Ameer Makhoul

May 14th, 2010

by Stephen Lendman

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,” saying:

“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:

“sparked 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 counsel.”

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 suppress dissent.

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:

“Israel 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.”

AI’s Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa Programme, Philip Luther, called Makhoul:

“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 detainees administratively.

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.

Israel, however, 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 activists.

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 overturned it.

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.”

Other human rights activists and Arab Knesset members are also at risk. Mohammad Barakeh and Said Naffaa had their parliamentary immunity stripped, and face criminal prosecutions.

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 anyone anywhere.

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.

Afterwards, 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 free.

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.

Unlike 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 immediate release.

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,” explaining that:

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).

Since 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.”

The press 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.

The 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 their work.

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 citizens.”

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 globally.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

2 thoughts on “Ameer Makhoul

  1. kruitvat Post author

    Occupation tactics

    Israel imposing occupation tactics on its Palestinian citizens

    Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 11 May 2010

    Ameer Makhoul Last Thursday, in the early hours of the morning, a Palestinian community leader’s home was raided by Israeli security forces. In front of his family, the wanted man was hauled off to detention without access to a lawyer, while his home and offices were ransacked and property confiscated.

    While this sounds like an all-too typical occurrence in West Bank villages such as Bilin and Beit Ummar, in fact, the target in question this time was Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and head of the internationally-renowned nongovernmental organization network Ittijah.

    After being snatched last week, Makhoul’s detention was subject to a court-enforced gagging order, preventing the Israeli media from even reporting that it had happened. This ban was finally lifted yesterday, as Israeli newspapers were being forced to report on angry protests by Palestinians in Israel without explaining the specific provocation.

    It turned out that another Palestinian citizen of Israel, Balad party activist Omar Said, had also been arrested, and interrogated by the Shin Bet since the end of April. Now, both Makhoul and Said are to be charged with espionage and “contact with a foreign agent” — namely, Hizballah. On Monday night, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Haifa to protest against what they call “an escalating campaign to crack down on Israel’s Palestinian citizens.”

    The gagging order recalls the Anat Kam case, where for several months it was forbidden to report that the former soldier was under house arrest and being investigated by the Shin Bet for “leaking classified military information.” The facts about Kam were first circulated by bloggers and campaigners, something repeated in Makhoul’s case (including the Facebook group “Free Ameer Makhoul & Omar Said”).

    The night raids, interrogations and charges are not isolated incidents — indeed, Makhoul had been prevented from leaving the country in April, according to an order by the interior minister. Days later, a West Bank Palestinian nonviolent resistance organizer, Iyad Burnat, was also banned from traveling at the Jordan crossing, en route to, among other things, a conference on the Geneva conventions.

    Several examples now point to an uncomfortable reality for the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East”: practices that have long been routine in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are being used in Israel to suppress dissent and limit civil liberties. The green line is increasingly blurry.

    There are the Sheikh Jarrah protests, where marches and rallies against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes have been targeted by the police, including the arrest of an organizer at his home — only for him to be released without charge and no evidence presented. Then there is the trend towards repressive legislation, with the so-called nakba law making its way through the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that will ban state funding for any group that marks the expulsions of Palestinians in 1948.

    Two weeks ago, a new bill was proposed by more than a dozen cross-party members of Knesset (MK), which would outlaw any organization “if there is 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 in Israel and/or officers in the Israeli army regarding war crimes.” Adalah, one of the groups specifically targeted, stated: “Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”

    Arab members of the Knesset are also increasingly under attack. MKs Mohammad Barakeh and Said Naffaa have had their parliamentary immunity stripped so that they can face criminal proceedings, with the chair of the committee which deals with immunity issues reported to have suggested that “a serious decision” would have to be made as to “whether or not these parties can continue to sit in the Israeli parliament, even while they operate against the country.”

    More recently, a trip by Arab MKs to Libya has been greeted by attempts to “strip the members of their immunity,” with MK Michael Ben-Ari declaring “an historic opportunity to abolish once and for all the immunity and rights of Knesset members who hate Israel and denigrate the state.”

    At the heart of this and other cases against Palestinian citizens is contact with the wider Arab world. According to Adalah, the “charge of meeting a foreign agent” is so broad that it criminalizes “almost any Arab who establishes legitimate relations with political and social activists in the Arab world.”

    So why is this happening now? First, it is the latest manifestation of a deteriorating atmosphere in Israel, with political dissent and human rights groups under attack. Depressingly, there is considerable support among Jewish Israelis for this kind of crackdown: one poll found that 57.6 percent of respondents “agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.”

    Second, there is also a specific focus on Israel’s Palestinian minority. Three years ago, it was revealed that the Shin Bet intended to “thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law.” This is no doubt in part a response to the kind of developments Makhoul talked about in January when I met him in Haifa: how “this generation” of Palestinian citizens “has grown up with October 2000 [when Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Israel]. The green line disappeared — in terms of thinking, behavior, and consciousness.”

    Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer for both Makhoul and Said, stressed the role of someone like Makhoul in being a prominent advocate internationally for “the need for accountability” -= in other words, “the state has enough reasons to stop this voice.” Mohammad Zeidan, of the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), says that the arrests are “clearly political.” He believes that for some in Israel, the work being done by nongovernmental organizations and Arab parties on the international level is “crossing a red line” — “they want to remind us that this is not a democracy.”

    Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian’s “Comment is free,” where this essay was originally published, The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide (Pluto Press). He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.

    http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11261.shtml

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  2. kruitvat Post author

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