We’ve often heard asked “where are the Palestinian Gandhis?” The answer? Too many of them are sitting in Israeli prisons.
Exhibit A: Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leader of the nonviolent campaign in the West Bank village of Bil’in, who was arrested last year by soldiers who raided his home at the middle of the night. An Israeli military court exonerated him on charges of stone-throwing and arms possession (the “arms” turned out to be empty bullet casings and tear gas canisters that Abu Rahmah had collected to prove IDF violence against demonstrators) but he was eventually convicted of “organizing illegal demonstrations” and “incitement.”
Here’s how Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak characterized these events last year:
On a pitch black early December night, seven armored Israeli military jeeps pulled into the driveway of a home in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Dozens of soldiers, armed and possibly very scared, came to arrest someone they were probably told was a dangerous, wanted man – Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher at the Latin Patriarchate School and a well-known grassroots organizer in the village of Bil’in.
Every Friday, for the past five years, Abdallah Abu Rahmah has led men, women and children from Bil’in, carrying signs and Palestinian flags, along with their Israeli and international supporters, in civil disobedience and protest marches against the seizure of sixty percent of the village’s land for Israel’s construction of its wall and settlements. Bil’in has become a symbol of civilian resistance to Israel’s occupation for Palestinians and international grassroots.
Abu Rahmah was taken from his bed, his hands bound with tight zip tie cuffs whose marks were still visible a week later, and his eyes blindfolded. A few hours later, as President Obama spoke of “the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice” upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Abu Rahmah’s blindfold was removed as he found himself in a military detention center. He was being interrogated about the crime of organizing demonstrations. In occupied Palestinian territories, Abu Rahmah’s case is not unusual – about 8,000 Palestinians currently inhabit Israeli jails on political grounds.
Abu Rahmah’s sentence came down today: one year in prison, a six months suspended sentence for three years, and a fine of 5,000 shekels. The military prosecution is expected to appeal, which means he is likely to remain in jail indefinitely. Another Bil’in activist, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, was also sentenced for twelve months on similar charges but still remains in prison after fifteen months while prosecutors continue to appeal his conviction.
How can we in the Jewish community help promote peace and justice in Israel/Palestine? By standing in solidarity with courageous Palestinian leaders such as Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Click here to learn more about his case and how you can support his cause.
I spent Sunday afternoon listening to Joel Pollack and Jan Schakowsky make their case for election as the Representative of the Illinois Ninth Congressional District. The contrast between them could not be more striking with Jan the clear Democratic progressive and Joel the Republican opposite. On Israel, though, they compete for who is the more loyal supporter. In the context of news of the conviction and sentencing of people like Abdallah Abu Rahmah, I am sick at heart that there is no candidate’s voice raising questions about our uncritical support of a regime that is doing itself in while it systematically oppresses another people. One day we will look back, as every people has at one time or another, and asked, “What were we thinking?” “Why didn’t we speak out more effectively?”
I have long since given up any hope in regard to the U.S. government and its elected representatives. With rare exceptions (e.g. Dennis Kucinich) they exhibit a high level of ignorance based, most likely in self-interest. I guess another term for it at least in some cases is willful ignorance. They are all far more concerned about keeping their jobs and/or advancing their careers than what is right and what is wrong. And Obama, as I predicted from the beginning, is no better than any other career politician.
I do wonder, though, how Kucinich manages to keep his job term after term considering how outspoken and clear he is with his unpopular views.
@shirin, I think if Kucinich managed to get himself into a spot of any great power, like the presidency for instance… you’d see him behaving a lot like Obama.
I think Obama is a vast improvement and I feel better sleeping at night knowing he is in the White House. I disagreed with him on Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine before the election as I do now, and I’ll keep advocating for different approaches.
Our elected officials need to hear what we think even as it takes saintly patience to actually see change.
Palestinian non-violent resistance is a greater threat than is violent resistance, and unfortunately it is also easier to crush, and to keep out of view of the public. How many Americans (or Israelis for that matter) are aware that the first Intifada consisted largely of non-violent civil disobedience? Palestinian leaders of non-violent resistance end up either imprisoned on one false pretext or another, or permanently exiled. And most non-violent Palestinian resistance remains out of sight, and therefore out of mind.
Thank you for sharing this information. In answer to Cotton Fite I strongly encourage readers of this blog to support J-Street, the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace lobbying group.
J-Street endorses and supports candidates who share our views on a 2 state solution and it encourages the Administration and Congress to put significant pressure on both sides to work for peace. Once our politicians see how many people support a true 2 state solution and that APAC is NOT the only voice of American Jews then we will have more allies in Congress.
I don’t think that most of the people on this blog support a two-state solution. I would encourage people against a two-state solution to specifically not support J Street.
I’m curious: is this because of the difference in goals (2-state vs. 1-state), so that you’re advising people against a two-state solution not to waste their support? Or is it that J Street will be negatively affected by the support?
Thanks for clarifying! I thought so, but wanted to be sure.
Thanks to Rabbi Brant for posting this.
For those who don’t know, there is a wonderful and moving film now available ($22.95 including shipping) about the Israeli/Palestinian nonviolence movement. It works hard to be fair, even including a segment on the German Olympics where the Israeli athletes were murdered. The participants are Palestinian-Christian Sami Awad (his uncle, Mubarak Awad, founded the Palestinian Centre for Nonviolence and was deported by Israel in 1988), Palestinian-Muslim Ahmad Al’Azzeh, a nonviolence trainer, and Yonatan Shapira (and his family). I felt this film humanized everyone and was never once inflammatory. Yet it made very important points.
Thanks Brant for reminding us of the plight of Abdallah Abu Ramah.
It was good to see in some Australian newspapers last week Australian Jews calling on Israel to act with justice rather than impunity.
Our prayers go with Abdallah and his family while he is in prison. May his prison guards experience a softening of heart to see this man as a brother. May politicians of all sides show compassion. And may our religious leaders show moral courage to speak out for healing and repentance for all.