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“Budrus,” The Real Thing: Or Why Is Israel Jailing Non-Violent Palestinian Protesters?

“Budrus,” The Real Thing: Or Why Is Israel Jailing Non-Violent Palestinian Protesters?

There was a lot of hype when the documentary "Budrus," about a nascent non-violent protest movement in the West Bank, opened earlier this year. But it died down quickly. Well hats off to Michelle Goldberg, who in today’s issue of Tablet, puts the spotlight on a Budrus non-violent activist who’s been denied his release from an Israel prison. The protester, a 39-year-old school teacher named Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was supposed to be released from jail after his 12-month sentence ended last month. But an Israeli military court denied his release "on the grounds that he would resume his activities if freed," Goldberg writes.

Rahmah was originally convicted on the dubious charge of promoting violence. But, Goldberg adds, "In a particularly absurd twist, he was charged with weapons possession, because he’d once collected used tear gas projectiles and bullet casings to demonstrate the types of ammunition that the IDF was using. Eventually, he was acquitted of that charge, but he was convicted of organizing illegal demonstrations and of incitement, which, under Israeli military law, means an ‘attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order.’"

That’s bad news. Militant defiance and outright terror still capture the minds, if not the actions, of the vast majority of Palesinians: 84 percent of Palestinians supported the bombing of a West Jerusalem yeshiva in 2008, according to one widely respected Palestinian poll. So why Israelis would suppress the next best alternative — peaceful protests — is an outright mystery. And a shame. For too long Israel supporters have focused on the pernicious threats to security without simultaneously recognizing the alternatives that exist, however fragile. Exist, of course, if you don’t keep them jailed.

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