FREE MOHAMMAD OTHMAN Palestine’s first BDS prisoner of conscience September 25, 2009

Mohammad Othman

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.

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.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee  (BNC) calls on all those who support basic human rights, whether or not  they endorse BDS, international solidarity groups and human rights  organizations to act urgently to bring attention to this case and apply  due pressure to achieve the immediate and unconditional release of  Palestinian human rights activist Mohammad Othman.

It is crucial that the  international community combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human  rights activists adopting BDS or any other popular struggle aimed at  ending violations of international law and upholding universal  principles of human rights.

Recommended Actions:

  • Encourage others to join this campaign  through petitions, demonstrations and / or letter writing / phone  calling. Please provide them with contact information and  details;
  • Let the Israeli Embassy in your country  know that you are campaigning for Mohammad’s release and for a just  and lasting peace based on international law.
  • Bring the case of Palestine’s first BDS  prisoner of conscience to the attention of local and national media  outlets;
  • Follow the blog and  facebook to free Mohammad Othman to see the latest updates and action  alerts.



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