Activists decry systematic Israeli blocking

The detention of American peace activist Patrick O'Connor is the latest in a string of Israeli arrests, deportations, and general harassment of human rights activists in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, activists say.

    O'Connor is only one of many activists arrested or deported

    The Israeli government often accuses human rights workers and peace activists such as those belonging to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), of "meddling" in affairs that do not concern them.

    Tel Aviv also says they are "naive", disturb the work of occupation soldiers and provide "cover" for "Palestinian terrorists" - charges the ISM flatly denies.

    In line with a plan drafted by the Israel army and the Foreign and Defence Ministries last year, Israel has decided to bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel many of those who are already here. 

    Dozens of activists have already been arrested and hundreds of others denied entry, according to Israeli legal sources. 

    Other cases

    British freelance journalist Ewa Jasiewicz, who came to work in the occupied Palestinian territories, was deported late last year.

    She had volunteered with ISM prior to her visit, during which she witnessed and reported on the killing of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, Baha al-Bahish, by an Israeli occupation soldier in Nablus.

    "[The Israeli government's] larger goal is to isolate the Palestinians and make them believe that no one knows and no one cares what happens to them, which is also the purpose of building the Wall in the first place, in the hope that they will get tired of struggling and leave"

    US activist Kelly Raphael Bender who was arrested and deported

    Jasiewicz also watched as Israeli machine gunfire hit US peace activist Brian Avery's face in Jenin in early 2003.
     
    Similarly, an American Christian peace worker, Greg Rollins, was stopped at Ben Gurion Airport last March and denied entry into Israel.

    Rollins came as part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative of the Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations.

    Another American, Kelly Raphael Bender, was arrested while demonstrating peacefully against the separation wall near Ram Allah last month. He was eventually deported.   

    Goal to isolate

    "This strategy of deporting of people who have a history of activism is obviously a continuation of the policy of trying to exclude people who are coming to witness Israeli human rights violations in Palestine," said Bender, an activist with the International Women's Peace Service who also helped start the teenage girls' group Flowers Against the Occupation.

    "[The Israeli government's] larger goal is to isolate the Palestinians and make them believe that no one knows and no one cares what happens to them, which is also the purpose of building the Wall in the first place, in the hope that they will get tired of struggling and leave."

    More than 1500 volunteers from around the world have participated with the ISM since it was founded almost four years ago. 

    Two of them, Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, who were both stationed in Rafah in the southern end of the Gaza Strip, were killed by Israeli troops despite clear markers indicating their civilian status. 

    One other, Avery, was critically injured when Israeli machine gunfire ripped through his face in Jenin refugee camp.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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