Israel: the systematic promotion of the...
On April 6th, a judge at the Jerusalem District Court indicated that a travel ban will be upheld against Laith Abu Zeyad, an Amnesty International campaigner, who has been denied freedom of movement, including being barred from travelling abroad, by Israel since October 2019. The judge accepted the Israeli Security Agency’s position that he constitutes a security threat effectively rubberstamping the ban.
Responding to the decision Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “For the second time in less than a year, Israeli authorities, including the judiciary, have demonstrated their wanton disregard for international human rights law, by signalling they plan to uphold an unlawful travel ban on our friend and colleague Laith Abu Zeyad. Laith has now been living under these arbitrary restrictions for more than 500 days and the Israeli authorities have yet to provide an adequate explanation, beyond the bogus claim that Laith poses a ‘security threat’, which they never specified.”
Ahead of the court hearing, 16 local human rights groups, including B'Tselem, Adalah, Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, released a statement condemning Abu Zeyad's ban, which was published in Hebrew on the front page of Israel's daily Haaretz newspaper: "Imposing draconian restrictions that deny millions of Palestinians freedom of movement is a key feature of the Israeli regime," the groups stated. "Israel denies Palestinians' rights to travel abroad while regarding its citizens' rights to do so as fundamental."
Abu Zeyad's initial ban came at a time when Israel had begun increasing efforts to crack down on human rights groups and activists working within Israel and the Palestinian territories. Hurryyat, a Jersusalem-based rights organisation, recorded that nearly 8,000 Palestinians were banned from leaving the occupied West Bank between the years of 2015 and 2020.
According to Hagai El-Ad, an Israeli human rights activist, one cannot live a single day in Israel-Palestine without the sense that this place is constantly being engineered to privilege one people, and one people only: the Jewish people. Yet half of those living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are Palestinian. The chasm between these lived realities fills the air, bleeds, is everywhere on this land.
“I am not simply referring to official statements spelling this out – and there are plenty, such as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion in 2019 that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens”, or the “nation state” basic law enshrining “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value”. What I am trying to get at is a deeper sense of people as desirable or undesirable, and an understanding about my country that I have been gradually exposed to since the day I was born in Haifa. Now, it is a realisation that can no longer be avoided.” She continued.
“There is not a single square inch in the territory Israel controls where a Palestinian and a Jew are equal. The only first-class people here are Jewish citizens such as myself, and we enjoy this status both inside the 1967 lines and beyond them, in the West Bank. Separated by the different personal statuses allotted to them, and by the many variations of inferiority Israel subjects them to, Palestinians living under Israel’s rule are united by all being unequal. Unlike South African apartheid, the application of our version of it avoids certain kinds of ugliness. You won’t find “whites only” signs on benches. Here, “protecting the Jewish character” of a community – or of the state itself – is one of the thinly veiled euphemisms deployed to try to obscure the truth. Yet the essence is the same. That Israel’s definitions do not depend on skin colour make no material difference: it is the supremacist reality which is the heart of the matter – and which must be defeated.”
“The past is one of traumas and injustices. In the present, yet more injustices are constantly reproduced. The future must be radically different – a rejection of supremacy, built on a commitment to justice and our shared humanity. Calling things by their proper name – apartheid – is not a moment of despair: rather, it is a moment of moral clarity, a step on a long walk inspired by hope. See the reality for what it is, name it without flinching – and help bring about the realisation of a just future.” Wrote Hagai El-Ad.