Mohammed Khatib during a visit to Montreal. Photo: Valerian Mazataud
A report from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
In the highest profile arrest of the recent wave of repression against West Bank popular struggle, Israeli soldiers arrested Mohammed Khatib on January 28 before dawn. Khatib is a member of Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement in the West Bank village of Bil’in and the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
At a quarter to two AM tonight, Mohammed Khatib, his wife Lamia and their four young children were woken up by Israeli soldiers storming their home, which was surrounded by a large military force. Once inside the house, the soldiers arrested Khatib, conducted a quick search and left the house.
Roughly half an hour after leaving the house, five military jeeps surrounded the house again, and six soldiers forced their way into the house again, where Khatib’s children sat in terror, and conducted another, very thorough search of the premises, without showing a search warrant. During the search, Khatib’s phone and many documents were seized, including papers from Bil’in’s legal procedures in the Israel High Court.
The soldiers exited an hour and a half later, leaving a note saying that documents suspected as “incitement materials” were seized. International activists who tried to enter the house to be with the family during the search were aggressively denied entry.
Mohammed Khatib was previously arrested during the ongoing wave of arrests and repression on August 3rd, 2009 with charges of incitement and stone throwing. After two weeks of detention, a military judge ruled that evidence against him was falsified and ordered his release, after it was proven that Khatib was abroad at the time the army alleged he was photographed throwing stones during a demonstration.
Khatib’s arrest today is the most severe escalation in a recent wave of repression again the Palestinian popular struggle and its leadership. Khatib is the 35th resident of Bil’in to be arrested on suspicions related to anti-Wall protest since June 23rd, 2009.
The recent wave of arrests is largely an assault on the members of the Popular Committees – the leadership of the popular struggle – who are then charged with incitement when arrested. The charge of incitement, defined under Israeli military law as “an attempt, whether verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order,” is a cynical attempt to punish grassroots organizing with a hefty charge and lengthy imprisonments. Such indictments are part of the army’s strategy of using legal persecution as a means to quash the popular movement.
Similar raids have also been conducted in the village of alMaasara, south of Bethlehem, and in the village of Ni’ilin – where 110 residents have been arrested over the last year and half, as well as in the cities of Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem.
Among those arrested in the recent campaign are three members of the Ni’ilin Popular Committee, Sa’id Yakin of the Palestinian National Committee Against the Wall, and five members of the Bil’in Popular Committee – all suspected of incitement.
Prominent grassroots activists Jamal Jum’a (East Jerusalem) and Mohammed Othman (Jayyous) of the Stop the Wall NGO, involved in anti-Wall and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigning, have recently been released from detention after being incarcerated for long periods based on secret evidence and with no charges brought against them.