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Military attacks non-violent protest, kills, arrest protesters

At my hearing in the Israeli court, Judge Amnon Cohen recommended my release if I would declare to the court that in the future I would respect closed military zone orders and leave such an area. I refused on the grounds that the Israeli military arbitrarily declares Palestinian areas, farmlands, dwellings and sometimes entire cities closed military zones. I do not respect the right of an occupation force to inflict such illegal measures on the Palestinian community.
Friends,
Thank you for the supportive letters and phone calls after my arrest in Beit Surik on Wednesday. I'm OK and was released yesterday, Thursday, afternoon after two court hearings.

The people's resistance continues in Biddu and Beit Surik and, as you may have heard, yesterday, live ammunition was fired at unarmed protesters in these villages.

Three young men were shot dead and another man died of a heart attack from excessive tear gas inhalation. This is in addition to the dozens injured from soldiers' batons, rubber-coated steel bullets, sound bombs and tear gas.

What are the people to do? Stay quiet as their land is destroyed and their ability to live is stripped away from them? We're all hoping that the International Court of Justice will find against the legality of this Wall, but even if it does, who will enforce the finding? Will the international community take concrete steps to enforce even one of the many resolutions and international rulings and laws of which Israeli is in violation?

Perhaps the four deaths in Biddu were mentioned somewhere in the news after the word "clashes" by most of the mainstream, corporate media who seem to resist the fact that the Israeli Army uses brute, military force against unarmed, nonviolent Palestinians. They will likely not tell you that Zacharia Mahmoud Eid, 26 years old, Mohamed Rayan, 26 year old, Mohamed Saleh Bedwan, 20 years old and Abu Nabil Abu Eid, were unarmed protesters brutally attacked by the fourth most powerful, well-equipped military in the world while trying to protect their land from destruction and their villages from being turned into walled-in ghettos.

A day earlier, on Wednesday, Jessica and I were snatched by soldiers after our demonstration, led by the women of Beit Surik, actually managed to push the soldiers out of the village.

It was during the demonstrations and my questions to the soldiers: "Why are you doing this? Why are you on our land? Why do you come in here with guns and destroy people's livelihoods?" that the soldiers set their sights on me. They repeatedly threatened me with arrest in between the "Fu** yous". Despite the cold, seemingly uncaring stares and the violence inflicted by these soldiers on us, I can't help but hope that some of our words and our appeals resonate in the soldiers' heads at night and make it difficult for them to sleep as they contemplate their actions.

After the soldiers pulled back from the area where we were demonstrating and the protesters began marching to the other end of the village where bulldozers were working on the land, a young man asked us to please go get his mother, who was still sitting in an area surrounded by soldiers.

Jessica and I headed back up to where we were only a few minutes earlier and approached four women who, to their credit, had refused to move and were still sitting on the ground. A force of soldiers had re-entered the area and were standing about 40 meters away. When they saw Jessica and me, they ran up and grabbed us from behind. One of the women tried to hold on to us, but the soldiers' numbers and strength were too much. One (at least) of the soldiers, hit me repeatedly in the face and head (I am not hurt though).

We were then thrown in the back of armored jeeps and joined by a French photographer, Yousef Boudlan, working for the Gama News Agency who, when trying to ask why he was being arrested while doing his job, was told to "shut up! Don't speak."

We were then transferred from one settlement police station to another. At both, Jessica, Yousef and I, joined by two Israeli peace activists, Rotem and Lazer, who were also arrested, were treated better than the Palestinians.

As we were transferred out of the first station I caught a glimpse of 3 Palestinian men who were bound, had their heads covered and were made to sit on the ground in the mud. I don't know anything about what happened to them.

At the second station, 5 Palestinians were brought in, also from Biddu and Beit Surik; the oldest of them was only 19. One was 17 years old, one was 15 and two were 14. Police officers tried to prevent us from speaking to them but through whispers and passed signals I managed to learn that at least two of the younger boys were beaten up in the army jeeps. These boys were taken, one by one, into interrogation by soldiers with black masks over their heads and then forced to sign papers that they surely did not understand.

Lazer passed the boys' names on to Advocate Leah Tsemel, who is following up on their case, as by the end of the night we were all separated. Lazer, Rotem and Jessica were released after agreeing not to enter the Biddu / Beit Surik area for 10 days. I was put under arrest for objecting to the abduction and terms of release and taken to the Beit El settlement station and the boys were taken to the Ofer military base. These young boys and all Palestinians (with Palestinian ID cards) who are arrested are dealt with by the Israeli military. They do not have civil rights under the Israeli occupational authorities, like the right to have a hearing within 24 hours which I was given the next day.

At my hearing in the Israeli court, Judge Amnon Cohen recommended my release if I would declare to the court that in the future I would respect closed military zone orders and leave such an area. I refused on the grounds that the Israeli military arbitrarily declares Palestinian areas, farmlands, dwellings and sometimes entire cities closed military zones. I do not respect the right of an occupation force to inflict such illegal measures on the Palestinian community.

I was shackled and taken away, but brought back hours later for another hearing. In this hearing, Judge Cohen refused to listen to evidence that I was wrongfully arrested; instead, he rendered a decision. He declared that:

I was an organizer/leader of riots and as such his decision will be based on previous decisions reached by Israeli courts in similar situations where the defendant threatened the "peace and order" of the area. He went on to list a case decided against a Jewish extremist who was guilty of killing Palestinians that he not be allowed to enter the area of Hebron, and another case where another Jewish extremist was plotting to blow up Al Aqsa Mosque that he not be allowed to enter the area of the Temple Mount. The judge then rendered a court order that I was not to enter the area of Biddu and Beit Surik for a period of 30 days.

I still did not accept this decision but the matter is one of pure technicality. I cannot expect any kind of just ruling from a system that, while declaring itself to be democratic and just, legitimizes the violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. It is a system that I do not respect. There are two important things to note in this ruling:

1) The attempt of the Israeli police to keep me (who they labeled as "the leader") out of this area and to forbid other Israeli and international peace activists from joining Palestinians protesters in an effort to break the nonviolent demonstrations taking place in Biddu and Beit Surik.

2) The judge compared me to terrorists and made his decision based on decisions taken in cases of people accused of murder and plotting to place bombs in civilian areas. This is most likely a further attempt to paint the ISM as a whole as a terrorist organization.

The popular, nonviolent resistance to Israel's Wall of Apartheid and illegal occupation policies will continue and this is most likely not the last the ISM will see of the Israeli courts.

Again, thank you so much for your calls and letters of support. We need you to continue mobilizing on the outside to support our efforts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In solidarity & struggle, Huwaida

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FRAUDULENT and ILLEGITIMANT GOVERNMENT 28.Feb.2004 12:22

peace

"Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles; it will foster the developement of the country for the benifit of all it's inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all it's inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex..." The 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence.