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The Only Democracy? » On The Ground Reports » Israel Tries to Expel People For Their Beliefs

Israel Tries to Expel People For Their Beliefs

Chappell and Marti after their release from prison (AP)

By Noam Sheizaf, cross-posted from his Promised Land blog with permission.

Pay close attention to this item. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an important one:

Two international activists, Ariadna Jove Marti (from Spain) and Bridgette Chappell (Australia), who are living in Bir Zeit in the West Bank (it’s near Ramallah, and well within the Palestinian Autonomy), were arrested by the IDF last month. The two were about to be expelled from Israel, and as it happens in most cases, they appealed against the decision to the Israel Supreme Court.

As Chaim Levinson reports in Haaretz, while trying to defend the arrests and deportation, the state argued before the court that the two activists

…belong to the International Solidarity Movement, an organization “that supports an ideology that is anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian and universally revolutionary.”

There are two precedents here, and I can’t overstate their importance:

A. The main charge against the activists had nothing to do with national security, but with the ideas they expressed (the state even presented before the court quotes taken from an internet site!). The “crime” involved words, not actions.

It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first (but certainly not last) attempt to present critic of Zionism or support for the Palestinian cause as illegal, and what’s even worse is that the actual arrest was carried out not by police and under orders from the state attorney, but by the army.

It takes a very flexible definition of democracy to describe a regime which makes questioning the dominant ideology a criminal offense.

B. The arrest of the two activists took place in the Palestinian Autonomy’s territory (area A according to the Oslo agreement). Israel often claims that the situation in the West Bank cannot be labeled as Apartheid, since the Palestinians have their own state-like entity. But as we saw in this case (as well as in others), Israel does not respect this autonomy, and its security forces are acting freely within the Palestinian towns and villages, even in cases which have nothing to do with Israeli national security.


This time, the court was very critical of the “evidence” presented by the state, and it ruled that it will hear the two activists’ plea. However, as we have come to know in the past, courts cannot hold for a long time against government or security forces’ policies. If the current trends continue, we are not that far from a day in which questioning Zionism might lead to imprisonment – something which was unthinkable not that long ago.

I really don’t think people are aware enough of what’s going on in Israel right now. The rise of racism, the rapid escalation in human rights, the attacks on freedom of speech, the campaign against human rights activists – this is a country on a very dangerous path. As Taayush’s wrote in Haaretz a few days ago, “this is happening here and now.” 

Written by

JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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