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Thai Military Opened Fire and Killed Rohingya North of Phuket, Say Boatpeople, Villagers

The five Rohingya: Four say they survived being shot at by Thai military

The five Rohingya: Four say they survived being shot at by Thai military
Photo by phuketwan.com
PHUKET: Thai security forces opened fire on defenceless Rohingya boatpeople north of Phuket, killing at least two and as many as 15, according to detailed accounts by three survivors and Thai villagers who are sheltering them.

The killings, which are said to have occurred on February 21, came during a botched attempt by the military to transfer about 20 would-be refugees from the large boat on which they arrived from Burma (Myanmar) with 110 others, to a much smaller vessel.

When some feared they would be separated from family members, they jumped in the water and the military men opened fire during the predawn incident, the witnesses said.

Survivors Habumara, 20, Rerfik, 25, and Jamar, 16, said yesterday that they swam for their lives when the shooting broke out. They are currently being sheltered by sympathetic villagers.

Two fresh graves, said to contain Rohingya, were seen by a Phuketwan reporter and an Australian news television crew yesterday.

The three survivors said they believed that the killers were members of the Thai Navy, but village residents said they probably belonged to another branch of the Thai military.

Previous abuses of the Muslim Rohingya have been carried out by other arms of the Thai military or operatives trained as paramilitaries.

Vice Admiral Tharathorn Khajitsuwan, the Commander of Thai Navy Three, which patrols the Andaman coast, declined to comment.

One Rohingya, Rerfik, said that their boat, which had run out of fuel on its journey from Burma, was intercepted by local Thai fishermen on February 21.

The fishermen helped them ashore at a beach on Surin island, a popular destination for international tourists on dive boat and snorkelling excursions.

”Other local people brought us food and water,” Rerfik said. A meal was provided on the beach for the exhausted boatpeople.

At 6.30pm that day, a military boat arrived at the beach. A video shot by villagers shows the Rohingya craft being towed close to shore by a vessel with the hull designation TOR214, which is listed as a Thai Navy fast patrol boat.

”The villagers told us not to worry, we were told that they were just going to transfer us safely to the mainland,” Rerfik said.

But the next morning, the military decided to transfer 20 of the Rohingya to the smaller vessel nearby offshore, and the shooting broke out.

”There was a shot fired into the air when we decided not to move,” Refrik said. ”And so we jumped. That’s when they opened fire on us, in the water.”

”We all heard the gunshots,” a fisherman told a local woman who had been waiting by the pier for the Rohingya boat to be brought to shore.

”A little bit later, Rerfik was pulled from the water. During the day, the others were found and rescued.”

Two bodies were also pulled from the water and buried, with fishermen telling villagers they had seen more bodies in the water. As many as 15 people may have died, the fishermen told the villagers.

The residents of the village north of Phuket are now sheltering four survivors, as well as another Rohingya who arrived on an earlier boat.

Soldiers descended on the village and searched the area for two days after the incident, but the survivors were kept hidden.

The fate of the other 100-plus Rohingya is not known, after they were towed away by the military vessel.

The Thai military has previously been accused of cooperating with people traffickers by handing over boatpeople who are then smuggled to Malaysia for a large fee or sold as bonded laborers.

Habumara said: ”Most of us were hoping to reach Malaysia but my aim is to go on from there to Australia. We are not sure what will happen to us now?”

Thailand has been swamped this October-April ”sailing season” by Rohingya, who are fleeing persecution and deprivation in their native Burma and border areas in Bangladesh.

Thousands have set sail to escape a recent outbreak of violence targeting their communities.

In 2009, the Thai military was revealed to have secretly adopted a policy of towing Rohingya out to sea in powerless boats and casting them adrift. Hundreds died as a result. The policy was quickly abandoned by then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Since 2009, the Thai military has adopted a ”help on” policy. Rohingya boats are intercepted at sea and supplied with food, water and fuel, on condition that they do not come ashore in Thailand.

Persecution of the Rohingya in Burma has grown with renewed violence since June, forcing thousands of people to flee by sea – and including women and children for the first time this October-to-April ”sailing season.”

As a result, Thailand has been swamped with record numbers of Rohingya. The arrival of women and children in boats – first reported by Phuketwan on January 1 this year – led to Rohingya being brought ashore through January and raids on secret Thai-Malaysia people-traffickers’ camps, where more women and children were discovered.

Detention centres and refuges throughout Thailand are now crowded with 1700 Rohingya whose status and fate is being decided by the Thai government, with advice coming from NGOs, between now and July.

(Source / 06.03.2013)

UNICEF: Palestinian children ill-treated by Israeli military

PALESTINIAN children detained by the Israeli military are subject to widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law, a UNICEF report has said.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged 12-17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.

UNICEF said it had identified some “examples of practices that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture”.

Israel’s military and foreign ministry declined immediate comment on the findings.

According to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution and sentencing.

“The pattern of ill-treatment includes … the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints,” the report said.

It said minors, most of whom are arrested for throwing stones, suffer physical violence and threats during their interrogation, are coerced into confession and do not have immediate access to a lawyer or family during questioning.

“Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children, denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel,” the report said.

Such practice “appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised”, it added.

UNICEF based its findings on more than 400 cases documented since 2009 as well as legal papers, reports by governmental and non-governmental groups and interviews with Palestinian minors and with Israeli and Palestinian officials and lawyers.

The report said Israel had made some “positive changes” in recent years in its treatment of Palestinian minors, including new hand-tying procedures meant to prevent pain and injury.

It also noted as an improvement a military order given in 2010 that requires Israeli police to notify parents about the arrest of their children and to inform children that they have the right to consult a lawyer.

(Source / 06.03.2013)

België ontvangt Israël met veel eerbetoon

De Israëlische president Shimon Peres kwam deze week naar Brussel. Op 5 maart werd te zijner ere een receptie aangeboden. Verschillende progressieve organisaties reageren op deze “gebeurtenis”.

Charlie Le Paige, voorzitter Comac-ULB
Al enkele maanden voert solidariteitsbeweging intal een campagne voor een militair en academisch embargo tegen Israël. Door de Israëlische president Peres uit te nodigen gaat de ULB lijnrecht tegen deze campagne in… (Foto intal

De avond is georganiseerd door de CCOJB (Centre de Coördination des Organisations Juives de Belgique), Forum (Forum Der Joodse Organisaties) en de Israëlische ambassade. Meer verwondering wekt het feit dat dit evenement mee georganiseerd wordt door de ULB, als een “academische zitting” waaraan onder meer defensieminister Pieter De Crem, ULB-rector Didier Viviers en Hervé Hasquin (Permanent Secretaris van de Koninklijke Academie) deelnemen. De zaak wekt, onder meer aan de ULB, heel wat beroering. Comac (de PVDA-jongerenbeweging) nam het initiatief om te protesteren tegen de steun die de ULB-rector aan de Israëlische politiek verleent.

Shimon Peres, die al sinds 1960 in Israël in de politiek zit, is zeker niet de vredesduif zoals sommigen hem willen voorstellen. Mocht hij écht niet akkoord gaan met de Israëlische politiek, dan zou hij gewoon ontslag kunnen nemen. Maar dat doet hij niet. Hij is nu sinds zes jaar president van Israël. Wat wil zeggen, president van een koloniserende staat die consequent elke mogelijkheid weigert om het conflict met de Palestijnen op te lossen. Hij is president van een land dat de mensenrechten schendt en dat de Palestijnse bevolking dagelijks aan allerlei pesterijen onderwerpt. Hij is ook president van een staat die in Gaza de hele onschuldige bevolking in een open gevangenis opsluit. Hij is president van een staat die niet aarzelt om zijn leger – een van de machtigste ter wereld – in te zetten tegen Palestijnse burgers.

De laatste jaren zorgden de operaties “hard lood” (2008) en “pijlers van de verdediging” (2012) er voor dat we deze realiteit niet zouden vergeten. Beide operaties hadden plaats tijdens het presidentschap van de nobelprijswinnaar voor de vrede. Het Israëlisch leger heeft toen niet geaarzeld om witte fosfor te gebruiken tegen de burgerbevolking. De vredesboodschap van Peres bestaat louter uit holle woorden en wil alleen heeft een mooi beeld van Israël ophangen.

Een zogezegde dialoog

Comac en verschillende andere organisaties interpelleerden de universiteitsrector over zijn deelname aan deze avond. Als verdediging onderstreepte de rector steeds opnieuw de noodzaak en het recht op dialoog. Een sterk argument natuurlijk, want wie is tegen dialoog? Maar hiermee zet hij wel een mondaine avond met de Israëlische president op dezelfde voet als de dialoog tussen Israëli en Palestijnen. Door deze manipulatie brengt hij al diegenen die “de dialoog willen tegenhouden” in diskrediet. Zo vond ULB-professor Marc Uyttendaele al wie kritiek had op dit evenement “een extremist” en iemand die “haat zaait tegen de democratie1”.

Als Israël écht over vrede wil spreken dan moet het maar stoppen met Palestijnse gebieden te koloniseren. Wie vandaag het recht op dialoog in het Israëlisch conflict verdedigt, is daarom nog niet voor de vrede. De hoofdrolspelers worden gewoon rug aan rug geplaatst en men vergeet daarbij te zeggen dat één partij een machtspositie bekleedt en beslist heeft dat er geen vrede komt. Het recht op dialoog verdedigen in het geval van deze avond ter ere van Shimon Peres is zeker geen voorbeeld van “onpartijdige kritiek”: het is duidelijk tonen dat men de kant kiest van Israël.

We begrijpen nu ook beter waarom de autoriteiten van de ULB vorig jaar zo moeilijk deden bij de erkenning van de BDS-kring (Boycott, Desinvesteren, Sancties).

Een avond om het blazoen op te poetsen

Wat is deze avond meer dan de Israëlische president onder de schijnwerpers brengen? Dit evenement wordt trouwens nadrukkelijk op die manier voorgesteld. Het gaat dus duidelijk om een avond georganiseerd “om het blazoen op te poetsen”2, een avond die niets te maken heeft met een tegensprekelijk debat, zoals de rector het graag wil voorstellen. Hij heeft het duidelijk lastig met de geuite kritiek.3

Tenslotte zijn het de daden die tellen. En daarover is er geen twijfel: noch over de daden van Peres, noch over die van Viviers, die graag de verdiensten van Peres in het licht wou zetten. Dat is dan ook de reden waarom verschillende organisaties4 tegen de komst van Peres protesteren en vinden dat geen enkele officiële Belgische vertegenwoordiger moet deelnemen aan de legitimatie van de politiek waarvoor Peres staat. Dat was ook het ordewoord van de betoging die op 4 maart aan de ULB georganiseerd werd, onder meer door Comac en voor deze die op 5 maart doorging op de Troonplaats, dicht bij de plaats waar de fameuze receptie plaatsgreep.

Om dezelfde reden eist Comac ook dat er een einde komt aan alle academische projecten van samenwerking met Israëlische instellingen die verbonden zijn met het Israëlische leger.

1. Le Soir (28 februari) • 2. Zoals Henri Goldman onder meer in Le Soir verklaarde (1 maart) • 3. blog-recteur.ulb.ac.be • 4. Onder  meer: Comac, intal, BDS-ULB, étudiants FGTB, CEAE (Cercle des Etudiants Arabo-Européens), l’ABP

(Source / 06.03.2013)

Shireen Al-Essawi, sister of Palestinian hunger striker Samer Al-Essawi speaks to MEMO


Shireen Al-EssawiShireen was arrested in 2010 and served a year in an Israeli prison.


Samer Al-Essawi’s story still has not received the coverage it deserves. While people all over the world support Samer, major media outlets and human rights organizations have yet to step up to the plate to tell Samer’s story. Samer is not the first member of his family subjected to the brutality of the Israeli occupation. From his grandfather to his uncle, parents and siblings, Samer’s entire family has been violated by the occupation.

I was able to interview Shireen Al-Essawi, Samer’s sister, who is no stranger to the aggression of the Israeli state, by telephone. We talked about how Samer’s case is affecting her and her family’s daily life and the impact it has had on them. She told me that they are subjected to raids almost daily, and that their water and electricity have been cut off numerous times. Her brothers have all been arrested and detained for periods ranging from between 1 to 19 years and they are arrested and taken to police stations for questioning several times a week. When I asked her on what charges they were being arrested, she said “simply for being associated with Samer.” In addition to this, Shireen who is a lawyer, is banned from entering a court room for 6 months following an incident at one of Samer’s hearings. The court is now demanding that she be disbarred, hence preventing her from making a living. However, the hardest thing of all is that they are unable to visit Samer, and only have contact with him through his lawyer.

I also asked her how this is affecting the people of their district, Al-Issawiya, in East Jerusalem. Shireen spoke to me about how the people of her district are suffering at the hands of the occupation.  According to her, Al-Issawiya is subjected to raids, tear gas attacks and building demolitions on a daily basis. Since December 13th, 2012, there have been arrests every day in Al-Issawiya, and the number of arrests has reached 200 arrests in their district alone.  Shireen also explained how children were the main targets of these arrests, and how they were taken from their homes during night raids. She also told me how the solidarity tent put up for Samer had been torn down 35 times by Israelis.

Shireen was arrested in 2010 and served a year in an Israeli prison. I asked her about the charges and her experience behind bars. She said that she was arrested due to the fact that she was a lawyer handling the cases of Palestinian prisoners and was charged with supporting terrorism. When asked about how she was treated, she told me “they don’t care if you are a man or a woman; the treatment is just as brutal.” Shireen was in interrogation for 28 days during which she was tied to a chair in uncomfortable positions for 19-20 hours at a time. The guards were aggressive and constantly insulted her.

Next, I asked her how Samer was doing. She told me he is still in Kaplan Medical Centre and hooked up to machines regulate the irregular heartbeat he is suffering from and that he is extremely weak – he is in a critical medical state. However, she also said, “Despite his deteriorating health, his spirits are high. Every time his lawyer says he is going to cheer Samer up, he comes back and tells us Samer cheered me up.” She told me he is determined and insistent on his strike until he gains freedom or martyrdom; he is at peace with his decision.

When I told Shireen that everyone was wondering how Samer had lasted for 225 days without food, she said that as long as Samer is conscious, he refuses glucose drips, however, once he passes out and is unconscious, he is given the drip. Despite this, he continues to refuse food and glucose while he is alert.

I also asked Shireen why despite there being a number of Palestinian hunger strikers, Samer’s case is so significant and why he has had the most support. She explained to me that other than the obvious reason; the fact that Samer has been on a hunger strike for 225 consecutive days which is unprecedented, many Palestinians have approached her and told her how they considered Samer to be their son or brother. She said, “Everyone identifies with Samer, he embodies the dreams, hopes and determination of the Palestinian people.” He continued his strike in spite of Israel’s unjust policies and the harassment of his family. Shireen also explained that prisoners like Samer who is protesting the re-arrest of the prisoners released in the prisoner exchange agreement, and Ja’afar and Tarik who are protesting administrative detention, have gained popularity and support because “the battle they are fighting is not a personal battle, but a battle for the people”; they are protesting against the violation of all Palestinian prisoners in Palestine.

This question was followed up with the question of why the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has refused exile of the prisoners to Gaza or Egypt. Shireen clarified this by explaining that Samer made very clear from the beginning that he totally rejects the idea of exile. He is a Palestinian Jerusalemite and will not be exiled from his hometown, even if it costs him his freedom. “President Abbas knew Samer’s position on this matter, and refused Israel’s offer to release the prisoners on hunger strike into exile. This was the Palestinian Authority’s way of showing their support to Samer and the other hunger strikers.” She also explained that even though this was the official position of the PA, individual prisoners were free to choose exile if they pleased.

Since Shireen is a Jerusalemite and is subjected to hardships on a daily basis, I asked her to shed some light on the suffering of Jerusalemites, as I felt that the problems they faced were somewhat unique and were not well-known. She told me there were many issues and violations they were subjected to on a daily basis, but she would highlight the most common and serious. First, she told me, Jerusalemites are faced with the challenge of house demolition. The Israeli Authorities have issued demolition orders against 80% of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem on the grounds that they have been illegally constructed. She explained that “construction permits are not issued to Palestinians, and when we try to build our houses, we receive demolition orders. They want to erase the presence of Palestinians in Jerusalem.”  The second issue Palestinians face, according to Shireen, is that Jerusalemites are having their permanent residency cards revoked. We cannot leave for more than 2 years or our residency is taken away from us leaving us with no rights to stay in Jerusalem. Another injustice faced by Jerusalemites is that they are charged high property, water and electricity taxes but receive no services in return; “The Israelis receive 100 per cent of the services, and our services do not even amount to 1 per cent.” Furthermore, Shireen told me that in Jerusalem, children are arrested at an alarming rate, they are assaulted by the ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews and settlers, and houses are illegally seized.

Being a lawyer, Shireen has seen her fair share of hearings in Israeli courts. She gave me an example of the injustice and discrimination faced by Palestinians in Israeli courts. In Samer’s case, he was re-arrested for allegedly entering the West Bank, sentenced to 8 months imprisonment and may have to serve the remainder of his original sentence of 30 years. On the other hand, settlers enter the West Bank and establish settler blocs illegally. However, they are simply arrested, given a warning, and released after which they return to their illegal blocs. Shireen said, “This double standard has to stop. The same laws are set for Palestinians and Israelis and they should be applied equally.”

As a final question, I asked Shireen what we, as ordinary people, can do for Samer, and if she had any final words. She began by expressing her appreciation for everyone who is supporting Samer and defending him. She also said that she hopes that everyone in the world would stand in solidarity with him. Shireen also said that “the major influential countries in the world, as well as human rights organizations and media outlets, have a responsibility to support Samer and put serious and official pressure on Israel to release him.” Individuals can write articles about Samer and spread his story, as well as protest in front of the Israeli consulates and write letters to members of parliament and other officials in their countries to inform them of Samer’s case and demand his release – “every little helps.”

(Maha Salah / Source / 06.03.2013)

Israel arrests 2 Palestinians in West Bank raids

TULKAREM (Ma’an) – The Israeli army detained at least six Palestinians from cities and towns across the occupied West Bank early Wednesday, relatives and security officials said.

Soldiers raided the house of 20-year-old Walid Mohammed Ajouli in the village of Qaffin north of Tulkarem, detaining him on the scene. The detainee’s family said Walid had heart problems.

An army spokeswoman said six Palestinians were detained overnight.

One was detained in Nablus, two in Bizzariya, north of Nablus, two in Ayda refugee camp in Bethlehem, and one in Surif, southwest of Bethlehem, the official said.

Meanwhile an Israeli unit attacked dozens of Palestinians protesting against Israel’s dumping waste in a landfill in the city of Nablus.

Soldiers arrived at the landfill and forced a complete evacuation of the area, before firing stun grenades and tear gas against protesters, and arresting 13-year-old Mohammad Munther Solaiman.

Protesters were demanding Israel shut down the site because the waste comes from Israeli territory and its contents are unknown. Protesters said it risked harming the environment.

An army spokeswoman said 40 Palestinians hurled rocks at soldiers who responded with riot-dispersal means. She was unaware of the reports of an arrest.

(Source / 06.03.2013)

UN says Golan Heights peacekeepers detained by fighters near Syria

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) — The United Nations said about 20 peacekeepers had been detained by armed fighters in the Golan Heights on the border between Syria and Israel on Wednesday and that it has sent a team to resolve the situation.

The United Nations confirmation came in response to YouTube videos purporting to show Syrian rebels with the seized convoy.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war. Syrian troops are not allowed in the area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974. Israel and Syria are still technically at war. The area is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

(Source / 06.03.2013)

Using secret travel ban, Israel prepares to deport activist Adam Shapiro preventing him from being at the birth of his first child

Huwaida Adam

Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro

Israel’s deportation policy entered a new phase on Monday when Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), arrived at Ben Gurion airport and discovered an entry ban on Shapiro, despite inquires made in advance by a lawyer for the couple. Arraf and Shapiro, now expecting their first child, are perhaps the most recognizable pair in the Palestine solidarity movement, and architects for building an international activist presence on the ground since the beginning of the second Intifada.

At the airport on Monday afternoon Israeli authorities informed Shapiro that in 2009, unknown to him, the Israeli Ministry of Interior issued a 10-year entry ban for him. Initially the border police “weren’t making much sense,” Arraf told Mondoweiss, but then Shapiro was taken to jail where he remained for two days until he and Arraf were briefly reunited at a court hearing Tuesday.

After Shapiro’s Monday arrest, Arraf sent a letter to friends and supporters on her husband’s arrest:

Adam and I are expecting our first child, a boy in about 5 weeks. As joyful as this blessing is, we’ve had / we have to make some difficult decisions (besides what to name our son that is!) I am an Israeli citizen (in addition to a US citizen). This fact has made it possible for me to continue accessing my homeland all these years in spite of some attempts by Israel to kick me out. Israel did however deport Adam in 2002 because of our human rights work and banned him from re-entering the country (including the occupied Palestinian territory) since, which is why we’ve had to spend so much of our married life apart. In order for us to ensure that in the future, if Israel remains the racist, apartheid state that it is, it won’t deny our son the right to visit his homeland and all his family in Palestine, we’ve had to think about getting Israeli citizenship for our son. However, because I’m Palestinian, and not a Jewish citizen of Israel, our child will not have the automatic right to visit the country or to claim citizenship. The only way for me to pass down my citizenship to our son is to have him in Israel.

Arraf explained that in Tuesday’s court hearing the state claimed that Shapiro was presented “a document all in Hebrew” that stipulated a 10-year entry ban when he was detained by Israeli authorities in 2009 and “they said that Adam refused to sign.” But Arraf says Shapiro was never given such a document, “this is the first time he’s been told he has a 10-year ban.” Yet at the trial, Arraf says the state’s attorney produced a copy of the letter, “it’s the state’s word against Adam’s.”

“When the judge ruled, it was basically a technical ruling,” explained Arraf. He “wouldn’t listen to evidence on the ban itself, whether it is legal,” and Arraf summarizes it was clear “they did not want Adam to enter the country.”

Arraf is Palestinian with U.S. and Israeli citizenship, and Shapiro is a U.S. citizen—facts that dictate the couple’s ability to live together, travel together, and now will impose a separation during the birth of their first child after 11 years of marriage. Because of Arraf’s Palestinian national identity, she traveled to Israel late in her pregnancy so she could give birth to her son in country, ensuring she could bequeath her Israeli citizenship. Although it is technically possible for Arraf to transfer citizenship abroad, for Palestinians it is an arduous task. By contrast, children of Israeli-Jews born outside of the country can be issued Israeli identification numbers, even in instances where the child is not registered by the parents. This past year an American activist born to an Israeli father toldMondoweiss that despite never applying for citizenship, the Israeli Ministry of Interior told her she was already registered in the system. They said it was illegal for her to enter on a U.S. passport as the state already considered her an Israeli citizen.

Last month a lawyer for Arraf and Shapiro twice inquired with the Israeli government on Shapiro’s ability to enter Israel. Both times Arraf said Shapiro “was never given any written notice that he has a 10-year ban.” In addition, in 2008 Arraf wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior to inquire into Shapiro’s travel status. At the airport on Monday, border officials produced a copy of the letter and told Arraf that she should have waited for a response before entering. “Well it’s been five years, you want us to wait longer for a response?” said Arraf.

Arraf and Shapiro’s current predicament dates back to 2002 when Shapiro was working in the West Bank as a human rights activist. After an arrest that led to deportation Shapiro discovered he was persona non grata, when attempting to re-enter through an Israeli controlled border. Over the next ten years he tried to enter the country three times. The pair was advised that Shapiro had been issued one of the notoriously vague 10-year entry bans, typically given to activists without notice, or formal explanation. Indeed Shapiro was never officially told he had a 10-year ban, but it was a logical deduction.

Later in 2009 while aboard the flotilla to breach the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, Shapiro was taken into Israel by Israeli forces against his will and was again deported. According to Arraf, at the time the judge in that case acknowledged that Shapiro did not intend to enter Israel and was taken into the country while under custody of Israeli authorities. Now the state is alleging a new entry ban was issued at that time.

Because Arraf and Shapiro have been in communication with Israeli officials about their travel plans, Shapiro’s secret 10-year entry ban is especially alarming. The couple seems to have taken every measure to ensure Shapiro could be present for the birth of their son. But with Shapiro’s looming deportation anticipated to take place this evening, their case demonstrates that Israel not only issues entry bans, but also conceals them until the time of arrival.

“A couple of years ago,” said Arraf, “a lawyer once told me that [the 10-year entry ban] is not in any official Israeli law.” Yet, the threat of a 10-year ban is considered a final banishment doled out to the most high profile activists. It is viewed as a punitive measure for internationals who are known supporters of Palestinian rights, a fact that is underscored by the fact that only Palestine solidarity activists have received it.

Because of an Israeli policy that allows for anyone who is a perceived “security threat,” to be denied entry on spot, Arraf was aware her husband could face complications upon arrival. It is not uncommon for activists working in the West Bank to be deported from Israel, even without ever exiting the airport. This policy was employed en masse in 2012 and in 2011 when dozens of internationals were denied entry when traveling for a “fly-in,” a protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

“I’m usually very optimistic” said Arraf in regards to Shapiro’s ability to be present for the birth of their son. But with “all of his human rights work and his activism the state doesn’t like him.”

Arraf has a reputation for hopefulness and resilience, and it is not surprising that despite this situation she is still committed to working for the rights of Palestinians. I interviewed her after she was arrested on the 2010 flotilla, and Arraf told me that the Israeli police beat her until she was concussed, ultimately dumping her from their car. She regained consciousness while medics put her on a stretcher after seemingly being left for dead in the middle of the desert. Arraf was then taken to a hospital. After treatment she left on her own and walked until she found a phone to call her family. She didn’t know where she was, or how much time had passed.

But a few days later Arraf was back on the ground, demonstrating and fighting for her cause. Now, just as in 2010, she moves forward even though her husband’s case will likely become a benchmark for secret travel bans.

“We continue our work on the larger picture,” wrote Arraf in her latest update to friends. “If our situation can be used to help shed more light on the racism and inhumanity rampant here (as well as Israel’s contempt for human rights defenders), with the goal of changing the system someday for the future of all the children of this region, that would be one of the best things that we could hope for.”

(Source / 06.03.2013)

‘Simple Racism’: Palestinian only bus vandalized overnight

Palestinians queue to board a bus as a new line is made available by Israel to take Palestinian labourers from the Israeli army crossing Eyal, near the West Bank town of Qalqilya. (AFP)

Palestinians queue to board a bus as a new line is made available by Israel to take Palestinian labourers from the Israeli army crossing Eyal, near the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

A day after Israel began running separate West Bank bus lines for Palestinian workers, vandals tried to set fire to several of the vehicles overnight, police said on Tuesday.

“Two buses were apparently set on fire but we are looking into all possibilities,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP, saying the incident took place in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Qassem which lies very close to the Green Line.

Police sources quoted by army radio said the buses had been torched as a protest against the new transportation system which came into effect on Monday.

The incident took place just hours after Israel began running separate bus lines for Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers, in a move which was bluntly denounced by an Israeli rights group as “segregation” and “simple racism.”

But Israel’s transport ministry denied the charge, saying Palestinians with a permit to work in Israel were allowed to travel “on all public transport lines.”

The controversy over the separate bus lines continued to draw sharp criticism from Palestinian officials on Tuesday.

“This is a racist policy of segregation,” deputy labour minister Assef Said told AFP.

His remarks were echoed by the Palestinian Workers’ Union which also denounced it as “a racist measure” and said the buses would become an easy target for attacks by settler extremists.

The new bus route ferries Palestinian workers from the Eyal checkpoint just north of the West Bank city of Qalqilya to several cities in Israel where they have permits to work.

The transport ministry says the new lines are to serve Palestinian workers entering Israel in a bid “to replace the pirate operators who transport the workers at inflated fares.”

But Israeli media reports said the service was launched after Jewish settlers complained that forcing them to share public transport with Palestinians was a security risk.

Until now, the workers have been reaching Israel by catching buses which run from outside Jewish settlements which they would ride alongside settlers travelling to Israel.

Ron Nahman, the late mayor of Ariel settlement, had in November said he was in talks with the army, the police and the transport ministry to find ways of “stopping Palestinians from boarding the buses that go to Ariel.”

“All of them are working on this problem, and we hope that they will soon find a solution to the reality that is bothering our people,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

(Source / 05.03.2013)

Settlers uproot 100 olive trees near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Monday uprooted almost 100 olive trees in a village southwest of Bethlehem, a local official said.

In a statement, the head of Nahhalin village council said a large group of settlers, guarded by Israeli forces, uprooted nearly 100 trees aged around 30 years old.

(Source / 05.03.2013)


UK peace activist faces deportation by Israeli occupation authorities and is set to be detained by Special Branch under anti-terror powers upon return

Tom Woodhead, a British activist, is currently facing deportation by Israeli authorities after being arrested last Friday by border police at a demonstration in Kafr Qaddum, a village in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Woodhead, (born July 1984 in Sheffield), was a volunteer in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement since early-October last autumn. On 1 March, Woodhead was amongst several international and Israeli activists attending one of Kafr Quddom´s weekly Friday protests, with the aim of monitoring and to provide an international presence to restrain violence by the Israeli occupation forces. The regular demonstrations, which began in July 2011, are part of a local strategy by the village´s popular struggle committee to regain access to the road which leads to Nablus, the nearest city. It has been obstructed by a roadblock since 2003 and all travel to Nablus henceforth has been elongated by 14km one-way going the next shortest route.

Last Friday´s demonstration, as customary, began with approximately 150 walking up the road towards the colonial-settlement Qedumim, where the earthmound sits further along. The protestors were forced back into Kafr Qaddum with stun grenades, teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Afterwards, the protesters managed to gather themselves again and moved towards the village exit, where they became apprehensive at the apparent disappearance of the border police, who were accompanied by soldiers. However, when two jeeps, tailed by police on foot, sped toward the protestors, they ran back towards the village centre. At which point several border police officers burst out of a vacant building where they had been hiding and grabbed who they could of the surprised protesters running past them. Along with two Palestinians, Belal Fathi Jomaa (22) and Nayif Khalel Jomaa (17), Woodhead was arrested by three officers during which he was hit with a rifle butt, whilst one of the Palestinians was photographed being hit in the back of the head with a rock by one officer. During his arrest Tom was blindfolded and punched twice in his face. Border police ‘played’ with their guns making noises while he was blindfolded to scare him

The teenager is being held in Megiddo prison, where Arafat Jaradat was lethally tortured during interrogation a few days ago. The other Palestinian is interned in Huwara military base; whilst Woodhead is currently being transferred to detention by the Israeli Interior Ministry as part of his deportation ordeal. No evidence has been presented of any wrong-doing and this, ISM maintains, is due to the Israeli government not wanting any outside scrutiny of the recent upsurge of violent oppression in the West Bank.

Woodhead, had previously been one of the six activists who broke into the Brighton factory of EDO-MBM Technology and, after barricading themselves in, proceeded to damage around £200,000 worth of manufacturing equipment. Following a month-long trial in Lewes in summer 2010, they were cleared of charges of criminal damage after satisfying the court that they had lawful excuse by preventing war crimes; due to the company´s proven supply of exclusively-made equipment used by the Israeli military in the December 2008 to January 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip. Prior to his time in Palestine, Woodhead had been a first aid trainer with the British Red Cross in his city of residence, Bristol.

Upon his return to the UK, Woodhead is reasonably expected to be detained for questioning by Special Branch under Schedule VII powers provided within the Anti-Terrorism Act 2000. This is in line with the recent experiences of two researchers from Corporate Watch, campaign affiliates of Woodhead through Smash EDO. They were quizzed on a variety of personal and non-violent campaigning-related matters with no relation to any ongoing criminal proceedings and no further action taken in either case. Woodhead met with the two, Therezia Cooper and Tom Anderson, in the Jordan Valley for a memorial day held for Simon Levin, a late member of the Smash EDO and Jordan Valley Solidarity direct-action campaign groups and co-defendant in the ´decomissioners´ trial. This tactic of misusing legislation that uniquely disallows a right to silence to glean background information on activists has been condemned in articles by both ISM and Corporate Watch. (seehttp://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=4716 and http://palsolidarity.org/2013/02/british-activists-being-detained-in-uk-airports-under-anti-terrorism-legislation-on-return-home-from-palestine/)

(Soure: Facebook / 04.03.2013)