Monday, May 10, 2010

Israel has another "secret prisoner"


ISRAEL has another "secret" political prisoner, this time a Palestinian Israeli citizen. Amir Makhoul, the director of an Israeli Palestinian human rights organisation, Ittijah, was arrested by the Shin Bet security service in the dead of night. His home was ransacked, computers taken, he cannot consult with an attorney for two days. He is under detention for six days under which the authorities do not have to produce any reason for his arrest.

The charge is an unspecified national security violation and all this is done under a secret gag order precluding any Israeli media from reporting the story or even Makhoul's name. Last month the authorities finally allowed reports on the case of Israeli journalist Anat Kamm, who had been kept under house arrest since December. She is now facing "security" charges relating to Israeli Army documents about targeting Palestinian militants for assassination. It was only after reports appeared in the international media that Israeli papers were allowed to mention her case.

Amir, or Ameer, Makhoul's arrest was reported by Palestinian media:
[Ramallah, 6 May 2010] This morning at 3:10 a.m., Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided Ameer Makhoul’s family home in Haifa and arrested him. Mr. Makhoul is a human rights defender and serves as the general director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and as the Chairman of the Public Committee for the Defense of Political Freedom in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel.
The 16 ISA agents and police officers immediately separated Mr. Makhoul from his family, including wife Janan and daughters Hind, 17 and Huda, 12, and conducted an extensive search of the home. According to Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, Ameer and Janan’s laptops, the hard drives from the girls’ two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing un-transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work. At one point during the police search, Janan says, one officer violently restrained her, twisting her arm and pushing her when she attempted to leave the home’s living room to observe the confiscations. The security forces also refused to identify themselves and showed her a warrant authorizing Mr. Makhoul’s arrest only after she repeatedly insisted. The order was signed on 23 April 2010 and cited unsubstantiated “security” reasons as the grounds for Mr. Makhoul’s arrest.
Meanwhile, approximately 40 minutes after their arrival, a group of the security forces left with Mr. Makhoul in custody. At around the same time, the Israeli authorities raided the Ittijah office and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization’s computers.
A hearing in Mr. Makhoul’s case was held at the Petah Tikva interrogation center later this morning, and his detention was extended for six days. Reports also indicate that Mr. Makhoul has been banned from meeting with an attorney for at least two days.
This arrest comes shortly after Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai signed an administrative order prohibiting Mr. Makhoul from exiting the country for a two month period. In the order, which was signed on 21 April and is based on Article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations, Yishai states, “I have reached the conviction that the exit of Ameer Makhoul from the country poses a serious threat to the security of the state, and therefore I issue this order to prevent him from leaving the country until the 21st of June, 2010”.

Amir Makhoul incurred the wrath of the Zionist state when he said that Israeli political and military leaders responsible for the bombing and invasion of Gaza should be charged with war crimes. Asked about rockets fired into Israel, Makhoul said he did not agree with attacks on civilians, but argued that Palestinians were fighting against siege and occupation, and Hamas were their properly elected leaders.
Many people have been stopped from entering the country by the Israeli authorities, including a British Labour MP and more recently a Spanish clown. But Amir Makhoul shares a distinction with nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, in that the authorities have stopped him leaving. It must be unusual for the Israeli state to want a Palestinian to stay! But as he recently told friends:

(Makhoul submitted the following op-ed to The Electronic Intifada prior to his arrest; you can read the original article clicking here)

Last month, when I travelled from Haifa to the land border between Jordan and Israel, the Israeli border police prevented me from leaving my country. The police handed me an order issued by the Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai prohibiting me to leave Israel for two months. The travel ban imposed on me is part of an increased campaign to intimidate and to spread fear among Palestinian civil society. The repression is meant to divide us, but it has had the opposite effect. We Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora are only more determined and united to claim our rights and to build a nation where we can live in freedom and have equal rights.

The Israeli minister of the interior holds the opinion that my travel outside the country "poses a serious threat to the security of the state," according to article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations. I am the director of Ittijah, Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, which is a sub-committee of the High Monitoring Committee of Arabs in Israel. All three bodies unite Palestinian Arabs in Israel and we jointly decided not to appeal my travel ban at the Israeli high court.

Any meeting in the Arab world or with any Arab person anywhere in the world arouses the suspicion of the authorities. The accusations against me are made on the basis of secret evidence that I am not allowed to see, and the high court merely acts as an extension of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS), or the Shin Bet. Israel does not need to prove that there is reason for suspicion; instead, I have to prove that there is no need for their suspicion. The Israeli legal system is far from fair for Palestinians.

Israel is intimidating Ittijah and the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms because we are reasserting our community's stake in the Palestinian struggle. Twenty years ago few considered the Palestinians in Israel as a part of the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause. During the Oslo process of the 1990s, we were considered an internal problem for Israel to deal with, but our networking, advocacy and lobbying has changed this. Israel is increasingly repressing us to divide Palestinians from each other and isolate us from the outside world.

The repression and persecution of Palestinians in Israel is not new. Since 1948 Israel imposed a policy of control under the guise of security. In 2007, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin introduced a new policy targeting the whole Palestinian community as a security risk to thwart democratic efforts such as the issuing by Palestinian civil society in Israel of visions of a state for all its citizens.

Repression has increased dramatically since then and more than 1,000 Palestinian youths in Israel were interrogated by the Shin Bet after the Gaza massacre of winter 2008-09. Leaders of the Palestinian civil society, like myself, are under attack. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement, is being persecuted for his involvement in the protection of Jerusalem from ongoing Israeli colonization and extremist settlers. Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) Mohammed Barakeh was shot in the leg with a sound bomb when he tried to protect protesters from the aggression of Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Bilin. MK Said Nafa was stripped of parliamentary immunity because of his visit to Syria, while former MK Azmi Bishara found himself in an imposed exile since three years for the same reason. One year ago, the Shin Bet ordered me to come to their offices and they interrogated me for one day in an attempt to silence my protest of the Israeli massacre in Gaza.

Israel applies a multi-track approach to attack our struggle: the authorities repress and persecute Palestinians while they prohibit foreign solidarity activists, organizations and journalists from visiting the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Additionally, right-wing groups within Israel commit public violence against Palestinian families in places like Acre and Jaffa, with total impunity. One week ago the right-wing group Im Tirtzu published posters inciting violence against individual members of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights.

Palestinian civil society protests Israel's repressive policies of intimidation but at the same time resolves to continue our struggle. We have achieved unity, and it is important for us to protect this. We will not allow Israel to isolate members or parts of our community. We have become more influential in the Arab media and we will use this influence. We have built our international networks and we call on them to support us. The attacks that are meant to divide us have had the complete opposite effect. Injustice unites us; we are all together in this struggle.

Shin Bet has already achieved another shot in the foot for Israeli "security" . As Palestinians and Israeli supporters spread the word of Amir Makhoul's "secret arrest", his name and ideas become better known world-wide, and in Israel itself more people become aware of the price for their own freedom of continuing repression of the Palestinians.

  • There is a demonstration this evening in Haifa in support of Ameer Makhoul, co sponsored by Balad, Hadash, the Islamic Movement & Abnaa elBalad. It will be at 7 PM Monday at Beit HaGefen.

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At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that the blog doesn't mention what is the blame.
Anat Kamm had been stolen secret documents from the army and sell it to journalist and Makhoul was spying for enemy county.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Obviously our anonymous friend must have information to which we are not privileged.

Makhoul has not been charged yet, indeed officially we are not even supposed to know that he has been arrested. But "Anonymous" knows what he is supposed to have done.
Similarly, he not only knows what Anat Kamm faces trial for, but already knows the verdict. I must admit I had heard that this young woman is alleged to have made copies of documents she saw during her military service, relating to illegal orders. But I thought she probably did so as a matter of conscience rather than for money. 'Anonymous' apparently knows better.
Except he only refers to "secret documents", whereas we indicated that the documents referred to people on a 'hit' list. Not plans of a new tank, or the layout of bunkers. In other words the documents may have alerted some people who were targets to seek safety. They did not endanger the army except politically, showing it was issuing instructions which conflicted with international law and official policy.
As for Makhoul, perhaps he has committed a smart double-bluff, openly expressing 'dangerous' opinions while nevertheless managing to obtain access to secret Israeli information on behalf of an "enemy country".
Perhaps we shall see at the trial, if there is to be a trial.
But Shin Bet seems to have done its best to keep the arrests and reasons for arrests under wraps, presumably for reasons of "security". So I can see why our commenter prefers to remain anonymous, for surely she or he could be accused of disloyalty, for sharing their privileged information with us?


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