This post was written by Nation intern and freelance writer Andrea D’Cruz.
An international campaign to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammad Othman, a human rights activist from Occupied West Bank, who has been detained without charge by Israel since September 22, is moving into high-gear.
Othman, 33, is from Jayyous, a village robbed of most of its agricultural land–including that of Othman’s family–by Israel’s separation wall and the illegal Zufim settlement, built by Russian billionaire Lev Leviev. Jayyous, along with the villages of Bi’lin and Ni’lin, have been the hubs of non-violent and often exuberantly creative resistance against the separation wall. Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised the Bi’lin protests as the legacy of those led by Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.
Othman himself has campaigned with the Stop the Wall Campaign as well as on behalf of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel and companies, such as Leviev’s, that are involved in the occupation and other human rights abuses against Palestinians. He recently travelled to Norway where he met with senior Norwegian officials, spoke about Israeli human rights abuses and encouraged the country’s leaders to take further steps to hold Israel accountable. (Norway has already divested its funds from Elbit, an Israeli company which supplies drones and other military technology.)
On his return from this trip Othman was arrested by Israeli soldiers at the Allenby Bridge crossing, which links Jordan to the West Bank. Since his arrest, his period of detention has been extended twice at military hearings–at the last one on October 8 it was extended a further 12 days, based on “secret evidence” from the Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency. However, no charge has been made and, despite resquests from Othman’s attorney, Shin Bet has not disclosed its “secret evidence” nor the reasons for the detention.
Over the past 23 days Othman has been held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell with no access to natural light. Addameer, the prisoners’ support and human rights association, says it is possible that he will be released soon but fears he could face a renewable administrative detention order of one to six months, again without charge.
This is a deliberate tactic. Addameer reports that “Israel has regularly used administrative detention in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] to faciliate the detention of community activists and human rights defenders in cases where the prosecution lacks “suffiecient’–or, more likely, “any”–evidence against them” and, along with Stop the Wall, argues that “Mohammad’s arrest should be viewed in a wider context of persistent Israeli repression against human rights defenders and activists who, like Mohmmad have been successful in their lobbying efforts, at home and abroad…’
Nation columnist and fellow BDS campaigner, Naomi Klein said: ‘I learned more from spending a day driving around the West Bank with Othman, following the land-grabbing path of the Wall, than I have from reading dozens of books. His passion for knowledge and his love of the land are astounding and contagious. But as we see with Mohammad Othman’s arrest, Palestinians are still treated as the enemy, even when they embrace this non-violent tactic. It is clear that for the supposedly democratic Israeli state, no tactic – no matter how peaceful – is an acceptable way for Palestinians to resist an illegal occupation.’
Here are ways you can help free Othman:
Add your signature to this petition.
Sign and send a message to President Obama through the Jewish Voice for Peace online campaign.
Grassroots International has an online form which you can use to demand Othman’s release in a letter to your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah and to the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC.