Murad Eshtewi Head of Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and Shaul Hanuka anti-apartheid activist
Shaul Hanuka, an Israeli living in Mizpe Ramon became an anti-Zionist at the age of 15. As a naturally inquisitive person he began to question attitudes and life around him and rejected this form of Jewish nationalism which he believes fosters apartheid and racism.
Once over the age of 18, Shaul was conscripted into the army as is the custom for young Israelis. He didn’t want to join up but under pressure and wanting to please his family he worked in the ceremonial unit with some involvement in counter- intelligence.
After the army, Shaul threw himself into studying sound and told me that he “wasn’t an activist for a long time”. However at 35 the motivation came to take on a more active role in fighting apartheid which led to joining demonstrations in the West Bank to support the rights of Palestinians.
Shaul began to actively supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against apartheid to pressurize Israel to comply with international law and Palestinian rights. He told me, “I participate in demonstrations at Kafr Qaddum and Bil’in… I want to make a more positive struggle for reclaiming Jewish-Muslim co -existence before 1894.”
On Friday evening I received a message from Shaul stating that one of his Palestinian friends Murad Eshtewi has been arrested so I asked him to write an account of the incident to highlight our concerns and draw attention to this case.
Protest Friday at Kafr Qaddum (Shaul Hanuka)
Kafr Qaddum is a small town in the west bank 13 Kilometers from the city of Nablus. The town (then village) was connected to Nablus via a road from the 16th century. That road was also the main road to this town until 2003. In 2003 Israel decided to block the road due to “security reasons”. That meant the way to and from Kafr Qaddum became more difficult to travel and more important much more expensive.
Many of the residents of Kafr Qaddum used to work inside Israel/1948 border lines and that made working much harder. Most of them lost their permit to pass to the ‘48 borders and work in Israel because at 2011 the town started to have weekly demonstrations. Also some of the people are working for the Palestinian Authority in the education system, as police officers, fire fighters and many other positions.
Until this day there are ZERO accusations against any of the 3500 Kafr Qaddum residents and none against past residents. On the contrary at least half of its agriculture land was seized by the nearby illegal Jewish settlement of Kdumim which is strangling to the Palestinians.
After a 7 year legal struggle, at November 2010, the Israeli High Court ruled that there is no security base to keep the road blocked. However ever Israel hasn’t opened it saying it is not a safe road due to the condition. If we take this as a standard you could shut down the roads that Palestinians are allowed to use on the whole West Bank and even some of the roads inside the ‘48 borders.
In July 2011 the village started to have a weekly demonstration that starts at the mosque at the beginning of the road and ends close to the gate closing it about 1km from it (half of it inside Kafr Qaddum street and houses).
The aim of the demo is to show and practice a non -violent resistance. The demo puts the opening of the road as its sole purpose and hardly deals with the occupation as a whole or the nearby settlement.
The demo usually starts with protestors trying to walk the 1 kilometre chanting as they move along the route. During this stage the Israeli Army and the Israeli Border Police shoot tear gas, stun grenades, rubber coated bullets, skunk cannon and more at the march. The army positions itself inside the village around 2 hours before the demonstration even starts.
One more thing the villagers do is burn tires inside the town territory. When the army is stationing itself inside the town the young people throw stones at the soldiers and police officers as self defense.
On Friday, December 20 at 3:30am the army raided the village, shot tear gas, used stun grenades, arrested two Palestinians, Ghaleb Hilmi Shetwi 22 years old and Mohammad Rajab 32 years old and also raided the house of Murad Eshtewi , age 43 a spokesperson in the Palestinian authority and the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
After a few hours the two were released. Then at 10 AM, about two hours before the demonstration was due to start, another group of soldiers came for Murad Eshtewi. They arrested him brutally spraying his eyes with pepper spray from very close quarters though he was not showing any resistance to the arrest and throwing stun grenades around him. One was thrown at his leg.
Shaul’s video interview with Murad Eshtewi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFgtkPm08A
A new army commander had recently warned against Friday demos and locals have experienced an increase in night raids, escalating violence against protestors at demonstrations, flying checkpoints and arbitrary arrests. International Solidarity Movement report that Lymor Goldstein (lawyer for Murad Eshtewi) stated that, “contrary to the fundamental principles of due process we have not been presented with the accusations against Murad nor has he been interrogated since his arrest.”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.