The interview has been edited for space.

Janna Hutz
University Alum Fadi Kiblawi is arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces for protesting the uprooting of Palestinian Olive Trees. Kiblawi was arrested on June 20 and released 24 hours later. He plans to stay in the country until early August and will return

On June 20, Israeli Defense Forces allegedly arrested University
alum Fadi Kiblawi for participating in a nonviolent protest in the
West Bank. Kiblawi, who co-founded the campus group Students Allied
for Freedom and Equality, is currently a law student at George
Washington University. While at the University, Kiblawi was also a
member of The Michigan Daily’s editorial board for a brief
period, the Minority Affairs Chair in the Michigan Student Assembly
and the organizer of the 2002 Divestment Conference. He has been
living in East Jerusalem this summer and traveling throughout the
country and said he plans to return on Aug. 7. In an interview
conducted by e-mail, Kiblawi explained to The Michigan Daily his
involvement with the protest.

The Michigan Daily: Associated Press photos show you
being arrested. What happened?

Fadi Kiblawi: I attended a nonviolent protest against the
Israeli army’s land theft and uprooting of olive trees in the
Palestinian West Bank village of Az-Zawiya.

We attempted to reach the Caterpillar bulldozers and block them
from the olive trees. Israeli soldiers responded violently by
beating and tear-gassing us. Eventually, after these methods were
unable to scatter (us), they arrested me. I was taken to an Israeli
prison in the illegal Jewish settlement, Ariel. After 24 hours of
captivity, I was released on the shoulder of a road outside of Tel
Aviv.

TMD: Could you explain (before adding how you felt and
the conditions surrounding it), just the basics of where you were,
what was going on, the sounds and images around you and then give a
timeline of what happened?

FK: I was in the Palestinian village of Az-Zawiya.
Az-Zawiya is in the West Bank southwest of Nablus. In recent weeks,
the Israeli army has initiated preparations to construct their wall
around the illegal Jewish settlement of Ariel. In so doing, they
have confiscated village lands and begun uprooting olive trees.
Olive trees are the lifeblood of Palestinian farmers, and losing
one is tantamount to losing a family member. Since 1967, Israel has
uprooted over 360,000 Palestinian olive trees.

Israel falsely claims that this wall is for protection against
terrorist attacks inside its borders. However, if this were the
case, they would construct it on their internationally-recognized
borders. Rather, they are building it deep inside the West Bank, in
villages such as Az-Zawiya, indicating that in fact the abomination
amounts to nothing more than a land grab.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, of which Israel is a signing
party, this wall is illegal. The Palestinian villages on which the
wall is being constructed have begun organizing themselves into
popular resistance committees. Every day, they courageously
confront the Israeli army and bulldozers nonviolently and are dealt
with beatings, tear gas, sound bombs, and sometimes live
ammunition.

They have requested the involvement of internationals with the
hopes that our presence would curtail the Israeli response. This
has proven futile as the army has shown little concern for the
well-being of internationals. The protests begin inside the
village. From there, we march to the village lands, chanting calls
for unity and an end to the occupation.

As the protest approached the soldiers, positioned on top of the
villagers’ lands, tear gas was shot at us. We covered our
faces and continued to march to the soldiers. Upon reaching the
soldiers, we tried to advance around them to the bulldozers. At
this point, the soldiers began beating us with clubs. Much of the
demonstration was now dispersed, however, the village elders
remained steadfast in their nonviolent resistance. The most
shocking site was seeing Israeli soldiers beat unarmed 70-year-old
Palestinian men and women. Through the next hour, we were
tear-gassed and beaten repeatedly. Eventually, they violently
arrested me. I spent the evening in prison with bruises and scars
all over my body.

TMD: What are your feelings about what happened, what are
your current and future plans and would this stop you from
attending an event like Sunday’s again?

FK: What happened to me is a testament to the egregious
violations of human rights taking place in the Holy Land. It is
important to keep in mind that I was arrested by a decades-long
occupying army inside a Palestinian village while nonviolently
protesting the illegal theft of land and destruction of livelihood.
… The conditions of my release were that I would no longer
enter the Occupied Territories again, with the exception of East
Jerusalem. … Furthermore, the immigration intelligence
informed me that I would not be allowed entry into the country
again. As an American tax-payer, I find this provision unjust,
given that Israel is the largest beneficiary of our foreign aid.
Moreover, as a Palestinian, I reject Israeli dictates preventing me
from returning to my native homeland.

Compiled from Daily staff reports

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