Abu Ein: ‘Protecting land stolen by settlers’

Death of Abu Ein is an opportunity to reconsider coordination between Israel and Palestinian Authority, activists say.

According to activists, attacks by Israeli forces against peaceful protesters continue 'without accountability' [REUTERS]

Ramallah Activists and friends of Ziad Abu Ein, the Palestinian minister who died on Wednesday following clashes with Israeli security forces, vowed to continue protests and called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to end security coordination with Israel.

Abu Ein, 55, was a fixture at non-violent protests, and was appointed earlier in 2014 to head the PA-backed Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall.

He was a real activist and a good guy,” Mousa Abu Maria, an activist who was with Abu Ein when he died told Al Jazeera. “I am very sad.”

Abu Maria had a history with the fallen minister. The two men spent time together in an Israeli prison in 2002, during the second Intifada.

Along with dozens of other activists, both Abu Ein and Abu Maria were planting olive trees near the settlement of Adei Ad, hoping to “protect land stolen by settlers”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas  called his death  a “clear crime” and “barbaric act”, saying that all options were on the table.

Different reasons have been cited for his death, including tear gas inhalation, complications from high blood pressure and diabetes, and rough treatment at the hands of Israeli forces.

Hours after Abu Ein’s death, all the shops in Ramallah were shuttered for three days of mourning. 

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Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Federation and Olympic Committee and personal friend of Abu Ein, called on the PA to end security cooperation with Israel. An end to the security cooperation would seriously impact the people of the occupied West Bank. 

Currently, the Israeli military officially controls 60 percent of the West Bank, known as Area C. The rest, Areas A and B, are under direct or partial PA control.

These zones have been referred to as “islands” by organisations like Israeli rights group B’tselem , with Israeli forces controlling movement from one to the next. If security coordination were to end, it would most likely result in a larger, and more forceful, military presence in the area.

However, some believe that it is necessary. Mariam Barghouti, 21, a Palestinian student and blogger, is one such person.

The prevailing sentiment among the general population is, of course, one of sorrow and exasperated resentment.

by - Mariam Barghouti, Palestinian student and blogger

“The prevailing sentiment is, of course, one of sorrow and exasperated resentment,” towards the Israeli occupation and resulting attacks that continue “without accountability,” she told Al Jazeera.

According to Barghouti, the years of security coordination, the foundation of the Israeli-PA relationship as peace talks have continually floundered, afforded Israeli forces the opportunity to clash with Abu Ein and other activists.

“We have had many Palestinian martyrs that go unacknowledged” by both the general public and the PA itself. In spite of this, the PA “continued its security coordination with the Israeli army at the expense of the Palestinians”.

Baha Hilo, a Bethlehem-based activist and alternative tour guide, told Al Jazeera that there will be a “continuity of protests”, but not in the same way as Palestinians have known for years.

While the death of a minister is unheard of, the West Bank, according to Hilo, deals “with continued arrests, collective punishment and fragmentation of Palestinian communities” as well as a fragmentation of their collective identity through “the apartheid laws and regulations” imposed by the Israelis, on a daily basis.

Hilo says that the Palestinian people are more aware of Israeli objectives, and are struggling against them. Yet, it is largely occurring through “leaderless, individual acts”.

“Individuals are taking matters into their [own] hands” without consulting traditional Palestinian leadership, not only regarding the death of Abu Ein, but also the events that have unsettled Jerusalem over the past months.

While Palestinians are remorseful over his death, they’re also wishful that such an event might inspire the PA leadership to act, including undertaking democratic reforms.

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“The best we can hope for is that this period will produce a leadership that represents all Palestinians,” Hilo concluded. 

Abu Maria, the friend and prison-mate of the late minister, also stressed that the international community must take action.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the US recently joined the EU and the UN in calling for a “swift probe” into the events surrounding his death.

One thing is for sure: Palestinians won’t be quiet about the death of Abu Ein. “There will be more protests,” Abu Maria said, when asked about what comes next. “Sixty-six years under occupation, that’s enough.”

Source: Al Jazeera