5 Internationals, 1 Israeli Arrested After Israeli Military Ambush Activists

8 July 2009

On July 7, 2009 at approximately 5pm, an Israeli military official called the mayor of Beit Ommar/ Saffa, Nasri Sabarneh, and informed him that settlers had set fire to some trees in the Abu Jabber Soleiby land in Saffa, just under the illegal Bat ‘Ayn settlement. A group of internationals, including one who also holds Israeli ID, went down into the valley to investigate and document the destruction. When they arrived, a group of Israeli soldiers was already present.

While the group of internationals quickly began surveying the area, one soldier, Phillip, crossed the valley to a group of 4 activists and told them to leave. The group, who did not find evidence of a new fire (other than the old destruction of June 19, 2009 and June 22, 2009) began leaving the area, accompanied by the one soldier. Meanwhile, two internationals who were further up the valley with the owner of the land and his family, were also told to leave, and they began to do so. At one point Phillip threw a sound grenade at the group of 4 activists as they were walking away, but the group continued. Half-way up the valley, however, the trap was sprung. Soldiers ran up from behind the group of 4, grabbing two men by the neck and one women by the arm, screaming at them to sit down, that they were being arrested. One activist managed to get away, going further up to the village from which they had come and ostensibly where the soldiers wanted everyone to go. She, along with the other two internationals and the farmers were then surrounded by soldiers at the entrance to the village, preventing the tractor from leaving the area. The three internationals were then attacked by soldiers. One was hit in the face with a gun, another kicked in the leg, and a third wrestled into handcuffs and dragged into an army jeep, in total contradiction to Israeli law that states only police can arrest foreign nationals. All three were brought to the police station in the illegal settlement of Etzion. They were never shown a paper declaring the area a Closed Military Zone, another Israeli law.

The other three internationals further down the valley, were held on the ground until a commander could run up and show them a paper, insisting it was a closed military zone order, though no one was allowed to look at it closely and the group was already detained and not allowed to leave, also in violation of military procedures. Phillip then said to Bekah Wolf, co-founder of Palestine Solidarity Project and married to Palestinian co-founder Mousa Abu Maria, “your father didn’t teach you what to do with your pussy so you went and f*cked Arabs.” Phillip also indicated that he knew Wolf from previous actions in Saffa, and that she was “famous” with that particular unit and the police of Etzion. What followed was clearly a series of planned harassment of Wolf and the other internationals, even though the arrest itself was totally illegitimate.

Police finally arrived and officially arrested the group of three, and began to transport them to the Etzion police station. The group with Wolf were paraded through the Bat ‘Ayn settlement. At one point soldiers transporting one of the men alone stopped the jeep in the settlement and opened the back doors in front of a group of settler youth. The two groups of three were then reunited at the police station.

While 5 of the internationals (all excluding Wolf) were first offered release on conditions to stay out of the area for 2 weeks, and then were eventually released without any conditions, Wolf was to be held over night and taken to court. A commander, who was not present until after the arrests, filed a complaint stating that Wolf had slapped one of his soldiers, though the soldier himself said he wasn’t sure if it was intentional or if he’d been hit while trying to grab Wolf during her illegal arrest.

After 23.5 hours (Israeli citizens can only be held for 24 hours before being brought in front of a judge), Wolf was taken to a court and after reviewing the evidence presented by the prosecution, including the assertion that “settlers have never entered the valley”, she was released only on the condition that she obey any closed military zone orders (which is already law) and sign a guarantee of 5,000 shekels.
Not pleased with the results, police, in collusion with the prosecution, refused to process her release, causing her to be put back into the Jerusalem prison for more than three additional hours. The attempt to prevent “left-wing activists” (as they were described in the police reports) from entering the area in the end was totally rejected. The next day, however, when farmers attempted to enter the land, which has been ordered open to them for the last 10 days, they were refused by the Israeli military, without cause or paperwork.