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Israel Seeks to Isolate Palestinians From Global Support

Society & Culture  (tags: discrimination, Shashi Naidoo, racism, BDS South Africa, world news/media/Palestine, Israeli settlements, Omar Shakir, France, Sadet Karabulut, free speech, anti-BDS laws, SOMO, Netherlands, denial of entry, Lydia de Leeuw, israel, right of return, freedoms, activists )

- 230 days ago -
Two Dutch researchers were detained, subjected to humiliating treatment and abuse and then deported by Israel earlier this month


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fly bird (26)
Sunday August 5, 2018, 12:26 am
Israel’s policy is to isolate Palestinians from the outside world and obstruct the work of human rights defenders who document violations. (Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Two Dutch researchers were detained, subjected to humiliating treatment and abuse and then deported by Israel earlier this month.

Their experience is part of Israel’s policy to isolate Palestinians from the outside world and obstruct the work of human rights defenders.

Israeli security forces took Lydia de Leeuw for questioning immediately after she landed at Ben Gurion airport on 20 July.

Before the interrogation started, she was handed a file with personal details and other information already completed, including a decision by the interior minister to deny her entry.

Handcuffed and abused

Over four hours, de Leeuw was strip searched, deprived of her phone and other property and denied access to the Dutch embassy or legal assistance. She was then deported.

Her colleague Pauline Overeem experienced even more severe treatment.

She was detained for 24 hours during which she was “handcuffed and subjected to verbal abuse, including threats that the Israeli authorities would use force against her,” according to PHROC, a coalition of Palestinian human rights groups.

“They handcuffed me, verbally abused me and left me alone for hours in a room,” Overeem told the Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

Overeem was also denied consular or legal assistance before she was put on a flight back to the Netherlands the next day.

De Leeuw and Overeem are senior researchers at SOMO, a Dutch research center on multinationals founded in 1973.

Israeli media reported de Leeuw’s expulsion around the time she was taken in for questioning, mentioning details from her file – indicating that the media worked in coordination with the government.

“This suggests that the decision to deny her entry was made before she even landed in Israel,” according to PHROC. “Therefore, the treatment de Leeuw received at the airport, including her interrogation, was solely inflicted to harass and humiliate her.”

The interior ministry banned de Leeuw’s entry on the recommendation of Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister who is in charge of the government’s global crackdown on supporters of Palestinian human rights.

Facebook “evidence”

The researchers appear to be the first Dutch citizens to be denied entry under Israel’s anti-BDS law, which targets the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

SOMO is not on the Israeli government’s blacklist of 20 organizations whose members are banned from entry because they work to end Israel’s human rights abuses.

However, Erdan nonetheless used Israel’s anti-BDS law to ban the two Dutch researchers.

SOMO said it was “incomprehensible and unacceptable” that its employees were denied entry over alleged BDS work.

The group stated that it is “not active in the BDS movement” and that “boycott falls outside the scope of SOMO’s work as a research organization.”

Erdan was however bothered by SOMO’s report about Dutch agricultural imports from Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law.

The report served as proof that de Leeuw promotes BDS, Erdan’s ministry told the Dutch newspaper NRC.

De Leeuw told NRC that an Israeli interrogator presented additional “evidence” that she supports BDS in the form of two Facebook posts from 2015 and 2016. At the time, the law to ban to BDS organizations from Israel was not in force.

Criminalizing BDS

SOMO sees Israel’s denial of entry to its staff as part of the “ongoing trend toward shrinking space for civil society and the freedom of expression.”

The group says it is “extremely concerned about the criminalization of individuals and organizations that have called upon countries and businesses to promote and respect human rights.”

SOMO is urging the Dutch government to demand an explanation from Israel and condemn the treatment of its researchers.

The group noted that the Dutch government has explicitly defended BDS activism as protected free speech and association, a position also held by the European Union.

“I am not active in the [BDS] movement but fully support people who choose to enjoy this right,” de Leeuw told NRC.

European complicity

The Dutch foreign ministry – a donor to SOMO – told NRC the entry ban was “regrettable,” while recognizing the right of any country to determine its admission policy.

The ministry repeated its position that BDS activism is protected by freedom of expression.

The Dutch government’s surrender to Israel’s “right” to determine who can enter is identical to the apathetic response of the French government after Israel barred the entry of a number of French elected officials last year.

But what these governments are dangerously ignoring is that Israel is not merely barring entry to its “sovereign” territory. It is especially barring entry to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and isolating millions of Palestinians living there from the outside world.

Israel is obstructing the ability of international organizations to monitor its compliance with its obligations as an occupying power under international law. Therefore by refusing to stand up to Israel’s entry ban, European governments are helping Israel conceal its abuses from the world and giving it cover to commit more violations.

Dutch lawmaker Sadet Karabulut has asked the foreign ministry to look into the case.

Karabulut tweeted that it was “worrying that two Dutch human rights activists have been denied access to Israel for political reasons.”

One week earlier, Israel denied Karabulut entry to Gaza.

Millions of stateless Palestinian refugees have long been denied entry by Israel to their homeland because they are not Jewish. But Palestinians with citizenship in the US, Canada or EU states often find themselves barred from entering their homeland even for a visit.

As the US government has acknowledged, Israel’s denial of entry also appears to be motivated by ethnic and religious discrimination.

Targeting human rights defenders

In recent months, however, Israel has used the anti-BDS legislation to target human rights defenders and activists including Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Jerusalem office; Ariel Gold, co-director of CODEPINK; Vincent Warren and Katherine Franke, the executive director and a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights; and Ana Sanchez, a BDS activist from Spain.

Israel also last week barred entry to South African model and celebrity Shashi Naidoo.

Naidoo had provoked the anger of Palestinian rights’ supporters in June when she made derogatory comments about Gaza.

Campaigners capitalized on the incident, inviting Naidoo to travel on a fact-finding trip to see the situation of Palestinians for herself.

“Naidoo joins a growing list of South Africans who have been denied passage to Palestine,” the campaign group BDS South Africa, which helped organize her planned trip, stated.

But stopping Naidoo at the border has not stopped word of Israel’s abuses reaching even more people.
Since her return, Naidoo has called Gaza “the world’s largest concentration camp” and she is now publicly backing BDS:

fly bird (26)
Sunday August 5, 2018, 12:28 am
Palestinians Will Not Be Free Until They Can Return to Their Homeland.
July 24, 2018

Awni Farhat and Youssef Sammour, two Palestinian passengers on the Freedom Flotilla, discuss their longing to return home.

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist, and activist. After working in the New York and Paris offices of a major Wall Street law firm, Dimitri became a class action lawyer in Canada. His practice focused on shareholder rights, environmental wrongs, and human rights. In 2012, Canadian Lawyer Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada, and in 2013, Canadian Business Magazine named him one of the 50 most influential persons in Canadian business. Dimitri ran as a Green Party candidate in Canada’s 2015 federal election and has served as the Justice Critic in the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet.

TRNN video & transcript:

DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting from the port in Palermo, Sicily, from the Freedom Flotilla.

I’m joined here today by two third-generation Palestinian refugees who have been passengers on the Freedom Flotilla. Immediately to my right is Awni Farhat, who is from Gaza. He left recently and has since been studying in The Hague in the Netherlands. And he’s a researcher as well as a human rights activist. And to Awni’s left is Youssef Sammour, who is from Dubai and has a degree in engineering from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Thank you very much for joining us today.

So I’d like to start with you, Awni. Could you tell us a little bit about how you ended up outside of the Gaza Strip and studying in the Hague in the Netherlands?

AWNI FARHAT: Actually, before we start talking about my personal story, there are thousands of thousands of Palestinians who then they are still stuck in the Gaza Strip because of the Israeli blockade, because of this continuing injustice. There’s, basically there’s no freedom of movement in the Gaza Strip. You can’t easily get in and get out. But in 2015 I managed after seven months of, like, trying and trying to, to go out to do further studies. I was lucky. In 2015 I left Egypt, and from Egypt to Istanbul. And then after living one year in Istanbul I moved to the Netherlands to do my masters in the Hague.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And Youssef, your parents, as I understand it, left Palestine at a very early stage in life in 1948. Could you tell us about that experience?

YOUSSEF SAMMOUR: Yes. So my father was actually born on May 15, 1948. And obviously that was the time that all the Palestinians were exiled from their homeland. My parents went to Lebanon, or my grandparents did. My father was actually born on the trail. My grandma, his mother, went into labor while they were moving around. And she was so traumatized that she couldn’t rear him. So what they used to do was find almonds from a tree and grind them up and get almond milk, and that’s how my father was reared for a couple of weeks until they got to Lebanon.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And you’ve never been back to Palestine, have you.

YOUSSEF SAMMOUR: We have no family left in Palestine. I’ve never attempted to go, even though I’ve been wanting to for many years. My parents always convinced me not to, because they say why would you? It’s too dangerous. But I have been to Lebanon recently, and I visited the refugee camp where my parents grew up. It’s about half an hour from Beirut by car. We still have family there, and it was really a great experience. But hopefully I’ll, I want to go visit Palestine. I do want to visit my, my parents’ homeland. I have the New Zealand passport, I consider myself a kiwi, having lived there for 15 years. So hopefully that will be enough incentive for the Israelis to let me through.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And Awni, I’d like to ask both of you, actually. I’ll start with you. What do you think that this voyage, this expedition, means to the Palestinian people? Understanding the reality that the vessels are likely to be intercepted in international waters and are not likely to be permitted to actually reach Gaza, why do you think this is nonetheless an important expedition for the Palestinian people?

AWNI FARHAT: Actually, we should, we should-. Our priority is to keep thinking about the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians, they are locked inside this small place. They don’t have basic human rights. And like here, this side of the world, we have so much privilege. Me as a Palestinian living in the diaspora, I can’t, I can’t overcome this feeling of helplessness. I can’t live my normal life and step back and just turn, turn my back about what’s happening in Palestine, and in the Gaza Strip, especially, where I lived most of my life. Where I have my family and my friends, my social organic network.

We have to do something about that. We have to take practical actions. We have to raise awareness. We have to do, to do so much. This is, this is good, but this is not enough. We have to do 10 doubled times effort to bring more people around the Palestinian cause, and to bring a change.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And Youssef, you know, both of you have been on this voyage for quite some time. I think pretty much from the beginning, or close to it. You’ve had the opportunity to enter a number of European ports. You’ve seen, you’ve gained, I gather, a very good sense of the level of grassroots support throughout Europe for the Palestinian cause. But when you compare what you’ve experienced on the ground to the policies of EU governments, there appears to be a disparity, a vast disparity.

What do you, what do you say about what the national governments of the European Union are doing to defend the Palestinian human rights? And if they’re failing in that regard, why do you think there is this disparity between grassroots support for the Palestinian movement and the policies of national governments? I’ll start with you.

YOUSSEF SAMMOUR: It’s a bit of a difficult question, because I’m not a huge politician, or I’m not into politics that much, especially in the EU politics. But I do know that there are many issues in the EU that the grassroots movements are trying to enforce or promote. And the higher-up people aren’t hearing any of it. So this is just one of the many issues.

We have seen a lot of progress in the, especially in Spain. So while we were in Gijon, in North Spain, that same time, Valencia boycotted Israel officially. Valencia is the third-biggest city in Spain. And I think 40 or 50 other provinces did the same and the same time. And in Gijon, they passed a resolution to completely boycott Israel or any products from Israel, and promote it up, higher up within the EU. We met the mayors and they were supporting it as well, and they showed us the paperwork and all that good stuff. So that was very encouraging. So I do think it is, there is potential for it. It just needs more and more attention.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And I understand also that in Italy there are at least four cities that are now calling for an arms embargo on Israel, which would be a quite dramatic move. And there was the adoption recently by the Irish Senate of a bill banning the importation of settlement products. You know, Awni, you’ve actually lived in the EU. You’re currently a resident in the Netherlands. Do you have a view about why there is this disparity between grassroots support on the policies of the national governments towards Israel and Palestine?

AWNI FARHAT: Sadly, the international community, like, like here in Europe they are considering this issue is a sensitive issue. And it has its historical background, and it’s, it’s-. But we have, we have met so many politicians, and we had political debates with representatives of political parties. And some of them they don’t have explicit or clear standpoint or opinion about, about the Palestinian-Israeli question. And it’s a bit frustrating.

But through this grassroots movement we can minimize this gap between the people who care about this and the politicians, because through the people we can bring different, different politicians, different- or change the perspective of the governments.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So you believe it’s an educational process that you have to go.

AWNI FARHAT: Yeah. It’s, it’s happening, and you can see it clearly in the streets of Gijon, the streets of Amsterdam. There’s a shift of the way, how people they think about, about this, And through education, through lobby and advocacy, through what we’re doing now with the Freedom Flotilla, we are floating hope. We are sailing from one country to another, sharing the voice of Palestinians, sharing the message of Palestinians, standing in solidarity with the Palestinians and sharing a message for humanity. Because this is the basic thing. We are standing for human rights and social justice; not just for Palestinians, but for everyone.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, I can tell you it’s been a privilege sailing with you on the Freedom Flotilla. And I’d like to thank you both very much for speaking to The Real News today.

YOUSSEF SAMMOUR: Yes, thank you. Can I say one more thing, though? The local groups have been super supportive, and it’s been great. But in some of the ports they’ve raised some local, you could say, political flags along with us. I guess they’re fans of some kind of political movements there. I just want to reiterate this is not a political movement at all. Our ship to Gaza is, in essence, in purest form, it’s a human rights movement. We’re not taking donations from any political parties. We are just trying to help humans get a better life. And that’s all it is.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you again very much for speaking to The Real News. This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting from Palermo, Sicily for The Real News Network.

fly bird (26)
Sunday August 5, 2018, 12:31 am
Palestinian Cabinet Urges World Support for UNRWA.
July 31, 2018

During its weekly meeting held in Ramallah, today, the Palestinian Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Dr. Rami Al- Hamdallah, condemned the latest Israeli escalation against Al-Aqsa Mosque, and considered it part of the plans of the occupying power to Judaize Jerusalem, alter its historical features, and obliterate its Arab and Palestinian identity. This escalation coincides with the latest settlement and forced displacement plans against Khan al-Ahmar and other areas of the West Bank, the repeated threats of aggression against the Gaza Strip, and the adoption of the racist Jewish Nation-State Law.

In this regard, the Cabinet called upon the international community, Arab and Islamic states to intervene to stop the Israeli escalation against the Palestinian citizens, to provide international protection for the Palestinian people and their holy sites, and to end the Israeli occupation and its measures that violate all international laws, treaties, and conventions.

The Cabinet also denounced the recent Israeli announcement by the Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, which approves establishing new 400 settlement units, aiming at expanding “Geva Binyamin, Adam” settlement, southeast Ramallah, in a step backed up by the American Trump Administration. In addition to that, the Cabinet criticized the decision of the Israeli government to approve the construction of 270 settlement units in the so-called “Neve Daniel” settlement, near Bethlehem.

The Cabinet considered such plans a blatant challenge to the international community, and a clear attack against the Palestinian land and rights, in a manner which prevents the possibility of establishing an independent, sovereign State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This requires a firm stance, by the international community, to compel Israel to cease its illegal settlement activities in the Palestinian territory, foremost of which is the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Moreover, the Cabinet deplored the recent Israeli incitement campaign, led by Israeli right-wing and settler organizations, against Palestinian civil society institutions, which affected the image of Palestinian NGOs before the international community through linking such national institutions with terrorism.

The Cabinet stressed the importance of the role played by such institutions and its integration with the efforts of different ministries and government bodies. Of this, the Cabinet noted that civil society institutions work in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and all relevant international laws, and are a major advantage and form of support for the Government in meeting the needs of its citizens, especially in the so-called “Area C”.

The Cabinet called upon world countries to stand with Palestinian civil institutions against Israeli right wing and settler organizations that call for seizing more Palestinian land, destroying homes and facilities and attacking citizens’ capabilities, which violate all international and humanitarian laws.

In another context, the Cabinet hailed the United Nations Economic and Social Council for adopting a law regarding “the social and economic consequences of the Israeli occupation” in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. This law condemns the devastating effects that the Israeli occupation leaves on both the Palestinian economy and society, and the arbitrary policies aimed at destroying the Palestinian economy.

Thus, PNN reports, the Cabinet expressed its gratitude to the Group of 77, and China, for meeting their legal and moral obligations through voting in favor of the resolution.

Furthermore, the Cabinet commended the UN Human Rights Council for appointing three experts to the Commission of Inquiry into Israeli violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, upon the Council’s decision, at its special session held last May, to establish an independent international commission investigating Israeli violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Above all, the Cabinet expressed its deep concerns over the financial crisis and severe budget deficit facing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The cut-offs in the $100 million US contributions to the UN emergency program, may lead to catastrophic consequences on more than one million Palestinian refugees receiving food, education and health assistance from the UNRWA.

Therefore, the Cabinet is appealing to the international community and donor countries to provide financial support to the UNRWA, to ensure that it continues to provide services to Palestinian refugees until achieving a just solution for their cause.

Furthermore, the Cabinet showed its gratitude to the World Bank for providing a $90 million grant to the Palestinian people, aimed at empowering the private sector, as well as financing infrastructure projects. Similarly, the Cabinet highly praised the Canadian financial support of $37 million to increase economic opportunities and prosperity for Palestinians, especially women and young people, through supporting economic empowerment programs, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities.

Also, the Cabinet congratulated Ahed Tamimi and her mother, on their release from Israeli prisons and held the Israeli Government fully responsible for the safety and life of Palestinian prisoners and for the racist violations, it commits against them. Consequently, the Cabinet renewed its calls upon the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to protect Palestinian prisoners in defense of international resolutions and UN conventions, to save their lives, maintain their basic rights, and meet their demands.

The Cabinet, thereupon, stressed the importance of the efforts exerted by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, along with the Palestinian Government to stop the inhumane measures practiced against Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli prisons. These efforts also attempt to compel Israel to respect all international and humanitarian laws in treating Palestinian prisoners, until they are released unconditionally from Israeli prisons and detention centers.

Finally, the Cabinet approved the recommendations of the Minister of Local Government to hold elections for nineteen local communities that lost their legal status as a result of the resignation of the majority of their members on Saturday, 22/09/2018.
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