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The Only Democracy? » On The Ground Reports » Israeli Writer Michal Peleg Calls Out Her Government for Arrest of Dr. Omar Said

Israeli Writer Michal Peleg Calls Out Her Government for Arrest of Dr. Omar Said

by Michal Peleg

Dr. Omar Said from Kafr Kana, Israel, was arrested on April 24, at a border crossing between Israel and Jordan, and is held since in prison for investigation, without trial.

Dr. Said is a pharmacologist, an expert of academic and international fame in the medical use of herbs. He specializes in innovations in traditional Middle East medicine based on local flora. His research requires frequent travels to collect herbs native to the region including, naturally,  Jordan.  In 2007 he was also among the organizers of an international academic convention on Traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine in Amman. Naturally, again, he travels on a regular basis to Europe, especially to Denmark and France, either in the interests of the laboratory and pharmacologist firm, in which he is a partner, or to give lectures and participate in academic conventions. But then – naturally, one should add once again – Dr. Said meets a lot of people on his travels; many of those are Arabs; some are even citizens of countries hostile to Israel.

Here, finally, we arrive at the unnatural conclusion of Dr. Said’s natural activity. He is accused – but not formally, not under any specific indictment –of meeting with “Enemy Agents”, by the Israeli secret services.

Now, among the many Arab scholars and friends Dr. Said is in contact with abroad, or among their numerous family and friends, there would be – of necessity – members of various political parties; perhaps even military men, and, who knows? even adherents to radical groups. On this vague basis:  meeting people, who in their turn meet other people – each and every one of us would be found guilty ad hoc.

Yet there’s a very specific reason for Dr. Said’s arrest. He is, and has been since youth, a political activist struggling for Palestinian rights. His studies in Israel’s renowned Institute of Technology, up to the completion of his PhD, were prolonged way beyond their natural course, for he was held during months and years in administrative detention, that is: without trial. He was never tried nor ever indicted for any violent action, solicitation to such, or any another clause within the vast “security” arsenal of Israeli law. Dr. Omar Said was detained, and is now again detained, because of his political opinions, and moreover, because he insists on his right to express them.

So far, in Israel – “the only democracy in the Middle East”, remember – detention of academics who have opinions and insist on expressing them has been limited to Arabs. Jewish academics are free to indulge their political whims and continue to travel abroad and meet people, even Arab people. So far.

I believe it is essential to demand the immediate release of Dr. Omar Said until he is served a bill of indictment, or else that the state supplies sufficient grounds for belief that he is dangerous to the state and to society, as is the norm in a proper democratic society. A democracy, that is, not exclusively restricted to Jews.

Michal Peleg is an Israeli writer whose latest publication was Nadir, in Am Oved, a novel. She lives in Tel Aviv.

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