Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, chairman of a group known as The Elders,
expressed concern over the weekend about Tuesday’s conviction of Palestinian
activist Abdallah Abu Rahma by an Israeli military court.
Abu Rahma was
convicted of incitement to attack IDF soldiers at protests against the West Bank
security barrier in Bil’in, near Modi’in Illit.
“I am deeply concerned
about the conviction earlier this week of Abdallah Abu Rahma,” Tutu said in a
“When I met him with my fellow Elders last year, we were very
impressed by his commitment to nonviolence and the wise leadership he
“He and his fellow activists have had some success in challenging
the wall that divides the people of Bil’in from their land. Israel’s attempt to
crack down on this effective resistance movement by criminalizing peaceful
protest is unacceptable and unjust,” the retired Anglican cleric
In the statement, Tutu urged Israeli authorities to release
Abu Rahma “immediately and unconditionally, and to overturn his
On Wednesday, the European Union’s top diplomat criticized
Israel over Abu Rahma’s conviction, calling the activist a “human rights
In a strongly-worded statement, Catherine Ashton said she was
“deeply concerned” by the guilty verdict against Abu Rahma.
Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in response that Ashton “should respect the
ruling of the Israeli justice system, and refrain from casting aspersions on a
legal system that is lauded worldwide by its peers.”
“In Israel, where
even those who openly support Hamas and Hizbullah enjoy freedom of speech, such
accusations sound particularly hollow.
Moreover, interfering with a
transparent legal procedure of a democratic country is not just highly improper,
but is hardly consistent with promoting European values,” he
Israel started taking a harder line against demonstrations in the
West Bank late last year, arresting activists and keeping protesters from
reaching the barrier. Abu Rahma, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, is among the most
prominent of those detained in a string of arrests.
December, he was convicted on Tuesday of inciting protesters to attack Israeli
troops and for participating in protests without a legal permit. The case has
drawn international attention, and foreign observers and reporters attended the