‘We are entering a new stage in [Israel’s] escalation towards fascism.’ These were the words of Neta Golan, the Israeli co-founder of the direct action anti-occupation organisation the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
In August 2004 I spent three weeks in an Israeli detention centre after being declared a security threat on entry to the country at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. Using secret evidence, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency the Shin Bet said I had links with ‘terrorist’ organisations.
Two court appearances later, it was declared that I wasn’t a security threat, only that my naivety could be manipulated to serve terrorist agendas. I was to be allowed into Israel, but not the occupied territories.
But accepting that decision would have set a legal precedent and empowered the Israeli state even further in its agenda to exclude journalists and human rights activists from witnessing and reporting on the reality of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. And I do not recognise the authority of a judiciary that condones war crimes, collective punishment, the theft of land, colonisation and the criminalisation and killing of a people who have every right to resist, militarily or otherwise, that occupation.
I could not accept a decision that would allow me access to one territory, one side of the story, and blind me to the other. The appeal was rescinded, and I was kicked out of the country.
Speaking after my deportation, Yael Berda, my Israeli lawyer and herself an activist, said: ‘The ability for the Israeli government to categorise journalists as security threats will induce fear and conformity in their work, and that is total anathema to any democracy.’
And elaborating on her description of Israel’s increasing authoritarianism, Neta Golan said: ‘We can see three stages of repression developing in Israel: the first is the escalating criminalisation of the Palestinians; the second is the targeting and criminalisation of international peace activists; and the third is the criminalisation of Israeli activists.’
Golan’s analysis would seem to be confirmed by the case of Tali Fahima. The 29-year-old Israeli befriended one of Israel’s most-wanted resistance leaders: Zakaria Zubeidi, the head of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin. She has publicly stated that she admires Zubeidi and believes him to be a freedom fighter, and that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have every right to resist the occupation militarily.
Fahima was arrested in Jenin on 10 August on suspicion of collaborating with Palestinian ‘terror activists’ to carry out attacks on Israeli targets. No evidence was offered to support the allegation. She has become the first Israeli human rights activist to be subjected to ‘preventative detention’: internment without charge or trial, something hitherto reserved for Palestinians.
Golan, who is married to a Palestinian, sees similarities between her situation and that of Fahima: ‘Because the Israeli government says all Palestinians are terrorists, anyone with connections with Palestinians can be accused of having links with terrorists.’
Israel’s project of silencing and demonising the Palestinian struggle is being corroded by the ISM and advocacy journalists reporting on the truth of the repression and helping to catalyse social relationships between Palestinians and Israelis. It is these relationships, not the possibility of foreign activists and journalists being manipulated by terrorists, that are a threat to the Israeli authorities: they contradict the government’s propaganda that peaceful co-existence is impossible.