CANADA: Kairos calls attention to arrests of Palestinian activists

August 23, 2009

Kairos, an ecumenical social justice organization, is encouraging Canadians to support people who live in the Palestinian West Bank village of Bil'in who are known for their non-violent protests but have recently faced military raids and arrests.

One of the protest organizers arrested was Mohammed Khatib, who visited Canada in June on a speaking tour partly sponsored by Kairos. He and a lawyer from an Israeli law firm representing the village visited Canada to talk about a new form of protest launched by villagers against the Israeli occupation of their land. Instead of contesting the building of settlements on their land in Israeli courts, they decided to sue the developers, two corporations registered in Canada, in a Quebec court. Khatib and lawyer Emily Schaeffer traveled across Canada prior to the first court hearings to tell Canadians why they argue that the corporations were violating international law by building on occupied land. The corporations have asked the court to dismiss the case because it is not within its jurisdiction. That decision is not expected until the fall.

Although the Israeli military has not given any explanation for the raids and arrests in the village, Schaeffer says many in the village see the arrests, which began in the same week as the preliminary court hearings in Montreal, "as an attempt to break the non-violent resistance movement in the village."

So far, 26 people have been arrested. Khatib, who was charged with "incitement to harm the security of the area" was released on bail this week, but on conditions that included a stipulation that he must stay at least six kilometers away from the village every Friday (when weekly protests take place) until the end of the proceedings.

Kairos suggests that Canadians concerned about this issue may want to write a "solidarity note to Bil'in villagers as they continue their non-violent protests and face continued arrests." They are also encouraged to write to their member of parliament "to express concern about the violent dispersals of peaceful demonstrations and the detention of protesters without charge, both of which have escalated since the village launched its lawsuit in a Canadian court."

Kairos is a partnership of 11 churches and church-related organizations including the Anglican Church of Canada.

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