Two arrests, one detained - and Lieberman comes to London
(left) with Simone Biton,
Knesset member Charlie Biton, and Meir Vanunu (brother of Mordechai),
at Vienna conference before Amira became famous reporter. Now Amira has been arrested for "entering enemy territory"after her reporting from Gaza.
TOURISM POSTER or EXPANSIONIST PROPAGANDA ? Israeli travel poster on London Underground depicts whole of Palestine, including West Bank and Gaza, as part of the Zionist state.
NOT a bad week. Two friends arrested, another prevented from visiting his mother-in-law. And no, that isn't a joke. The Home Office announced a list of alleged extremists banned from visiting Britain, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted an undoubted extremist for talks. Then the London Underground - that's the tube system, not a resistance movement - found itself involved...
Amira Hass is a courageous woman, a much-admired and respected journalist. An Israeli who has lived among Palestinians in both Gaza and Ramallah, getting to know them and their struggles first-hand. Amira's upbringing provided a motivation to reinforce her determination. Her father was a Romanian Jew who survived the Nazi death camps. Her mother, a Sefardi from Sarajevo, was with the Yugoslav partisans, and also experienced Bergen-Belsen camp.
"Because of my parents' history they knew what it meant to close people behind barbed-wire fences in a small area", Amira wrote in January, of the Gaza onslaught, recalling how her mother and father had known what it was to feel helpless to protect small children, and how they hated the sound of military jets overhead. ". . How lucky it is that they are not alive to see how how these incarcerated people are bombarded with all the glorious military technology of Israel and the United States".
Lucky my parents aren't alive to see this, Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, January 26.
The journalist became news herself last week, as her newspaper Ha'aretz reported:
Haaretz reporter Amira Hass arrested upon leaving Gaza
By Haaretz Service
Israel Police on Tuesday detained Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass upon her exit from the Gaza Strip, where she had been living and reporting over the last few months.
Hass was arrested and taken in for questioning immediately after crossing the border, for violating a law which forbids residence in an enemy state. She was released on bail after promising not to enter the Gaza Strip over the next 30 days.
Hass is the first Israeli journalist to enter the Gaza Strip in more than two years, since the Israel Defense Forces issued an entry ban following the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in a 2006 cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.
Last December, Hass was arrested by soldiers at the Erez Checkpoint as she tried to cross into Israel after having entered the Gaza Strip aboard a ship run by peace activists from Europe.
Upon discovering that she had no permit to be in Gaza, the soldiers transferred her to the Sderot police.
When questioned, Hass pointed out that no one had stopped her from entering the Strip, which she did for work purposes.
Hass was released then under restriction, and Nahmani said her case would be sent to court.
Israel Press Council chairwoman Dalia Dorner, a former Supreme Court justice, commented then that even journalists are subject to the law and the council cannot defend a reporter who breaks the law. Instead, she said, local journalists ought to petition the High Court of Justice against the army's order.
Others were less subservient to the dictates of Israel's military. As the Palestinian News Agency WAFA reported:
Reporters Without Borders condemned, today, Israeli newspaper reporter Amira Hass’s arrest at the Erez border crossing yesterday as she returned to Israel after spending four months in the Gaza Strip reporting for the Israeli daily Haaretz in violation of a military ban on Israeli citizens visiting the Palestinian Territory.
“Her arrest is disturbing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Hass clearly violated Israeli law by residing in the Gaza Strip for four months, but Israel’s blanket ban on Israeli citizens entering the occupied Palestinian Territories obstructs the work of its journalists and violates press freedom.”
Hass told Reporters Without Borders that the Israeli police arrested her at about 4:00 p.m. yesterday as she was leaving the Gaza Strip on a charge of “illegally entering enemy territory.” With her lawyer and the newspaper’s deputy editor present, she was questioned for three hours but limited her answers to confirming her identity.
She said she was finally released on condition that she would not try to reenter the Gaza Strip by any means or route. But she added that “the ban is only valid for 30 days.”
Hass entered the Gaza Strip by the southern Rafah border crossing at her newspaper’s request four months ago and wrote many stories about the impact of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (from 27 December to 18 January) on the territory’s population.
From the "only democracy in the Middle East" to the home of the Mother of All Parliaments, where government spent millions urging us to shop our neighbours if they were claiming too much in welfare benefits, and we now learn MPs have been milking the expense system to pay for everything from candy bars to country houses. But amid the daily revelations, we got the news that the Home Secretary was releasing a list of banned extremists, ranging from Muslim preachers to an American "shock-jock", who would not be allowed to enter Britain to stir up hatred. Then on Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband entertained an extremist who has called for execution of Arab members of the Knesset, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, bombing Egypt's Aswan dam, and use of nuclear weapons on Gaza. His party says Palestinians must not be allowed to commemorate the Nkba, the loss of their country.
Every country has its Nazi nutters, but Russian-born Avigdor Lieberman has been elected and brought into government, and the Netanyahu government has appointed him Foreign Secretary. Along with Netanyahu's declared opposition to a Palestinian state, that might be taken as an "up yours" to the so-called "international community"; but the West keeps letting Israel get away with murder, postponing the "two-state solution" from basis for negotiation to unreachable future, while pretending it is still on the table. So unlike the way Palestinians were punished with sanctions for voting in Hamas, so that even a youth football team could not obtain visas to train and play in Britain, make-believe Miliband agreed to meet Lieberman to discuss, as a Foreign Office spokesperson put it, "aspects of mutual interest, including the Middle East peace process and Iran". What mutual interest? Lieberman has rejected any "peace process", and wants war with Iran.
The Israeli minister's visit had been kept quiet right up to the last minute, and no communique was to be issued after the talks. But on the Tuesday evening, hearing that he had been invited to a reception with heads of the Jewish National Fund (JNF),the main Zionist fundraising outfit, Jewish peace activists managed to trace the Hampstead venue and turn up to demonstrate. The JNF,described in the Guardian as a "humnitarian and environmental charity", was founded to assist Jewish settlement in Palestine, and been kept going since the Israeli state was established 61 years ago, not only as a means of raising funds but because it could exclude Arab farmers and workers from its land, and eradicate trace of former villages, while the State and governments denied official discrimination. Lieberman would be less hypocritical. But Gordon Brown meanwhile is a registered patron of the JNF,which is a registered British charity.
As guests arrived at the home of JNF chairman Samuel Hayek, some demonstrators threw bagels (stale I hope) at them. Protesters denounced Lieberman as a racist, and compared him with the fascist BNP. Lieberman’s security guards delayed his arrival until the demonstration had been dispersed by police. Demonstrators who refused to move away sat down, but police waded in and forcibly dragged them away. Debbie Fink, who had remained standing with the banner of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods was arrested, and taken away in handcuffs. Debbie, an operatic singer and music teacher was held overnight at Holborn police station, before being released on bail. I understand she may be charged with assaulting two police officers.
On Wednesday morning demonstrators were kept well away from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where Lieberman was, and police confiscated a loud-hailer after threatening to arrest the persons using it. A visiting Israeli national who resides in Brussels could not understand why we were caged behind a metal barrier. He thought the police in London seemed much more hostile than those he was used to in Belgium. He had heard about the man killed at the G20 protests. He was baffled when I told him that some of the Left in Britain were campaigning in the Euro-elections as though they thought our problems came from Brussels.
Meanwhile, I had just heard from a young chap I know whose charming wife is Palestinian. Asa, a decent and pleasant fellow who has worked with the International Solidarity Movement, helping people like those at Bil'in, said: "I am stuck in Al Quds (Jerusalem) for two days only, due to Zionist diktat. I have been blocked from Ramallah, my wife's home town, and blocked from visiting my mother-and brothers-in-law. Apologies to all my Palestinian friends who I will not be allowed to visit".
Why is he being blocked? It cannot be for carrying anything dangerous or contraband because then he would not have been allowed into Israel. Surely the Israeli authorities do not honestly believe that otherwise docile Palestinians would be content to be dominated by the Israeli occupation, if not suddenly stirred to unrest by a visit from this dangerous young Welshman? It's a wonder they did not stop the Pope! But no, as with the Israeli official who refused to allow a Birmingham delegation through with children's books, it's a case of not allowing anybody or anything that might make life more pleasant, and doing whatever we can to be awkward bastards, because we can do.
That Birmingham delegation included an MP, by the way, And since the Israeli occupation is not recognised by Britain, or anybody else, and the roadblocks are illegal, Her Brittanic Majesty's government, as represented by David Miliband, ought to have said something about British passport holders not being allowed through without let or indrance. But so far as I know it hasn't.
Propaganda aimed at legitimising the Occupation is not always announced as political. London Underground has in the past refused to take advertising which it considered too controversial, but posters have recently appeared on tube stations advertising Israel as a tourist destination. The map on the advert depicts Israel as incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Thus Palestine is wiped off the map. And no need for talks with Syria over the Golan - it is part of Israel, and that's that.
If you don't think the Israeli government should be allowed to get away with this propaganda on London Underground you could write to London Underground, the Advertising Standards Agency and CBS Outdoors – the company which manages the poster sites. For a suggested draft letter and more information and addresses, see the Palestine Solidarity Campaign site: