Last week, an Israeli military court convicted Abdullah Abu Rahma, whom progressive Zionists have called a “Palestinian Gandhi,” of “incitement” and “organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations” for organizing protests against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the “Apartheid Wall” in the village of Bilin in the West Bank, following an eight month trial, during which he was kept in prison.
The European Union issued a protest. But as far as I am aware, no US official has said anything and no US newspaper columnist has denounced this act of repression; indeed, the US press hasn’t even reported the news. To find out what happened, someone could search the wires where they’ll find this AFP story, or go to the British or Israeli press.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed deep concern “that the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner,” her office said.
“The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal,” it quoted her as saying in a statement.
The failure of The New York Times to report the news is particularly striking, because The New York Times reported last August on the protests in Bilin, quoting Abu Rahma in particular; and because this July New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, writing from Bilin with the provocative headline “Waiting for Gandhi,” weighed in on the subject of Palestinian nonviolent protest.
Last August, Ethan Bronner reported in the Times:
Abdullah Abu Rahma, a village teacher and one of the organizers of the weekly protests, said he was amazed at the military’s assertions [of protester violence, including of “rioters” throwing “Molotov cocktails”] as well as at its continuing arrests and imprisonment of village leaders.
“They want to destroy our movement because it is nonviolent,” he said. He added that some villagers might have tried, out of frustration, to cut through the fence since the court had ordered it moved and nothing had happened. But that is not the essence of the popular movement that he has helped lead.
Kristof wrote patronizingly in his column last month that “some Palestinians are dabbling in a strategy of nonviolent resistance,” but is seems that Kristof was “dabbling” in his fleeting expression of concern about the fate of the Palestinians.
Under the “law” of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank since 1967, “incitement” is defined as “the attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order,” and carries a maximum ten-year sentence. Abu Rahma’s sentencing will take place next month, and the prosecution is reportedly expected to ask for a sentence of at least two years.
In December 2008, Abdullah received the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for Outstanding Service in the Realization of Basic Human Rights from the International League for Human Rights in Berlin, as Amnesty International noted following his arrest.
This February, former President Jimmy Carter wrote on behalf of the Elders, the group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela to promote peace:
We are especially concerned to hear that Abdullah Abu Rahma, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in, was detained in a night raid on 10 December last year and faces charges of incitement, stone throwing and organizing and participating in illegal marches.
Abu Rahma is a middle-aged school teacher who eschews violence including stone throwing.
Catherine Ashton, Europe’s Hillary Clinton, protested the conviction. Why hasn’t Hillary done so?
Perhaps, the failure of the US media to simply report the news might have something to do with it?
You can ask Secretary of State Clinton to speak out, as Europe’s Ashton has, by calling the State Department’s comment line at 202-647-6575 and pressing one.
Or you can use the State Department’s web form, choosing “E-mail a Question/Comment,” and topic “US Foreign Policy/Middle East.” You could use a subject like “Conviction by Israeli court of Abdullah Abu Rahma for nonviolent protest,” and a question like “I urge Secretary Clinton and other State Department officials to speak out against the conviction by Israeli military court of Abdullah Abu Rahma for organizing nonviolent protests against the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank, which has confiscated Palestinian land.”
You can write a letter for publication to The New York Times here; you can contact the Times’ news editors here; you can write to the Times’ public editor here.
UPDATE (August 29):
CNN, The Guardian UK and The Independent reported the news; Amnesty International and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu protested the conviction.
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