Disturbing New Legal Precedent Set as Another International PSP Activist Arrested in Beit Ommar

13 June 2010

On Saturday, June 12, a group of farmers, Palestine Solidarity Project activists, and members of the Beit Ommar National Committee held a protest at the fence around the Karmei Tsur settlement, built on Beit Ommar agricultural land. They carried Palestinian flags and chanted against the settlements and the theft of their land. There were Israeli soldiers already waiting on the other side of the fence. The demonstrators stood on their side of the fence, planted their flags in some of their own land and continued chanting. The soldiers watched for a few minutes until they came across the fence, down a hill to the ground that the demonstrators were standing on. One soldier, carrying an M16 and a tear-gas gun walked up a little hill that some children were standing on and grabbed a Palestinian flag from one of them. A man in the crowd, who could speak Hebrew, pleaded with the soldier to return the flag to the child. A few moments later one soldier tried to grab onto the child who had come down to get his flag. He held onto the child for a while as if he was going to arrest him so PSP international activist and dual American-Chilean citizen Yoel B. pulled the boy away and stood in front of the soldiers so they could not arrest the child. All of the soldiers on scene came down the hill at this point and surrounded the international as well as Fathi Sa’id, a local resident who is physically and mentally disabled. When soldiers act aggressively towards Sa’id, Yoel B. again attempted to intervene. Both were arrested. The soldiers then began to shoot cans of tear gas at the crowd of people until they were forced to disperse, with soldiers continuing to fire tear gas as they left.
In court, the Israeli prosecution compared Yoel to the activists on the Mavi Marmara (the Turkish aid ship attacked by the Israeli military who killed 9 activists on board), implying that he was not “really” a peace activist. The judge, conceding that he would like to see Yoel deported but that he could not order it, instead banned the American Jew from entering the West Bank for a period of 60 days, nearly the entirety of the remainder of his visa. This comes one week after another PSP activist, also arrested in Beit Ommar at a demonstration in support of the Gaza aid flotilla, was banned from the West Bank for 6 months, or until his visa expired.

This is setting a new precedent, banning international activists for extremely long periods of time from the entire West Bank, and seems to be in retaliation for the backlash Israel has experienced for its debacle at sea in which they killed unarmed civilian international activists in the Gaza Flotilla. Both cases are being appealed.