RAMALLAH Feb. 14 (JMCC) - A crackdown against Palestinian grassroots leaders is raising speculation that the Israeli military wants to finish off demonstrations against the Wall
it is building in the occupied West Bank.
Three villages – Bilin
, and Masara
– have experienced a wave of arrests following their own increased cooperation in organizing weekly demonstrations against the Wall.
Local leaders say that dozens have been detained in recent weeks, among them the Bilin protest leader Abdullah Abu Rahma, and Jamal Jumaa, director of a Palestinian organization dedicated to stopping construction on the Wall.
“They arrested my brother out of his home although he was always under their noses in the demonstrations we organize against the Wall,” says Rateb Abu-Rahma, Abdullah’s brother.
“They simply wanted to deliver the message that ‘we are capable of reaching you under any circumstances, and we have enough charges to keep you behind bars’.”
Abu Rahma faces as many as three years behind bars, and others are being fined $6,000 for entering a no-go area near the Wall.
Jumaa was arrested by Israeli forces for “incitement” before being subsequently released, and most of those detained face similar charges.
“They expect us to stop the popular resistance,” says Mohamed Khatib, a member of Bilin’s committee against the Wall, “but we have persevered for four years and will not stop; which is why they are enhancing their violent measures.”
SETTING AN EXAMPLE
He believes that Israeli authorities want to make a model of Bilin.
“We noticed six months ago that they began concentrating their measures against us. They started raiding our homes in the middle of the night, breaking furniture, making our families go out in the freezing cold,” says Mohamed Brojyeh, leader of demonstrations in Masara.
Israeli authorities have also taken the extraordinary step of raiding Ramallah in order to detain international activists who support the weekly protests. Brojyeh says 50-80 internationals attend each weekly event.
The Wall Israel is building in the West Bank will be over 800 kilometers long when it is completed, and is made up of cement barriers, barbed wire, patrol roads and guard towers.
The Wall has been criticized by the International Court of Justice at The Hague for not following the 1948 armistice line between Israel and the West Bank it occupies.
Bilin and the surrounding villages are protesting the route of the Wall, which severs residents from their agricultural lands.
“They simply want to reach a point where families will ask us to stop the anti-Wall resistance, we are tired,” says Brojyeh.