Israeli government repression of Palestinian human rights groups continues with arrest of Stop the Wall Youth Coordinator, Hassan Karajah.
At 2:30 in the morning of January 23, 2013, the Israeli military raided the home of Hassan Karajah, Youth Coordinator of Grassroots International partner, Stop the Wall Campaign, in the West Bank village of Safa, near Ramallah. In the video below, Hassan’s brother gives a firsthand account of how the soldiers entered the house by force, searched all the members of the family (including Hassan’s mother and younger sister), ransacked their belongings, and took away computers and files, before blindfolding and arresting Hassan, and taking him away.
Hassan is currently being held at the Jalameh Interrogation Center. Stop the Wall reports that he has been badly beaten by Israeli forces, and was brought to a hearing before a military judge who agreed to the prosecution’s request to extend the interrogation period by 12 days. Though the human rights organization Addameer has assigned a lawyer to represent Hassan, as of this writing the lawyer has not been granted access to talk with him, and was not even allowed to be in the room with Hassan during his hearing.
Hassan’s arrest is by no means an isolated incident – it is part of a disturbing trend of Israeli repression of Palestinian civil society, which seems to be particularly focused on people and groups who are involved in struggling for or defending human rights. In 2010, Grassroots International highlighted the case of two other Stop the Wall leaders who were detained by Israeli forces for several months before they were finally released. And just last year, Grassroots International responded to a call for support from the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, when its leaders were being arrested and detained by Israeli forces in growing numbers. Also in 2012, Stop the Wall’s office, and the offices of other civil society groups were raided by the Israeli military, who took away computers and ransacked files in a way that is reminiscent of their actions at Hassan’s family home.
This increased repression follows the growing momentum of nonviolent Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Occupation. Just last month, a coalition of youth groups, farmers, and trade unions came together to occupy land in an area slated by the Israeli government for settlement expansion in the West Bank, Bab Al-Shams. Even though Israeli settlements have been ruled illegal by international law, newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda not only supports existing settlements, but also blatantly advances an agenda of creating new settlements in the West Bank. In fact, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in November 2012 that Netanyahu’s government had “quietly doubled funding for settlements.”
Israeli forces forcefully evicted the 150 inhabitants from Bab Al-Shams on January 13, 2013, to make way for the new settlement. However, the action taken by these Palestinian community members and international supporters has had a lasting impact, inspiring people the world over with their courage and determination. Stop the Wall reports that Hassan was one of the young people deeply involved in these efforts at Bab Al-Shams. Is it a coincidence then that he has been targeted and arrested now, less than two weeks later?
In a May 2012 Stop the Wall interview, Hassan offered many important insights that speak poignantly to the realities of today:
“I think that to an extent we can see the increased repression by both Israel and the PA security forces as a sign of the growing strength and power of the popular resistance in Palestine…
“The repression we are currently facing — whether that is violence against us during protests or attacks like the Israeli raid of Stop the Wall’s offices on 7 May — is simply an attempt to cancel our right to freedom of expression and assembly. At the Stop the Wall offices the Israeli military took away documentation and equipment for documentation of human rights violations, in particular computers, hard disks and memory cards. We are apparently asked to sit at home and watch our last lands being confiscated, our homes demolished and thousands of Palestinians being taken away to Israeli jails, many even without trials or charges. But we will not sit at home and we will not be silent.
The Palestinian youth movement has chosen popular action and shouting our demands to the world. We are with our bodies here in the streets and in the fields and with our voices all around the world. The idea that a new generation is getting stronger, that it is not ready to forget about their rights and their identity, and that it is not ready to accept the status quo as ‘normal,’ this is what scares them.
…the people of the world – We know that many understand and support our struggle. We need to work closer together and ensure that our actions are better coordinated and we grow stronger and more effective in pressuring companies and governments around the world to stop their complicit silence…
Grassroots International stands in solidarity with Stop the Wall and several other international allies in demanding Hassan’s immediate release, as part of an overall effort to bring an end to the criminalization of Palestinian human rights defenders and social movements working for rights to land, water, and food sovereignty.