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).
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.
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
Flotilla dominating the protest as Palestinians and Israelis mark 43 years of Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza. Plus, one clip Israel wants the world to see, and one it doesn’t
Palestinians and Israelis marked today 43 years of occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The main rally today was near road 443, the Jerusalem-bound highway which goes through the West Bank and only a few Palestinians are allowed to travel on. Protesters wore T-shirts supporting the Gaza flotilla; the army used tear gas against them.
I was in Nebi Saleh, where the army arrested Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir (pictures below), and shot tear gas at protesters. Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier.
The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.
One thing that is worth noting is that the soldiers in Nabi Saleh fire the tear gas directly at the protesters (as can be seen here), and not in an arch, like army orders’ demand. Earlier this week, in a small demonstration against the raid on the Mavi Marmara, an American named Emily Henochowicz was hit in her eye from such a shot.
Here is a video of Emily being shot. I don’t often post such graphic images, but this week the IDF used every clip they could put their hands on to portray the soldiers who took over the Mavi Marmara as victims, so I think we need to put some things in perspective (shooting at 1:10 min. h/t: The Lede).
Later in the afternoon some 300 Israelis gathered in Sheikh Jarrah for the weekly protest. A coalition of leftwing organizations is planning an anti-occupation march tomorrow in Tel Aviv, and there are rumors that rightwing activist will try to confront it.
● This bizarre “satiric” video was sent to all foreign correspondent by no other than Government Press Office head Daniel Seaman. After a few minutes came another e-mail, claiming the video was sent “due to a misunderstanding”, and that “contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the GPO or of the State of Israel”
It’s not the first time Seaman is trying to crack these kind of jokes. As the flotilla was heading to Israel, he sent an E-mail to all foreign correspondents offering them recommendations on Gaza’s restaurants [Hebrew].
● British Rock group Klaxons canceled its planned performance in Tel Aviv, and so did Gorillaz Sound System. The gig’s organizers promised tickets holders a refund. Read the rest of this entry »
“Each Friday, there are at least 10 demonstrations involving Israelis and internationals in the West Bank,” tells me Didi Remez, as we drive to Nabi Saleh, the tiny village that has been fighting for months to regain access to a small spring that was taken over by settlers from nearby Halamish. Dozens of Israelis come to these protests, not counting the hundreds who arrive each Friday to Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.
Not much is going on when we arrive at Nabi Saleh. As we wait for the protesters to gather, we are offered lunch and cold water in a local house. Around 1.00 pm we join a small march down the village’s main street. Suddenly, three army jeeps appear and block the street, and about a dozen soldiers come out. About 25 protesters, most of them children and young girls, go all the way down to the soldiers, singing and shouting, accompanied by the photographers and the internationals. This goes on for about half an hour.
Then someone throws a stone. The soldiers respond with tear gas, lots of it. Together with a few other Israelis, I find shelter behind a local house. The wind carried the gas into the house and the old woman who lived there is now seating outside, tears running down her face. She signals me not to try and wash my face and instead just wait for the effect of the gas to fade.
The soldiers are chasing protesters into the village. Some of them occupy one of the houses, while the others fire tear gas from the street. Some of the nearby houses fill with gas, as their windows are broken from previous demonstrations. The Palestinians move to the upper part of the village, while the Israelis and internationals – who don’t take part in the stone throwing – are looking for safe corners, trying to avoid both the gas and the (very few) flying stones. Every now and then, the wind carries another cloud of gas towards our way.
The soldiers are shooting the gas cans directly at the protesters, and not in an arch, like I remember we were taught to do it in the army (you can see this in a these videos from a previous demonstration). Later, a Palestinian is injured after suffering a direct hit in his face.
After a couple of hours, we decide to leave the village (though the protest will go on almost till dusk). On the way back to the car, I see several boys, around the age of ten, falling to the ground, gasping for air after inhaling too much gas. Their faces are red and one of them is hardly breathing, but in a few minutes he recovers and rejoins the protesters.
A woman whose house was hit by tear gas (p: Didi Remez)
By the time we get to Jerusalem, the protest on Shikh Jarrah is already on its way. The turnout is the best I’ve seen here: between 300 to 400 people. Without PR or money for busing, and after no less 30 protesters were arrested last week – somehow, it seemed that the protest is just getting bigger and bigger.
As Lisa Goldman notes, after Nabi Saleh, Jerusalem seems like a peaceful afternoon get-together. But for me it’s just as important, and I feel more at home here. Supporting the protest in the West Bank villages is crucial, but I find it emotionally hard to bear. After the last time I took part in it, it took me a full month to mount the strength to come again. To have soldiers point guns at me and fire tear gas is not only scary, but extremely strange. There is something in this experience that shakes my world. After all, I’m still an Israeli, and a reserve captain in the IDF for that matter!
I don’t take part in the stone throwing, but I definitely understand it and support the villagers in their struggle. Yet today in Nabi Saleh I asked myself from time to time what happens if the demonstration becomes more violent. What would I do – or feel – if a Molotov Cocktail is thrown?
I don’t have a good answer.
The protests in Jerusalem don’t carry such ideological and emotional problems. Ironically, the political message here is much more radical, since many Israelis who think we have nothing to do in Bilin or Nabi Saleh won’t like the idea of handing Sheikh Jarrah to the Palestinians, but the difference between the two events is unmistakable. Shikh Jarrah is an Israeli demonstration (with some Palestinians present); in the West Bank’s villages it’s the Palestinians who lead the action, and we are just guests. I find it fitting. I don’t expect many Israelis to come to Nabi Saleh to protest, but I do hope many will continue to take part in the demonstrations in Jerusalem, and that many others would join them.
Driving back from Jerusalem, this time with my mother, I was a bit encouraged. Recently, I’ve come to realize that Fridays in Sheikh Jarrah don’t feel like any other leftist event I’ve been to – and I had my share of them. Over the years, we had much bigger demonstrations, on much bigger issues – but something feels more real here, something even feels better. As if for the first time in years we are really doing exactly the right thing, and for the right reasons.
Protesters in Sheikh Jarrah
I forgot my camera today, so excuse the crappy photos taken on my phone. When I get better ones from one of the photographers who were with us, I will post them.
UPDATE: read Amitai Sandy’s account of the day’s protest in village of Maasra on comment #2.