Palm Sunday detainees still in Israeli custody

Ma’an News Agency, Palestine
March 28 2010

Palm Sunday detainees still in Israeli custody

Bethlehem ` Ma’an ` Israel detained 11 Palestinians in the West Bank
city of Bethlehem on Sunday, amid protests over restrictions
preventing Christians from performing religious rites in Jerusalem
over Easter.

Dozens of protesters, joined by international peace activists and
Muslim supporters, took to the streets after Sunday prayers held for
the Christian holiday of Palm Sunday in the Nativity Church.

Participants performed the symbolic march of Jesus Christ to the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, carrying palm branches and
banners denouncing Israel’s wall and continued settlement expansion.

The rally reached the Gilo checkpoint, used predominantly by tourists
and through which West Bankers can only pass with permission from
Israel. Participants tried to transit the military installation before
being barred by waiting Israeli soldiers. Border guards, some donning
riot gear, were seen on the opposite side of the barrier.

Israeli peace activist Jonathan Pollack said that protesters managed
to transit the checkpoint and enter Jerusalem. "Once blocked, the
demonstrators, who all remained peaceful throughout the protest, held
speeches, and then began heading back. It was at this point that the
police staged its unprovoked attack on the retreating protesters."

Among the detained were Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki and
Fatah Regional Office member Marwan Farajeh, who was transferred to an
Israeli hospital in a Magen David Adom ambulance amid clashes. Another
detainee was identified as Ahmad Al-A’za, as well as a resident on
horseback who was carrying a palm branch.

Those detained have remained in Israeli custody for over six hours in
an interrogation room at the Gilo checkpoint, while Zaki is said to
have been transferred to the Russian Compound interrogation center in

Shadi Fawaghreh, one of the detainees, told Ma’an that they are being
kept in a holding cell with nine other detains, reporting that a
number of them were beaten during their detention. He added that four
Israeli peace activists detained during the rally have been released.

Pollack added that Israeli forces detained four Israeli, one foreign
national, an AP photographer, Fadi Hamad, as well as four members of
the local popular committees against the wall and settlements.

A spokesman for the Israeli police operating in the West Bank did not
immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Palm Sunday detainees

Those detained during the rally have been identified as follows:

Abbas Zaki, member of the Fatah Central Committee

Mohammad Al-Hubani, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall
in Bethlehem

Mahmoud Zawahreh, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in

Fadi Hamad, Associated Press photographer

Hassen Breijeiyah, member of the Popular Committee Against the wall in

Marwan Fararjeh, member of Fatah’s Regional Office in Bethlehem

Toni Shahwwan, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Beit Jala

Ahmad Al-A’za, member of the Holy Land Trust

Shadi Fawaghreh, member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in
Wad Rahhal, Bethlehem district

Two Palestinian detainees remain unidentified.

Four Israeli peace activists and one foreign national, also
unidentified, were released.

Call for Palestinian Christians to mark Easter in Jerusalem

Orthodox organizations in Palestine have called on Palestinian
Christians to celebrate Holy Fire Saturday in Jerusalem, in spite of
Israeli restrictions placed upon worshipers and others wishing to
visit the parts of the city occupied by Israel.

The traditional Orthodox ceremony that takes place after Palm Sunday
is the transfer of fire, which is said to emanate from Jesus’ tomb in
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, by the Greek
Orthodox Patriarch via candles and torches.

Palestinian Christians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are made to
apply for permits allowing them entry to the occupied part of the
city. Gaza’s Christian community are less likely to receive approval
from Israeli authorities.

The Council of Arab Orthodox Organizations urged the heads of churches
in Jerusalem "to stand by the rights and aspirations of their
congregation and to stand up to the discriminatory policies of Israel
with the freedom of worship."

"We urge Palestinian Christians to celebrate Holy fire Saturday in
Jerusalem despite all the Israeli occupation policies aiming to
restrict our historic rights and push us toward immigration," a
statement read.

Christian leaders slam Israeli policy

At a news conference organized by the National Christian Coalition in
the Holy Land in Jerusalem Saturday morning, church representatives
denounced the Israeli policies, which they said prohibit Palestinians
from accessing religious sites during Christianity’s holiest holiday.

Coalition President Dimitri Diliani said that as Easter approaches,
"Israeli discrimination appears clearly when we compare the treatment
of Jews celebrating Passover." Dilani added that "if what Israel
practices against Christians were practiced anywhere in the world
against Jews, that place would be boycotted by the international
community at once."

Father Issa Misleh, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate,
said attempts to negotiate with Israeli security over arrangements for
his congregation were met with "inflexibility," noting that throughout
history, Christians were not prohibited from entering holy sites in
Jerusalem. This, he said, was an Israeli attempt to "downplay" the
Christian character of the city. Misleh added that both Christian and
Muslim Palestinians endure the same restrictive Israeli policies.

Representing the Episcopal Church, Reverend Zahi Nasser said continued
Israeli building policies in Jerusalem and the separation wall
directly contradicted Israel’s claims to be a democracy. Jerusalem, he
said, is suffering as Jesus did "in the hands of his captors."

>From the Armenian Patriarchate, Bishop Aris Shirverian expressed his
church’s dismay at Israeli policy in Jerusalem, particularly during
Easter, when thousands of pilgrims are prohibited from visiting the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Meanwhile, Father Peter Madrous assured that one who plants injustice
will harvest animosity "and that is the reason for the Israeli
paranoia, Israel has planted injustice for years."