Israel proscribes Free Speech: Anti-Wall activist sentenced
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Israel proscribes Free Speech: Anti-Wall activist sentenced

After more than thirty hearings, on Tuesday the Israeli military court convicted Palestinian human rights defender Abdullah Abu Rahma of participating, organizing and incitement at Bil’in’s protests.

The Israeli Military Court at Ofer prison near Ramallah convicted the coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in, Abdullah Abu Rahma, for participating in demonstrations described as non-legal and non-authorized. In addition, he is also charged with incitement and organizing “illegal” protests. Additional charges of throwing stones and possession of weapons, which were brought against Abu Rahma during the court hearings after his arrest on December 10, 2009, were cancelled. Under the arms possession charge, Israeli authorities accused Abdallah of collecting empty M16 cartridges and empty sound bomb canisters and teargas grenades which had been used by Israeli soldiers to disperse demonstrators, and exhibiting them in a Bil’in museum.

Abdallah Abu Rahme, 38 years old, teaches at a high school in Birzeit. He is coordinator of the popular committee against the Wall and the settlements in Bil’in since it was formed in 2004. Abdallah has represented the village of Bil’in around the world: In June 2009, he attended the village’s precedent-setting legal case in Montreal against two Canadian companies illegally building settlements on Bil’in’s land; in December of 2008, he participated in a speaking tour in France, and on 10 December 2008, exactly a year before his arrest, Abdallah received the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for Outstanding Service in the Realization of Basic Human Rights, awarded by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin. In summer 2009 he welcomed Nobel Peace laureates and internationally renowned human rights activists, discussing the Palestinian grassroots campaign for justice when The Elders visited his village.
Nearly 17 diplomats, consuls, and international solidarity activists were present at the hearing. Abu Rahmah’s sentencing will take place next month, and the prosecution is expected to ask for a sentence exceeding two years.

Stop the Wall Campaign condemns the arrest and court proceedings of Abu Rahma. This court decision is to set an example for other Palestinian human rights defenders. A state where free speech is proscribed for Palestinians and any gatherings of more than 10 Palestinians are a crime is anti-democratic, an apartheid state. In front of this, the international community has to take clear, and above all, effective action.

During the past year, the Israeli Occupation Forces arrested approximately 50 Palestinian human rights defenders from the village because of their involvement and participation in activities against the construction of the wall in the village. The brother of Abdullah, Dr. Ratib Abu Rahma, member of the Popular Committee in Bil’in, has pointed out:
“This conviction will not discourage people from protesting against the Apartheid Wall. The popular resistance will increase both in number of participants and places participating. Despite the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court, it is illegal to construct the Wall on the land of the village. Ofer Military Court condemned Abdullah on charges of protesting against a Wall, whose construction is illegal. This demonstrates the double standards of the occupation policies and the politicization of the court.”

Bil’in is located in the westen part of the Ramallah district. It has 1800 inhabitants in an area of approximately 4000 dunums. Bil’in and its residents have stood up to the confiscation of their land time and time again. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Matityahu settlement was built on a portion of Bil’in land and, at the beginning of the 1990s, another portion of land was confiscated for the Kiryat Sefer settlement. At the start of the millennium, yet another new settlement (Matityahu East) was built on Bil’in’s land. In April 2004, Israel began construction of its illegal Apartheid Wall on the western side of the village, expropriating about 2300 dunums of the land of Bil’in. through the construction of the settlements and the Wall, Occupation forces have annexed some 60% of Bil’in’s land.