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Your Palestinian Gandhis Exist ... in Graves and Prisons

Calling Bono

by ALISON WEIR

Dear Bono,

In your recent column in the New York Times, "Ten for the Next Ten," you wrote: "I’ll place my hopes on the possibility — however remote at the moment — that…people in places filled with rage and despair, places like the Palestinian territories, will in the days ahead find among them their Gandhi, their King, their Aung San Suu Kyi."

Your hope has already been fulfilled in the Palestinian territories.

Unfortunately, these Palestinian Gandhis and Kings are being killed and imprisoned.

On the day that your op-ed appeared hoping for such leaders, three were languishing in Israeli prisons. No one knows how long they will be held, nor under what conditions; torture is common in Israeli prisons.

At least 19 Palestinians have been killed in the last six years alone during nonviolent demonstrations against Israel’s apartheid wall that is confiscating Palestinian cropland and imprisoning Palestinian people. Many others have been killed in other parts of the Palestinian territories while taking part in nonviolent activities. Hundreds more have been detained and imprisoned.

Recently Israel has begun a campaign to incarcerate the leaders of this diverse movement of weekly marches and demonstrations taking place in small Palestinian villages far from media attention.

The first Palestinian Gandhi to be rounded up in this recent purge was young Mohammad Othman, taken on Sept. 22 when he was returning home from speaking in Norway about nonviolent strategies to oppose Israeli oppression and land confiscation. He has now been held for 107 days without charges, much of it in solitary confinement.

The second was Abdallah Abu Rahma, a schoolteacher and farmer taken from his home on Dec. 10, the only one to be charged with a crime. After holding him for several days, Israel finally came up with a charge: “illegal weapons possession” – referring to the peace sign he had fashioned out of the spent teargas cartridges and bullets that Israel had shot at nonviolent demonstrators. (One such cartridge pierced the skull of Tristan Anderson, an American who was photographing the aftermath of a nonviolent march, causing part of his right frontal lobe to be removed.)

The third was Jamal Jumah’, a veteran leader in the grassroots struggle, who was taken by Israeli occupation forces on Dec. 16th and is now being held in shackles and often blindfolded during Kafkaesque Israeli military proceedings.

Palestinians have been engaging in nonviolence for decades.

When I was last in Nablus I learned of a massive nonviolent demonstration that had occurred in 2001 – estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 Palestinian men, women, and children taking part in a nonviolent march. All sectors of Nablus had joined together in organizing this – public officials, diverse parties, religious, secular, Muslim, Christian.

Modeling their action on images of Dr. Martin Luther King, they marched arm-in-arm, believing that Israel would not kill them and that the world would care. They were wrong on both counts. Israeli forces immediately shot six dead and injured many more. And no one even knows about it. At If Americans Knew we are currently working on a video to try to remedy the last part; there’s nothing we can do about the dead.

But there’s a great deal you can do, Bono. You can use your talent and celebrity to tell the world these facts. You can write a New York Times op-ed about the Palestinian Gandhis in Israeli prisons and call for their freedom. You can sing of these Palestinian Martin Luther Kings you wished for, and by singing save their lives.

For the reality is that nonviolence is only as powerful as its visibility to the world. When it is made invisible through its lack of coverage by the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, et al, its practitioners are in deadly danger, and their efforts to use nonviolence against injustice are doomed.

In the New York Times you publicly proclaimed your belief in nonviolence. Now is your chance to demonstrate your commitment.

*  *  *

Killed by Israeli forces while demonstrating against the Israeli wall being built on Palestinian land [http://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7647]

5 June 2009:
Yousef ‘Akil’ Tsadik Srour, 36
Shot in the chest with 0.22 calibre live ammunition during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin.

April 17, 2009:
Basem Abu Rahme, age 29
Shot in the chest with a high-velocity tear gas projectile during a demonstration against the Wall in Bil’in.

December 28, 2008:
Mohammad Khawaja, age 20
Shot in the head with live ammunition during a demonstration in Ni’lin against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mohammad died in the hospital on December 31, 2009.

December 28, 2008:
Arafat Khawaja, age 22
Shot in the back with live ammunition in Ni’lin during a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza.

July 30, 2008:
Youssef Ahmed Younes Amirah, age 17
Shot in the head with rubber coated bullets during a demonstration against the Wall in Ni’lin. Youssef died of his wounds on August 4, 2008.

July 29, 2008:
Ahmed Husan Youssef Mousa, age 10
Shot dead while he and several friends tried to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village in Ni’lin.

March 2, 2008:
Mahmoud Muhammad Ahmad Masalmeh, age 15
Shot dead when trying to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in Beit Awwa.

March 28, 2007:
Muhammad Elias Mahmoud ‘Aweideh, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Um a-Sharayet – Samiramis.

February 2, 2007:
Taha Muhammad Subhi al-Quljawi, age 16
Shot dead when he and two friends tried to cut the razor wire portion of the Wall in the Qalandiya Refugee Camp. He was wounded in the thigh and died from blood loss after remaining in the field for a long time without treatment.

May 4, 2005:
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim ‘Asi, age 15
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.

May 4, 2005:
U’dai Mufid Mahmoud ‘Asi, age 14
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Beit Liqya.

February 15, 2005:
‘Alaa’ Muhammad ‘Abd a-Rahman Khalil, age 14
Shot dead while throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle driven by private security guards near the Wall in Betunya.

April 18, 2004:
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Deir Abu Mash’al. Islam died of his wounds April 28, 2004.

April 18, 2004:
Diaa’ A-Din ‘Abd al-Karim Ibrahim Abu ‘Eid, age 23
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

April 16, 2004:
Hussein Mahmoud ‘Awad ‘Alian, age 17
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Betunya.

February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Da’ud Saleh Badwan, age 21
Shot during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu. Muhammad died of his wounds on March 3, 2004.

February 26, 2004:
Abdal Rahman Abu ‘Eid, age 17
Died of a heart attack after teargas projectiles were shot into his home during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

February 26, 2004:
Muhammad Fadel Hashem Rian, age 25
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

- Hide quoted text -
February 26, 2004:
Zakaria Mahmoud ‘Eid Salem, age 28
Shot dead during a demonstration against the Wall in Biddu.

Notes and Sources:

(1) Israeli was first exposed in the West by the London Times in the late 1970s. Foreign Service Journal [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/opinion/03bono.html] wrote about Israeli torture of Americans in June, 2002, and Addameer [http://addameer.info/?p=496] gives specifics today.

(2) Al Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists – Geneva, writes: [http://freemohammadothman.wordpress.com/2010/01/]  “…as part of their repression campaign, which coincided with the release of the Goldstone Report, the Israeli forces have re-launched daily dawn raids in villages affected by the Wall, arresting youths and children, for the purpose of extracting confessions about prominent community leaders advocating against the Wall, and continued to intimidate activists by destroying their private property and threatening them with detention. Finally, Israel has directly targeted the Grassroots “Stop the Wall” Campaign [http://stopthewall.org/index.shtml]by arresting and intimidating its leaders…His village, Jayyous, has been devastated by the Apartheid Wall

(3) Human Rights Watch [http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/12/04/israel-end-arbitrary-detention-rights-activist] found that “"The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy…”

 (4) Abdallah Abu Rahma was taken [http://www.popularstruggle.org/freeabdallah]when “eleven military jeeps surrounded his house, and Israeli soldiers broke the door, extracted Abdallah from his bed, and, after briefly allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and their three children — seven year-old Luma, five year-old Lian and eight month-old baby Laith, they blindfolded him and took him into custody.”

On Jan. 6th Abdallah wrote: [http://palsolidarity.org/2010/01/10429]:

 “I mark the beginning of the new decade imprisoned in a military detention camp. Nevertheless, from within the occupation′s holding cell I meet the New Year with determination and hope…. Whether we are confined in the open-air prison that Gaza has been transformed into, in military prisons in the West Bank, or in our own villages surrounded by the Apartheid Wall, arrests and persecution do not weaken us. They only strengthen our commitment to turning 2010 into a year of liberation through unarmed grassroots resistance to the occupation.

 “The price I and many others pay in freedom does not deter us. I wish that my two young daughters and baby son would not have to pay this price together with me. But for my son and daughters, for their future, we must continue our struggle for freedom…”

(5) Tristan Anderson was shot [http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5324] with a high-velocity canister after photographing a nonviolent protest in Ni’lin on March 13, 2009. His ambulance was held up for a period of time by Israeli forces before finally being allowed to take him to a hospital. Video of parents’ press conference [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcK_4ksR1fw]

(6) Israeli forces interrogated Jamal Juma’ and then “brought him back home, handcuffed, and searched his house while his wife and three children watched. Then they took him off to prison.” – CounterPunch [http://www.counterpunch.org/hijab12242009.html ] Despite being held for 20 days, [http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/2152.shtml] no charges have yet been brought against Jamal.

(7) The Nablus march mentioned above took place on March 30, 2001, on Jerusalem Street in the south of Nablus, leading to the Huwara checkpoint. This was on what Palestinians call the "Day of the Land" or "Land Day" (information on Land Day can be seen at http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/255.shtml).

(8) In our study of the Associated Press, “Deadly Distortion,” [http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/ap-report.html] we commented: “…our analysts looked at hundreds of articles that AP published on topics relating to the Israel/Palestine issue, and noted a number of additional patterns that merit further examination… Nonviolence movement. Palestinian resistance efforts have included numerous nonviolent marches and other activities, many joined by international participants, Israeli citizens, and faith-based groups. This nonviolence movement has been an important topic in the Palestinian territories, with growing numbers of people taking part – in 2004 the Palestinian News Network reported on 79 major demonstrations that were exclusively nonviolent. Yet, we did not find any reports in which AP had described a Palestinian demonstration or other activity as nonviolent or utilizing nonviolence.

ALISON WEIR is executive director of If Americans Knew, [http://www.ifamericansknew.org/] which provides information about Israel-Palestine. She can be reached at contact@ifamericansknew.org. She phoned and faxed Bono’s management company Principle Management [http://www.fanmail.biz/25157.html] at both their New York and Dublin locations in an effort to contact him but has not yet received a reply. She suggests that others may wish to do this as well: 212.765.2330 / fax: 212.765.2372.