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I’m a French-Palestinian detained in an Israeli jail – here’s what’s really happening

Israel wants to remove Palestinians from our land by any means, and seeks international silence in which to accomplish this goal

Salah Hammouri
Thursday 08 September 2022 13:15 BST
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We Palestinians are still here, still hopeful, and still continuing to resist the injustices infringed upon us
We Palestinians are still here, still hopeful, and still continuing to resist the injustices infringed upon us (AFP via Getty Images)

On 18 August, Israeli occupation forces raided and closed the offices of seven Palestinian civil society organisations (CSOs) in the West Bank, including the offices of Addameer, the prisoner’s rights organisation I used to serve as a lawyer.

The targeted CSOs include some of the most important human rights groups and popular organisations in Palestine, such as Al-Haq, which documents human rights violations and seeks accountability for Israeli crimes in international fora, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which helps farmers and Palestinian communities made vulnerable by Israel’s destruction of agricultural lands and infrastructure.

These developments are the latest stage of a long-term Israeli policy to sabotage the development of Palestinian democracy and civil society, in order to prevent resistance to their settler colonial policies.

Following the end of the First Intifada and with the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, organised Palestinian political life under occupation was weakened, in contrast to a huge surge in non-governmental organisations reliant on conditional funding from European and other foreign donors.

Now, however, even NGOs whose focus is simply to document human rights abuses and initiate processes of accountability are being criminalised by Israeli occupation authorities as so-called “terrorists” and shut down.

It is a crackdown which escalated during the presidency of Donald Trump, in the context of US-Israeli efforts to advance the so-called “deal of the century” and to silence dissenting voices to a deal whose purpose as a political project is to end the quest for Palestinian national rights.

What we are witnessing, then, is an Israeli attempt to finally crush the Palestinians and their struggle, to drain the cause of any collective political content and reduce us to fragmented and individualised “humanitarian” or economic issues.

My own life experience corroborates this trajectory. First, my involvement as a student activist was banned by the Israelis, and I was arrested numerous times and held in detention without trial. I was once held for three years before being convicted by a military court that has been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups for a lack of due process – and conviction rate of almost 100%.

After my release from prison in 2011 I retrained as a lawyer, focusing in my work on political prisoners to provide legal and moral support to them and their families, despite the fact that the Israeli colonial military court system has proven to lack any sort of due process and is racist when ruling over Palestinians.

Yet even this has been criminalised by Israel. My family has been deported and I have been repeatedly harassed, spied on, and once again arrested and held without trial (since March of this year) in the Israeli prison from which I write this article.

On 4 September, Israeli occupation authorities – cruelly, and at the last minute – renewed my administrative detention for a second time, based on “secret information”, extending my arbitrary detention until 4 December.

Ultimately, Israel wants to remove Palestinians from our land by any means, and seeks international silence in which to accomplish this goal. We see this goal being advanced on a routine basis – such as in Jerusalem neighbourhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, or Masafer Yatta in the West Bank.

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Joe Biden has yet to reverse many of Trump’s most egregious policies, or do anything to distance US policy from Israeli fascism. European states, meanwhile, despite expressing concern at recent developments, have yet to do anything substantive.

Instead, they continue to trade freely and promote ties with Israel, just like France – the country of which I am a citizen, that continues to do nothing for my freedom.

Indeed, it is extraordinary just how feeble French government efforts have been in my case. One of their own citizens, arbitrarily detained by a military court abroad for months, and targeted for illegal deportation.

An Israeli end game, however, will remain elusive as long as we Palestinians are still here, still hopeful, and still continuing to resist the injustices infringed upon us.

Salah Hammouri is a French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender

This article was amended on 23 September 2022 to include information about the author’s conviction by a military court.

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