Palestine: Israeli crackdown exposes its aims

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Australian activist Bridget Chappell was arrested by Israeli security forces in February along with Spanish activist Ariadna Marti, in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Chappell and Marti were working for the International Solidarity Movement supporting peaceful Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. Below, Chappell details the increased repression by Israel against all forms of resistance in the occupied territories.

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Israel has exposed the extent of its crackdown on resistance to its occupation in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on April 29. It claimed the Israeli Shin Bet intelligence agency has been conducting surveillance on myself, a non-violent activist and Australian citizen, in Area A of the West Bank.

The affidavit claimed my arrest on February 7 and the ongoing surveillance of my activities was justified on account of various Israeli military orders. This highlights the Israel’s overall authority in the implementation of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories and its total disregard for the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo peace accords.

On May 2, the Israeli state submitted a response to our appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court regarding my illegal abduction from the West Bank, including a statement from the Shin Bet Israeli intelligence agency claiming that I had broken the conditions placed on me by the Israeli courts since my arrest.

A Shin Bet agent said: “The facts detailed are known to me due to my examination. From information in our possession, it appears that Ms. Chappell is at this time in Nablus.”

The question of what the Shin Bet was doing in Area A of the West Bank (under full Palestinian civilian and military control, as stipulated by the 1993 Oslo accords) is not even addressed: it is as though their presence in an area of Palestinian Authority control has simply been accepted and the Oslo Accords are simply as obsolete as they were following Israel’s re-occupation of the entire West Bank during the second intifada (uprising) that broke out in 2000.

Is it really possible that a 22-year old Australian activist working with a non-violent movement in the occupied West Bank could constitute such a threat to the Israeli state as to warrant such investigation?

Such draconian practices as military raids and undercover surveillance is behavior generally associated with states recognised and condemned for their intolerance of dissent, such as Iran. Israel’s media machine, however, continues to present itself as the region’s only democratic state.

In fact, my arrest from Ramallah and the Shin Bet’s new claim that I am under surveillance serves to further abolish the myth of Palestinian control in the West Bank.

It’s clear that Israel’s matrix of control in the occupied territories extends not only to the entire Palestinian population, but international activists involved in the popular resistance.

The extent of Israeli attempts to crack down on international participation in the struggle, however, only serves to focus the eyes of the world on what Israel has hoped to execute stealthily: the bantustanisation (division into separate ghettoes) of Palestine.

Israel’s brutal system of dealing with resistance, whatever form it takes, is the same. I recall a cultural celebration I took part in that resulted in the violent arrest of seven Palestinians and one international activist.

Their crime was simply engaging in what should have been a joyful assertion of Palestinian culture and history in a city, Al Quds (Jerusalem), which lies at the center of Israel’s current campaign of ethnic cleansing.

I witnessed the same brutal force employed against Palestinians during the olive harvest last year, when international and Israeli activists join forces with Palestinian farmers to reach their lands for the annual harvest — in the face of severe military repression.

Meanwhile, Israel has heightened its use of live ammunition as a crowd dispersal technique against the growing wave of non-violent demonstrations taking place across Gaza and the West Bank. This has resulted in the death of three Palestinian protesters in the last two months.

Israel’s intolerance of resistance is shown by the imprisonment of Palestinian activists, which has recently included several prominent figures in the resurgence of popular resistance, such as Nablus activist Wa’el Al-Faqeeh.

Wa’el and I coordinated non-violent actions in the Nablus region against the occupation, responding to settler violence and demonstrations against land annexation.

Wa’el was arrested in a military raid on his home on 9 December 2009 — yet while ISM activists were involved in the same activities, he remains imprisoned by Israel to this day, still without charge.

The veiled system of martial law in the West Bank that has enabled the arrest and imprisonment of more than 650,000 Palestinian political prisoners since 1967 now appears to have broadened its targets to include international activists as well.

In my legal council’s two latest appeals to the district and supreme courts, the state has argued on the grounds of my alleged violation of a 1970 military order prohibiting “infiltrators” from remaining in the occupied territories for longer than 48 hours without written permission from the military commander of the region.

The law appears to be a precursor to Military Order 1650, implemented one month ago, which denotes the military’s ability to deport civilians from the West Bank without documentation proving their residence or permission to be there, at their own expense.

This potentially includes thousands of West Bank residents with Gazan, Jerusalem or Jordanian addresses on their ID cards, as well as international activists.

If the PA held any sovereignty over the West Bank, my return to the area would not only have been of no relevance to the Israeli authorities, but a realisation of their demand for me to leave their borders.

The reality is that my court case only serves to further highlight the true nature of Israeli control over every inch of historic Palestine, be it within Israel proper or any area of the occupied territories.