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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Israel's Democratic Mask Slips

Free Mohammad Othman, Ezra Nawi and the Shiminstim

The facade of the Middle East’s ‘only democracy’ is slipping. Gaoling its critics, Arabs but now also Jews, is the action of a State for whom the enemy within is everywhere. This is the ‘Jewish’ State in the 21st Century. A state based on the principline of ethnicity, biological descent, obsessed by demographics and racial purity. Where even the pretence of ‘left’ Zionism has been abandoned to the nakedly chauvinistic, racist right of Netanyahu and Liberman (opinion polls in Israel suggest that the Israeli Labour Party will decline even further at the next election - from 12 to 7 seats). Below are some pieces on the heroes standing up to the Zionist onslaught on democratic rights.

We're writing to you because you've already taken action to stop the imprisonment of these nonviolent heroes. We just got word in on their status and the news is not good. They need you to continue to take action.

The day before yesterday, a judge extended the detention of Mohammad Othman for yet another 11 days. He was detained on September 22 by Israeli authorities when returning to the West Bank after a trip to Norway, where he advocated for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Since his detention, he has endured long interrogations and solitary confinement.

Over 8,000 people have written US President Obama, asking him to press Israel for his release.
Please keep fighting for his release, and get the latest on his case here:

Yesterday, Israeli activist Ezra Nawi was sentenced to one month in jail. Why? On July 22, 2007, he tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. The whole incident was documented on video, except for a few seconds when Ezra was inside the shack being demolished. Israeli Border Policemen claimed to have been hit by Ezra in these few seconds, and the judge, of course, took their word over Ezra's.

This should come as no surprise. The very same day of Ezra's sentencing, Israel's State Prosecutor's Office decided not to press charges against Border Guard policemen documented in a video hitting Palestinians, 'as they did not cause real damage.' (1)

While these Border Guards go free, Ezra Nawi goes to jail.

After over 20,000 of you wrote letters in Ezra's defense, the judge had tried to avert more bad publicity by encouraging Ezra to admit his guilt and take community service instead of prison time. Ezra could not admit a crime he did not commit, so rather than avoiding jail as a guilty person, he is going to prison as an innocent man.

Ezra was further ordered to pay a fine of NIS 750 and NIS 500 to each of the officers he was wrongfully convicted of assaulting. In addition, Ezra was given a conditional sentence of six months in prison, should he 'participate in similar activities' during the next three years.
In reaction to the sentence, settlers complained about 'the selectivity of law enforcement officials,' implying that the judge went too light on Nawi, but ignoring the glaring irony that it is the settlers themselves who enjoy the privileges of the discriminatory system imposed by the Israeli occupation. (2)

For updates and next steps on Ezra's case, please go here:

Today, the first two young Israeli conscientious objectors of the class of 2010 faced the consequences of their refusal to serve in the Israeli army. Efi Brenner was sent to his first ten days of jail, and at press time was being held in solitary confinement. Or Ben-David is under arrest, awaiting her sentence.

The 2010 Shministim letter of refusal states in part:
Out of sense of responsibility and concern for the two nations that live in this country, we cannot stand idle. We were born into a reality of occupation, and many of our generation see this as a "natural" state. In Israeli society it is a matter of fact that at 18, every young man and woman partakes in military service. However, we cannot ignore the truth - the occupation is an extreme situation, violent, racist, inhuman, illegal, non democratic, and immoral, that is life threatening for both nations. We that have been brought up on values of liberty, justice, righteousness and peace cannot accept it." (3)
Please go here to get updates on the Shministim of 2010:

These are just some of the faces of the people imprisoned because of their resistance to the Israeli occupation. There are, of course, countless more. Last summer, the prisoners' support and human rights organization Addameer published a report documenting the arrests of demonstrators and human rights defenders. (4)

This has been a difficult week, but make no mistake -- the struggle is not over. We take comfort on Nelson Mandela's words, "In my country we go to prison first and then become President."

Sydney Levy
Jewish Voice for Peace

(1) State won't prosecute officers filmed beating Palestinians. Haaretz, Oct 21, 2009
(2) Leftist jailed for 1 month for assaulting police in West Bank . Haaretz, Oct 21, 2009
(3) 2010 Shministim Letter
(4) Repression Allied, Resistance Denied: Israel's Suppression of the Popular Movement Against the Apartheid Annexation Wall

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Palestinian activist faces torture risk

Weeks of solitary confinement. Six military hearings. Sleep deprivation. No access to a lawyer. No criminal charge.

Mohammad Othman, a prominent Palestinian activist involved with War on Want partner, Stop the Wall, has been detained without charge by Israeli authorities. His detention is illegal - and he now faces the risk of torture. We need to take action to free him now.

Write to the UK Foreign Secretary urging the British government to put pressure on Israel to release Mohammad immediately.

Mohammad has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to the defence of Palestinian human rights. Since his arrest by Israeli authorities on 22 September Mohammad has been subjected to six military hearings. Yet he still has not been charged with any crime, leading his lawyers to believe he is being targeted by Israel solely because of work in defence of human rights.

During his time in detention, Mohammad has been held mostly in solitary confinement and subjected to lengthy interrogation sessions, threats and sleep deprivation. He is currently being refused access to his lawyers and last week was secretly moved to a new detention centre, where his lawyers fear he could now be tortured.

War on Want is campaigning for Mohammad's urgent release. Please take this e-action now. With your help, we can free Mohammad Othman.

Thank you,

Yasmin Khan
Senior Campaigns Officer

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