Abdullah Abu Rahmah, In a letter written from his prison cell, January 1st 2010
The last year has seen an increase in repression of Palestinian grassroots activists involved in struggles against Israel’s wall and Israeli settlements and who advocate the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In September 2009 Mohamed Othman, an activist with the Stop the Wall (www.stopthewall.org) campaign was arrested on suspicion of ‘dealing with foreign enemies’ and incitement. Mohamed spent four months in jail, two months awaiting trial and two months in administrative detention (without charge). On 24th December Jamal Jumaa, Coordinator of Stop the Wall was arrested. Mohamed and Jamal were released on 12th January 2010 after international pressure. Jamal was never charged while Mohamed’s charges were dropped after two months. In February 2010 the Stop the Wall office in Ramallah was raided by the Israeli army and computer hard drives and documents were taken.
The arrests of Jamal and Mohamed are part of an Israeli crackdown on grassroots activists with links to the growing international solidarity movement. The Israeli state is becoming increasingly concerned about the burgeoning BDS movement, the actions of which are often against companies complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. This can be seen in the agenda of the 2010 Herzliya conference. The Herzliya conference (www.herzliyaconference.org) is an influential rightwing Israeli thinktank which was set up by the Institute for Policy and Strategy in 2000. At this year’s conference many of the talks and papers centered on the growing global BDS movement as a threat to Israeli policies. One of the contributors, the Reut Institute ( http://reut-institute.org), described the movement as “the work of a worldwide network of private individuals and organizations. They have no hierarchy or overall commander, but work together based on a joint ideology “ which, apparently, has its hubs in “London, Brussels, Madrid, Toronto, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley”. Reut recommends setting up a “counter-network” to confront BDS activists, who it calls “deligitimisers”.
Stop the Wall, where Jamal Jumaa and Mohamed Othman work, is a line of communication with the this global solidarity movement; the hubs, in Reut’s words; it is easy to see why they have become targets. Other such lines of communication are the Popular Committees of villages like Bil’In and Nil’In who are engaged in struggle against the apartheid wall. International and Israeli activists regularly attend the demonstrations in these villages and the popular committees regularly make calls to the international movement.
38 residents of Bil In have been arrested since July in an Israeli army campaign of coordinated night raids. These raids began concurrently with a court case brought by residents of Bil In against Israeli real estate company, Green Park (see http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/bil-in-versus-green-park/). 15 residents of Bil In have been imprisoned, including the spokesperson for the Popular Committee, Abdullah Abu Rahmah. Abdullah, in a letter from his prison cell said “Bil’in has become the graveyard of Israeli real estate empires. One after another, these companies are approaching bankruptcy as the costs of building on stolen Palestinian land are driven higher than the profits.” (for the full letter see http://www.bigcampaign.org/index.php?mact=CGBlog,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=116&cntnt01returnid=72).
Similar repression has met the residents of Nil’In, another village resisting Israel’s wall’s encroachment on its lands where 116 people have been arrested, and 5 killed, since May 2008 for resisting the wall’s construction. 17 people from Nil’In are currently in prison including the co-ordinator of the Popular Committee, Ibrahim Amira. Wa’el Al-Faqeeh, coordinator of the Nablus popular committee, was also arrested on 9th December 2009 in an IDF raid on his home and has been detained without charge since then (see http://palsolidarity.org/2010/01/10740).
This new wave of Israeli repression has also hit the International Solidarity Movement (ISM – www.palsolidarity .org), another channel of communication with the global BDS movement. The Israeli military have staged several raids of the ISM’s apartment in Ramallah and have arrested several international volunteers, deporting one of them and banning two from entering the West Bank (see http://palsolidarity.org/2010/02/11278).
The Reut institute’s presentation to the Herzliya Conference and the increased repression of activists with links to the global BDS movement show that the Israeli state is taking the movement seriously. Reut concludes that “The risk posed is that such campaigns will create an equivalency between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa that penetrates the mainstream of public and political consciousness. Given Israel’s dependence on vigorous trade, as well as scientific, academic, and technological engagement with other countries, this movement towards isolating the country may pose a strategic threat...” Lets hope they’re right.