Israel Adds Another Four Months on Anti-Wall Activist Sentence

Abdallah Abu Rahma’s students are going to have to wait for their teacher for a little longer.  It wasn’t enough for Israel to send Rahma to jail for a year for leading non-violent protests against the wall/fence in the West Bank.  Now, having been kept detained, even after he was suppose to be released November 18th,Israel has compounded the outrage by tacking on another four months in jail for the prisoner of conscience.

Abdallah Abu Rahma

“By extending Abdallah Abu Rahma’s sentence the Israeli authorities appear to be seeking not only to punish him further in a case where the prosecution’s evidence was questionable to begin with, but to deter others from participating in legitimate protests,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The story of Abdallah Abu Rahma is typical of the many Palestinians who attempt to bring change to their communities through peaceful means.  They don’t get a lot of attention here in the United States, but Rahma, like other activists, is an important man in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

He is a teacher. As we have written earlier, Rahma is warm and articulate, the kind of spokesman who brings home the deep, divisive impact the wall/fence is creating on many Palestinian communities.  As head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall, he is well known to Amnesty International as a political activist with a long-term public commitment to using peaceful means to raise international awareness of the human rights violations.

He has won court rulings that would reroute the wall in his community, but the orders have been ignored by the military.  He has held regular peaceful demonstrations against the wall, but his work is met with spurious charges based on retracted claims of children, and conviction after an unfair trial in military court.  This is the lot given to non-violent Palestinian activists.

Amnesty International has made Rahma a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

Here are two additional recent statements on Abdallah Abu Rahma and non-violent Palestinian activists.

Israel must stop harassment and detention of Palestinian activists (Jan. 8, 2010)

Palestinian anti-wall protester convicted by Israeli military court (Aug., 2010)

Local activists targeted in occupied Palestinian territories

Abdallah Abu Rahme is affable and articulate.  Last July, when I called to set up a time to talk before one of the weekly protests in his village, Bi’lin in the occupied West Bank, he made jokes and explained exactly the best way to get there from Jerusalem through all the checkpoints and roadblocks.

Abdallah’s vocation is teaching, but what takes up a good portion of his time is his involvement with the village’s non-violent popular committee which protests the wall/fence built by Israel that snakes through the occupied West Bank (WB).  Israel says the wall is being built for security reasons; others that the wall is simply strangling villages’ economies by cutting them off from their agricultural lands and water sources.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the wall is illegal where it sits on Palestinian territory and should be removed.  Eighty percent of the wall is built on Palestinian territory, but five plus years later, most of the wall continues to sit  and be built on Palestinian land.  Popular committees have sprung up across the WB to protest the wall and over the past 18 months, there appears to be an increase in the harassment and prosecution of activists involved in this and other non-violent actions.