Friday Demonstrations Continue Even as Israel Increases Intimidation of Leaders

17 January 2010

In Sheikh Jarrah this Friday, January 15, Israeli and international solidarity activists attempted to converge and march on the street of Sheikh Jarrah where the Ghawi and Hanoun families have been living in tents since their eviction from their homes to allow right-wing settlers to move in, in August 2009. The Israeli police refused to give a permit for the march this week, citing the music concert by Palestinian hip-hop group DAM the night before as being “enough”. Participants still insisted on their weekly demonstration and gathered near the entrance to the street which had been closed off by large numbers of police officers. After approximately 20 minutes of holding signs and chanting, the police declared the gathering illegal and threatened arrest after 5 minutes if the group did not disperse. Even as people began to leave, the police rushed in, arresting 17 participants, including the director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. All of those arrested were held for 36 hours, because of the court’s closure for shabbat, before being brought in front of a judge who declared the arrests illegal and released those involved.

al-ma'asara

Israeli Soldiers Stop Demonstrators in Al-Ma'asara

In Al-Ma’asara, Israeli and international supporters began the day by visiting the houses of 3 residents, including 2 organizers, Mohammed Birgia and Mahmoud Zawahre, and the home of Fatimah Birgia, a constant presence at the demonstrations, whose homes had been invaded by the Israeli military overnight before the scheduled Friday demonstrations. The soldiers began by threatening Mohammed and Mahmoud with arrest if the demonstrations continued, including an ominous note that “a boy may be killed” if the demonstrations didn’t end. Fatimah describes her experience with the invasion in the video below:

Film from Shai Pollack

The demonstration continued as planned on Friday, though it was smaller than usual. The group marched towards the entrance of the village, where the Israeli military had, as usual, blocked the road and had additionally set up soldiers on the roofs of nearby buildings, surrounding the demonstration and creating a heightened sense of tension. With all of that, the demonstration continued as usual and ended peacefully.

In Ni’lin, 4 more people, including two members of the organizing committee were arrested over night. A hearing for the 2 members arrested last week will be held later this week. They are reportedly being charged with “incitement”, a charge with potentially heavy consequences being used against many leaders of demonstrations against the Wall.

In Bil’in, live ammunition was reportedly used to disperse the demonstrations. Though most of the activists arrested in Bil’in have been released, 2 still remain in jail, facing trial.