Activists from Palestine's Popular Struggle Coordination Committee are using online petition website Avaaz to demand the release of political prisoner Abdallah Abu Rahme, due to be sentenced on February 8 in an Israeli military court. The petition is directed at Nitzan Alon, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commander in the occupied West Bank.
Abu Rahme is a schoolteacher and coordinator for the Bil’in Popular Committee, which for years has organized weekly peaceful protests in Bil’in against Israel's separation wall, whose construction annexed more than half of that West Bank village's land for nearby Israeli settlements.
He was arrested in May 2012 while at a protest in support of Palestinian detainees and prisoners near the Israeli Ofer Military Prison for standing in front of bulldozers bringing concrete to be used as road blocks and defenses, according to Amnesty International. He was released on bail a few hours later, but was summonsed in February 2013 on charges of obstructing a soldier in the line of duty. Abu Rahme faces up to five years in prison.
The military order used to sentence Abu Rahme is the infamous “Military Order 101: Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions”, which has been described as illegal under both international and Israeli law by Israeli Human Rights NGO B'TSelem. Furthermore, Frank La Rue, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, after visiting Israel and the occupied territories in 2012, said the order has been used by Israeli authorities to restrict freedom of expression in the occupied territories since 1967, when it was first enacted.
When Abu Rahme was convicted in 2010 under the same order in a different case, Human Rights Watch called it “an unjust result of an unfair trial”. Amnesty International even named him a “Prisoner of Conscience” in December 2014.
Because he has become the face of the grassroots, unarmed resistance movement to Israel’s security barrier; because he is the person who has raised international awareness not only of the devastation caused by the barrier, but also the existence of a well-organized, non-violent grassroots opposition movement – one that brings together Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters in a joint struggle. Because he is the answer to the question, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” (answer: there are many; and they are languishing in Israel’s jails). Because he has never wavered in his commitment to non-violence – not even after his cousin Bassam Abu Rahmah was killed by a high-velocity tear gas canister shot by Israeli soldiers directly at his chest; nor after his cousin Adeeb Abu Rahmah was arrested and imprisoned for participating in weekly demonstrations against the barrier that separates the people of Bil’in from their own farmland.