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EU Statement Suggests Arabs Can Throw Stones at Protests

A statement issued by the European Union seems to suggest it supports PA Arabs’ rights to throw stones during non-violent protests.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/23/2012, 6:13 AM

Catherine Ashton
Catherine Ashton
Reuters

A statement issued by the European Union on Tuesday seemed to suggest it supports Palestinian Authority Arabs’ rights to throw stones during non-violent protests.

The statement, released on Tuesday by the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, criticized Israel for convicting PA Arab Bassem Tamimi of dispatching stone-throwers and protesting illegally.

An Israeli court convicted Tamimi on Sunday, according to an AFP report. The 45-year-old was charged with soliciting stone-throwing based on evidence that he directed such incidents from the roof-tops.

He was arrested on March 24, 2011, AFP reported, and accused of organizing illegal gatherings and incitement in connection with a series of weekly demonstrations in the Arab village of Nabi Saleh.

Nabi Saleh is a regular hotspot where Arabs, radical leftists and anarchists engage the IDF and Border Police in clashes every Friday, for the purpose of disseminating propaganda footage to the world. Much violence occurs there regularly and is initiated by the demonstrators, who injure soldiers who attempt to use non-violent means such as water and tear gas to disperse them.

Tamimi's arrest sparked international condemnation, AFP noted, with the EU recognizing him as a human rights defender, and Amnesty International declaring him a prisoner of conscience.

Tuesday’s statement by Ashton’s spokesperson said that “The High Representative is very concerned by the conviction of Bassem Tamimi in an Israeli military court on 20 May 2012 on charges of taking part in illegal demonstrations and of soliciting protesters to throw stones.”

“The EU considers Bassem Tamimi to be a 'human rights defender' committed to non-violent protest against the expansion of an Israeli settlement on lands belonging to his West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. The EU attended all court hearings in his case and is concerned at the use of evidence based on the testimony of a minor who was interrogated in violation of his rights,” the statement continued.

“The EU believes that everyone should be able to exercise their legitimate right to protest in a nonviolent manner,” it concluded.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA, the Independent Media Review and Analysis, pointed out the problem in the EU’s statement.

“The EU doesn't deny that Bassem Tamimi engaged in soliciting protesters to throw stones. And the EU doesn't take a stand against stone throwing,” he wrote, adding that the question is “Does the EU consider stone throwing to fall within the classification of ‘non-violent protest’?”

Last week, as part of EU’s assessment of its partnership with 12 neighboring countries, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listed a set of characteristically harsh ‘recommendations’ regarding relations with Israel.

The recommendations include a call on Israel “to continue to step up its efforts to minimize settler violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and to bring all perpetrators to justice” and “address the excessive use of administrative detention.”

Ashton previously made a skewed comparison between the lethal, unprovoked shooting attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse and the unintended deaths of children in Gaza when Israel attempts to stop missile launchings and apprehend terrorists. She later categorically denied making that comparison.