New Internationalist

Free Ameer Makhoul!

Long-time activist Jeff Halper of the ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolition), who was interviewed for New Internationalist in January 2009, has sent out an appeal to free Ameer Makhoul, President of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms. Mr Makhoul was abducted by the Israeli security service during a midnight raid in early May, held incommunicado for days, and has yet to be released.

As Jeff points out, 'The repression, night-time raids on private homes, arrests, arbitrary charges, long periods of "administrative detention", travel bans, visa denials, torture and unexplained deaths that have been the lot of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories these long past decades have come into Israel with a vengeance.'

It seems that Palestinian citizens of Israel now enjoy the same violation of their civil and human rights so long endured by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Please join Jeff Halper and ICHAD in condemning this ongoing repression by writing to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Israel in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Israel. (Names and contacts are listed at the end of Jeff's appeal.)

FREE AMEER MAKHOUL! STOP REPRESSION IN ISRAEL!

A Call From The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

May 11, 2010 

ICAHD adds its voice to the calls of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil society organizations demanding the immediate release of Ameer Makhoul, the General Director of Ittijah and President of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms, who was abducted from his home in a midnight raid of the security service and held incommunicado for days after.

Makhoul's arrest is but the latest in a string of arrests on vague charges, all of them accompanied by severe violations of the fundamental rights of habeas corpus and due process, and of gag order imposed upon (and unfortunately respected by) the press. The repression, night-time raids on private homes, arrests, arbitrary charges, long periods of "administrative detention", travel bans, visa denials, torture and unexplained deaths that have been the lot of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories these long past decades have come into Israel with a vengeance. The disappearance of Dr. Omar Saeed at the hands of the security services is not less alarming. "I met with a thin and feeble man," said his lawyer, who was only able to meet him after two weeks of interrogation. "He told me that he is sometimes questioned for 18 hours straight by five interrogation teams."

Indeed, initial reports of the charges being brought against the two should raise alarms for anyone concerned with preserving civil rights in Israel. Makhoul and Saeed are not being charged with espionage but with something called "political espionage," centering around "meetings" with "an agent of Hizbollah." Makhoul's lawyer, Hussein Abu Husein, notes that espionage laws in Israel are so wide-ranging that an internet chat or telephone conversation with anyone in an "enemy state" could lead to prosecution. ICAHD, like Ittijah, comes into contact with many people in its international activities, most of whom are by definition "enemy agents" since they all seek, as do we, a total end to Israel's Occupation. Such vagueness in charging activists - and then not allowing them or their lawyers to even see the evidence against them - must inexorably lead to civil rights abuses.

But "political espionage" does not even have to go that far. Laws being drafted by the Knesset call for the cancelling of legal status of Israeli NGOs '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.'" In other words, merely producing critical reports or analyses that might "aid the enemy" could turn an organization into an enemy of the state - as happened already to the New Israeli Fund, accused by the Right in Israel of providing 90% of the material that went into the Goldstone report. Activists meeting with their colleagues abroad could be accused of "coordinating political positions" with enemy agents, suffering the same fate as Makhoul, Saeed and others.

While Palestinians on both sides of the "Green Line" are obviously easy targets, every organization and individual in Israel concerned about peace, human rights, international law and justice is a target. (A recent poll found that 57.6 percent of Israelis agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.)

We condemn the arrest of Ameer Makhoul and Omar Saeed and demand their immediate release. Letters of protest to Israeli officials may be sent to:

* Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il, pm_eng@pmo.gov.il 

* Mr. Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Fax: +972 3 691 6940, Email: minister@mod.gov.il 

* Mr. Eli Yishai, Minister of the Interior, Tel: +972 (0)2 670 1411 

* Mr. Yehuda Weinstein, Attorney General, Fax: +972 (0)2 6467001 

* Mr. Yuval Diskin, Head of Israel's General Security Services : Email via the website.

* Mr. Yitzhak Aharonovitch , the Minister of Internal Security 

* Mr. Yaakov Ne'eman, Minister of Justice, Email: sar@justice.gov.il / tifereth@justice.gov.il 

* Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, E-mail: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il, Fax: +41 22 716 05 55 

* Embassy of Israel in Brussels: Email: brussels@israel.org

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Israel in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Israel.

In solidarity,

Jeff Halper and the ICAHD Staff

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