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Israel imprisons Palestinian boycott activist without trial

BDS
BDS [File photo]

Last week, Israel fired the latest salvo in its “war” against the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). This time it came on the streets of Ramallah. As happens so often with Israeli abuses against the civilian population of the occupied West Bank, the soldiers invaded in the middle of the night. At 2am on Wednesday 26 October, Israeli occupation forces crashed their way into the home of Salah Khawaja, a well-known Palestinian activist against the occupation, and a campaigner for the boycott of Israel.

According to Stop the Wall, an organisation of which Khawaja is a leading member, the troops ransacked his home, turning out drawers, destroying furniture and generally causing chaos. Stealing one computer and breaking the monitor of another, they also grabbed Khawaja’s phone before taking him to Ofer military base and prison built on stolen Palestinian land near Ramallah. He remains there more than a week later, denied any access to a lawyer.

Palestinians kidnapped by Israel in this manner are often held using the practice of “administrative detention”, an Israeli euphemism for internment without trial or charges. This is an “emergency law” which dates back to the British “Mandate” occupation of Palestine; technically, Israel has been under a state of emergency ever since its foundation in 1948 on top of the ruins of historic Palestine.

The latest data shows that the use of such detention without trial is on the rise. About 700 Palestinians are currently held by Israel in “administrative detention”, and even Palestinian citizens of Israel have begun to be targeted by the abusive practice over the past two years.

At the moment, Khawaja is being held under a 15-day order issued by a military court. In Israel’s apartheid system in the West Bank, only Jews have access to the civilian court system. The Palestinians who form the vast majority of the population living in the occupied territory are denied their rights systematically by Israeli military courts, which exist primarily to perpetuate the occupation indefinitely, and to protect Israel’s occupation soldiers and illegal settlers.

Khawaja was also seized by Israeli occupation forces in 2008, for daring to participate in protests against the apartheid wall in the West Bank (which was declared illegal under international law in 2004). Back then he was abused and beaten by the soldiers who took him to a military base. Eventually he was released without charge, but the occupation authorities refused to let him lodge a complaint about the way that he was treated.

Stop the Wall says that Khawaja’s latest arrest was met with resistance by local youths in Ramallah, who engaged in unarmed confrontations with the occupation forces. The Israelis reportedly blanketed the entire area in tear gas, which had a seriously adverse effect on local families who had been asleep.

Salah Khawaja is an activist in the Palestinian National Initiative, the political party founded by Mustafa Barghouti, a politician and medical doctor. The party makes non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation one of its headline policies.

He is also a member of the secretariat of Palestine’s BDS National Committee (BNC), the coordinating body for the BDS movement. The BNC is not a political party, but a small organisation with a tight remit: to promote and coordinate the 2005 BDS Call document. In 2005, the vast majority of Palestine’s civil society organisations came together to found the BDS movement in a document with three clear demands: to end the occupation, to ensure equal rights for all Palestinians and to respect the Palestinian right of return.

These three key demands unify the entire Palestinian body politic, representing as they do the three main sectors of the Palestinian people: those in the occupied territories, the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the refugees. The most crucial factor in the rise of the BDS movement in the past decade has been the BDS Call, and the tireless work of the BNC to promote and protect it.

In the past few years, Israel has launched what it calls its “war” against BDS. The movement has begun to replace Iran as the largest of what Israel claims are “existential threats”. It is no surprise, then, that the Israeli authorities would seek to crush key activists working for BDS and other forms of popular action against the state on the ground. The travel ban on the BDS movement’s founder and key thinker, Omar Barghouti, is another symptom of this.

Since there are no charges and Khawaja has been completely denied any access to a lawyer, it is hard to know exactly which of his actions triggered this current crackdown. However, as one of his supporters told me, it is fair to assume that it is likely to be the sum of his work as a key movement activist coordinating popular action in Palestine.

There is due to be a court hearing on 9 November, so we may learn more then. In the meantime, Israel must free Salah Khawaja immediately and unconditionally.

Categories
ArticleInquiryIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
  • Robert Skinner

    What Israel does reflects on us here in America. the world looks at us a a supporter of Israeli crimes against humanity. We can do something about it with our vote. Example Lots of reason not to vote for Trump among them he is a total Israeli boot licker. For senate in my state IOm voting Kamala Harris running against her is Loretta Sanchez Sanchez is a AIPAC boot licker supporting Israeli crimes against humanity.

    • Mike Abramov

      Mr. Skinner – there exists a campaign against Israel that is beyond all proportion to any other disputed area in the world. The irony is that Israel is democratic and pluralist. This does not make Israel innocent because no country is ‘innocent’.But, when you have from inception a policy of ‘destroying Israel and driving the Jews in to the sea’, you know that you are up against any rational way forward.

      Crimes against humanity? This is what I mean by disproportion. It is as if Hamas shelling southern Israel is justifiable resistance, but Israel, despite many warnings and a three week notice that Israel was going to hit back is a war crime. Amazing.

      • Michael Morgan

        Israel is democratic. How hilarious.

        • Mike Abramov

          You are about the 20th person to laugh at Israel being a democracy. It appears that many of you, despite a hint of an English education, do not know what is a democracy. here is the answer:

          ‘A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through the elected representative/s’

          This includes Jews, Muslims, Christian, Catholics, et al.

          The history of the left-wing is decidedly autocratic which is why you do not understand democracy.

          • Michael Morgan

            The “whole population” is the problem for Israel, now, isn’t it. Arabs and Muslims and Palestinians are disenfranchised and everyone knows it. No wonder your assertion is ridiculed.

          • Mike Abramov

            For the Arabs that live in Israel, this is their choice. It is also the right choice because despite being Israeli citizens, they are exempt from national service. This is democracy.

            Democracy is having 24 different parties in the Knesset of which 11 members are Arabs. Israel has a PC voting system which means that all political concepts can be accommodated. Can you give me another example of democracy in the Middle East?

            Finally, I met an Arab Israeli a few years ago. She was married to an Englishman. I asked her about her childhood in Israel and she replied that she had a great childhood. Her father was a member of the local tennis club and he was the only Arab member of the club. He was treated as a friend. This is in her own words.

            Please cite your source regarding the ‘disenfranchised and everyone knows it’.

  • Vacy

    ACT NOW

    Take Action: Demand release of detained Palestinian human rights defender and BDS leader Salah Khawaja #FreeSalah http://samidoun.net/2016/11/take-action-demand-release-of-detained-palestinian-human-rights-defender-and-bds-leader-salah-khawaja-freesalah/

  • Mike Abramov

    Has anyone bothered to ask the Palestinian people if they want BDS because boycotting Israel can put Palestinians out of work.

    • MissCostello

      “OUT OF WORK” is *preferable* to enduring a life of captivity, under a brutal, illegal occupation, over several decades; whilst the FREE world does Sweet Fanny Adams to change it; if BDS can make ANY difference (& it CAN) to end this abhorrent situation, SO BE IT.

      • Mike Abramov

        Fine – why don’t you do a whip round in the PSC to pay for the gas, electric, food, clothes, education…for these people who have not asked for BDS. You may not believe this, but most Palestinians work happily side-by-side the Israelis especially at Sodastream which BDS shut down….but t you will not read this in MEM.

        • MissCostello

          ‘whip round’: SIX HUNDRED PLUS POUNDS in THREE HOURS (GIG FOR GAZA) in a small, impoverished town thousands of miles away: raising awareness a bonus: what’s YOUR contribution to free the Palestinians, other than posting puerile, unsubstantiated comments? And where is your evidence for “happily side by side” blatant propaganda? Would the 2.000 plus slaughtered Palestinians (inc.over 500 children) during ‘Protective Edge’ 2014 (protecting WHOM?) agree with you on that? What use is a ‘job’ when you’re buried under the rubble of your home, courtesy your employer / jailer? Ask a Palestinian. CLOWN.

          ‘I’d rather die standing on my feet, than live crawling on my knees’: Emiliano Zapata

          • Mike Abramov

            Quoting Mexican revolutionaries is what leads to unnecessary wars like Protective Edge.

            You should be ashamed of yourself. How much of that whip round ended up in the back pockets of Hamas, I wonder. The incessant firing of missiles in to civilian towns in southern Israel is what you are supporting in Hamas governed Gaza. Israel gave Hamas three weeks warning that there will be a reprisal if the shelling did not stop. Then, Israel dropped leaflets in to Gaza to warn the inhabitants that there will be a war. The people of Gaza could do nothing to stop Hamas intimidating Israel in to a state of war.

            Even during a ceasefire, Hamas continued firing rockets in to Israel.

            Evidence?

            Try going to Israel and meeting the Arabs that live and work with Israelis.

            Arabs can be openly Gay in Israel without the risk of being publicly executed, as they are in Gaza.

            Go to the schools and witness Arab and Jewish children in the same classroom.

            Yes, there are issues on the borders and the West Bank and I am very sad that this is the case, but supporting Gaza should be about removing Hamas from power and only then will the people of Gaza have open gates in to Israel and the support from Israeli medical and social services.

            You need too understand and accept that despite the Jews being given, by the UN, 15% of the territories in 1948, the Arabs made it clear that they did not want a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East. The Arabs lost the War of Independence and the rest is history.

          • Mike Abramov

            Quoting Mexican revolutionaries is what leads to unnecessary wars like Protective Edge.

            You should be ashamed of yourself. How much of that whip round ended up in the back pockets of Hamas, I wonder. The incessant firing of missiles in to civilian towns in southern Israel is what you are supporting in Hamas governed Gaza. Israel gave Hamas three weeks warning that there will be a reprisal if the shelling did not stop. Then, Israel dropped leaflets in to Gaza to warn the inhabitants that there will be a war. The people of Gaza could do nothing to stop Hamas intimidating Israel in to a state of war.

            Even during a ceasefire, Hamas continued firing rockets in to Israel.

            Evidence?

            Try going to Israel and meeting the Arabs that live and work with Israelis.

            Arabs can be openly Gay in Israel without the risk of being publicly executed, as they are in Gaza.

            Go to the schools and witness Arab and Jewish children in the same classroom.

            Yes, there are issues on the borders and the West Bank and I am very sad that this is the case, but supporting Gaza should be about removing Hamas from power and only then will the people of Gaza have open gates in to Israel and the support from Israeli medical and social services.

            You need too understand and accept that despite the Jews being given, by the UN, 15% of the territories in 1948, the Arabs made it clear that they did not want a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East. The Arabs lost the War of Independence and the rest is history.

        • MissCostello