A Bewbush man arrested for protesting against the demolition of a village in Palestine has spoken about his experience.
Steven Dhiman, 31, a learning consultant, travelled to the Middle East to volunteer, but once out there joined the International Solidarity Movement, which organises non-violent and peaceful resistance to the occupation of Palestine.
Earlier this month he volunteered for overnight lookout duty at Khan al-Ahmar, one of the West Bank villages under threat of being demolished by Israel.
When a digger arrived first thing in the morning of Thursday July 5 a group of around ten demonstrators formed a human chain linked together by metal chains to block the vehicle, leading to soldiers arresting Steven and two other internationals.
He said his arm was nearly broken and thumb bent back by one of the soldiers before being dragged to a van and having his hands bound with cable ties.
They were stuffed in the back of the van on the floor with no space to move in the searing heat and left for an hour, Steven added.
Steven said: “A couple of times my nerves started to go but to the left of me was a 21-year-old girl and a 20-year-old both taking it all in stride and I drew inspiration and strength from that.”
They were then transported to a jail around 15 minutes away and were held until around 9pm, with sporadic small plastic cups of water for refreshment.
He said: “It was horrendous.”
He described how they were repeatedly asked but refused to sign pieces of paper, all in Hebrew.
Around 12 hours later a human rights lawyer arrived to arrange for their release. Steven said: “We were just so relieved and thankful to the lawyer who got us out.”
They signed statements saying they would not go back to the village for 15 days, while elsewhere an Israeli high court issued an order temporarily halting the demolition of the school and village.
The trio were then given a lift back to Jerusalem and Steven made his way back to his hotel.
He described feeling ‘a bit shaken and bruised’ but felt ‘morally compelled’ to act. While he cannot return to Khan al-Ahmar he said there were other things happening ‘that need our presence and other villages and settlements’.
He felt it was important he and other internationals are involved as the worst that could happen for non-violent protests was deportation compared to possible harsher treatment for Palestinians.
At times he was ‘fearful for his life’ standing in front of the digger but was ‘pleased’ with the court injunction even if it is a ‘temporary delay’.
Steven argued the village’s demolition would cut the West Bank in two and destroy the possibility of a future two-state solution.
But the Israeli authorities say they have offered villagers in Khan al-Ahmar a relocation site elsewhere in the West Bank.
Steve has received a ‘huge amount of support’ from friends and family back in the UK. He said: “I can’t thank them enough.”
He described the Palestinians he has met as ‘kind and welcoming’, adding: “The narrative that Palestinians are aggressive and somehow this is a two-sided conflict is completely and utterly false in my opinion.”
He continued: “Israel has amazing people and is an amazing place but I just wish they would say: ‘Ok we have enough land’, but they won’t. They won’t stop.”
Steven encouraged others to visit both Israel and Palestine so they ‘can see it for themselves’.