Free Our Children Protest at Ofer Military

Prison Palestine Monitor – September 12, 2009

Last Monday, residents of Bil’in, a centre of non-violent resistance in the West Bank, gathered outside Ofer Military Prison to protest the detention of villagers for participating in peaceful protests For almost five years, the residents of Bil’in have been organizing weekly non-violent protests against the wall Israel is building which cuts them off from 60% of their land.

In these creative and peaceful demonstrations, villagers and international supporters walk together to the wall, where they are routinely met with tear gas, sound bombs, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition from the Israeli army.

The Israeli government has been taking steps to crush the growing Palestinian nonviolent movement. Nineteen peaceful protesters have been killed in demonstrations against the wall. In the last three months, the Israeli army has arrested 29 residents of Bil’in for participating in demonstrations, 12 of whom are children.

The arrests are made during night raids, in which hundreds of Israeli soldiers enter the village, wearing combat paint and masks.

Last Monday, villagers and supporters of Bil’in gathered outside Ofer military prison to show solidarity and to demonstrate that they will not be discouraged from non-violent resistance.

Prisoners in Israel

August 31, 2010

Peace and Freedom for Ni’lin Popular Committe Leaders

by Sandra Twang (videos)
For me most of the time I feel so insignificant when it comes to being able to help those who live so far away and live under such horrible occupation…This is a way I can help and I hope that others understand what a powerful way that you change another persons life…Thank u Saeed for sharing your story and to everyone in your village for fighting for justice for us all, because in reality it is for all of us….

Our Story
On 12 January 2010 my father Ibrahim was arrested by the Israeli army and sentenced to two years in prison for organizing and participating in nonviolent protests against the Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank. The wall cuts us off from our land and our olive groves, robbing our family of its livelihood.

To date there have already been 15 court hearings. We feel the Israeli occupation bureaucracy is deliberately delaying court proceedings. This creates an additional layer of punishment for my father and for our family. At each hearing, he must wait from 6am to 2pm in a hot room without food or water. Once each hearing begins he is tired, hungry and thirsty.

My father has been charged with the following offenses:

Being present in a declared military zone. The “military zone” is actually our olive groves, which Israel declared a military zone, once they started building the wall. The continued construction of the wall is a clear violation of the July 2004 International Court of Justice ruling declaring it illegal under international law.

Organizing illegal and violent demonstrations. My father is a strong opponent to violence and in fact has discouraged others from reacting violently whenever we have been attacked by the Israeli military.

Incitement to throw stones and use other means of violence. The Israeli authorities claim that my father paid money to demonstrators to throw stones at soldiers, their jeeps and the wall. This charge is completely absurd. After my father first got involved with the nonviolent protests in 2008, the Israeli authorities revoked his work permit. Since then he has been unemployed and struggles to put enough food on the table for my six siblings, our mother and myself. To claim that he was paying others to throw stones or cause damage to the wall mocks the terrible daily reality of our life and the lives of other Palestinians living under occupation.

All of these charges are based on the forced confessions of two young men from Ni’lin, one of them mentally ill.

Mostly, my father is worried about us, his family. Not only because it is even harder now, without him, to cover our bare necessities, but also because our family is being intimidated regularly by the Israeli military. They have raided our house already 25 times in the middle of the night, eight times after my father was arrested. Sometimes they just come to harass, mock and threaten us. Other times they come with dogs, unleash them inside the house, rummage through the house and cause a great deal of damage. Due to the repeated abuse we have endured, both of my five-year-old twin brothers are terrified and suffer from nightmares.

My father wishes for nothing but peace and freedom and he believes that a lasting peace can only be reached with peaceful methods. In his opinion, violence will only add to the hatred and confusion and further worsen the situation of Palestinians living under occupation. This is why he taught us not to consider violence a solution in our struggle to restore our rights.

However, he does believe that it is our duty to protest a terrible wrong that destroys the very existence of the inhabitants of Ni’lin village. Hence, when Israel started marking the course of the wall that led straight through our olive groves in May 2008 stealing a third of the village’s land, the inhabitants came together and formed the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against The Wall. The Popular Committee nonviolently resists the construction of the wall.

The Popular Committee chose my father to be part of the leadership as well as its official representative, because they want the world to see the truth about us: we are peaceful people who reject violence and we do not intend to harm anybody. We believe in freedom, peace and justice for every human being on earth and we dream to spread it from Ni’

lin throughout the entire world.

We started with our protests on 27 May 2008, walking toward the bulldozers that were uprooting our olive trees. We walked with our hands raised, so that the Israeli soldiers could see that we were unarmed. Initially, our protests were successful and we managed to delay the construction. Soon Israeli forces started to shoot sound bombs, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and even live ammunition to disperse our peaceful demonstrations.

Since the protests started, five persons have been killed by Israeli soldiers, including a 10-year-old child, Ahmed Moussa, and more than 500 individuals have been detained. We have endured curfews, destruction of our property, snipers shooting demonstrators in their legs from the roofs of houses in Ni’lin. All of these acts of repression are intended to to discourage villagers from participating in the nonviolent protests. My 12-year-old sister Sammer has been shot in her hand with live ammunition simply for participating in the protests. My 10-year-old sister Rajaa was hit in her leg by a sound bomb when she tried to prevent snipers from climbing on our rooftop to shoot at other villagers.

Ni’lin, our village, our home, is being turned into an open-air prison. The current entrance to the village will be closed, and will be replaced by a tunnel that will be built under Route 446 — a road which only Jewish settlers are allowed to use. The tunnel will not only divide Ni’lin into two parts. It will also give the Israeli military the power to decide when and if they will open or close the gate, and therefore cut us all off from the outside world.

On Monday 12 July, my father appeared in court again. The Ofer Military Court sentenced my father to 11 months and 15 days in prison and a fine of 9,000 shekels ($2,330) with a prohibition from joining future protests. To avoid staying in prison my father pleaded guilty, otherwise he would stay in jail longer and the authorities would continue to postpone the hearing. We have been given two months to pay the 9000 shekels, but have no means to pay this amount. If we do not pay the fine then my father’s sentence will increase to 20 months and 15 days.

Together with my father, two more members of the Popular Committee, Hassan Mousa and Zaydoon Srour, each received the same sentence as my father. Their families are undergoing the same ordeal that we are.

We always try to be strong in the face of the oppressor. However, when they read the sentences, my mother started crying. We had to watch as my father, Hassan and Zaydoon and left the court room in shackles. When my father was asked if he wanted to say something, he stated that this ruling is against humanity and that we all suffer from the occupation and can’t do anything about it.

We are all very upset and worried about my father. He is sick and he doesn’t even get the medication he needs while in jail. We are also very sad, because only my mother can visit him in jail, and only after he had been in prison for four months. Still, my father maintains that nonviolent protests are the only solution. Please show your support for Ibrahim Amireh and your objection to his illegal imprisonment; for more information join the Facebook group “Support My Father: Peace & Freedom Activist Ibrahim Amireh.”

Ameer Makhoul

August 30, 2010

“Solidarity tastes different inside prison”

Ameer Makhoul writing from Gilboa prison, Live from Palestine, 30 August 2010

Ameer Makhoul (Adri Nieuwhof)

The following is an edited excerpt from a 7 August 2010 letter written by Ameer Makhoul from Israeli prison. A human rights defender, the director of the Arab nongovernmental organization network Ittijah, a leading voice of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Makhoul was arrested during a raid of his family home in Haifa in the early morning hours of 6 May. For the following eleven days Makhoul was held in isolation, denied access to a lawyer, and subjected to torture. Rights groups have condemned his political persecution and the criminal proceedings launched against him.

My trail is still somehow stuck. The system is structurally and politically Shabak-oriented, not justice-oriented. My human dignity, basic human rights and constitutional rights are suffering from basic violations. I still have no permit to meet my lawyers without being recorded. The ruling of the three judges is to justify the decision of the attorney general of Israel and the Shabak to ban free meeting with my lawyers in prison. The judges insist that such a meeting should be done through the glass separation wall and through a telephone in order to ensure recording of the whole conversation.

On its face the process as well as the procedures look fair, but essentially, systematic, structural and political violations of my basic right to fair procedure are practiced. The role of the attorney general is to criminalize me, not to seek truth.

In Gilboa prison there are approximately 600 Palestinian and Arab prisoners of freedom distributed into sections/branches. The distribution of prisoners is geopolitically oriented: prisoners of the West Bank, prisoners of 1948 (including occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights) are together, while in the prisons located in the Naqab [Negev], prisoners of the West Bank are separated from those from Gaza. And prisoners from Gaza are separated along affiliation to Fatah or Hamas. The borders on the ground of the occupation based on the Apartheid Wall are valid in the prison demographic policy of distribution. It is the nature of imposed fragmentation in order to undermine the struggle against one of the biggest systematic colonial crimes and to weaken the collective struggle by destructing its structure of continuity and interaction.

I am doing a lot of efforts to bring hope and steadfastness to freedom prisoners. It is one of my missions inside prison. I have to keep in contact with Ittijah and the community and all solidarity movements, groups and persons, but most of all I have to correspond intensively as much as possible with my daughters Hind and Huda, who have become mature fighters for freedom, justice and dignity and mostly bringing back the happiness of life which was highjacked on 6 May at 2:30am. My wife Janan is leading in a heroic way the whole campaign as well as facing huge tasks at home.

Your letters are needed; the taste of solidarity is different in prison than being outside. The taste reflects the great solidarity, support and empowering acts.

Would ‘Al-Qaeda terrorists’ really be reading Harry Potter at Guantánamo?

Written by Andy Worthington

Friday, 27 August 2010

Andy Worthington points out that the reported popularity of Harry Potter at Guantanamo is incompatible with claims that the prison is full of al-Qaeda terrorists.

Every now and then, when the authorities at Guantánamo want to demonstrate how well catered for the prisoners are, a story emerges that purports to demonstrate how well-stocked the prison library is, and how the prisoners are enjoying a range of titles, including J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series of Harry Potter novels.

The first time I recall reading that prisoners in Guantánamo were enjoying reading the Harry Potter books was back in August 2005, when the Washington Times — in a story that soon spread around the world — claimed that “Harry Potter’s worldwide popularity is so broad-based that it has become favorite reading” for the prisoners at Guantánamo.
That was the opening paragraph of an article entitled, “Detainees under Harry Potter’s spell.” However, in the second paragraph, Lori, the civilian contractor who had been overseeing the library for two years, conceded that, although the Harry Potter books were “on top of the request list” for the 520 prisoners held at he time, “followed by Agatha Christie whodunits,” only “a few” were “kind of hooked” on Harry Potter. In a further attempt to make the care of the prisoners appear benevolent, Lori added, “A couple have asked if they can see the movie,” even though, at the time, the only movie-watching privileges granted to any prisoner were to those who had been extremely cooperative with their interrogators.
When the Washington Times published its article, the author also stated that there were “more than 800 books” in the library, in addition to the copies of the Koran made available to most prisoners, although it was also noted that “Detainees may not peruse the bookshelves at Camp Delta … Instead, a staff of three librarians load up a book cart and go cell to cell.”
In September 2006, just a week after President Bush announced that 14 “high-value detainees” had been moved to Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons whose existence the President had, until that moment, furiously denied, the Pentagon issued “Ten Facts about Guantánamo,” a largely transparent piece of propaganda, which included the risible claim that the “[e]ntertainment” at the prison included “Arabic language TV shows [and] World Cup soccer games.” The press release also claimed that the library — whose most requested book was still Harry Potter — now had “3,500 volumes available in 13 languages.”
It took until 2007 for some uncomfortable truths about the library to emerge, when a letter from a Saudi prisoner, Abdul Aziz al-Oshan (released in September 2007), was unclassified by the Pentagon’s censors. In the letter (to his attorneys), al-Oshan, who had studied at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh, explained:
Some people think that the Gitmo camp library is a big hall with large drawers, well-organized shelves, shiny marble floors, state-of-the-art electronic catalog system for a rich library in which the detainees browse morning and evening, choosing the best of the available books in all fields and sundry sciences, in many different languages — just like that magnificent library I used to walk through five years ago when I was a student at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University in Riyadh, conducting my scholastic research work at the time.
The truth, as all will attest, is that the Gitmo camp library is nothing more than two small gray boxes with which guards walk around in some cell blocks, carrying them above their heads to protect themselves from the burning sun, or, at best, dragging them on a dolly with two little wheels. Inside the two boxes, there are no more than a combination of old, worn-out books, with their covers and some of their leaves torn by rain and other adverse factors that surround these two boxes. Furthermore, they are the same books that have been passed by the detainees for years … [T]he majority of reading material [is] available in English, which is not spoken or read by the overwhelming majority of inmates. You will surely find books about American history and the founding fathers. The detainees can do no more than turn these books this way and that and enjoy their shiny covers, not knowing what the books are about or gaining any knowledge of their contents.
In addition, you will find worn-out copies and old issues of National Geographic. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of that magazine from the ruins of books in that dilapidated box and was astonished that the issue I picked up was dated 1973 — over 30 years ago. I asked the itinerant box carrier (the librarian, as the administration likes to call him) if I could have a more recent issue, dated 2000 or above. Evidently tired of carrying these boxes and walking around with them, he replied very calmly, “You have five more minutes to choose the books you want. This is all we have.” I thanked him for performing this arduous task and making this strenuous effort, placed that magazine on top of the stack of books in the box, and told him as nicely as I could, “please take my number off the check-out list. As of today, I will have no need for your plentiful library.”
I have no doubt that the library has improved to some extent since Abdul Aziz al-Oshan wrote his perceptive and slyly humorous letter. Although nine years of imprisonment without charge or trial is, in all ways, worse than six years of imprisonment without charge or trial, it seems clear that President Obama has arranged for more prisoners to be allowed to socialize, to read and to watch films than was imaginable under the Bush administration.
However, in the latest report that once more brought up the popularity of Harry Potter — an article in TIME on August 20 — it is clear that little has really changed. Although there are now, apparently, “18,000 books, magazines, DVDs and newspapers on offer from the library,” which “span some 18 languages including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, Russian, French and English,” the article also stated, in a passage that could have been written in 2005, “Prisoners don’t browse the shelves of this particular library; instead, they wait for a weekly visit by a cart of books prison officers think they might be interested in. There are mysteries and books of poems, copies of National Geographic magazine (a favorite), dictionaries and science textbooks. If the prisoners see something they like they are allowed to check it out for 30 days.”
Although the TIME article also recognized that “There’s not a lot to look forward to if you’re one of the 176 prisoners held in the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay — no visits from loved ones; no parole or release date; and for many, no prospect even of a day in court to answer charges,” the author, Kayla Webley, couldn’t resist adding, rather cheesily, “Still, at least there’s Harry Potter. He may not come riding in on the back of a hippogriff to free his favorite captives from their own version of Azkaban, but he shows up once a week on a cart of books from the prison library, offering an escape of the imagination treasured by many.”
Figures to illustrate exactly how many prisoners were treasuring the “escape of the imagination” offered by J.K. Rowling were not provided by TIME or by the Pentagon. I was amused by comments made by H. Candace Gorman, the attorney for Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi, a Libyan freed in Georgia in March this year, who “likened his own plight to the inmates of Azkaban,” while “President George W. Bush was his own version of Voldemort,” but above all it occurred to me that, if these books about a pagan boy-wizard and his companions really are as popular as the authorities are stating, then it serves only to demonstrate that the enduring claims that Guantánamo contains a significant number of al-Qaeda members of sympathizers are wildly mistaken, as it is unimaginable that, under any circumstances, Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri would take some light relief from their ideology by reading books that are so thoroughly drenched in paganism and sorcery.
Of the 176 prisoners still held, only 35, according to the Obama administration’s own appraisal, have been cleared for release and are not, essentially, regarded as any kind of security threat. Another 35 have been recommended to face trials, 48 are supposed to be detained indefinitely without charge or trial, and 58 others are Yemenis, cleared for release but still held. The ongoing detention of the Yemenis — for whomonly one exception has been made — arose because of hysterical overreaction to reports that the failed Christmas Day plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had been recruited by a Yemeni-based al-Qaeda cell, and fears that any prisoners released will be easy prey for terrorist sympathizers and supporters in their home country of 23 million people (all of whom have, as a result, been tarred as terrorist sympathizers by President Obama’s moratorium on releasing any Yemeni prisoners).
So what does an analysis of these figures mean? Could it be that just 35 non-Yemenis, cleared for release, are the only prisoners avidly devouring the works of J.K. Rowling, or could it be — as seems far more likely — that some of those regarded as a security threat (whether cleared for release or not) are actually the kind of jihadists, terrorists and terrorist sympathizers whose commitment to violent jihad against the United States and other Western targets is so feeble and so overstated that they are actually the kind of men who are trying to while away their seemingly endless confinement with fictional works of pagan escapism?
I think we should be told …

Andy Worthington is a Senior Researcher for Cageprisoners. He is also the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press) and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Visit his website here.