UN office in Ramallah closed by protests about Palestinian prisoners

The UN office in Ramallah has been closed this morning by protesters angry about the UN’s inaction on the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, particularly those held for “security” reasons under Administrative Detention procedures. Some 125 Administrative Detainees are now on the 41st day of a hunger strike to protest Administrative Detention and the conditions under which they’re being held.

A photo — Tweeted by Ahmad this morning, and posted here.

Ahmad @ANimer – .@UN office in #Ramallah is closed
#PalHunger #UNClosed pic.twitter.com/0iGCIk9vV4

UN office in Ramallah closed in Ramallah by protesters angry about lack of support to prisoners
UN office in Ramallah closed in Ramallah by protesters angry about lack of support to prisoners

The image was also Tweeted here by Diana Alzeer @ManaraRam
Outside the #UN building sprayed by activists today! UN = UNFAIR/ UNHELPFUL. UN offices are shut down today! #??_???? pic.twitter.com/ViNXZl7NbR

There was headway being made against Administrative Detention in 2012, but momentum was lost due to lack of support from some Palestinian activists who disputed its relative importance [affecting only approximately 200 people, by contrast with the 5,100 or so being held under other military court rules.

Haaretz newspaper has published an editorial here calling for a “review” of how Israel uses Administrative Detention. It’s subhead says: “Israel must…stop using it wholesale to perpetuate the occupation”.

Continue reading “UN office in Ramallah closed by protests about Palestinian prisoners”

Should the UN protect Palestinians [It won't]

It was reported this morning here that the Palestinian Authority [PA] Foreign Ministry urges the UN to protect Palestinians — from “Israeli settlement building and aggression”.

He may have a point, especially in light of two excellent pieces of reporting today by Chaim Levinson in Haaretz, the most disturbing of which, published here reveals Israeli “plans to start compiling land registry records of assets controlled by settlers [in the West Bank]…[to] bypass regular tabu land-listing processes”, which, Levinson writes, “appears designed to prevent Palestinians from appealing the validity of the ownership listings”.

Among other things, this seems to suggest a slide towards extension of Israeli civil law in the West Bank — or at least the outline of a new Israeli move to annex parts of the West Bank, which has been hinted by officials and others with increasing frequency in recent months. Some will say, though, that “creeping annexation” is nothing new.

Levinson’s other piece, as complex as the subject matter itself, is published here, and reports that “Residents of the condemned West Bank outpost of Migron have appealed the High Court to stay the demolition of the settlement’s illegal structures on Tuesday, claiming that they had recently purchased the land on which the homes were built. However, a preliminary inspection of the purported sale reveals that the Palestinian whom the settlers claim sold them the land passed away in 2011, one year before the alleged transaction”. This has happened before, but there appear to be several new twists in this case.

But, it does seem absurd for the PA to be asking the UN to protect Palestinians as its security forces beat protesters brutally on Saturday and Sunday — reportedly in violation of an instruction given by the PLO Executive Committee itself. On Satuday, plainclothes men [whose existence wass later denied, despite ample photographic evidence] attacked demonstrators who were then arrested by uniformed police in broad daylight in downtown Ramallah [and then beaten some more]. See our previous post.

And, at the same time, hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank have been arrested and jailed in recent months, either by the IDF or by the PA.

The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected defense correspondent Yaakov Katz wrote a piece, just posted here which reported that “An ongoing Palestinian Authority crackdown on crime and corruption in the West Bank, including the arrest of senior security officers, is being viewed in Israel as a milestone for the PA as it imposes its rule and authority throughout the territory”.

Katz’s piece in the JPost goes on to say that “A senior IDF officer from the Central Command said the operation was yielding impressive results and was viewed as a possible ‘turning point’ for the PA as it tries to impose its authority throughout the West Bank”. Either the same or another unidentified IDF officer even reportedly told Katz that “If effective, the operation could be used by the PA as a key argument in its bid for independence and statehood by demonstrating its ability to enforce law and order and clamp down on corruption within government and security ranks”.

Then, this JPost report adds, “The Presidential Guard, a force loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the operations … While the IDF is not actively involved in the operation, it is closely following developments and has granted the PA approval to deploy additional forces in Jenin and Nablus to carry out the arrests. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has also played an assisting role in locating several Palestinian fugitives who fled from the Jenin area and returning them to PA hands”.

Now, this very same PA Security spokeman Adnan Al-Damiri — who said that no plainclothes police [despite ample photographic evidence] were involved in the repression of Saturday’s protest, and that violent individuals attacked the police and caused chaos — who was described in the JPost as “security forces spokesman Gen. Adnan Damiri” told the Israeli English-language daily that the PA arrests “would continue in order to dismantle criminal gangs in the West Bank. He said that security forces had confiscated over 100 weapons”…

According to the latest reports, the “Youth” protesters in Ramallah intend to resume their protests for a third day, later today.

Bloody hell at Tahrir Square in Cairo + other news

Bloody hell broke out at Tahrir Square this weekend.

There have been so many deaths and injuries — including a shocking number of protesters injured by rubber bullets in eyes, many of whom have reportedly lost their eyes as a result — that the figures are unreliable, and the tallies by various volunteers and news organizations keep mounting. One observer Tweeted that the soldiers/police were blinded themselves by the fast quantities of strong tear gas that was shot around, and as a result they fired wildly [hitting so many protesters exactly in the eyes???]. A group of three Egyptian men — one photojournalist [Ahmed Fatah, in the middle/background], + 2 well-known activists [Malek Mostafa and on the left, Ahmad Hararah] — with almost identical injuries are shown in this photo here.

At a certain point, the Muslim Brotherhood turned out. Then left. A few politicians showed up, then left.

A new terminology had to be learned: who are the ULTRAs? [It seems they are the almost-mythical “football fans” who have been on both sides of this revolution, but who now appear to be against the present military rule and therefore now on the side of the Tahrir activists…]

The situation is still evolving, three days later.

UPDATE: Al-Jazeera Arabic reported Monday night that the entire Egyptian Cabinet tendered its resignation — but the Supreme Military Council has not yet accepted the resignation.

Continue reading “Bloody hell at Tahrir Square in Cairo + other news”

Snaps from Egypt

This via a recommendation on Twitter by Ali Abunimah [@avinunu]. It was posted to YouTube on 29 January. Al-Jazeera English just reported that it was filmed on Friday 28 January (the “day Egyptians lost their fear”,  the AJE narrator said), at what was labelled 6 October bridge but which someone in Cairo corrected to Qasr an-Nil bridge:

It was not until the next day that we began to get an idea, just an idea, of the death toll in the protests around Egypt.

Below, this report — a rare report from several hospital morgues around Egypt — gives a small glimpse of the casualties.

Estimates of the total figure has not been updated since mid-day Saturday.

No one knows, yet, how many have died at protests around Egypt in the past week.

According to other Tweets (just below), this is the video that got Al-Jazeera banned in Egypt.
@julieposetti RT @khadijapatel: This is the story from the Cairo morgue that got #AJE banned in #Egypt http://bit.ly/hl2Ow4 #jan25:

Or, go to this page here.

15 months later, IDF to open investigation into death of West Bank demonstrator

Haaretz is reporting today that the IDF’s Military Advocate General (MAG) Avichai Mandelblit has just ordered the army’s criminal investigations unit to investigate the death of Basem Abu Rahmeh (Bassem Abu Rahma), one of the leaders of a protest movement against Israel’s Wall in Bil’in village west of Ramallah.

Basem Abu Rahmeh was killed in April 2009, minutes after being hit in the chest by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops.

The Israeli military had previously decided not to investigate his death.

Though he was standing on a hill, and was clearly not one of the few protesters who is down by the fence, challenging the Israeli Border Police and/or IDF soldiers, Basem was shot in the chest by a new type of hardened, extended range, high-velocity (“rocket”) tear-gas canister, which goes straight to the target instead of arching up into the air first. It is is said to move as fast as live ammunition. He died minutes later.

Basem Abu Rahme in Bilin on 17 April 2009

According to one report, here, “Seconds before the shooting, Basem had been pleading with the soldiers to hold their fire, shouting ‘we are in a nonviolent protest, there are kids and internationals’.”  The same source noted that “The teargas projectile in question is the same kind that critically injured American national Tristan Anderson at a demonstration in Ni’lin on the 13th of March, after he was hit in the head from approx. 60 meters”.

According to Haaretz, “The Military Advocate General had refused to open a criminal investigation into the death of Bassem Abu-Rahma, but on Monday changed its mind after expert testimony showed that the tear gas canister was aimed directly at Abu-Rahma and was fired in violation of military orders”…

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Israel just releases 17 Israeli human rights activists arrested on Friday in Sheikh Jarrah protest

The new activism by committed Israeli human rights groups who are against the Israeli occupation, and against Israeli injustice to the Palestinians, is impressive.

In the past, the more traditional Israeli protests, by what the Israeli media calls “left-wing” Israelis, usually took place in Tel Aviv or in West Jerusalem.

In the past months, a new coalition of Israeli human rights activists — who have not entered politics — has come to support Palestinians both in the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem. Groups of younger activists from groups like Anarchists Against the Wall have been joined by more established and traditional (but no less committed) groups like Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Notable have been the Israeli human rights activism in Sheikh Jarrah, where the first two extended Palestinians were evicted by their homes by Israeli police and Border Police and then almost immediately replaced by young, militant, organized Jewish settlers, at the beginning of August. We have reported on this new form of Israeli — non-violent — activism, and its suppression by Israeli police and Border Police, previously here.

A new tradition has developed [over the past three months] of weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah on Friday afternoon (just before sundown, and the start of Shabbat).

This past Friday, 17 Israeli human rights activists were arrested by the Israeli police and Border Police — including the Executive Director of ACRI, Hagai El-Ad, and reportedly also the head of Rabbis for Human Rights. They were just released today — after spending almost 40 hours (36 hours, they reported later), including all of Shabbat, in jail.

Didi Remez reported on Facebook that “Four of Israel’s leading human rights lawyers defended the group at {befor} the Jerusalem Justice of the Peace, arguing that the dispersion of the protest was part of a campaign to stifle dissent and freedom of speech … Judge ruled arrests were categorically illegal”.

In a separate posting on Facebook, Didi Remez posted a message from ACRI attorney Dan Yakir in which Yakir wrote:
“Like every Friday over the last three months, last Friday, January 15, 2010, there was a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah against Jews moving into the neighborhood.
The police rejected the organizers’ request to march from the Hamashbir L’Tzarchan department store in downtown Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah, so 150 protestors held a protest watch in the neighborhood.
Even though this sort of protest does not require a license, within 15 minutes a police officer ordered the demonstrators to disperse and within a short time 17 demonstrators were arrested. One of the detainees was Hagai El-Ad, the Executive Director of ACRI, after he tried to no avail to persuade the officers there was no legal basis for dispersing the demonstration.
On Friday evening ACRI submitted a request to release the detainees, but the request was not heard.
On Saturday night the detainees were brought to the Magistrate Court and the police asked to release them on the following conditions: to require them to report for investigation, to pose NIS 5000 in bail and to stay out of Sheikh Jarrah for 60 days.
Lawyers Lea Tsemel and Tamar Peleg Sarik from Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Michael Sfard of Yesh Din and Dan Yakir of ACRI represented the detainees. After a two-hour hearing, in the early morning Judge Eilata Ziskind accepted our arguments that it was a demonstration that did not require a license, that there was no basis to disperse it and that the police had not substantiated the argument that there was a danger of disturbing the public order“.

A spokesperson for ACRI later told the Jerusalem Post that the organization “had not initiated the demonstration, but that [Hagai] El-Ad and other members attended it in order to monitor the conduct of Jerusalem police towards the protesters, not to demonstrate against Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah. The spokesperson said ACRI had received complaints about police conduct during protests for months before Friday’s arrests. On Friday, when El-Ad approached officers to complain about the arrest of protesters, he was himself detained, the spokesperson said, adding that it was the first time a member of ACRI had ever been arrested at a protest. On Sunday, El-Ad told The Post that he attended the rally as part of ACRI’s ‘efforts to protect freedom of speech’, adding that although the organization was not behind the vigil, on a personal level he sympathized with its organizers, calling what is going on in Sheikh Jarrah ‘a moral outrage’. El-Ad said that he believes the police arrested him because they thought he was one of the organizers of the protest, because he had approached them to tell them that their efforts to silence the vigil were illegal. El-Ad said he believes his arrest is merely part of the ongoing efforts on the part of police to intimidate protesters in Sheikh Jarrah, citing the over 70 demonstrators who have been arrested there in recent weeks … Following the arrests, Jerusalem police said that the demonstration was led by ‘anarchists and leftists’ who did not follow police orders and that if they continued to take part in illegal protests, they should expect to be arrested.” This article was published here.

UPDATE: A Haaretz editorial on the following day (Monday 18 January) said that “The arrest of 17 civil rights activists demonstrating in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Friday and their detention by the police overnight represents another stage in the Israel Police’s get-tough attitude and willingness to infringe on freedom of demonstration, protest and speech in this country. The right to demonstrate is an important component of freedom of expression, and something which Israeli courts have enshrined as a ‘supreme right’. The detainees, who included the director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai Elad, endangered no one and broke no law; their arrest was therefore nothing less than false arrest. Moreover, the police’s claim that the protesters had no license to demonstrate was rejected by a court, which declared that a protest vigil does not require a permit and there was no reason to disperse it or arrest the protesters. The only conclusion is that the police have decided to wage war on the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and use force to end the protests, something they have neither the right nor authority to do … It’s the police’s duty to preserve order at demonstrations and no more, unless there is a reason to disperse protesters. But by no means should they prevent demonstrations from taking place. The arrest of the protesters for no reason creates the suspicion that the police have had enough of these demonstrations. It also shows that the police discriminate between demonstrators from the right and left. While right-wing activists run amok in the West Bank to protest against the construction freeze and are almost never arrested, civil-rights demonstrators are being detained in increasing numbers. The public security minister and police commissioner must stop this dangerous deterioration of their organizations. They must act immediately to closely guard freedom of demonstration and ensure that the police do not do anything to harm it. A society without protests is a sick society, afflicted by lethargy and complacency that breed evil. A police force that falsely arrests peaceful demonstrators is dangerous and harmful to democracy“. This Haaretz editorial, Dangerous Police, was posted here.