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IDF: Palestinian nonviolent protest is an ideological crime

Abdullah Abu Rahmah has a sentencing hearing in military court after being convicted of standing in front of an IDF bulldozer. The nonviolent protest organizer from Bil’in who already served more than a year in prison has been declared a ‘human rights defender’ by the European Union.

By Yael Marom

Abdullah Abu Rahman (left) in Ofer Military Court with his attorneys, Gaby Lasky and Muhammad Khatib, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah (left) in Ofer Military Court with his attorneys, Gaby Lasky and Muhammad Khatib, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Diplomats from the European Union, Sweden, France, the UK, Finland and Spain were present at a sentencing hearing for Palestinian non-violent Palestinian protest leader Abdullah Abu Rahmah at Ofer Military Prison in the West Bank on Sunday, along with dozens of Palestinian, international and Israeli activists. Abu Rahmah is a central figure in the popular struggle protests in the West Bank village Bil’in, as well as in the rest of the West Bank, and has been recognized by the European Union as a “human rights defender” dedicated to nonviolence.

In 2010 +972 Magazine chose Abu Rahmah as its Person of the Year for his role in raising the international profile of the grassroots Palestinian nonviolent protest movement, and the harm of the separation barrier.

Read: +972 Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year: Abdullah Abu Rahmah

In October 2014, a military court convicted Abu Rahmah of obstructing the work of a soldier for trying to stop a bulldozer that was constructing the separation barrier in the Beitunia area near Ramallah in May 2012. Abu Rahmah was taken in for interrogation at the time, but was later released on bail. The fact that the police did not see fit to extend his interrogation, keep him in jail or impose restrictive conditions on his release, did not prevent the army from indicting and convicting Abu Rahmah.

At Abu Rahmah’s sentencing hearing took place on Sunday the military prosecutor demanded a harsh punishment consisting of a long prison sentence and a large fine. She further claimed that Abu Rahmah is somebody who commits ideological crimes, thus his chance for rehabilitation is low and he must be given a punishment that will deter him from doing similar things in the future.

In a statement released after the hearing, Abu Rahmah said his trial is proof that the army is punishing him for his nonviolent resistance. He stated that there are many young Palestinians who are jailed for the exact same reasons, constituting a blatant violation of their human rights. “I will be sentenced on February 23,” said Abu Rahmah. “All this is happening because I want freedom and justice, for the security and peace of the Palestinians. All we want is to liberate our land.”

Abdullah Abu Rahmah in Ofer Military Court, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahmah in Ofer Military Court, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abu Rahmah is no stranger to Israeli prisons — he was previously jailed for over a year for organizing “illegal demonstrations” and incitement. He has been arrested many times. One of those arrests took place after it was discovered that Abu Rahmah had collected empty tear gas canisters fired by the army at demonstrators in Bil’in. The army referred to the empty canisters as “weapons.”

Demonstrations in the occupied territories are entirely forbidden under Israeli military law, which means that any protest or procession is deemed illegal. Furthermore, even being accused of “incitement” doesn’t necessarily mean incitement to violence, but refers to any form of uprising or protest.

Throughout the hearing, Attorney Gaby Lasky, who represents Abu Rahmah, claimed that his actions never harmed anyone, that he never used violence, and that he was taking part in a nonviolent protest that falls under the legitimate boundaries of freedom of speech. However, the judge countered that the indictment does not refer to a protest, and thus there is no room to discuss freedom of speech in the case.

The military prosecutor also spoke about how the army does not want to harm freedom of speech, but rather channel it into legal avenues. But what are those legal avenues in the West Bank? If protesting, marching and standing in front of a tractor are considered illegal, what exactly is allowed?

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Read also:
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%
Palestinian non-violent activists: Army violence won’t stop our resistance

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    1. Tomer

      Fakestinyanism is ITSELF a criminal idea. A fake nationhood cooked up by some crooked Jordanians a few years after the 6 day war.

      Peace will only occur after the local Arabs reclaim their legitimate Jordanian identity.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        I guess you are probably an expert on fake nationalism. Wasn’t it a journalist from Budapest who once argued that his co-religionists should upsticks from their homes and travel to a distant land in order to build their own state, in a land occupied by another people. And is it not true that more than a century later only a minority of this “people” have believed strongly enough in this “peoplehood” to move to the state that supposedly represents them, and that the majority are happy to call themselves Americans, Canadians, Australians, Argentinians, Britons, Frenchmen, Russians, Brazilians, Mexicans etc. etc.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tomer

          What some Budapest Journalist did or did not do is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

          Namely, why did an Arab population call themselves Jordanian on June 5th 1967 but then miraculously became”p” people on June 11th?

          You cannot start a war in the name of Jordan but then redefine yourself when you lose this war.

          Reply to Comment
          • Rayan

            Maybe your reluctance to say the dreaded “p” word (Palestine) has also impacted your reading. Maybe you should try looking up the British Mandate for Palestine, which was around since the early 1920s. They were not Jordanians before 1967. I myself have visited a refugee camp in Jordan made up of Palestinian refugees from 1947. They were definitely never considered Jordanian. In fact right now they are stuck in that camp because Jordan will not grant them citizenship and Israel will not allow them back onto their land. Pretty much, Palestine exists and has existed before the state of Israel was established. You refusing to type out its name does not make its history or its people disappear.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tomer

            The “p” people are indeed a total fabrication cooked up by a bunch of Jordanian criminals.

            If this nation was real then:
            1. Was it a Republic or a Kingdom?
            2. What was its official language?
            4. What was its official religion?
            5. What was its curreny called?
            6. Where was its parliament located?
            7. Where did its Head of State live?
            8. Who were its poets, philosophers and / or political thinkers in the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries?

            Obviously, these questions are not answerable because the phantom nation’s absence from the hitorical record.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Typical hasbara games Tomer. But please tell me “Who were the Israeli nation’s poets, philosophers and / or political thinkers in the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries?” Is Israel a republic or is it the personal fiefdom of Bibi, King of the Jews? According to a 2011 government social survey Hebrew was the mother tongue of a minority of Israelis, with others speaking Arabic, Russian, Yiddish, French, English, Spanish, Romanian, German, Ladino, Polish, Ukrainian, Judeo-Italian, Kurdish, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Malayalam, Amharic and several others as their mother tongue. Israel recognises five major faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druzeism and Baha’i) but even within Christianity the law recognises the Roman, Armenian, Maronite, Greek, Syriac, and Chaldean Catholic Churches; the Eastern Orthodox Greek Orthodox Church; the Oriental Orthodox Syriac Orthodox Church; the Armenian Apostolic Church; and Anglicanism. Members of unrecognized religions are free to practice their religion. I guess your feeble hasbara is that a nation must have a state religion and a state language? You might very well find that the Palestinians are less diverse than the Israelis but does that make them any less a nation?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Over the course of time states emerge and disappear, thus American Alaskans would once have been “Russian”, Californians would once have been “Mexicans”, New Yorkers would have been “Dutch”, residents of New Orleans “French” etc., etc. Those Jews who settled in Jerusalem before the First World War, were “Ottoman” citizens (those who were not illegal immigrants anyway). Those Jews who settled in Jerusalem before the Second World War were “Palestinians” living under British rule. The British Mandate (article 7) insisted that “There shall be included in this [nationality] law provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine.” (Not all of course did since some were illegal immigrants). There were most definitely Palestinians before 1967, including Jews, Christians and Moslems.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        My fellow American taxpayers: Tomer is now running Israel and you’re helping pay his salary. If you read Max Blumenthal’s ‘Goliath’ you’ll see him on almost every page.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          Your are correct, Bruce. Chapters 48 and 49 of Blumenthal’s book (Thank you, Bruce Gould) impressed me for the way the society is characterized by roughness and resentment. Resentment and keeping those below you in their place and being mindful of those above you, permeating up and down a social and economic chain from Ashkenazim to Mizrachim and Russians and Ethiopians to Druse to Arabs and black “infiltrators.” And a few others in between. (The story of the Druse soldiers and their grafitti when the Jewish soldiers were away on holiday was eye opening. And how it was hushed up.) This is not what the Birthright tourist is exposed to. But as you say on every page of the book the Tomer-like stiff-necked roughness and resentment is apparent. This is what the +972 writers here are up against and contending with. I’m not blaming anyone per se or casting aspersion, it’s a complex story, but it has evolved now to a large scale situation where I don’t think it can be changed from inside. This is not a flexible society. Certainly not with “leadership” like Netanyahu’s. Hence your appeal to the Americans.

          Reply to Comment
          • C.C. DeVille

            How silly you must have felt Brian; reading a book by a man with the sexual proclivities such as Blumenthal called Goliath. You must have been expecting to read something akin to Mapelthorpe. Poor frustrated Brian

            Reply to Comment
    2. So the prosecutor wants Abu Rahmah to be punished especially hard because he commits an “ideological crime”? Wow, this is almost taken literally from Orwell’s 1984 with its punishment of “thoughtcrimes”.

      So he’s going to be punished for having “weapons” because he gathered up empty tear gas canisters? Orwell would really have a field day with that one. Personally, I think the IDF should be charged with littering and he should be commended for picking up their trash.

      “The military prosecutor also spoke about how the army does not want to harm freedom of speech, but rather channel it into legal avenues. ”

      Do you have an “Israel’s got Talent” TV show? This prosecutor would kill it as a comedian.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        They have even invented a new ideological crime to (New antisemitism) with which to prosecute anyone with the temerity to criticize the State of Israel (whose many non-ideological crimes are well-documented here on this site). P.S. this is not to minimize the nastiness of old-fashioned antisemitism, but this has fortunately waned and would in all likelihood disappear for good were it not for excesses of semitism (like periodically mowing the lawn, and murdering political opponents without concern for bystanding civilians

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Zakkai

      Oh why, Oh why (sob) can’t those terrible Palestinians renounce all violence and be content with peaceful protest? Where, oh where (sob sob) is the Palestinian Gandhi? Oh wait, I forgot, every significant Palestinian advocate of non-violence eventually ends up rotting in jail for decades (if he’s lucky) or killed by hot lead, sometimes rubber-coated, or maybe by a tear gas canister fired straight at his head or his heart (if he’s not). Non-violent protest only helps if your oppresser has retained some elements of conscience, as the British raj did in India; it won’t help much against Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      The Druze: in 2002 I spent a day with a guy from Yesh Gvul, driving him around to his various speaking engagements. He told me how he had seen a crowd of Israelis attack a Druze for no other crime than being ‘Arab’. And now it’s happened again: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/02/soldier-attacked-speaking

      What does this mean for Israels relationship with it’s minorities? And how can this happen unless there’s a deep undercurrent of xenophobia – the kindest word I can think of – running through Israeli society?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Bruce: Xenophobia is part of what makes Zionism possible. Why do you think Zionism arose and found favor among so many Jews after the Jews had formally been emancipated in every “Western European” country? Were the Jews being persecuted? Not really. They were freed from the ghettos and had the ability to pursue whatever career they wished and live wherever they wished. Absent some examples of persistent “antisemitism” like that surrounding the Dreyfuss affair (which coincidentally had non-Jews like Zola championing the equal rights of the French captain) mass persecution had ended. But now a new enemy was found which “threatened” European Jewry: assimilation. For, as the old saying goes “How do you keep them down on the farm when they’ve seen gay Paree?” This was the real reason for Zionism: creating a new “country” where Jews, as Jews, would….what? Be the same as every other countryman, whether French, Irish, Italian etc. No, because the Jews, as Jews wouldn’t have more than a religion/faux ethnicity to bind them together. Instead, I would submit, the major reason for Zionism was to prevent assimilation, to keep Jews under one roof in a new, much larger ghetto. And in that they have succeeded. Where do you think statements such as Rabbi Ovadias’ that non-Jews are only meant to serve Jews comes from? Or the antics of the settlers setting fire to Palestinian mosques, cars, homes and fields. Or the concerted effort to not allow civil rights to non-Jews in Israel. It is all part and parcel of the heart of Zionism, Jewish anti-assimilationism ie. xenophobia. So, Druze are beaten, don’t hold you breath expecting equal punishment for the perpetrators if they are found. Palestinians shot in the back, same old,same old. They can’t do anything else. Funny when you look at it. In New York, for instance, the Jews for the most part have recreated their own version of a “ghetto”, selling property only to other Jews and rarely reporting criminal activity perpetrated by Jews to the non-Jewish authorities. And so it goes…

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben Zakkai

        I think your thesis is ahistorical. Perhaps the main spur that created, sustained and enlarged secular Zionism — which was really the dominant, indeed practically exclusive, form of Zionism in its early decades, since almost all Jewish religious leaders explicitly opposed mass Jewish migration to Israel and the creation of a Jewish State here — was the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia, which included not just atypical incidents like the Dreyfuss case, but also more widespread and systemic persecution in Russia, and then, of course, the Holocaust. Characterizing the rise of Zionism as a reaction to fears of assimilation is projecting a late 20th/early 21st century mentality back onto a late 19th/early 20th century reality.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Mikesailor

      Ben: I think the thesis is more valid than you think. The French Revolution emancipated the Jews for the most part. The others followed suit, Germany in the 1850’s etc. The mass pogroms in Western Europe were long over by the time Zionism was promulgated by Herzl as an answer to …what exactly? The problems in Russia? If he had written about that perhaps he would have had firmer ground than writing about European Jewry. His idea was a “Judenstadt”; a state of Jews. In that he was merely an ill-informed journalist, not a political theorist and certainly not a historian. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find him more than a polemicist. My argument is that Zionism had to strike more of a chord for the Jews to accept it en masse. When Jews were accepted into university settings, did the rabbinate begin to lose authority? After all, Spinoza was excommunicated for espousing a universalism, what happened was a plethora of Spinozas began to appear. I agree that it was the onset of WWII and particularly the Holocaust which gave final impetus to Zionism but why was such a large minority so eager to jump on the idea during WWI? With Balfour? What changed in the Jewish psyche and why? After all, many Jews fought, especially in the German Army, and most of the Western media owned or influenced by Jews were basically supportive of the German side at the beginning of the war. What changed and why?

      Reply to Comment
    7. turtle of doom

      The prosecution of “ideological crimes”?

      We had that in Germany from the 1930ies to 1945…

      Reply to Comment
    8. Julius Caesar

      Just like in South Africa under the Apartheid regime when peaceful protest was a crime of “sedition” or outlawed under emergency legislation.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Amahl

      Thank you for this important coverage. Do you have exact quotes from the judge & military prosecutor? These are such important points regarding freedom of expression. I would like to write about this more. Love the way you end this article–I’ll definitely be quoting you!

      Reply to Comment
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