Monday, December 27, 2010

Israeli activist sentenced to 3 months in prison for protesting Gaza blockade

Monday, December 27 2010 by|Joseph Dana

Israeli activist sentenced to 3 months in prison for protesting Gaza blockade

Jonathan Pollak in a Tel Aviv Court Room 27.12.10 Photo: Oren Ziv/

Of all the criminals involved with the 2008 Gaza war, an Israeli leftist will be going to jail for riding his bike against the war in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv Magistrates court judge Yitzhak Yitzhak convicted Israeli leftist Jonathan Pollak of illegal assembly for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza and then sentenced him to three months imprisonment that will begin on January 11th, 2011. Pollak was the only one detained at the said protest, and was accused of doing nothing other than riding his bicycle in the same manner as the rest of the protesters. The conviction activates an older three-month suspended sentence imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of the Separation Barrier. An additional three month prison term was also imposed for the current conviction, which will be served concurrently. His imprisonment is part of a clear strategy of silencing dissent in the Israeli left.

Jonathan Pollak is one of the founders of the Israeli leftist group “Anarchists Against the Wall“, which join weekly unarmed Palestinian protests throughout the West Bank against the Separation Wall and the Occupation. Since 2008, he has served the media coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, an Palestinian umbrella organization designed to garner media attention for the unarmed struggle in the West Bank. On his conviction, Pollak argued for his sentence, saying “I find myself unable to express remorse in this case … If His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.”

On January 31, 2008, some thrity Israeli protesters participated in a Critical Mass bicycle ride through the streets of Tel Aviv against the siege on Gaza. During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak’s arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions.

The arrest and subsequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak’s behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more severe obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment.

According to Pollak’s lawyer, Adv. Gaby Lasky, “The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”

During the trial, an Israeli supporter of Pollak was violently removed from the courthouse for wearing a shirt that said “there is no pride in occupation.” After the verdict was handed down, supporters began chanting in the courtroom against Israeli fascism and the occupation. They were forcibly removed one by one from the courthouse and subsequently held a demonstration on the sidewalk.

Despite evidence of Israeli wrongdoing in the course of the Gaza war, the only Israeli sentenced to jail so far is a leftist who choose to ride his bike through Tel Aviv in non-violent protest. The state of Israel sent a clear message with this verdict: that it will not tolerate dissent from the left. In fact, the state persecutor asked for a severe sentence in order to ‘make an example out of Pollak and those who engage in similar anti-occupation work.” Pollak said that he will continue to work with Palestinians against the occupation and repeatedly cited the much harsher verdicts given to Palestinians involved in non-violent protests. The only remorse that he showed was that he did not do enough to express dissent about the siege of Gaza. If peacefully riding a bike against violent aggression is a crime, Pollak said that we will happily go to jail. The fragility of Israeli democracy is on full display when one of its privileged sons can’t even ride a bike in protest of an aggressive and violent war on a besieged people.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Arrests in al walaja

Report by a family member of Mazin Qumsieh

This afternoon at around 2:30 Mazin said that we have to go to Al-Walaja immediately. He said he just got a call from the villagers that Israeli bulldozer was clearing an area in a different side of the village (the villagers were still trying to figure out the legal situation) than the familiar site where illegal Israel wall construction has been going on for the past year. We were at his office at Bethlehem University at the time. We dropped everything we were doing and took off.

When we arrived at the site, the bulldozer was idle with a dozen solders and private security personnel around. We found out from the 20 some villagers gathered there that they managed to asked the work to be stopped pending further instructions. Thirty minutes later, some military spokesperson came to talk to the villagers in Arabic (which I don't understand.) He came along with more armed forces - there were about 50 to 60 by then, more than the number of the local villagers present. If I understood correctly through Mazin's brief translation, Israeli spokesperson was saying that their work was based on the 2006 order (but that order has expired and currently there is a supreme court case pending.) So as the bulldozer resumed, and the soldiers spreaded out getting villagers away from the work site and started arresting people who simply were hanging around there. While I was taking picture of a Palestinian male being taken away by Israeli soldiers, I suddenly noticed Mazin was surrounded by soldiers in a lower level terrace from where I was standing trying to speak to the solders (probably telling them they don't have any valid work order and should not resume the bulldozing.) Right at that moment, they decided to take him away. That was around 3:20 p.m., less than an hour after we got there. I only remembered to take a picture of him being taken away from a distance. In rapid succession, Israeli soldiers snatched more Palestinian villagers - in all eight of them, including an older gentlemen, two teeagers, three other gentlemen, and Sheerin Al-Araj whom I knew as the vocal activist from the village.

Mazin was not reachable by phone after that for two hours. Then I reached him by phone and took down some notes from him during a short conversation. He said that they are detained outside Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 at the time.
An Israeli soldier named Almog Kahalani was very rough with them. He beat the two young Palestinian men, causing one with stomach problem. The soldiers were very rough with Sheerin that I can hear in the background while talking with Mazin on the phone. Three of them had metal handcuffs, he and the rest were tied with plastic handcuffs that was very tight and causing circulation problem. A young men's handcuff was so unbearably tight but Israeli soldiers refused to loosening it. The soldiers had just untied the plastic ones after about two hours (but kept the metal ones on the other three, Sheerin was one of them) and that's why Mazin was able to use his hand to hold his phone and speak with me.

They were asked to sign on a piece of paper (don't know what's the content but must be in Hebrew that nobody understand). But everyone of them refused to sign as advised by a Palestinian lawyer who was present there. While detained there, they tried to speak to the soldiers about international law, but the soldiers were saying that they don't give a f--- about international law and you people and they only care about obeying orders. Mazin reasoned to them that German soldiers were also obeying orders during the Nazi regime. The Israeli solders responded by saying that German soldiers would have shot you by now.

Another hour later, I got another update from Mazin that they have been transferred to Atarot (I don't know where is this, but people familiar with this said it is near Ramallah.) They are waiting to appear in front of a judge. They are cold and hungry. The Israeli personnel there sprayed cold water on them and claiming it is an accident.

More update as I am still composing this -- Mazin said that there were three arrested from Jenin joining them, so now there are total eleven at Atarot detention.

Mazin asked you all to keep Al-Walaja people and village in your prayer. We should be proud of the villager's nonviolent resistance effort.

If you are currently in the Bethlehem area, please join us for a demo set for this Friday morning December 24, 2010 at 9 a.m. at Al-Walaja, and stay alert tomorrow all day. I will keep you updated as event unfold.

J. Qumsiyeh
during Mazin's absence

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finally...Adeeb Abu Rahme was released

by Haithem Kateeb/Bilin.

Adeeb was jailed for one year and a half after he was convicted by the military court for taking part in the organizing of the weekly demos against the wall in Bilin.

Peace Activist Released From Israeli Prison
author Monday December 13, 2010 11:01author by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies Report post

The Israeli Authorities released Adeeb Abu Rahma, 40, one of the leaders of the nonviolent movement against the Annexation Wall and settlements in Bil’in village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abu Rahma spent 18 months behind bars; he was forced to pay a 6.000 NIS fine. He was also sentenced to six months suspended sentence for four years.

The Israeli prosecution accused Abu Rahma of “obstructing the work of the army” and of “incitement” in addition to participating in protests against the Wall and settlement

On August 30, the Ofer Israeli Military Court sentenced Abu Rahma to 12 months imprisonment and additional 12 months of suspended sentence, while the Israeli prosecution managed to add six more months, and 12 additional months of suspended sentence.

Two months ago, Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, in Bil’in, was sentenced to twelve months in prison, and 6 months suspended sentence for three years, and a fine of 5.000 NIS.

Bil’in is one of the leading villages in nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation, the Annexation Wall and settlements.

Several Palestinians were killed during nonviolent protests while hundreds of locals, Israeli and international peace activists, were injured due to the excessive use of force by the Israeli military.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Demonstration against the Wall in Bil'in / Manifestation contre le Mur a Bil'in, 10.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, 10.12.2010.

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals demonstrate in the West bank village of Bi'lin against the Wall, 10.12.2010. On international human rights day, the demonstrators called for the immediate release of Abdallah Abu Rahme, who was arrested one year ago. Abu Rahmah was supposed to be released on November 18th, but was kept in detention to the military prosecution's request, despite having finished serving his term. Before protestors reached the site of the wall, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated steel bullets. An international was also arrested.


Des centaines de Palestiniens, Israéliens et des internationaux ont manifesté contre le Mur dans le village de Cisjordanie de Bil'in , 10.12.2010. A l'occasion de la Journée internationale des droits de l'homme, les manifestants ont aussi appelé à la libération immédiate d'Abdallah Abu Rahme, un defenseur des droits humains du village, qui a été arrêté il y a un an pour sa participation aux manifestations. Abu Rahma était censé être libéré le 18 Novembre, mais il a été maintenu en détention à la demande du procureur militaire, bien qu'il ait fini de purger sa peine. Même avant que les manifestants n;aient atteint le site du Mur, les soldats israéliens ont tiré massivement des gaz lacrymogènes, des bombes assourdissantes et des balles en acier recouvert de caoutchouc. Un international a aussi été arrêté.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Building of the Wall in Beit Jala/ Construction du Mur a Beit Jala,07.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Beit Jala, 07.12.2010

After the painful visit to Al Walaja (see post below), where the Wall is being built full speed, I decided to go to Beit Jala. At the beginning of the year, Beit jala was the theater of many demonstrations against the building of the Wall. One house was particularly going to be affected: the house from Mitri Ghounam, known as Abu Michel. Abu Michel built over the years what he called a paradise for his grandchildren. He had a beautiful kindergarden, a traditional taboun (oven), his house was surrounded by beautiful old olive trees.

All of it is gone.

The Olive trees have been destroyed, as well as the kindergarden and the taboun. The Wall has been built just a few meters of the house. It takes the view and the light and what felt like an open nice place now looks like a cage. Most of the land was confiscated. The house is surrounded on one side by the Wall and on the other sides by a high fence.
I have not been there for a while, so it was quite heartbreaking to visit Abu Michel and his family, They feel depressed, and powerlessness. Everyday the work is ongoing. Private security guards are always around, as well as noisy trucks and caterpillars bulldozers. Many journalists came, as well as many Politicians- they told me, but nothing changed. There was no answer I could give so it was time for me to leave.


Après la visite assez pénible à Al Walaja (voir post ci-dessous), où le Mur est construit à toute vitesse, j'ai décidé d'aller à Beit Jala. Au début de l'année, Beit Jala a été le théâtre de nombreuses manifestations contre la construction du Mur. Une maison a été particulièrement touchée: la maison de Mitri Ghounam, plus connu sous le nom d'Abu Michel. Abu Michel a construit au fil des années ce qu'il appelait un paradis pour ses petits-enfants. Il avait un jardin d'enfants magnifiques, un Taboun traditionnel (four), et sa maison était entourée par de beaux oliviers centenaires.

Tout cela a disparu.

Les oliviers ont été détruits, ainsi que les jeux d'enfants et le Taboun. Le Mur a été construit seulement à quelques mètres de la maison. Il prend la vue et la lumière et ce qui etait un espace vert ouvert ressemble maintenant à une cage. La plupart des terres ont été confisquées. La maison est entourée d'un côté par le Mur et sur les autres côtés par une haute clôture.

Je n'avais pas visité la maison depuis un petit moment. Il était donc tout à fait navrant de visiter ce lieu devasté non par une catastrophe naturelle mais bien par une politique humaine. Abu Michel et sa famille se sentent déprimés, et impuissants. Chaque jour, les travaux continuent et les enferment un peu plus. Des gardes de sécurité privés sont toujours là, ainsi que des camions bruyants volvo et les bulldozers caterpillar. De nombreux journalistes sont venus, ainsi que de nombreux politiciens, m'ont-ils dit, mais rien n'a changé. Il n'y avait pas de réponse a donner, alors il était temps pour moi de partir.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Building of the Wall in Al Walaja / Construction du Mur a Al Walaja,07.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Al Walaja, 07.12.2010

Despite pending court proceedings, the building of the Wall continues in Al Walaja with the complicity of companies such as Caterpillar and Volvo,, on 07.12.2010. When completed, the Wall will totally surround the village which will have only one gate to enter and exit. Building was also seen all over in the nearby settlement of Har Gilo.

Malgré une procédure judiciaire en cours, la construction du Mur continue à toute vitesse dans le village de Al Walaja avec la complicité de sociétés telles que Caterpillar et Volvo, le 07.12.2010. Une fois terminé, le Mur va totalement encerclé le village en lui spoliant des terres. Le village n'aura ensuite qu'une seule porte pour entrer et sortir. Les constructions allaient aussi bon train dans la colonie voisine de Har Gilo

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Fearless /Sans peur, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

"Shoot me!", A Palestinian youth shouted at Israeli forces showing his chest.

"Tirez sur moi!", a crié un jeune Palestinien aux forces de police israeliennes lors de confrontations a Al Issawiya.

Demonstration against demolition and oppression / Manif contre les demolitions et la politique d'oppression, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

Clashes erupted after the demonstration. It was mostly the same scene that I saw a couple of days ago, exactly at the same spot and probably it was the same youth throwing stones at the Israeli police. Most of the activists of the demonstrations were already gone when it started. The Palestinian youth advanced towards the police just using a trash can as a cover. Sometimes they were barely a few dozens meters away from them but they seemed fearless. Some are better than others with the stones throwing. As photojournalists, we have to be careful not to be touched by the stones on one side, and the rubber bullets or the tear gas canisters on the other side. Suddenly there were some rubber bullets and tear gas canisters all around, the Israeli police forces ran towards the youth and entered the neighborhood which disappeared behind a cloud of tear gas. The police, many of them crying from the gas came back running, and I could not help myself by smiling.

Clashed continued until sunset, and probably will start again soon. If the Israeli authorities think that they can continue their policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem without encountering some resistance, they are totally misleading. I can see the anger rising.


Des affrontements ont éclaté après la manifestation (voir post precedent). C’était a peu près la même scène que j'ai vu un il y a quelques jours, exactement au même endroit. Probablement les mêmes jeunes jetaient les pierres sur la police israélienne. La plupart des activistes participant a la manifestations étaient déjà partis. Le trio habituel- les jeunes qui jettent les pierres, la police israélienne, et les photographes se retrouvaient pour rejouer la même scène, une scène de l'Intifada qui laissera insensible la plupart des médias lassés de repasser ces mêmes images qui n’intéressent plus personne.

Les jeunes palestiniens s’avancèrent toujours plus près de la police, juste en utilisant une poubelle comme couverture. Parfois, ils étaient à peine quelques dizaines de mètres des policiers, mais ils semblaient ne ressentir aucune peur. Certains sont meilleurs que d'autres avec les jets de pierres. Lorsque les pierres atteignaient leur objectif, une clameur se faisait entendre des dizaines de jeunes amasses un peu plus haut pour regarder le spectacle.

Comme photojournalistes, nous devons faire attention de ne pas être touchés par les pierres d'un côté, et les balles en caoutchouc ou des bombes lacrymogènes de l'autre. Avec un peu d’expérience on arrive a se repérer et a éviter de se retrouver en mauvaise posture. Tout à coup, il y eu des tirs de balles en caoutchouc et de nombreuses grenades lacrymogènes: les forces de police israélienne entraient en courant et poursuivaient les jeunes qui avaient déjà detalés. La police entra dans le quartier qui a disparu derrière un nuage de gaz lacrymogènes. Le groupe de policiers sont revenus pour la plupart en pleurant et crachant à cause du gaz, et je n'ai pas pu m'empêcher de sourire.

Les confrontations ont continué ainsi jusqu'au coucher du soleil, et probablement ils vont recommencer dans les prochains jours. Si les autorités israéliennes pensent qu'ils peuvent continuer leur politique de nettoyage ethnique à Jérusalem-Est sans rencontrer une forte résistance, ils se trompent. Je peux voir la colère monter a Jérusalem.

Demonstration against demolition and oppression / Manif contre les demolitions et la politique d'oppression, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals demonstrate against the recent wave of demolitions and harassment by the Israeli police, in Al Issawiya, East Jerusalem, 03.12.2010. After the march, clashes erupted between the Palestinian youth and the Israeli police which use massive tear gas and rubber bullets.

Des centaines de Palestiniens, Israéliens et des Internationaux ont manifesté contre la récente vague de démolitions et de harcèlement par la police israélienne, à Al Issawiya, à Jérusalem-Est, 03.12.2010. Après la marche, des affrontements ont éclaté entre les jeunes palestiniens et la police israélienne qui a utilisé massivement des gaz lacrymogènes et des balles en caoutchouc.

demo against the Wall in Al Masara / Manif contre le Mur a Al Masara, 03.12.2010

(c) Anne Paq/, Al Ma'sara, 03.12.2010

The demonstration was rather small this week in the West bank village of Al Ma'sara. The group with Palestinians, Israelis and internationals walked anyway to the entrance of the village, showing once again that occupation and colonisation will be met again and again by popular resistance. The jeeps came from different side, then encircling us. An officer showed a piece of paper for a few seconds that nobody could read. Then they barked at us that we should leave. Nevertheless the group walked towards the exit of the village. The Israeli soldiers threw sound bombs in the middle of the legs of the protestors who ran away but came back. Some people sat on the floor and sang in defiance. An old Palestinian woman, a figure of the village, walked directly towards the soldiers and cursed them, soon to be joined by another international woman. The Palestinian leaders called for the end of the demonstration. It has been now more than 4 years that the demonstration are being held in Al Ma'sara. Whatever strategies the Israeli army had tried, it failed to stop the protest. Last week, there were two court summons, which might lead to demolition orders for two houses owned by organizers of the demonstrations. Last week, three Israeli activists were arrested during the protest.


La manifestation a été assez faible cette semaine dans le village de Cisjordanie de Al Ma'sara. Le groupe, constitué de Palestiniens, Israéliens et d'Internationaux ont néanmoins marché jusqu'à l'entrée du village, montrant une fois de plus que l'occupation et la colonisation se heurteront toujours et encore à la résistance populaire. Les jeeps venus de différents côtés, puis nous ont encerclés. Un officier israélien a montré à toute vitesse une feuille de papier que personne n'a eu le temps de lire. Il s'agissait probablement d'un ordre militaire indiquant que nous nous trouvions dans une zone militaire interdite. Ensuite, les soldats nous ont indiqué, plutôt en aboyant, que nous devions partir.

Néanmoins, le groupe continua à marcher et se dirigea vers la sortie du village. Les soldats israéliens ont alors jeté des bombes assourdissantes au milieu des jambes des manifestants qui se sont enfuis, mais sont revenus. Certaines personnes se sont alors assises sur le sol et ont chanté en défiance de l'ordre des soldats de partir et de leur violence. Une vieille femme palestinienne, une figure du village, a marché directement vers les soldats et les a proprement engueulé, bientôt rejointe par une autre femme internationale. Les leaders palestiniens de la manifestation ont déclaré à la fin de la manifestation.

Cela fait maintenant plus de 4 ans que la manifestation se déroule à Al Ma'sara. Quelles que soient les stratégies que l'armée israélienne a tenté, elle n'a pas réussi à arrêter la manifestation. La semaine dernière, il y a par exemple deux citations à comparaitre, qui pourraient conduire à des ordres de démolition de deux maisons appartenant à des organisateurs des manifestations. Lors de la manifestation de la semaine dernière, trois activistes israéliens ont été arrêtés.