The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee comments on the Obama administration’s silence on the continued imprisonment of a Palestinian champion of non-violence.
Amid a flurry of European diplomatic attention over the imprisonment of Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the United States has stayed strangely silent on the issue. Abu Rahmah, a non-violent leader from the West Bank village of Bil’in, has been in an Israeli military jail for over one year stemming from a charge of incitement and illegal protest levied against him after he was arrested in a night raid on his house on December 10th, 2009. After serving his sentence in full, the Israeli military prosecution demanded that he stay in jail while they file an appeal asking for a harsher sentence in order to ‘make an example’ of him.
On Friday, 10 December, AP reporter Matt Lee directly addressed Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s case during a US State Department briefing. US State department spokesman PJ Crowley responded that he was unable to provide a comment on the trial. When Matt Lee pushed, arguing that the EU and other foreign dignitaries had labeled Abu Rahmah a human rights defender, Crowley responded that he will “[find] out what we know.”
At his appeal hearing at the Ofer military court of appeals on 6 December 2010, a dozen European diplomats from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, and Malta were on hand to observe the trial. Sir Vincent Fean gave a short statement to the press, noting his support of EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton’s statement labeling Abu Rahmah as a human rights defender. He also pointed out that last month Abu Rahmah had already finished serving his sentence. Last month, British Foreign Minister, William Hague, met with leading Palestinian grassroots organizers in an unprecedented show of support in the face of ongoing Israeli repression.
The current US administration has made repeated statements on the need to support civil society activists, such as the one made by Secretary of State Clinton in July, 2010 the Krakow Community of Democracies meeting, in which she saluted “civil society activists around the world who have recently been harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted, even killed.” Clinton explained that when we defend civil society activists “we are defending an idea that has been and will remain essential to the success of every democracy.” She called for action to “protect civil society,” “to do more to defend the freedom of association,” and to “coordinate our diplomatic pressure” “to address situations where freedom of association comes under attack.”
Despite such statements, absent from the diplomatic core were representatives of the United States. In fact, the United States has not yet made any public statements on Abdallah’s imprisonment.
Yesterday, 15 December 2010, the issue of Abu Rahmah was followed up by the AP. Crowley answered that the case is ‘watched closely’ by US representatives in Israel. Far from releasing a statement on Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Crownly confirmed the silent position on Palestinian non-violence that the United States has maintained in recent months.