Toronto student arrested for protesting demolition of Palestinian village

Toronto student arrested for protesting demolition of Palestinian village

A Toronto university student protesting the demolition of a Palestinian-Bedouin village in the West Bank has been arrested by the Israeli forces, her mother said Thursday.

Karen Rodman said her 21-year-old daughter, Michaela Lavis, and two other foreigners were involved in a stand-in at the village of Khan al-Ahmar when Israeli soldiers arrested all three Thursday morning.

“She screamed very loudly and she wouldn’t scream unless she was being hurt, because that’s not her,” said Rodman, who witnessed her daughter’s arrest.

“And then she got up and she turned and she smiled … and gave me a look that showed that she was terrified yet strong at the same time.”

Rodman said she and her daughter, who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson University’s Child and Youth Care program, have been doing humanitarian work in the West Bank since late May. Lavis, she said, has been volunteering with the Defence for Children International-Palestine and working with an occupational therapist who provides support to children with special needs.

Lavis was always aware that she could get arrested for her activism in the Middle East, Rodman said, but she “didn’t expect it to happen.”

Rodman said she didn’t know when her daughter would be allowed to see a lawyer.

Global Affairs Canada said they were aware that a Canadian citizen was detained in the West Bank.

“Consular services have been provided to the Canadian and the family,” Allison Lewis said in an email.

The arrests come a day after Israeli police scuffled with activists protesting at the same site, apprehending 11 people.

Israeli officials have said that the structures that make up the Khan al-Ahmar encampment were illegally built and pose a threat to residents because of their proximity to a highway.

The Bedouin village outside the Kfar Adumim settlement, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Arab–Israeli War, is set to be demolished at an unknown date after Israel’s Supreme Court approved the move in May. Israel agreed to resettle the residents in an area some 12 kilometres away.

Critics have said it is nearly impossible to get a building permit from Israel and that the village’s demolition and the removal of its 180 or so residents is a ploy to clear the way for new Israeli settlements.

The Canadian government has said it is “deeply concerned” about the planned demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and is ”actively engaging Israeli officials on this issue and urge them to reconsider” their decision. Earlier this week, the United Nations’ main human rights body also called on Israel to abandon the demolition plans.

Meanwhile, Rodman said she hopes her daughter will be released soon.

In May, a Canadian doctor was shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers while tending to injured protesters in Gaza.

Dr. Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician at Ontario’s London Health Sciences Centre and at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said he was shot in both legs even though his team wore high-visibility jackets that identified them as medical staff.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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