West Bankers Marwan Fararjeh and Ahmad Al-Azeh still in custody following Palm Sunday protest

US, March 30, 2010 (Pal Telegraph)- As tensions rise between Israel and the United States, with the latter calling for a halt to settlement building on Palestinian territory and the former defiantly refusing, despite the billions of US aid it receives annually, Israel continues its arrogant and high-handed behavior and systematic oppression of Palestinians.  The latest incident occurred on Palm Sunday, when the Israeli Apartheid Forces violently halted a nonviolent protest.   Apartheid forces arrested Palestinians, internationals (including an American), Israeli peace activists, a donkey and a horse.  All of those arrested were charged with so-called incitement, participating in an unauthorized demonstration, entering “Israel” without a permit, and interfering in “police” matters.Palestinians and internationals gathered on Palm Sunday to nonviolently protest the Israeli Apartheid Entity’s restriction and prohibition on the rights of freedom of movement and practice of religion.   Participants of the protest employed methods no different than those called for and practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.  According to Rana Al-Arja, MIPC Director at the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and participant at the protest, the peace activists breached the tight security separating the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem from occupied Jerusalem.  East Jerusalem is designated to be the capital for a future Palestinian state, which is supported by the United Nations and the United States.  Israel, however, refuses to accept East Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state, which is one of the factors that have stalled peace talks over the years.
According to Rana, the Israeli army attempted to close the gate separating the two areas, but it stopped halfway.  Had it not, then protesters would have been crushed.  Making it through the gates, the Apartheid army began mobilizing its forces.  Jeeps lined the street in an attempt to serve as a barrier to the peaceful protesters.  Ibrahim Salah, sitting atop his donkey, queried the soldiers in Hebrew; he simply asked why they were prohibiting the freedom of movement to practice religion.  The brutes did not respond to Salah with words.  Rather, they violently knocked him from his donkey and took him into to custody.  The donkey was symbolic for many of the Christian protesters, as Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
The brutal treatment by the Apartheid soldiers did not stop with Salah.  An American girl and Palestinians were wrestled to the ground, including many of those who began walking back toward the gate to return to Bethlehem.  For Rana, the actions by the Israeli army seemed calculated and intentional.  In her opinion, the actions were to serve as a warning to others who might also attempt to protest against Israeli violations of human rights and international law.  The degrading, oppressive and violent treatment of those who assembled non-violently to protest rights granted to every human under international law can never be justified. Apartheid Israel’s treatment of these peaceful protesters is a blatant disrespect to humanity, as is its treatment of the women, children and elderly injured and killed in the Gaza war.
While the American and Israeli activists were released, 11 Palestinians were retained.  Two of the eleven arrested were Ahmed Al-Azeh and Marwan Fararjeh.  Ahmad Al-Azeh is the head of the Nonviolence Department for the Holy Land Trust.  He hails from the Al-Azzeh Refugee Camp and is the father of three young children.  Ahmad graduated from Bethlehem University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology and completed his Masters in Human Rights and Democratization in Malta. His specialization was women’s rights and gender issues.
Marwan Fararjeh, a father of six young children, is responsible for coordinating activities with 19 villages in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas for the Holy Land Trust. His projects involve community building. He organizes campaigns against the Wall and against confiscated lands or lands threatened with confiscation by the Israeli government. Typically the government annexes agricultural property or residential areas on behalf of the settlers or for building the Apartheid Wall.
The Holy Land Trust is a non-profit organization that was established in Bethlehem in 1998.  It seeks to empower the community through mobilizing its strengths and resources in order to address the challenges of the present and create real opportunities for the future. All of direct forms of mobilization organized by HLT are non-violent in nature.  In addition to the weekly protests, the HLT also organizes other non-violent activities.  One of those is the Annual House Rebuilding project, which I had the opportunity to take part in, and work closely with Marwan and the other HLT staff, during the summer of 2007.
Marwan is such a loving and jovial character that tries to help any and all, regardless of political affiliation or nationality.  There were so many stories that people told of Marwan.  One gentleman said if you are in need, go see Marwan.  Both Marwan and Ahmad would give the shirts off their backs regardless if it was their last.  Marwan Al-Fararjeh and Ahmad Al-Azeh remain in the custody of the Israeli Apartheid Entity.  A petition has been started calling for their release.  Palestinians and Internationals living inside and outside of the occupied territories are calling for the international community to help in this matter.
Apartheid Israel has continued to deny and intentionally ignore international law; continued to systematically oppress Palestinians; and, continued to engage in crimes against humanity.  Apartheid Israel will continue to ignore and intentionally violate international law, just as it ignores the calls of the United States to halt its activities, unless the International community—states and non-state actors—work together to bring justice to Palestinians and uphold the integrity of International law.   Together, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, we shall overcome.  Together we can bring an end to injustice.

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