Michael Jansen
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
February 11, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel's recent raids into Ramallah to arrest and deport foreign activists working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is part and parcel of a strategy to end peaceful Palestinian resistance against the occupation.

Having brutally crushed armed resistance and coopted the Palestinian Authority's police forces to provide "security" for Israel and its illegal West Bank colonies, Israel is determined to deny Palestinians all means of expression against the occupation and expropriation of their country.

Three hours before dawn last Sunday, an Israeli special forces unit broke down the door of a flat in Ramallah and arrested Ariadna Jove Marti of Spain and Bridgette Chapell of Australia for overstaying their visas. Israel's supreme court ordered their release on bail and the prosecution admitted that it was illegal for the immigration police to take custody of foreigners in Ramallah. But the women were ordered not to return to the Palestinian territories while their case is considered. They face deportation and blacklisting so they cannot return to the Palestinian territories. Israel has accused them of participating in "riots and other violence", although weekly protests against Israel's West Bank wall only turn violent when Israeli troops start firing tear gas and percussion bombs and, occasionally, live bullets at demonstrators.

On January 11, Czech citizen Eva Novakova, an ISM coordinator, became the first foreign activist to be detained in Ramallah and deported in such an operation. Raids into Ramallah, designated Area A, are violations of the Oslo Accords unless in response to a serious threat to Israel's security. Even "hot pursuit" is banned unless security related.

Israel had previously denied ISM members and affiliates entry at the international airport, sea ports, and the Jordan River crossings, thereby preventing them from aiding Palestinian peaceful resistance and civil disobedience efforts. Since Israel controls the gates to the Palestinian territories - with the exception of Rafah on the Egyptian border - Israel decides who comes and goes.

In January, Israel detained at the airport, and after a few days deported, Jared Malsin, a US citizen who had taken a holiday from his job in Bethlehem, where he worked as English language editor with the Palestinian Maan News Agency, which receives financial support from European countries. His girlfriend, Faith Rowald, a Lutheran church volunteer, was deported as well, for good measure.

Israel also uses its power as gatekeeper to the occupied Palestinian territories to prevent Palestinian activists from travelling abroad. The latest to be barred is East Jerusalemite Khalil Tufakji, an expert on Israel's colonisation activities and discriminatory housing policies. He heads the map-making department at the Arab Studies Society, founded by Faisal Husseini, and has, since 1992, worked with the Palestinian negotiating team on borders, settlements and confiscations of Palestinian property. Tufakji was targeted by no less a person than Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yeshai who claimed he could "harm the security of the state" if he leaves home.

In January, Muhammad Othman, a leading figure in the popular resistance movement, was freed from four months of administrative detention on condition that he does not travel abroad, and reports to the police when summoned. He was detained on September 22 at a border crossing when returning to the West Bank after visiting Norway. While there, he met Finance Minister Kirsten Halvorsen with the goal of trying to convince the government to divest from firms involved in wall and colony construction.

Othman, who had earlier taken Norwegian officials on a tour of West Bank settlements, had persuaded the Norwegian state pension fund to pull out investments valued at $5.4 million from Elbit, an Israeli military industry firm. He was held in prison for two months before being confined under an administrative detention order.

The raids against foreigners connected to the ISM coincide with similar nightly operations against Palestinians who take part in Gandhian resistance actions against the occupation, land seizure and the West Bank wall. Indeed, the Israelis have arrested so many members of the popular resistance movement that it is impossible to keep up with the numbers.

Israel's objective is to decapitate the popular resistance which receives only a weak verbal blessing from the Palestinian Authority but has the backing of many Palestinian and some Israeli human rights organisations.

Israeli rightists and their acolytes in the US have now extended the struggle against peace activists and truth tellers by attacking the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its president Naomi Chazan, former Labour Knesset member and deputy speaker, for financing Israeli human rights groupings. The Jerusalem Post, which published an ad demonising the fund and Chazan, also fired her as one of its few leftist columnists.

The rightists are particularly angry over the fact that some of the organisations backed by the NIF have not only been highly critical of the conduct of Israel's war on Gaza but also contributed evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity to the UN's Goldstone mission, which issued a damning report on Israel's behaviour.

In response to the anti-Chazan/NIF campaign, the Knesset set up a subcommittee to examine foreign sponsorship of Israeli groups, such as Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din, and Israel's Physicians for Human Rights. Without these organisations, Israel would be an even harsher place that it is now.

Gideon Levy, writing in the liberal Israeli daily, Haaretz, accused the NIF accusers of "McCarthyism", trying to stifle public debate and discussion of Israel's actions and policies in the way that US senator Joe McCarthy did in Washington half a century ago during his leftist witch hunt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is behind the crackdown on foreign and Palestinian peace groups, argues that protests undermine the legitimacy of Israel and are even more dangerous to Israel than Iran's nuclear programme. Iran does not have nuclear bombs and does not pose any serious threat to Israel. Protest does, because increasing numbers of people round the world are becoming aware of Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians and are prepared to boycott Israeli exports, shun Israeli academics and political figures, and divest from Israeli firms.


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