Thursday, December 23, 2010

Appeal From the Field of the Shepherds

FRIENDS of an American academic working in occupied Palestine have sent out an urgent appeal for his release from an Israeli prison cell, and the release of those arrested with him. They say Mazin Qumsiyeh former of the faculty of Duke and Yale and now teaching at Bethlehem University has been arrested for objecting to an expanding settlement in a Palestinian town.

The place at issue is in Beit Sahour, which adjoins Bethlehem, and has the site of the traditional Field of the Shepherds, where those guarding their flocks by night were supposed to have seen the new star which heralded the birth of the Messiah.

Stan Heller, who knows Mazin, says "The best time to make contact on arrests is immediately, before anything goes too far. Note from Jessie Qumsiyeh that they’ve already thrown water on the prisoners.


the U.S. office in Jerusalem for the Territories is

011-972-2-622-7221 or 011-972-2-622-7207

from 1 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time

at all other times for emergencies like arrests use this number


ask to speak to a duty officer

also make an email

Explain that you’re worried that American citizen Mazin Qumsiyeh will be mistreated, that the reason for the arrest is false, that Israelis have no right to build or expand a settlement on Palestinian land. The arrest took place in the West Bank, in Al-Walaja, in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. If you didn’t get Jesse’s email the main part is below

The other person to contact is Richard Blumenthal, the current Attorney General of the State of CT, Mazin’s last address. (Blumenthal was just elected Senator, but he still is AG) I’ve spoken to him in the past about Mazin.

Civil Rights/Torts Department
(860) 808-5160


from Jessie

Link to the pictures of arrests

This afternoon at around 2:30 Mazin said that we have to go to Al-Walaja immediately. He said he just got a call from the villagers that Israeli bulldozer was clearing an area in a different side of the village (the villagers were still trying to figure out the legal situation) than the familiar site where illegal Israel wall construction has been going on for the past year.

We were at his office at Bethlehem University at the time. We dropped everything we were doing and took off. When we arrived at the site, the bulldozer was idle with a dozen solders and private security personnel around. We found out from the 20 some villagers gathered there that they managed to asked the work to be stopped pending further instructions.

Thirty minutes later, some military spokesperson came to talk to the villagers in Arabic (which I don't understand.) He came along with more armed forces - there were about 50 to 60 by then, more than the number of the local villagers present. If I understood correctly through Mazin's brief translation, Israeli spokesperson was saying that their work was based on the 2006 order (but that order has expired and currently there is a supreme court case pending.)

So as the bulldozer resumed, and the soldiers spread out getting villagers away from the work site and started arresting people who simply were hanging around there. While I was taking picture of a Palestinian male being taken away by Israeli soldiers, I suddenly noticed Mazin was surrounded by soldiers in a lower level terrace from where I was standing trying to speak to the solders (probably telling them they don't have any valid work order and should not resume the bulldozing.)

Right at that moment, they decided to take him away. That was around 3:20 p.m., less than an hour after we got there. I only remembered to take a picture of him being taken away from a distance. In rapid succession, Israeli soldiers snatched more Palestinian villagers - in all eight of them, including an older gentlemen, two teenagers, three other gentlemen, and Sheerin Al-Araj whom I knew as the vocal activist from the village.

Mazin was not reachable by phone after that for two hours. Then I reached him by phone and took down some notes from him during a short conversation. He said that they are detained outside Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 at the time. An Israeli soldier named Almog Kahalani was very rough with them. He beat the two young Palestinian men, causing one with stomach problem. The soldiers were very rough with Sheerin that I can hear in the background while talking with Mazin on the phone.

Three of them had metal handcuffs, he and the rest were tied with plastic handcuffs that was very tight and causing circulation problem. A young men's handcuff was so unbearably tight but Israeli soldiers refused to loosen it. The soldiers had just untied the plastic ones after about two hours (but kept the metal ones on the other three, Sheerin was one of them) and that's why Mazin was able to use his hand to hold his phone and speak with me.

They were asked to sign on a piece of paper (don't know what's the content but must be in Hebrew that nobody understand). But everyone of them refused to sign as advised by a Palestinian lawyer who was present there.

While detained there, they tried to speak to the soldiers about international law, but the soldiers were saying that they don't give a f--- about international law and you people and they only care about obeying orders. Mazin reasoned to them that German soldiers were also obeying orders during the Nazi regime. The Israeli solders responded by saying that German soldiers would have shot you by now.

Another hour later, I got another update from Mazin that they have been transferred to Atarot (I don't know where is this, but people familiar with this said it is near Ramallah.) They are waiting to appear in front of a judge. They are cold and hungry. The Israeli personnel there sprayed cold water on them and claiming it is an accident.

If you are currently in the Bethlehem area, please join us for a demo set for this Friday morning December 24, 2010 at 9 a.m. at Al-Walaja. Contact 0569956478 for information.


YOU may like to protest to the Israeli embassy in your country over this, or contact:

Mr. Yitzhak Aharonovitz Minister of Public Security Ministry of Public Security P.O. Box 18182, Jerusalem 91181, Israel

Yaakov Neeman Ministry of Justice Salah-a-Din 29 P.O. Box 49029 Jerusalem, 91490 Israel

Mr. Ehud Barak, Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, Hakirya, Tel-Aviv 64743, Israel E-mail: or Tel.: ++972-3-6975540 or ++972-3-6975423 Fax: ++972-3-6976711

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