Chapter XXV of Part Three of the Goldstone Report was dedicated to Repression Of Dissent In Israel, Right To Access To Information And Treatment Of Human Rights Defenders. I personally remember the fear of speaking out, I felt at the time. It was a tense environment and a hands-on lesson in democracy (or lack there of).
The Israeli environment, today, is calmer to a degree; Most probably due to the short memory span of the typical Israeli. Yet the authorities (the only ones with property rights to this memory span) are exponentially getting more and more nervous about world perception of Israel. This nervousness manifests in many different and desperate ways, I’ve written about, but today I’d like to focus on what’s becoming more and more flagrant: The repression of leftist activists.
Amira Hass as a Measure to Oppression
When I started seeing Amira Hass in the Sheikh Jarrah protests, I was almost as giddy as a groupie. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that if she’s covering repression of the Jewish (for sake of clarification only) left, then she’s taking time off of covering much more atrocious transgressions against Palestinians. And though her enjoyment of taking part in actual democratic practice was obvious, she was on the job, and the article was soon to follow:
The Israel Defense Forces says it is using information on Israelis who demonstrate against the separation fence in a bid to deny them entry at nearby checkpoints… It also appears that the IDF is observing the routes the activists take to reach the villages.
Even though this was not news to me, as I’ve been detained (not officially) at a check point over a month before, it’s fascinating to get into the details of this article.
1# The article indicates that the collecting of details may have begun since the infamous Operation Cast Lead:
Activists told Haaretz that they cannot identify all the vehicles in the document; this may be because the information was collected during a demonstration as far back as December against the siege of the Gaza Strip.
If this is so, then it would be right to assume that there was a change in policy towards left activists that was directly connected with the attack on Gaza.
2# The article makes a clear connection between police and army. The police is, in fact, playing the part of information unite for the army, abusing their civil jurisdiction, and gathering information about civilians. Turning us, in practice, into a security problem- enemies of the state:
The activists assume that the details were sent to the IDF by police who were present at recent demonstrations… During a demonstration three weeks ago, one of the activists noticed a man dressed in civilian clothes collecting information on vehicles at Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv, where activists meet for demonstrations. Activists say the police took down people’s ID numbers.
I can add to that, that my own detention at the checkpoint, was preluded by a temporary traffic police barricade, just outside the so-called border (about a 4 minute drive before the checkpoint), where all five of us (my 4 passengers and I) were asked for our ID’s and my car was given a surprise winker-test (even on a day I’m driving to my grandma’s, I consider police stopping my car- for any reason other than I violated the law- harassment). We knew this wasn’t traffic related, but it was mostly apparent when the traffic police didn’t notice that I- the driver- hadn’t handed them my driver’s license, but ID.
3# The article, for what I believe to be the first time in Israel’s history, makes known, what many of us already know: Our phones are tapped, our emails are hacked and there just may be snitches among us:
One of the passengers in the Subaru told Haaretz that “the soldier asked whether we belong to the anarcho-mobile.” The activist said he did not know how the army learned that this was the term used by his colleagues in the car. “Perhaps they are listening in on our phone calls, looking into our e-mails, or they have a snitch,”
4# Some less informed innocent bystander may say: “But if someone is doing something that may endanger the country’s security, I’d like to know that the authorities can monitor this activity and stop it before it does real damage”. The article does wisely in quoting the legal counselor for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on the matter:
… the problem begins with the flawed attitude of the IDF, which considers demonstrations in the West Bank unlawful. Hence these questionable legal measures. If there is no suspicion that a violation is expected, there is no cause to collect information or pass it on to the IDF.
Or in the words of one of my fellow activists:
… the list was sending a message to the new protesters and the youth that join in the demonstrations that “they will be made criminals before they even get to there.”
I’d like to add that two weeks ago, I was (unofficially) detained, again, at the checkpoint. While the first time we were detained upon entering the West Bank, made to turn around, our ID’s taken from us, only to return an hour and a half later, so we miss the demonstration, this time we were detained on our way to re-enter Israel. If the idea is simply to stop us from getting to the demonstration (which is incriminating enough on it’s own), then detaining us at exiting point is pure harassment.
Of course, the sordid black list that allows all Israeli cars in and out of the West Bank, as long as you don’t exercise the right to assemble to the left, isn’t thorough enough to stop us from going to our weekly demos. I won’t go into the details of how we bypass these barriers, but only because it may endanger our otherwise proudly overground operation. It took the army a couple of months to notice that their efforts aren’t paying off to the extent they expected, and yesterday, at 2:00 in the morning, they snuck in their latest, unprecedented response of repression:
What you just witnessed is yet another nightly raid into Bil’in, where the army had one soul intent: To hang up flyers, not aiming at the villagers, but aimed at Israeli and international activists. The gist of the flyers, as forwarded to us by the village committee:
At 2 AM on this night, Bil’in was once again raided by the Israeli Army. A document was posted around the whole village of Bil’in. This document declared that Israeli and international activists were strictly prohibited from entering Bil’in between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm on every Friday, the day in which the weekly demonstration takes place. Every Israeli and international activist must leave the village during this time, or else he or she will be deported or arrested by Israeli soldiers. The head of the police, Benjamin, ordered that this action be taken. The permit declares Bil’in to be a closed military area until August 17th.
Here’s some additional information from the article in Ynet:
The flyer, signed by Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, stated that it is forbidden to approach the area appearing on the map every Friday between 8 am and 8 pm, unless equipped with a special permit. According to the notice, Israeli citizens and foreign nationals must leave the village between these hours, and that the decision was made in order to maintain security and public order in the area. Similar flyers were posted in the adjacent village of Naalin, where areas in the vicinity of the fence were declared closed military zones. The decree was presented to protesters detained during last Friday’s demonstration.
Personally, I don’t know what will happen on our arrival. If there will be mass arrests then and there, or- as suggested by a friend- information gathering that will later be used to arrest us each, when we’re alone at home, to avoid the media scandal. I also ask myself about this frame of time and specific date. What’s to happen in half a year? What is planned for the 17th of August? Other technicalities that bother me are in the army’s statements in the last two paragraphs:
The IDF Spokesperson’s United said in response: “The closed military zone order in the area between the security fence and the villages of Naalin and Bilin was signed three weeks ago in hopes of preventing the arrival of inciting elements.”
Our work in the West Bank has always been regarded by the Israeli authorities as “inciting”. I can only guess that this stems from their racist perceptions that the Palestinians have no minds of their own and are fighting their own occupation, only because we told them to. Even if we hadn’t come every week, do they truly believe that the protest would cease? I highly doubt that. Maybe the true goal, of keeping eye-witnesses away, is that repressions of the Palestinian struggle would become that much easier.
The IDF stressed that “the order does not apply to the residents of the villages and they will be allowed to move freely.”
This is an army that raids a village in the middle of the night in order to hang up flyers. At what point are they “ allowed to move freely”?
The Return of Arrests to Sheikh Jarrah
This weekend, after over a month of considerable calm and continuing tension, the Jerusalem Shalem station superintendent, Avi Cohen (a war criminal, under who’s strong-arm ethnic cleansing is perpetrated), couldn’t hold himself back any longer and decided that “those who resist are to be arrested”:
Once again, I was right there in the middle of this police riot, and I’m sad to say you get used to it. The pushing, pulling, ripping of clothes, knocks to the face, and trampled feet, the infuriating blank stares of indifference and the black and blue bruises after, are all things you can get used to. I didn’t even panic and that is a true sign of repression.
Here we are, in the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East”, looking for legal reasonings as to why all of this is so wrong, when it’s all too obvious. Sometimes I wonder, how many more articles need I write, how many reports need human rights organizations compile, how many more incriminating Youtube videos need we upload, until the world wakes up and understands it’s been had? Can We Call it “Just Another Fascist Regime in the Middle East” yet?