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Palestine: Abu Rahmah convicted of incitement for non-violent protest

Non-violent organizer Palestinian Abdallah Abu Rahmah (عبدالله أبو رحمة), jailed since December 2009, has been convicted of

“المشاركة في تظاهرات غير مشروعة وغير مرخص لها” و”التحريض على تجمعات غير مشروعة”

“participation in unlawful and unlicensed demonstrations” and “incitement of illegal gatherings”

by an Israeli military court for protests against construction of the concrete separation barrier (جدار الفصل) described by EU foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton in the following manner:

“The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal.” Her office also expressed deep disapproval of a conviction in which the EU sees that: “the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahmeh is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner.”

Organizing Support for Appeals and Protest

The tweet:

“Criminalizing Peaceful Protest; Act Up for Abdallah Abu Rahmah http://bit.ly/aW7gO8 #Palestine #Bil'in”

is attracting numerous people spreading the word about the conviction and information on how to help appeal and protest this decision.

Other organizations directing efforts for assistance include the International Solidarity Movement, Bil'in.org, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East and Jewish Voice for Peace among others. Also, a blogger by the name of Annie offers information on how to help protest and appeal this conviction and support Mr. Abu Rahmah.

Arab Blog and Human Rights Responses

According to Palestinian blogger and journalist Najib Faraj (نجيب فراج) writing in his blog on blog.amin.org, the attendance and support for Abu Rahmah at his trial was both international and high-level:

وجرت الجلسة وسط حضور قرابة 17 من الدبلوماسيين والقناصل ونشطاء السلام الإسرائيليين والدوليين الذين عبروا عن دعمهم لأبو رحمة ونضال بلعين السلمي ضد بناء الجدار.

The proceedings occurred in the presence of about 17 diplomats, consuls, and both Israeli and International peace activists who expressed their support for Abu Rahmah and the peaceful struggle of the village of Bil'in against construction of the wall

Reports from Arab Media

Many reports in the Arab media have focused on the unusual and strong condemnation from the EU of this conviction, including Al-Dustuwr (الدستور), Al-Quds (القدس) and Al-Watan (الوطن).

Western Media Reaction

The BBC and CNN have both run feature articles covering the case while the Independent and The Guardian and The Huffington Post have also featured stories on the controversial conviction.

Western and English-Language Blog Response

Western and English-language blogs which have covered the ruling include Palestine Note, Gonzo Media as well as Mondoweiss which quotes former prominent investigative Jewish American Journalist I.F. Stone, writing about the lynching of a boy in the South based on racist hatred, for the purpose of showing the connection with the current situation in Palestine:

It shames our country and it shames white Americans that the only meetings, in Harlem, Baltimore, Chicago, and Detroit, have been Negro meetings. Those whites in the South and in the North who would normally have been moved to act have been hounded out of public life and into inactivity. To the outside world it must look as if the conscience of white America has been silenced, and the appearance is not too deceiving.

The intent is to replace “white Americans” with “the Western World” and “Negros” with “Palestinians” to show how the inaction and silence of the world in light of the current situation echoes past circumstances when the world allowed abuses and crimes to go unchecked because it could not rouse itself to act.

Twitterings and Tweets

Activity on Twitter for support of Abu Rahmah, his release from prison, and appeal of this conviction has been strong. Tweets spreading news of the conviction, support for his release, and ways to get involved with appealing and overturning this conviction can all be found here.

IsraeliCrimes tweets:

Abdallah Abu Rahmah: know the facts and act now for the freedom of a nonviolent freedom fighter shar.es/0Wxlp

while jvplive (Jewish Voice for Peace) offers:

Abdallah Abu Rahmah of Bil'in convicted for non-violent organizing after 8 months in prison. Speak out on his case: http://bit.ly/a1YKcJ

Israeli Reaction and Final Thoughts

Israeli reaction has been fairly predictable:

قال المتحدث باسم وزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية ايغال بالمور: إنه ‘أمر غير مألوف أبدا بالنسبة لكبار الشخصيات الأجنبية التعبير عن وجهات نظرهم حول النظام القضائي في بلد آخر، وإذا وجدت أشتون خللا في هذا النظام، ينبغي لها أن تقول ذلك، وإلا فإنه من غير الواضح لماذا تتدخل في الإجراءات، وحقيقة أنها أعربت عن وجهة نظرها وتجاهلت الأدلة هو أمر غير لائق للغاية’.

A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, said “it is an event that is completely abnormal, with regard to senior foreign personalities, to comment on their personal point of view towards the system of justice in another country, and if Lady Ashton has found irregularities in this system she should say that, and if not then it is very unclear why she has entered into these affairs, and in truth she has expressed her own opinion and is ignorant of the evidence- it is an issue highly improper

Last Word

It is, of course, very usual for high ranking members of governments to make comments on events in legal systems and cases around the world – we see it with Iran and North Korea, Cuba and Libya – in fact Western governments and governments in general essentially do nothing but comment on – as well as intrude on the politics and internal affairs of – states around the world, and in this case, one would hope more countries will follow suit with the EU and Lady Ashton, not just in critical words but in critical action to appeal and reverse this ruling and set a person dedicated to peace and non-violence free.

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