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Israel arrests protesters as 'security risk'
by Justin Huggler in Jerusalem
10:29pm Wed Jul 16 '03
Eight foreign nationals have been arrested in the occupied territories as Israeli authorities clamp down on international peace activists on the ground that they pose a "security risk".
The case of a Belfast journalist and language teacher who was mistakenly arrested by Israeli security forces in the belief he was a bomb-maker has put the spotlight on the latest arrests.
The eight, who included two Britons, were being held in an Israeli police station in the West Bank and were refused bail. The Britons, Alex Perry and Saul Reid, were among a group of four arrested while removing a crude roadblock put up by the Israeli army to block Palestinian traffic - for security reasons, the army says. The other four were arrested while staging a sit-in to protest against Israel's construction of a "security fence" inside the West Bank. The Israeli authorities have been trying to deport them.
But unlike John Morgan, the Belfast journalist and language teacher mistaken for a Real IRA explosives expert, who continued to be held for questioning by the Shin Bet security service yesterday, there is no case of mistaken identity. The arrests were part of the Israeli army's attempts to crack down on foreign peace activists who travel to the occupied territories to protest against the Israeli army's tactics there, and in some cases to act as human shields for Palestinians.
In particular the army is keen to put a stop to the activities of one particular organisation, to which the eight arrested are all affiliated: the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The organisation has attracted hundreds of young peace activists here from Europe and the US since the start of the intifada.
They take part in a variety of activities which range from working with Palestinian children to standing in the way of tanks. Many stay in Palestinian houses scheduled for demolition by the Israeli army, to prevent them being knocked down. In April the Israeli army issued orders to step up deportations of ISM activists.
The Israeli authorities sought to link that order to the case of two British suicide bombers who posed as peace activists before carrying out an attack on a Tel Aviv bar that killed three people, but the order was issued two weeks before the attack.
The ISM is openly pro-Palestinian but its protesters are unarmed non-combatants, and the ISM supports only non-violent protest, which makes it surprising that the Israel authorities have categorised the group and its activists a "security risk". The authorities say that by interfering with army operations in the occupied territories, the activists put the lives of soldiers at risk.
The authorities' submission to court opposing bail for the activists read: "They should not be released from custody, not even within the Tel Aviv district and with a commitment by the plaintiffs not to leave that area," and says this is based on "the recommendation of security personnel, according to which the organisation ISM and its activists are perceived to be a security risk". The submission continues: "The goal of the ISM ... is to thwart the activity of the security forces in the territories and impede their work of preventing terrorism by confrontations with IDF soldiers, barricading themselves in the homes of suicide terrorists to prevent their demolition, transport of Palestinians between various areas during periods of closure, and the like".
Several activists have been seriously wounded. The order to step up deportations came after an American activist, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March.
Tom Hurndall, a British activist, is in a coma after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper in Rafah a month later as he tried to help trapped Palestinian children out of the line of fire.
* A Palestinian man stabbed one Israeli to death and wounded another on Tel Aviv's seaside promenade yesterday in an attack claimed by a group linked to the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction
add your comments
6:35pm Thu Jul 17 '03
If someone is taking down barricades that the army has put up, the army, it seems to me has two choices: it can let them or it can stop them. To let them is to allow outsiders to veto decisions that the army has made and to decide what they will allow the army to do. No army can possibly allow outsiders to control its actions. To stop the people who are dismantling the barricades an army can shoot them (very effective and likely to deter others), or arrest them (not so effective since it won't seriously deter others when the worst that can happen is a brief spell in jail and possibly being sent back to your safe home where you can give dramatic speaches about how your inalienable right to do what you want was interfered with). The Israeli army has apparently opted for the less effective method - so far.
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throw the bums out
7:21pm Thu Jul 17 '03
10:45pm Thu Jul 17 '03
you mentioned that "no army can possibly allow outsiders to control its actions" suggesting that the FINAL AUTHORITY rests with the army.
But that does not apply to an army that is in violation of numerous UN resolutions and completely DISREGARDS international rule of conduct and international law.
An army of that nature must be put in its place by either international peace activists or international peace keepers.
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12:44am Fri Jul 18 '03
...then in that case ,the ism creeps,and all the other activists deserve what happens to them.....i do not want to hear anymore bellyachin. right yo?
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response to yo
12:48am Fri Jul 18 '03
First. You are repeating the staemetn that Israel is in violation of numerous UN resolutions. That is not true, or at least it ignores the differeence between different types of resolutions that are adopted by the UN under various sectons of its charter. No UN body has adopted a resolution condeming Israel's control of the West bank. They call for the return of some territory as part of anegotiated settlement. Negotiations are something that the Arabs have clearly not engaged in. (Do what I want or we will kill you is not, I think, what the resolution intended).
Second, the UN is hardly a moral authority. It's members do not vote their conscience; they vote as suits their interests. Israel included - could Israel vote against the US on some issue that had no direct impact on it? The Arab world's oil and influence compel most countries to vote against Israel regardless of right or wrong.
Third, you state that Israel completely disregards rules of conduct. That is nonsense. The Israeli army has, given the circumstances, conducted itself in a more humaane manner then any other army in history, including the US - even at the cost of the lives of its men.
Fourth, I wouls imagine that blowing up civilians is also in viaolation on "rules of conduct". Why aren't there any international peace activists trying to take apart the facilities where the Palestinians make suicide bomber belts or the rockets that are indiscriminately shot into Israeli towns where hte only posible casualties will be civilians? Is it because an attempt to "put the Palestinians in their palce" will result in more than being arrested and deported or is it for some other reason?
Fifth, if one tries to put an army "in its place" one should be prepared to pay the price.
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12:55am Fri Jul 18 '03