Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli Persecution of Human Rights Activists
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, May 17, 2010
Ameer Makhoul is an Israeli citizen, human rights activist, and
head of the internationally recognized Ittijah NGO, engaged in "strengthen(ing)
and empower(ing) the Palestinian people within the Green Line (1.5 million
Israeli citizens by) promoting the development of Palestinian civil society
and advocating for political change, economic and social development."
He's also chair of the Public Committee for the Defence of Political Freedom
within the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in Israel.
On May 10,
Haaretz writers Jack Khoury, Amos Harel and Asshel Pfeffer headlined, "Two
Israeli Arabs arrested on suspicion of spying, contact with Hezbollah,"
"Reports of the arrests circulated widely on unofficial
websites and blogs, but government censors had banned the Israeli press from
reporting them until the gag order was lifted late Sunday night," May 9.
Makhoul's brother, Assam, a former Hadash MK, "said the family had no
details of the investigation but they suspected authorities had singled out
the activist because of his campaigns against the government's 'racist and
discriminatory policies' against Israeli Arabs."
He's well known as
a regular participant in conferences on the topic and for actively
criticizing government policies.
Hussein Abu Hasin, a lawyer
familiar with these type cases, told Haaretz that Israeli espionage charges
are so vague and wide-ranging that incidental Internet chats or phone
conversations with anyone about anything might be used as a pretext to
prosecute for communicating with someone in an "enemy state." Hasin called
these laws "draconian," and in the case of Makhoul:
outrage among Arab organizations and rights groups, who claim that (he and
other activists are) disappeared from their homes in the middle of the
night. (The) courts (are also) at the beck and call of security services,
who often bar suspects from visits with lawyers or from obtaining legal
Earlier on April 24, Israeli security forces arrested
Balad party's Omar Saeed while attempting to enter Jordan, at first
initiating a gag order to prevent reporting it, the same procedure used
against Makhoul. After its lifting, reports were that both men are accused
of spying and having contact with foreign Hezbollah agents - one of many
bogus charges Israel uses to justify arrests, including against human and
political rights activists it wants to silence, what all rogue states do to
On May 10, a mass Haifa rally, sponsored by Balad
and Hadash, was held to protest against "an excalating campaign to crack
down on Israel's Palestinian citizens," unreported by New York Times writer
Ethan Bronner who merely headlined, "Israel: 2 Israeli Arab Activists
Arrested" in an article totaling eight lines naming the men, the charge,
initial gag order, and that lawyers "for the men said that Israeli espionage
laws were overly broad..."
There was no context, no detail, no
explanation of the men's human rights activism, or the real reason for their
arrests. America's other major media reported nothing.
On May 6, at
3:10 AM, around 20 Israeli police and security forces arrested Makhoul at
his Haifa apartment, ransacked the premises, confiscated his computers, cell
phones, various documents and maps, including his daughter's research
project. At the same time, his Haifa office was raided and possessions there
seized. A Shin Bet warrant said only that "secret information" justified it
for "security reasons," the usual Israeli pretext when they use any at all.
On May 12, Amnesty International (AI) responded saying:
must stop harassment of human rights defender" in calling on its authorities
to release Makhoul who's been held in detention, denied access to a lawyer,
and charged with having "contact with a foreign agent."
Director for Middle East and North Africa Programme, Philip Luther, called
"a key human rights defender, well-known for his civil
society activism on behalf of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. His arrest
and continued detention smacks of pure harassment, designed to hinder his
human rights work. If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of
conscience, (and) call for his immediate and unconditional release."
He added that:
"In the unlikely event that there are genuine grounds
to prosecute Ameer Makhoul, he should be charged with recognizable criminal
offences and brought promptly to trial in full conformity with international
fair trial standards."
After arrest, Makhoul was taken to Petah
Tikva interrogation center where a same day hearing authorized a six day
detention. It was extended until May 17, and may be indefinitely if
authorities wish, by renewals of maximum six month periods on the pretext
that prosecutors need time to prepare charges, go to trial, or simply hold
Secret Shin Bet evidence is commonly
used, undisclosed to lawyers, in violation of international law that
prohibits doing it arbitrarily, holding detainees for extended periods, or
substituting repression for customary criminal proceedings with all evidence
disclosed so counsel can prepare a proper defense.
uses criminal and administrative detentions abusively, in violation of
international law standards to institutionalize injustice against targeted
victims - in this case, two distinguished human rights advocates, perhaps to
be imprisoned and silenced.
On April 21, Interior Minister, Eli
Yishai, prohibited Makhoul from traveling, saying his leaving the country
"poses a serious threat to the security of the state." The next day, he
learned of the order en route to Jordan for scheduled meetings with other
In January 2009, Israel's Central Election Committee
(CEC) prohibited two of three Arab Knesset parties - United Arab List Ta'al
and Balad (Saeed's party) - from participating in the February elections,
bogusly claiming they don't recognize the Jewish state and call for armed
uprisings against it. Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) subsequently
Under a newly proposed Knesset bill, however, any
organization may be outlawed "if there a reasonable basis to conclude that
the organization is providing information to foreign bodies or is involved
in lawsuits abroad against senior officials in the government of Israel
and/or officers in the Israeli army regarding war crimes."
human rights activists and Arab Knesset members are also at risk. Mohammad
Barakeh and Said Naffaa had their parliamentary immunity stripped, and face
According to the Adalah Legal Center for Arab
Minority Rights in Israel, the "charge of meeting a foreign agent (is vague
and broad enough to criminalize) almost any Arab who establishes legitimate
relations with political and social activists in the Arab world." Or perhaps
Targeting Political Activists
At any time,
Israel holds from 7,000 - 12,000 prisoners, mostly for political, not
criminal reasons, and in detention they're treated harshly. They're
violently arrested, beaten on the way to detention, interrogated up to six
months for as long as 18 hours or longer a day, during which time, torture,
abuse, and other degrading treatment is commonplace.
they're either held administratively or charged with one or more bogus
offenses, then (unless lawyers arrange plea bargains) tried in military, not
civil, courts where international and Israeli laws don't apply. Justice, of
course, is impossible, long sentences often imposed against designated
"state enemies" - activists or ordinary people asserting their right to be
For months, Israeli security forces, politicians, and
extremist groups have been targeting human rights groups and activists for
supporting the Goldstone Commission report, the damning account of Israel's
crimes of war and against humanity during the Gaza war.
similar accounts, this one touched a nerve, resonating globally enough to
shake Israel's security apparatus and leave top government and military
officials vulnerable (if they travel) to prosecutions anywhere under
Universal Jurisdiction (UJ) authority. The response - vilify Judge Richard
Goldstone and silence internal voices of dissent, the last refuge of
scoundrels caught red-handed.
"Free Ameer Makhoul & Omar Saeed"
Support for and current information about them can be found at:
http://freeameermakhoul.blogspot.com/. The site headlines, "Israel's
repression of its Palestinian citizens unites us in struggle," and has
statements following their arrests condemning them, and demanding their
On May 12, an Adalah press release headlined,
"Court Rejected Appeal against Prohibition on Meeting with Lawyers for Ameer
Makhoul and Extended the Detention of Makhoul and Dr. Omar Saeed,"
The Petah Tikvah Magistrate Court held close door
hearings to extend the two men's detentions - for Saeed, another eight days
(through May 17) and for Makhoul 12 days (until May 18).
Saeed's prohibition on meeting with counsel was lifted, he was represented.
However, Makhoul is held incommunicado, prohibited from attending, denied
legal help so far, and (like Saeed), faces the prospect of criminal
prosecution, orchestrated to convict him.
In a May 10 press release,
Adalah said that:
"Dr. Saeed emphasized that he stated during all of
his investigation that he has never been recruited to or worked for any
organization, defined as a terrorist organization by the State of Israel,
and he has never had any contact with such organization. Both (Makhoul and
Saeed) are represented by the defense team of Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein,
and Adalah Attorneys Orna Kohn and Hassan Jabareen."
release explained that Israeli security forces want to "criminalize the
public, political, and social activity of Arab citizens," persecuting them
in violation of internationally recognized legal standards.
arrests come at a time of heightened racism against other Arab
citizens. As a result, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations,
working on behalf of political persecution victims, are being targeted for
In His Own Words
On May 6, Ameer Makhoul's
Electronic Intifada article headlined "Israel's repression of its
Palestinian citizens unites us in struggle," saying:
In April, when
trying to travel abroad, "Israeli border police prevented me from leaving my
country," prohibiting him for two months, subject to renewal. He called it
"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."
"Since 1948, Israel imposed a policy of control under the guise of security.
(However, in) 2007, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin introduced a new policy
targeting the whole Palestinian community as a security risk to thwart
democratic efforts," including their vision of one "state for all its
Since then, "Repression has increased
dramatically....(Israel) applies a multi-track approach....repress(ing) and
persecut(ing) Palestinians while they prohibit foreign solidarity activists,
organizations and journalists from visiting the occupied West Bank and Gaza
Strip." Settler violence and propaganda intensify the effort, while civil
society protests are repressed.
"The attacks that are meant to
divide us have had the complete opposite effect. Injustice unites us; we are
all together in this struggle," with growing people of conscience numbers
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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