EAST JERUSALEM - Israeli authorities are increasingly targeting and intimidating non-violent
Palestinian grassroots activists involved in anti-occupation activities who are
drawing increased support from the international community.
Several weeks ago masked Israeli soldiers stormed the home of Ehab Jallad
from The Jerusalem Popular Committee for the Celebration of Jerusalem as
the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009.
"Around 3am the soldiers started kicking and banging on the door and
threatened to break it down if I didn't open immediately. My young daughters
were terrified as they didn't know what was happening," recalls Jallad, a
young Palestinian architect from Jerusalem.
"The soldiers then proceeded to ransack my home before confiscating my
laptop, several computers, files with my contacts and my ipod. When I asked
them why they were doing this and told them I wanted to call my lawyer, they
told me to shut up and threatened to beat me up," Jallad told IPS.
This is just the latest incident in which the Israeli authorities have arrested
and taken Jallad in for questioning over his organisation of cultural events
marking East Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture. Jallad has also been
monitoring the protests outside Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last few weeks.
"The Israeli officer questioning me said he knew I was in contact with the
media but stated this would not help. He further warned me that I was being
monitored, and if I continued with my activities my family and I would be
subjected to further raids and harassment," said Jallad.
The same morning that Jallad was arrested Israeli security forces raided a
warehouse used by Jerusalem community groups and cultural events
"They vandalised material we use for cultural events and confiscated other
material," Jallad told IPS.
To date Jallad has not been charged with anything. But a war between
Palestinians and Israeli continues unabated over Israel's continued Judaisation
of East Jerusalem.
This has involved the expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes in
the eastern sector of the city and the expropriation thereof to make way for
A number of Palestinian families continue to live in tents pitched on streets
outside their former homes as they watch Israeli settlers go about their daily
business in their former homes.
Periodic violence between the two groups has broken out during the last few
weeks with the Israeli police selectively arresting only Palestinians.
The Jerusalem Municipality has deliberately limited building permits for East
Jerusalemites despite a chronic housing shortage, while the settlement of
Israeli settlers in the area has been actively encouraged. Palestinian homes
built without permits are regularly destroyed.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) envisions East Jerusalem as the capital of a
future Palestinian state. Under international law East Jerusalem is part of the
Palestinian occupied West Bank.
The PA has tried to counter Israel's Judaisation efforts by asserting its
presence in the contested part of the city. Organising cultural events has
been part of the effort.
Hatem Abdul Qader, a PA official for Jerusalem Affairs, has been arrested by
Israeli security forces several times over the last few months. He has also
been banned from the city for several weeks on a number of occasions.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Othman, 33, from the northern West Bank village
Jayyous continues to languish in solitary confinement in a dirty Israel prison
cell devoid of natural light or windows.
Othman has been labelled a "security threat" by the Israelis ever since his
arrest on Sep. 22 as he crossed into the West Bank from Jordan. Othman had
returned from a trip to Norway where he met with senior officials to discuss
human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Norwegian
government has divested its funds from Elbit, an Israeli company which
supplies drones and other military technology.
During his incarceration Othman has been subjected to hours of
interrogation, handcuffed, seated in stress positions and denied sleep.
Like Jallad he has had no involvement in military activities which could
constitute a security threat to the Jewish state. He too, has not been charged
with any infringement of the law.
But Othman, a political activist, has been joining the Stop the Wall Campaign
against the illegal Zufim settlement built by Russian billionaire Lev Leviev.
The Stop the Wall Campaign is fighting against Israel's construction of a
separation barrier which separates Israel proper from the West Bank.
The wall cuts through swathes of Palestinian territory dividing Palestinians
from their agricultural fields, and trapping some Palestinian communities in
pockets of territory between Israel and the West Bank.
The wall was ruled illegal by the International Court at the Hague, and several
years ago an Israeli high court ordered the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to
reroute parts of the wall, arguing that is compromised the livelihoods of
Othman is also involved in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign
which has been drawing increased international support.
Othmans supporters believe his main "crimes" are his activities on behalf of
the BDS which wants to see a boycott of Israel along the lines of the former
boycott against apartheid South Africa.
"I think Israel is worried about its reputation amongst the international
community now that more people are waking up to the human rights abuses
and injustices being committed here," Jallad told IPS.
"I think in some ways we are perceived as more of a threat than an armed cell
of Hamas fighters precisely because we are non-violent and what we are
fighting for is reasonable."