Partial win: No jail for Palestinian activist who blocked bulldozer

Abdullah Abu Rahmah is levied a fine and a suspended sentence for standing in front of a bulldozer. ‘I will continue my struggle and my protest, because it is our right,’ he says. In his sentencing hearing, the military prosecution described Abu Rahmah’s nonviolent protest as an ideological crime.

By Yael Marom

Abdullah Abu Rahmah in Ofer Military Court, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Abdullah Abu Rahmah in Ofer Military Court, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Israeli army’s Ofer Military Court in the West Bank handed down a four-month suspended sentence and a NIS 5,000 ($1,290)to Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a central organizer of Bil’in’s nonviolent protests.

Abu Rahmah, one of the central activists in the Palestinian popular struggle in the West Bank, was recognized by the European Union as a Human Rights Defender. He convicted last October of interfering with the work of a soldier for a incident in May 2012, when during a demonstration he stood in front of a bulldozer that was clearing land on which to build the separation barrier near Ramallah.

“The court’s decision is disappointing and unacceptable,” Abu Rahmah said in response to the sentencing. “The purpose of the punishment is to make us stop our struggle. But I will continue my struggle and my protest, because it is our right.”

“I call on others and supporters to join us on Friday for the large protest marking ten years of our struggle against the fence,” Abu Rahmah continued. “I plan on standing in the front row, and to continue defending the rights of my people anywhere and everywhere.”

Abu Rahmah has been imprisoned in the past for his involvement in the nonviolent popular struggle against the occupation. He was in prison for over a year for organizing protests, all of which are illegal under military law, and incitement, along with various other arrests.

In his decision, the military judge noted the fact that Abu Rahmah has been convicted in the past of interfering in the work of a soldier during demonstrations. The judge didn’t send him to prison as requested by the military prosecutor, the decision explained, because of the long period of time that has passed since the event in question, and due to the fact that no injuries and that the offense was not grave.

Abdullah Abu Rahmah (left) in Ofer Military Court with his attorneys, Gaby Lasky and Muhammad Khatib, for a sentencing hearing, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Abdullah Abu Rahmah (left) in Ofer Military Court with his attorneys, Gaby Lasky and Muhammad Khatib, for a sentencing hearing, February 8, 2015. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In the sentencing hearing, the military prosecutor described Abu Rahmah’s nonviolent protest as an ideological crime.

Abu Rahmah’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, argued during the sentencing hearing that the offense was committed during a protest, and that it’s not reasonable for one to be criminally charged for participating in a nonviolent protest.

In response to the sentencing, Lasky said: “It’s about time that the military occupation regime stop viewing everyone nonviolently opposing it as a criminal. Instead, the police and army should enforce the law against those settlers whose crimes the law chooses to ignore, including violence and land theft.”

Under Israel’s military law, which it imposes on Palestinians living in the West Bank, any protest is illegal, including any march or gathering of more than 10 people.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Related:
IDF: Palestinian nonviolent protest is an ideological crime
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%

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