Free Mohammad Othman, Palestine’s first BDS Prisoner of Conscience!

On Tuesday, September 22, Mohammad Othman (33 years old)–a Palestinian human rights activist and advocate of the non-violent civil society campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)–was arrested by Israeli authorities at the Allenby Crossing, the border terminal between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory. He was returning from a trip to Norway–where he had been promoting BDS–when he was detained, arrested and then moved to a prison where he is being held for a military hearing scheduled for next Tuesday. While Mohammad is only one of the approximately 11,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, he has become the first Palestinian to be imprisoned by Israel in response to BDS advocacy activity. With BDS campaigns around the world gaining momentum, Israel has increasingly come under pressure to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights. It is precisely the spectacular rise in the effectiveness of the BDS campaign and its successes in the Western mainstream that seems to have prompted Israel to take such a draconian measure against a prominent and indefatigable BDS activist. Mohammad has dedicated the last ten years of his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. His village, Jayyous, in the occupied West Bank, has lost most of its fertile agricultural land to Israel’s illegal Wall and colonial settlements. He has campaigned with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign against the dispossession of Palestinian farmers and has urged for mechanisms of accountability for Israeli violations of international law and human rights, based on the Palestinian call for BDS, issued on 9 July 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice at the Hague had found Israel’s Wall and colonies illegal. Demonstration outside Israeli embassy in Norway demanding Mohammad’s freedom Photo credit: Photos courtesy from Free Mohammad Othman Mohammad’s trips to Norway–during which he met with senior officials including Finance Minister Kristen Halvorsen–reflect the increasing international support for effective mechanisms of upholding international law and Palestinian rights. Norway’s state Pension Fund recently announced that it had divested from Elbit Systems, the Israeli company which provides both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other military technology for Occupation forces as well as security systems for the Wall and settlements. The decision came after representatives of the fund’s Ethics Council met with Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, including Mohammad, who accompanied them on a tour of Jayyous and other West Bank villages affected by the Wall. Since Israel’s illegal war of aggression on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 that killed over 1400 people, predominantly civilians, the BDS movement has grown exponentially and gained wide support among conscientious individuals, unions and international civil society in general, as well as among some governments. In the last two weeks, more countries have followed Norway’s example. The Brazilian Parliament has expressed itself against the ratification of a Free Trade Agreement with Israel until a Palestinian state is established, and the government of Spain denied settlement-based Ariel University College permission to participate in a high profile academic architecture competition. With the BDS movement making significant gains worldwide, human rights defenders like Mohammad are likely to be increasingly targeted by the Israeli government in its efforts to evade accountability for its ongoing violations of international law.

http://freemohammadothman.wordpress.com/2009/09/

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