Palestinians practise nonviolent resistance

IssueJune 2014
News by David Polden

On 24 April, Palestinian prisoners in Israel began a new open-ended hunger strike. The detainees are being held on rolling six-month administrative detention orders without charge or prospect of trial, and they are demanding their release on the grounds that they are being held in violation of international law, that they should be put on trial, and that there should be an end to the repeated renewal of detention orders.

At the time of writing, there were 191 administrative detainees, and on 14 May it was reported that over 100 had joined the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, on 21 April, hundreds of Palestinians, from Christian, Muslim and Druze communities, came to the demolished village of Iqrit, in northern Galilee, for Easter celebrations.

The inhabitants of Iqrit were driven out in 1948, and the Israeli military subsequently razed the village except for church and graveyard.

In August 2012, a dozen descendants of the original inhabitants returned, set up tents and began rebuilding. They have remained there, despite the demolition of new structures and uprooting of planted trees by the Israeli authorities.

In April, the 20-or-so ‘inhabitants’ were joined for traditional religious ceremonies and an arts festival with music, plays, lectures, tours and other cultural events.

The day after the festival, Israeli Land Authority officials confiscated a stage, furniture and personal possessions and uprooted newly-planted trees.

Activists have since returned to other village sites and a new group Awda (‘Return’) is encouraging Palestinians to exercise ‘the right of return’.

Seven times never

On 13 April, 18-year-old pacifist Omar Saad began his seventh imprisonment for refusing to serve in the Israeli army, this time for 40 days (the previous six sentences were 20 days). Omar is a member of the Palestinian Druze religious community who, unlike other Israeli Palestinians, are subject to compulsory military service.

However, many Druze are demanding to be treated like other Arabs and exempted. Meanwhile there are moves in Israel to bring in compulsory military service for Christian Palestinians as well.

On his imprisonment, Omar stated: ‘I, Omar Zahr Eldin Mohammad Saad, declare again; I will not serve in the Israeli military army, even if they arrest me 60 more times.’