The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

How Israel treats foreign NGO workers

Here's a couple of recent stories about what happened to Western aid workers operating in the Occupied Territories. Of course, the Rachel Corrie episode showed how Israel feels about Westerners trying to help Palestinians.

Ayaz Ali of Islamic Relief:
Ayaz Ali returned from Israel to Britain last week after a military judge ruled he had done nothing wrong. On his release, the Israeli government issued a statement accusing Ali, 35, of assisting Hamas and implied that he was a neo-Nazi and a supporter of al-Qaeda.

. . .
Every day he was taken to an interrogation room to be questioned for up to 14 hours under bright lights by agents of Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet, while handcuffed and shackled to a chair. When his interrogators deemed he was being co-operative, his handcuffs were removed; they were replaced when they believed he was not helpful.

'They were brilliant at playing mind games. They said they knew everything about me and they had been watching me for five months. They knew my wife was expecting a baby, and told me I would never see my baby. I just tried to be completely honest,' Ali said.

The interrogations were led by an aggressive man who was assisted by others who played a sympathetic role. 'He told me that if he thought I was an imminent threat or knew about an imminent threat, he was prepared to kill me. I was in fear for my life,' he said.
Maureen Murphy of Al Haq:

In the late afternoon of 28 May 2005, Al-Haq human rights defender and American citizen Maureen Murphy arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Israel, on her way back from the USA to Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). She was questioned, denied entry into Israel, declared persona non grata and deported on a plane at 00:55 am on 29 May.

Israeli lawyer Smadar Ben-Natan went to see Maureen at the airport and petitioned for an interim injunction to prevent the deportation. The petition was denied by Judge Nurit Akhituv, via phone, at 00:40. The formal basis on which Maureen was denied entry and deported was immigration. The Israeli authorities allegedly feared that Maureen was attempting to settle illegally in Israel. The lawyer's argument that Ramallah is not in Israel, but rather in the OPT, was discarded. However, there is no way to enter the West Bank without passing through Israeli border control since the Israeli occupation authorities do not allow the operation of any airports inside the West Bank.

Maureen has no intention of settling in Israel. Her intention is to assist Al-Haq in its work defending human rights in the OPT. Maureen's case is emblematic of an increasing pattern of international human rights defenders being denied access to the OPT. Al-Haq is gravely concerned that this will deprive local human rights organisations of their ability to recruit the people of their choice in order to best monitor, document and expose human rights violations in the OPT.