By Rela Mazali
The letter from human rights defender, Ameer Makhoul, released and distributed by his family and friends, was written on May 30th, after Makhoul had spent 3 weeks in prison without access to even pen and paper, not to speak of lawyers, family visits, due process, humane and legal conditions. It made its way to his home by snailmail and then the original Arabic was translated into English.
I first met Ameer Makhoul through my own activism over twenty years ago. Ever since, I’ve remained aware of his distinctive, highly independent style as an activist and a civil society leader among Palestinian citizens of Israel. His singular persistence pointedly and continuously pushes the envelope of Israel’s declared commitment to democracy, exactly as effective and meaningful civic activism should. Accordingly, I wasn’t all that surprised to hear of his detention incommunicado and then of official claims (which I firmly disbelieve) that Makhoul has been serving as an enemy spy. After all, his is just the type of intelligently challenging voice that state authorities most wish, and indeed sometimes act, to silence. All the more so once these authorities have dropped any previous pretense to upholding democracy and are stepping up blatant repression.
Like many other citizens of Israel—both Jewish and Palestinian—I believe that that “Makhoul is being detained and severely harassed for exercising his right, under Israel’s Basic Laws, to free speech and political expression,” as the pseudonymous blogger “Moshe Yaroni” put it. Hundreds have held repeated protests throughout the country against Makhoul’s imprisonment, as well as that of activist Omar Said, denouncing as well the unconscionable interrogation to which both have been subjected. Amnesty International has called on Israeli authorities to stop Makhoul’s mistreatment.
As a long time activist, here in Israel, I am both dismayed and determined these days; Dismayed at how the state I share a stake in proceeds, with great speed, to discard remaining vestiges of democratic governance. Determined to continue resisting this process with all the means at the disposal of activists and civil society.