The green line is certainly getting blurry. Thursday morning at 3:00 am sixteen Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided the home of Ameer Makhoul, a well known Palestinian human rights activist in Haifa, and detained him. According to a statement made by Palestinian human rights organizations:
The 16 ISA agents and police officers immediately separated Makhoul from his family, including wife Janan and daughters Hind, 17 and Huda, 12, and conducted an extensive search of the home. According to Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, Ameer and Janan’s laptops, the hard drives from the girls’ two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing un-transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work. At one point during the police search, Janan says, one officer violently restrained her, twisting her arm and pushing her when she attempted to leave the home’s living room to observe the confiscations. The security forces also refused to identify themselves and showed her a warrant authorizing Makhoul’s arrest only after she repeatedly insisted. The order was signed on 23 April 2010 and cited unsubstantiated "security" reasons as the grounds for Makhoul’s arrest.
Makhoul is the the director of Ittijah, a network on grassroots Palestinian organizations throughout Israel. Police also raided Ittijah’s offices and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization’s computers.
The raid came two weeks after Makhoul, an Israeli citizen, was placed under a travel ban by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. Before his detention Makhoul sent a piece to the Electronic Intifada about his travel ban. He explains:
Last month, when I traveled from Haifa to the land border between Jordan and Israel, the Israeli border police prevented me from leaving my country. The police handed me an order issued by the Israeli Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai prohibiting me to leave Israel for two months. The travel ban imposed on me is 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.
The Israeli minister of the interior holds the opinion that my travel outside the country "poses a serious threat to the security of the state," according to article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations. I am the director of Ittijah, Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, which is a sub-committee of the High Monitoring Committee of Arabs in Israel. All three bodies unite Palestinian Arabs in Israel and we jointly decided not to appeal my travel ban at the Israeli high court.
Any meeting in the Arab world or with any Arab person anywhere in the world arouses the suspicion of the authorities. The accusations against me are made on the basis of secret evidence that I am not allowed to see, and the high court merely acts as an extension of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS), or the Shin Bet. Israel does not need to prove that there is reason for suspicion; instead, I have to prove that there is no need for their suspicion. The Israeli legal system is far from fair for Palestinians.
Israel is intimidating Ittijah and the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms because we are reasserting our community’s stake in the Palestinian struggle. Twenty years ago few considered the Palestinians in Israel as a part of the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause. During the Oslo process of the 1990s, we were considered an internal problem for Israel to deal with, but our networking, advocacy and lobbying has changed this. Israel is increasingly repressing us to divide Palestinians from each other and isolate us from the outside world.
The human rights organizations’ statement referenced above makes a similar point and connects Makhoul’s arrest to the wave of Israeli repression against dissent on both sides of the green line:
Makhoul’s case is only one example amidst a recent escalated campaign by Israeli authorities against Palestinian human rights defense and civil resistance. In addition to arbitrary arrest and detention, Israeli authorities have met Palestinian human rights activism in recent months with a variety of measures, including raids, deportations, travel bans, visa denials and media attacks against nongovernmental organizations. Moreover, Palestinian communities involved in grassroots human rights defense efforts are frequently levied with collective punishment measures in the form of curfews, sieges and destruction of property, threats to individuals and the community as a whole, beatings, the use of lethal and "non-lethal" ammunition, including 40mm high velocity tear gas canisters, denial of permits, tear-gassing, army incursions and intentional injury and killings.