Israeli authorities extended the detention of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist Mahmoud Nawajaa for 15 more days over the weekend, in addition to holding him without charge and denying him the right to see his lawyer.
Nawajaa, the General Coordinator of the Palestinian National BDS Committee, was arrested by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night from his home in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on July 30th.
Like most Palestinians who are arrested by Israel in the occupied territories, Nawajaa was blindfolded, handcuffed, and marched out of his home in front of family, in his case his wife and three young children.
The decision to extend his detention was made in an Israeli military court in Jenin on August 2nd, upon request from Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet.
According to the BDS movement, the Shin Bet declined to present any charges or evidence that they have against Nawajaa with him or his lawyer — a common practice used by Israeli officials who routinely cite unnamed “security reasons” to justify the detention of Palestinian political activists.
While Nawajaa has not yet been charged or tried in court, it is important to note that all Palestinian political prisoners are tried in Israeli military courts, which boast a 99.7% conviction rate of Palestinians.
Additionally, rights groups have accused Israeli prison authorities of using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify denying Palestinian detainees the right to familial and lawyer visits, while at the same time, not enforcing social distancing and health guidelines in Israeli prisons.
On Top of that, most Palestinian detainees are being processed in court hearings where they are not even present. On August 2nd, for example, Nawajaa attended his court hearing via video conference, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Today’s hearing followed precisely the Israeli Shin Bet playbook of repression, which is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa’s,” BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti said in a statement.
“Without charges or a shred of evidence, they throw outrageous lies at Palestinian human rights defenders, like Mahmoud, to smear them and to make it easier for the rubber-stamp military courts to extend their detention, ill treatment and, often, cruel interrogation,” Barghouti said.
In the wake of his arrest, the BDS movement has launched the #FreeMahmoud campaign on social media, and has urged international activists to pressure their governments into advocating for the release of Nawajaa, and to hold Israel accountable.
The BDS movement was founded by Palestinian activists who believe that the economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel is one of the most effective ways to hold Israel accountable for its crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, and achieve justice and equality for Palestinians.
As the BDS movement has grown into the mainstream in recent years, Israel has doubled down on its efforts to criminalize the movement both locally and internationally, including through the arrest of Palestinian activists associated with the movement.