Age: 38
Place of residence: Ni’lin
Date of arrest: 20 July 2009
Date of release: 23 July 2009, unknown charges pending
On 6 July 2009, Muhammad Srour and Jonathan Pollack testified before the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in Geneva, Switzerland. Srour, a Palestinian from Ni’lin in the West Bank, is a member of the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Wall, which participates in demonstrations against the Wall separating the West Bank from Israel and many of Ni’lin’s residents from their land. Jonathon Pollack is an Israeli solidarity activist.
Srour and Pollack were invited to testify before the Mission after witnessing the shooting of two Ni’lin residents, Arafat Rateb Khawaje and Mohammed Kjawaje, by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the conflict in Gaza in Ni’lin on 28 December 2008. Led by Richard Goldstone, the Mission has a broad mandate that includes investigations into how the political situation in Israel in the lead-up and aftermath of the conflict in Gaza affected the West Bank.
Two weeks after testifying before the Mission, Mohammad Srour was detained by Israeli border officials while crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan and taken to Ofer prison for interrogation.
In his testimony before the UN, Srour anticipated that his presence in Geneva would place him at risk for arrest, stating that “I know full well that I will pay the price for this testimony when I return at Israeli crossing points in my journey of return after this hearing.”
On 23 July 2009, Srour was released from detention on “conditions” and after posting bail, said to be around 4,000 NIS. Although Srour was not charged, the courts said they were likely going to charge him, but they did not say on what grounds he was to be charged, or when. No court date has been set for his reappearance.
As Srour was not arrested when leaving Israel on his way to Geneva, it is difficult to view the motivation behind Srour’s arrest as anything other than a politically-motivated reprisal against Srour’s activism and the UN Fact Finding Mission. Arrest and detention of UN witnesses penalizes Palestinians for cooperation with UN institutions and severely undermines the UN’s capacity to fulfill its mandate in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Moreover, this arrest is a clear continuation of the increasing oppression of Palestinian communities engaging in ongoing protest against the Wall.
Protests in Ni’lin against the Wall continue amidst an increase in violence by Israeli forces
The West Bank village of Ni’lin has been protesting against the construction of the Wall since May 2008 when the Israeli government began for a second time to construct the Wall on village lands.
Violence from Israeli forces against Ni’lin protesters dramatically increased during and after the recent 22-day conflict in Gaza. Israeli forces have killed three demonstrators in Ni’lin since the beginning of the Gaza assault, and the Israeli army has introduced new weapons against demonstrators, using a high-velocity tear gas projectile and a .22 caliber live ammunition shot by sniper fire as a means of crowd dispersal.
Overall, Israeli forces have killed five residents of Ni’lin and critically injured one American solidarity activist in their efforts to stop Ni’lin resistance to the Wall. Sources place the total injured in Ni’lin demonstration at more than 450 people. At least 76 people have been arrested protesting against the Wall in Ni’lin alone.
For more information on Israel’s policies of arrest, detention and violent repression against Palestinian Popular Committees and international human rights defenders engaged in the struggle against the construction of Wall, see Repression allowed, resistance denied: Israel’s suppression of the popular movement against the Apartheid Wall of Annexation (July 2009), a joint report from Stop the Wall Campaign and Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
Last Update