Stand in Solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners in Bil’in

September 25th, 2010 | Posted in Palestine, Quebec, Prisoners
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    solidarity statement Montreal September 2010

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Photo Lazar Simeonov Palestinian activist & political prisoner Adeeb Abu Rahma

For over five years the Palestinian village of Bil’in has sustained a grassroots struggle for land and livelihood. Every Friday, Palestinian villagers brave a volley of sound grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets to stage demonstrations against the apartheid wall and the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian agricultural lands.

In many ways, Bil’in’s creative tactics have captured the imaginations of thousands of people both in Quebec and around the world, and have inspired other Palestinian villages across the West Bank. Resistance remains ongoing despite considerable repression on the part of Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

Violence has been systematically used to suppress the popular struggle in Bil’in and more than 1,200 protesters have been injured during the past five years. The IOF’s directed policy of frequent and negligent arms use claimed the life of Bassem Abu Rahma, who was killed on April 17, 2009, after being shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas canister.

Bil’in’s popular struggle continues not only in Palestine but in Montreal, as the village has launched a lawsuit in the Quebec Superior Court against Green Park and Green Mount International, two Quebec-based companies who have been building condos in Israeli settlements on Bil’in’s lands.

As support for the Bil’in popular resistance grows in Quebec and internationally towards the popular resistance waged by the Palestinians of Bil’in, it is critical to highlight the ongoing struggles of Palestinian political prisoners from the village that have ignited imaginations across Palestine.

Legal persecution is being increasingly used as a strategy to quell the popular resistance. Since June 2009, 37 Bil’in residents have been arrested by the IOF, many during the frequent night raids that began shortly after the court hearings and speaking tour took place. Key community activists have especially been targeted, as five of those arrested were members of the village’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and the Settlements. Two of them – Adeeb Abu Rahma and Abdallah Abu Rahma – have been remanded into custody for the duration of their legal proceedings and remain unjustly imprisoned to this day.

Adeeb Abu Rahma has long been respected for his vibrant presence at the weekly demonstrations and for his commitment to the popular resistance. On July 10, 2009, he was arrested during a weekly demonstration and has now spent more than 12 months behind bars. During this time, he has faced very severe conditions. Initially held in solitary confinement during the first week in prison, Adeeb Abu Rahma has been repeatedly beaten and interrogated.

Israeli policies surrounding prison visits have also drastically curtailed contact with his family. Invoking “reasons of security”, authorities have restricted visits from his wife and his eldest daughter, Rajaa. As such, Adeeb AbuRahma’s family has often been forced to rely on accounts from released prisoners to obtain any information about him. The lack of family visits has also meant that he has been unable to obtain clothing, forcing him to periodically borrow items from other prisoners.

A taxi driver by profession, Adeeb Abu Rahma is the sole provider for his family of nine children. With his two eldest daughters attending university, the family has struggled to cover the costs of their books and tuition while also meeting their basic needs. In addition to financial pressures, his absence has also exacted a heavy emotional toll on his family. “This is the first time my father has ever been away from us, even for a short period of time,” stated his daughter, Rajaa, in a recent interview, “we feel angry all the time, for no reason. It has been a sad, lonely time for us all.”

On June 13, 2010, Adeeb Abu Rahma was convicted on counts of “incitement”, “activity against public order”, and “being present in a closed military zone”, and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment on July 7, 2010. Unhappy with the decision, the military prosecution immediately filed an appeal, requesting that his detention be maintained until a verdict is rendered. Despite having served his sentence in full, Adeeb Abu Rahma remains imprisoned to this day while awaiting a decision on the prosecutor’s appeal.

Similar obstacles have also been faced by Abdallah Abu Rahma, founding member and coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. Also targeted for his involvement in the popular resistance, he was arrested by Israeli military forces on International Human Rights Day (December 10, 2009) last year.

On August 24, 2010, he was convicted on charges of “incitement” and “organizing illegal demonstrations”. At present, Abdallah Abu Rahmah remains incarcerated at the Ofer Military Complex while awaiting his sentencing hearing in the weeks to come. He may face up to ten years of jail time and it is expected that the military prosecutor will request a sentence exceeding two years in prison.

Amnesty International stated in a release that Abdallah Abu Rahma has been “detained solely on account of legitimately exercising [his] right to freedom of expression in opposing the Israeli fence/wall.”

Amnesty appealed to the Israeli government, asking for Abu Rahma, a “prisoner of conscience… [to be] immediately and unconditionally released,” describing him as a “human rights activist [who] has been campaigning for years against the fence/wall by raising awareness about its negative impact on Palestinians, organizing grassroots opposition to it and peacefully demonstrating against it.”

Abdallah Abu Rahma has long campaigned publicly alongside progressive Israeli activists and has hosted world leaders in Bil’in, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and globally celebrated anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu from South Africa. Recently, he issued a statement to supporters around the world, as a community activist, father and high-school teacher who marked 2010 from behind prison walls, along with an estimated 8,000 other Palestinian prisoners.

“I know that Israel’s military campaign to imprison the leadership of the Palestinian popular struggle shows that our nonviolent struggle is effective,” said Abu Rahma. “The occupation is threatened by our growing movement and is therefore trying to shut us down… What Israel’s leaders do not understand is that popular struggle cannot be stopped by our imprisonment.”

endorsements

Tadamon! Montreal
The Certain Days Collective
The Prisoner’s Correspondence Project
Prison Radio

To support Adeeb Abu Rahma and Abdullah Abu Rahma, please donate to the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, whose ongoing court case is pending in Quebec against two Montreal-based corporations constructing condo developments in illegal Israeli settlements on lands expropriated from Bil’in.

Please send a check written out to Tadamon! Montreal with Bil’in marked in the memo line to the following address:

Tadamon! Montreal
4645 Jeanne Mance
Montreal, Quebec
H2V 4J5
Canada

Please also send letters of support to Adeeb and Abdullah Abu Rahma to:

committee(at)bilin-village.org
please cc: info(at)tadamon.ca

Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements
www.bilin-village.org

Tadamon! Montreal
www.tadamon.ca

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