Israel's Human Rights Abuses in the Name of Security
My husband and other Palestinian prisoners are being denied basic rights and subjected to harsh treatment in detention
"Israeli security" is the sacred cow of the Israeli street and ruling establishment. Practically all the manifestations of Israeli racism directed at the state's Palestinian citizens, as well as those living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, fall within this elastic slogan. In the name of this slogan, too, Israeli human rights organisations working to expose the practices of the state and army have recently had restrictions placed upon them.
The case of my husband Ameer Makhoul, which has received considerable media coverage and widespread local and international support, has played out against such a background. His arrest took place on 6 May 2010, but the story goes back to the time of the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008 and the death of thousands of Gazans.
At that time, Palestinian streets and the Arab and outside world rose up at the pictures of the killing of children and the terrible destruction. There were demonstrations, marches and protests. It was then that Ameer was summoned by Shabak (GSS), the Israel security service, for questioning on his various activities and political work. After several hours, he was released in the middle of the night with a warning that he was walking a fine line by inciting young people – yet all he was doing was making them aware of their national identity.
He was told that the next time he was summoned for questioning, he would have to bid his family farewell for a long time. On 6 May, the Israel security service carried out its threat. At three in the morning, our home in Haifa was raided by a force of 16 police and armed security personnel. Ameer, our two young daughters, aged 12 and 17, and I were woken up by a violent knocking at the door and he was taken away before our eyes.
Ameer was held in the security service interrogation centre at Petah Tikva for 12 days and his basic legal rights, accorded by international and domestic law, were violated, including the right to see a lawyer and an independent doctor. When he felt unwell, he asked for a blood test but his request was rejected. Only after the legal defence team, in consultation with us, the family, decided to boycott the court, were they allowed to see Ameer. They found him stressed and in poor physical condition. It was clear to them from the statement he made that he had been subjected to cruel and harsh interrogation, coming within the definition of torture.
His confession having been extracted under these conditions, on 27 May 2010 Ameer was charged with spying for Hezbollah. Since then, he has languished in an Israeli prison with more than 7,000 other Palestinian prisoners charged with similar security offences. We await the results of the trial and the verdict of the judges.
It is not only those charged with violating security in Israel who are punished – their family and community are punished too.
Ameer is being tried in the midst of a vicious wave of racism against Palestinians. A recent report by the Israeli organisations B'tselem and HaMoked into human rights abuses in the same interrogation centre in Petah Tikva found that there have been 645 complaints filed by detainees over their treatment in the facility, but none have led to any criminal investigation. In fact, these very Israeli organisations are being targeted by parliament today because of their work in exposing the practices of various state institutions, including the police, security services and army.
The Israeli parliament (the Knesset) took a further step in this direction recently by announcing the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate the work of human rights organisations. Furthermore, the Israeli security cabinet decided to extend for a further six months the ban on the reunification of Palestinian families where spouses are Israeli Arabs or inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, West Bank or Arab States. This will mean the continued suffering and fragmentation of these families on the pretext of "Israeli security".
Under these difficult circumstances, Ameer agreed to strike a plea bargain with the public prosecutor whereby the sentence would be limited to between seven and 10 years. Legal experts told us that, were Ameer not well-known as a political activist who speaks to the world at conferences and international forums, the deal would have been more favourable for him.
Ameer is on trial and the big question remains: can the judiciary and the bench rise above the prevailing atmosphere to deliver a just verdict?
• This article was written before Sunday's sentencing, at which Ameer Makhoul was jailed for nine years
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