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Free Mohammad Othman

The Occupied Palestinian Territories is not a place where it is easy to hold on to hope. For decades, Palestinians have been living under Israel’s brutal military rule; their land colonised and subject to an apartheid regime of separation.

Yet one of the most inspiring developments in the West Bank over the last few years has been the emergence of a grassroots non-violent resistance movement amongst Palestinians, targeting Israel’s Separation Wall.

The Wall, illegal according to the International Court of Justice’s 2004 advisory opinion, has been used by Israel to confiscate more Palestinian land under the guise of ‘security’.

Key Israeli settlements, built illegally in the Palestinian territories, along with vital agricultural land and natural resources, now lie on the ‘Israeli’ side of the Wall.

In numerous villages, Palestinians have organised themselves in ‘Popular Committees’ to resist the Wall, carrying out courageous and creative demonstrations week after week. They have often been joined by Jewish Israelis and internationals.

Mohammad Othman comes from the village of Jayyous, a farming community severely affected by Israel’s Wall. Mohammad became involved in the non-violent resistance, and is now the coordinator for the youth anti-Wall movement in the West Bank.

The Occupied Palestinian Territories is not a place where it is easy to hold on to hope. For decades, Palestinians have been living under Israel’s brutal military rule; their land colonised and subject to an apartheid regime of separation.

Yet one of the most inspiring developments in the West Bank over the last few years has been the emergence of a grassroots non-violent resistance movement amongst Palestinians, targeting Israel’s Separation Wall.

The Wall, illegal according to the International Court of Justice’s 2004 advisory opinion, has been used by Israel to confiscate more Palestinian land under the guise of ‘security’.

Key Israeli settlements, built illegally in the Palestinian territories, along with vital agricultural land and natural resources, now lie on the ‘Israeli’ side of the Wall.

In numerous villages, Palestinians have organised themselves in ‘Popular Committees’ to resist the Wall, carrying out courageous and creative demonstrations week after week. They have often been joined by Jewish Israelis and internationals.

Mohammad Othman comes from the village of Jayyous, a farming community severely affected by Israel’s Wall. Mohammad became involved in the non-violent resistance, and is now the coordinator for the youth anti-Wall movement in the West Bank.

He is also a gifted communicator and advocate for justice. He has travelled abroad, urging international civil society to support the Palestinian call for a  ‘Boycott Divestment Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign targeting Israel.

Mohammad, however, is not at home right now. For the last month, he has been in an Israeli prison, after he was snatched by Israeli occupation forces at a border crossing. He was returning from a trip to Norway.

Mohammad has not been officially charged with any crime. His appearances before a military court have lacked the basic requirements of a free and fair legal process. The evidence is ‘secret’.

I met Mohammad in April this year. He would be the first to stress that he is not unique. There are hundreds of Palestinians, for example, being held in so-called ‘administrative detention’ – the name Israel gives for holding people without charge.

Thousands more Palestinians are in Israeli jails, arrested by Israeli occupation forces. Other members of the non-violent movement against the Wall have also been detained, beaten, and harassed by Israel’s army.

Mohammad’s ongoing ordeal, however, perhaps represents a new development: the targeting of Palestinians by Israel for their international advocacy and role in the growing BDS movement.

The capture and detention of one Israeli soldier by armed Palestinians in 2006 became the concern of international leaders and a justification by Israel for brutal attacks on the population of the Gaza Strip and policies of collective punishment.

In contrast, the detention of Palestinians – and in this case, a man who tirelessly works for the sake of a genuinely just peace – has been met with silence from politicians and diplomats.

Israeli propaganda often includes this idea that it is the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’. While there is no shortage of oppressive autocrats in the region (some of whom are key allies of Israel, US, and UK), Israel’s ‘democracy’ claim rings hollow.

It rings hollow for Mohammad who, growing up under Israeli apartheid, now finds himself in a cell for daring to demand equality for his people.

And it rings hollow for the Palestinian people, whose basic political and human rights continue to be denied.

Mohammad’s friends and supporters are publishing updates on this blog. He would also urge you to add your own voice to the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for a just peace – and to take action.

First published in Ctrl.Alt.Shift.

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