ISM story about the Palestinian journalist who Marie was trying to get released

Date: January 4, 2003 Author: Patrick O’Connors
The Detention of Mustafa Shawkat Samha in Jayyous Area: Qalqilya

Mustafa Samha of Jayyous was detained by the Israeli military on December 29th at a rally in Jayyous against the Apartheid Wall. Mustafa was accused by Israeli soldiers of throwing rocks at them. The internationals and Palestinians present at the march deny that Mustafa was involved in any rock throwing. Nonetheless, Mustafa has been detained for the last six days.

As part of the Qalqilya rally against the Apartheid Wall on December 29, over 500 Palestinian and about 100 international and Israeli participants converged in the village of Jayyous for speeches and a non-violent march to farmland they are being prevented from reaching because of the construction of the “security wall”. After the nonviolent march was met with sound bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets and clubs by Israeli soldiers and private contractor security, Palestinian youths began throwing rocks at the soldiers. A small number of Palestinians and internationals, among them Mustafa Samha, took shelter on the porch of a home in between the Israeli soldiers and the remaining Palestinians and internationals. According to eyewitnesses, when Israeli soldiers approached the home, Mustafa stepped forward to present them with his Palestinian press pass. When the soldiers began to grab Mustafa, an American, Radikha Sainath, attempted to step in the way, but was thrown to the ground by the soldiers, who then took Mustafa away to army and border police jeeps parked in the olive groves.

Mustafa was known to be a person who rejects violence. Within a few minutes, about fifteen international visitors began to walk slowly into the olive groves towards the jeeps to negotiate with the soldiers and border police. All attempts were made to appear nonthreatening. As was the case earlier during the peaceful march, our polite requests for discussion were met by cocked rifles, screams that we stop and threats that we would be shot. After a standoff lasting about 20 minutes and continued threats from the soldiers, the soldiers and border police forced their jeeps through the group of internationals and into the village of Jayyous.

We caught up to the jeeps in the village and found soldiers forcibly entering homes and demanding the IDs of Palestinian men and youths. During those forced entries into homes, we were able to spot Mustafa in the back of one of the jeeps and exchange a few words with him. At that the same time I was able to briefly discuss Mustafa’s situation with a few soldiers and the regional military commander, Leon. Leon said that three of his soldiers had seen Mustafa throw rocks. (The punishment for throwing rocks at heavily armed Israeli soldiers who enter one’s village is at least six months in jail!)

I told them that foreigners and Palestinians all witnessed that Mustafa did not throw rocks at the rally, and furthermore, we all knew that Mustafa is not an individual who used violence. I explained that we have all witnessed that Mustafa is one of the young men who tries and succeeds in stopping boys from throwing rocks.

I asked Leon and the other soldiers what conclusion would Mustafa and other community members who practice nonviolence draw from Mustafa’s unjust detention? We said that Mustafa was exactly the wrong type of person to detain, and suggested that this type of detention sent the wrong message to everyone. It implies that Palestinians who seek peaceful solutions will be punished by Israel, in the same way as those Palestinians who are involved in violence, and strengthens the arguments of Palestinians who suggest that Israel does not really want peace.

Leon repeated that three of his soldiers had seen Mustafa throwing rocks. Leon said Mustafa would be released unharmed after twenty-four hours if, in fact, he had done nothing. It is now six days later, and Mustafa is still being detained. A number of internationals have signed statements saying that Mustafa did not throw rocks during the protest. These statements have been forwarded to the Israeli Military Base in Qedumim where Mustafa is being held. Mustafa is being represented by the Israeli lawyer, Shamai Leibovitz, also the lawyer for jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti.

I last talked with Mustafa about a week before the Jayyous rally. Mustafa had recently received his press credentials from the Palestinian press union and was working on a story about the harassment of international journalists and peace activists by the Israeli Army. Typically, Mustafa was polite and thoughtful as he gathered the information for this story. Other internationals have noted that Mustafa is one of the young men in Jayyous who is most supportive of nonviolent activities. Most regard Mustafa as a model citizen.

Mustafa’s lawyer has told us that an Israeli judge must make a decision by Sunday about whether to charge Mustafa and arrest him, or to instead release him.

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