village of Nabi Saleh (West Bank) in the middle of the night, throw stun grenades and shoot tear gas at the homes of the sleeping Palestinians.
Nabi Saleh has been the site of weekly unarmed protests by Palestinians, international activists and Israelis against the confiscation of the village’s land by a nearby settlement. You can read about it here.
There are no demonstrations at nights.
The clip is one and a half minutes long. You can hear the anxiety in the people’s voices as the army convoy approaches. After the cars stop, you can hear the weapons loaded. Then there are the blasts, and the silhouettes of the soldiers throwing more and more grenades at the local houses. The occasional shots you see are the gas launchers, fired in all directions. Around one minute into the video, you can hear the tear gas spreading near the
Haaretz has reported a special deployment by hundreds of policemen and special unites both inside and outside the terminals, “in case one of the arrivals will try to set himself on fire.” The Petach Tikwa court, in charge of the airport area, is to have more arrest judges on alert, and the minister for Hasbara (propaganda) Yuli Edelstein demanded the government to take no chances, “because we should remember what happened on 9/11.”
All this, lets not forget, in order to welcome between a few dozens to a few hundreds Westerners (most of the quite old, according to reports), who would arrive on separate flights and on different hours, who went through extensive security checks before boarding their planes, and who openly declares their intentions to visit the Palestinian territories. This is the national threat that caught all the headlines for some days now in a country armed with one of the strongest militaries in the world as well as an extensive arsenal of Nuclear Bombs.
While events at the airport are more absurd than tragic (there is a torrent of jokes on twitter about this, like: “attention all units, attention all units, a Swedish woman is now getting off flight 465″, or “security personal have been ordered to report all those not singing ‘Heve’nu Shalom’ at landing”), one cannot watch the government’s handling of this situation and not question the judgment of Israeli decision makers, or wonder on the things they are capable of doing if and when they sense a more substantial threat. One of the sole voices of reason was Yedioth’s Eithan Haber, the former secretary of Prime Minister Rabin, whose commentary today had the title: “We simply lost it” (“ירדנו מהפסים”).
The lunacy started at the top. Earlier this week, Netanyahu’s office has released a statement saying that “welcome to Palestine” campaign “is part of a continuing effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” This call for action was supposed to expire long ago from over use (I wonder what doesn’t make, in Netanyahu’s eyes “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist?”), but it did spark the desired result in the government. Internal Security Minister Itzhak Aharonowitz (Israel Beitenu) has put his forces on high alert, promising “not to let the hooligans enter Israel,” and senior police officers promised “harsh treatment” for those who will manage to board their flights to Tel Aviv.
The real nugget was revealed today, after Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov has sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank. “Handcuffs to the activists, flowers to the tourists,” one of the headlines read. The tourism office, it was reported, fears that arrivals to Israel will “meet unpleasant sights of riots and arrests.”
“My office will welcome ["normal"] tourists in a respectful way that will convey the message that Israel is safe, advance and attractive place to visit,” minister Mazesnikow told the press, in a statement that would have reminder the practices of the Soviet regime, if I wasn’t sure that Mazesnikow, a Russian immigrant, would know better.
There is a deeper point to make here: By dividing the tourists to “evil” ones and to “good” and “honest” ones, according to their political motivation and their views on the Palestinian issue, Israel is confirming the logic of the BDS movement – that any business or contact with Israel is political, and would probably serve Israeli policy. Much in the way the Israeli Foreign Office promotes on his Facebook wall articles on artist who plans to visit Israel next to pieces denouncing the Palestinians, the tourism office now views every visit to the county, be that for business, religious or personal reasons, as a sign of support in the face of “an effort to undermine our existence.”
In recent days, government officials have made a single talking point regarding the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign: that every country has the right do defend its sovereignty. If the United States, France and Japan can reject people from entering their territory without bothering to cite their reasons, why can’t Israel? Yet these are the same people who on any other week of the year deny even the term “occupation”, claiming that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians control their own lives.” PR people and supporters of the Israeli government repeat this idea all the time, and while everyone familiar with the reality in the West Bank knows that the Palestinian Authority has more or less the authority of a local US municipality, it is always surprising how widespread is the notion that Israel has effectively removed its control from the territories.
Here, for example, is a quote the glossary section in the internet site of the Propaganda organization “Stand with US”
Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.
This is Morton Klein, head of Zionist of America, in often-cited 2002 article titled “There is no Occupation“:
Following the signing of the Oslo accords, the Israelis withdrew from nearly half of the territories, including the cities where 98.5% of Palestinian Arabs reside. The notion that the Palestinian Arabs are living under “Israeli occupation” is simply false. The areas from which Israel has not withdrawn are virtually uninhabited, except for the 2% where Israelis reside.
And this is another mouthpiece for the occupation, Washington Post’s blogger Jennifer Rubin:
Now ninety-five percent of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. Israel’s official interaction with West Bank Palestinians is limited to intelligence gathering and extraction of terrorists.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign was meant to prove that not only did Israel never remove its control from the Palestinians, the West Bank is effectively under an Israeli blockade, with every person or good entering the Palestinian Authority must be cleared first by Israel. Some might argue that this is a legitimate security precaution, but the history of this policy proves that it weren’t security concerns the determined whether people got permission to enter or leave the West Bank, but the political needs of maintaining the occupation. A couple of familiar cases were that of Prof. Noam Chomsky and a Spanish Clown that were denied entry for their support of Palestinian independence, but these kind of things happen on a daily basis.
Considering all this, it’s clear that even before a dozen activists landed here, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign won the day. Israel has played it part in it perfectly, spreading threats and promising to immediately deport anyone who would state his intention to visit the West Bank or would cite a political motivation for his travel. Israel has even prevented a couple of Dutch pro-Israeli journalists from boarding an El-Al flight, perhaps fearing that they might report something Jerusalem won’t like.
When the first news items on the “air flotilla” appeared in the Hebrew media, some of the comments by Israelis wondered why the activists won’t enter the West Bank through the crossing point at the Jordanian border, believing it to be controlled by the Palestinians themselves. The myth of the Oslo withdrawal was so successful, that even some Israelis took it as a fact.
After a week of headlines on the activists’ invasion, everybody knows that even more than Gaza—which can be entered through Rafah, where there is no Israeli presence—the West Bank is under an Israeli blockade.
Israel is not yet done with the second flotilla, and a new effort to challenge its control over the travel to and from Palestinian Territories might take place this week – in no other place than the Tel Aviv International Airport
Until now, visitors coming in solidarity with the Palestinians had to conceal their destination when questioned at the airport, or risk immediate deportation. A couple of years ago, American scholar Noam Chomsky was denied entry to Israel at the Jordanian border, after declaring his intention to give a lecture at Ramallah’s Bir Zeit University.
The closure over the West Bank works in the opposite direction as well: Many don’t know it, but Israel controls all air and land entries to the West Bank, not only to Gaza. Palestinians wishing to travel abroad must apply for special permission from the Israel authorities. Those wishing to travel to the United States must first obtain a permit to visit the American Consulate in East Jerusalem and obtain their visa.
Human rights organizations have often cited the complete authority over entries and exits from the occupied territories as further proof of Israel’s effective control over Palestinians’ lives, in stark contradiction to the claim that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians run their own business.”
The organizations planning the protest at Ben-Gurion airport have declared that 600 activists have already bought tickets to Israel, but so far I haven’t been able to confirm this. When I have more details, I will report them.