Saturday, October 23, 2010

Footnote to the preceding

Earlier this month, Abdallah Abu Rahmah was sentenced to a year in prison by an Israeli military court.

You likely have never heard of him, but you should. Abu Rahmah is a Palestinian activist who had been organizing weekly nonviolent protests against Israel's so-called "separation barrier," better called the "apartheid wall," where it was to cut though the land of the farmers of the West Bank town of Bil'in. This is an area where the Israeli Supreme Court had earlier ruled that the wall must be moved - but that order was never carried out. In short, the route of the wall is illegal - but it's still being built.

Last December, Abu Rahmah was arrested. In August, he was tried on charges of "organizing illegal demonstrations," "incitement," "throwing rocks," and "possession of weapons." He was acquitted on the latter two charges; in fact, the charge of weapons possession was based on his gathering of spent IDF (Israeli Defense Force) tear gas canisters and bullet casings to prove such force had actually been used on protestors, an argument that proved too much even for the military court.

He was, however, convicted on the first two. But they are both by their nature bogus charges aimed at obtaining a conviction, not at punishing a crime. For one thing, it is surely true that under the occupation, it would be almost impossible for any Palestinian demonstration to be "legal" in the eyes of the IDF. And "incitement" is such a vague charge that saying or doing most anything that might inspire someone to do something the Israeli government (or the IDF) doesn't like - such as taking part in nonviolent demonstrations - becomes a crime.

The conviction sparked protest from a variety of sources, including Amnesty International, which "condemned" the conviction, the European Union, which described the conviction as "intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest," and Human Rights Watch, which called the trial "unfair" and accused Israeli authorities of "effectively banning peaceful expression of political speech."

Last week, his year-long sentence came down. Having been in prison since December, it would appear he would be out in a couple of months.

But maybe not.

In July, another Bil'in organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in the "illegal" protests. Having been in prison for a year already prior to conviction and sentencing, he should have been released immediately. Instead, upon the motion of military prosecutors unhappy with what they insisted was a too-light sentence, the judge ordered him to be held pending the prosecution's appeal of the sentence.

On Thursday, his sentence was lengthened to 18 months.

So with the prosecution in the case of Abdallah Abu Rahmah having been given a month to appeal the sentence, it may be some time yet before he is freed.

And by the time he is, the struggle may be over. The Jerusalem Post says that the wall in the vicinity of Bil'in will be completed in a few weeks, with a tall concrete wall replacing the current fence.
About 650 dunams [about 160 acres] of agricultural land will be given back to Bilin. Nonetheless, according to attorneys representing the village, roughly 1,300 dunams [about 320 acres] of private farmland will remain on the Israeli side. It was decided a concrete wall would be constructed in place of a fence, since this replacement barrier will skirt a new neighborhood in Kiryat Sefer, known as Matityahu East. If left as a simple fence, the Israeli residents might be at risk[, the Post reported].
So because the residents of a settlement that is illegal under international law "might" be at risk, Palestinians are denied access to their own land, in essence that land is stolen, in direct defiance of a Supreme Court decision.

What was that about Israel being "democratic?"

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