Israeli courts ordered the release this week of two foreign women
arrested by the army in the West Bank in what human-rights lawyers warn
has become a wide-ranging clampdown by Israel on non-violent protest
from international, Israeli and Palestinian activists.
arrest of the two women during a nighttime raid on the Palestinian city
of Ramallah has highlighted a new tactic by Israeli officials: using
immigration police to try to deport foreign supporters of the
Czech woman was deported last month after she was seized from Ramallah
by a special unit known as Oz, originally established to arrest migrant
labourers working illegally inside Israel.
rights lawyers say Israel’s new offensive is intended to undermine a
joint non-violent struggle by international activists and Palestinian
villagers challenging a land grab by Israel as it builds the separation
wall on farmland in the West Bank.
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what Israel’s daily Haaretz newspaper recently called a “war on
protest”, Israeli security forces have launched a series of raids in
the West Bank over the past two months to detain Palestinian community
leaders organising protests against the wall.
knows that the non-violence struggle is spreading and that it’s a
powerful weapon against the occupation,” said Neta Golan, an Israeli
activist based in Ramallah. “Israel has no answer to it, which is why
the security forces are panicking and have started making lots of
detention this week of Ariadna Marti, 25, of Spain, and Bridgette
Chappell, 22, of Australia, suggests a revival of a long-running
cat-and-mouse struggle between Israel and the International Solidarity
Movement (ISM), a group of activists who have joined Palestinians in
non-violently opposing the Israeli occupation.
last major confrontation, a few years into the second intifada,
resulted in a brief surge of deaths and injuries of international
activists at the hands of the Israeli army. Most controversially,
Rachel Corrie, from the US, was run down and killed by an army
bulldozer in 2003 as she stood by a home in Gaza threatened with
Golan, a co-founder of the ISM, said Israel had sought to demonise the
group’s activists in the Israeli and international media. “Instead of
representing our struggle as one of non-violence, we are portrayed as
‘accomplices to terror’.”
first entry of Israeli immigration police into a Palestinian-controlled
area of the West Bank, the so-called “Area A”, occurred last month when
a Czech woman was arrested in Ramallah. Eva Novakova, 28, who had
recently been appointed the ISM’s media co-ordinator, was accused of
overstaying her visa and was deported before she could appeal to the
Human rights lawyers say such actions are illegal.
Shatz, the lawyer representing Ms Marti and Ms Chappell, said a
military operation into an area like Ramallah could not be justified to
round up activists with expired visas. “The activists are not breaking
any laws in Ramallah,” he said. “The army and immigration police are
effectively criminalising them by bringing them into Israel, where they
need such a visa.”
in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have grown increasingly unhappy at
Israeli abuses of security arrangements dating from the Oslo era. The
PA’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, recently described the Israeli
operations into Area A as “incursions and provocations”.
the supreme court released the two women on bail on Monday, while their
deportation was considered, it banned them from entering the West Bank
and ordered each pay a $800 bond.
judges questioned the right of the army to hand over the women to
immigration police from a military prison in the West Bank, but left
open the issue of whether the operation would have been legal had the
transfer occurred in Israeli territory.
The Spanish government is reported to have asked the Israeli ambassador in Spain to promise that Ms Marti would not be deported.
Marti said they had been woken at 3am on Sunday by “15 to 20 soldiers
who aimed their guns at us”. The pair were asked for their passports
and then handcuffed. Later, she said, they had been offered the choice
that “either we agree to immediate expulsion or that we will be jailed
for six months”.
Wednesday, shortly after the court ruling, the army raided the ISM’s
office in Ramallah again, seizing computers, T-shirts and bracelets
inscribed with “Palestine”.
has managed to stop most international activists from getting here by
denying them entry at the borders,” said Ms Golan. “But those who do
get in then face deportation if they are arrested or try to renew their
ISM has been working closely with a number of local Palestinian popular
committees in organising weekly demonstrations against Israel’s theft
of Palestinian land under cover of the building of the wall.
protests have made headlines only intermittently, usually when
international or Israeli activists have been hurt or killed by Israeli
soldiers. Palestinian injuries have mostly gone unnoticed.
one incident that threatened to embarrass Israel, Tristan Anderson, 38,
an American ISM member, was left brain-damaged last March after a
soldier fired a tear-gas cannister at his head during a demonstration
against the wall in the Palestinian village of Nilin.
addition to regular arrests of Palestinian protesters, Israel has
recently adopted a new tactic of rounding up community leaders and
holding them in long-term administrative detention. A Haaretz editorial
has called these practices “familiar from the darkest regimes”.
Abu Rahman, a schoolteacher and head of the popular committee in the
village of Bilin, has been in jail since December for arms possession.
The charge refers to a display he created at his home of used tear gas
cannisters fired by the Israeli army at demonstrators.
Monday, the offices of Stop the Wall, an umbrella organisation for the
popular committees, was raided, and its computers and documents taken.
Two co-ordinators of the group, Jamal Juma and Mohammed Othman, were
released from jail last month after mounting international pressure.
Israeli police also have been harshly criticised by the courts for
beating and jailing dozens of Israeli and Palestinian activists
protesting against the takeover of homes by settlers in the East
Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
month, Hagai Elad, the head of Israel’s largest human rights law
centre, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was among 17 freed
by a judge after demonstrators were detained for two days by police,
who accused them of being “dangerous”.
Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest
books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His
website is www.jkcook.net.