Monday, 11 July 2011

Green Activists Arrested in Israel

It has been reported on the Socialist Unity blog that twelve British political activists have been arrested and detained at Tel Aviv airport, for the ‘crime’ of intentionally entering Israel for political purposes. Amongst those arrested are two Green party activists, Pippa Bartolotti, Deputy leader of the Welsh Green party and Anne Gray (pictured) a member of Haringey Green party.

Anne flew out of London on 8th July as part of an international protest by hundreds of people inspired by Mazyn Qumsiyeh, a Christian political activist and academic from Bethlehem, and author of two books, ‘Sharing the Land of Canaan’ and ‘A history of popular resistance in Palestine’. On his trip to the UK to launch the second book in March, he called for people to come to Tel Aviv on the same day, and demand to visit the West Bank without pretending to be ‘tourists’.

At the time of writing, it appears that the twelve British activists and six Israeli activists who had gathered at the airport to welcome the international visitors, are still being detained by Israeli security forces. Despite the best efforts of Haringey Greens to make contact and find out more information on the situation, the British and Commonwealth office, whilst admitting knowledge of the arrests, refuse to divulge anything further. These activists are now entering their fourth day of incarceration and we are now very worried about their wefare.

Before she left the UK, Anne Gray explained the purpose of the group’s mission thus: ‘We plan to be in Palestine till 16th July, listening and observing, maybe lending support to Palestinians as they do things like harvesting crops, negotiating checkpoints or taking children to school, which often gets them harassment by soldiers and settlers.’

What threat to Israeli state security does peaceful behaviour like this pose? Of course, Israel has plenty of history of paranoid over reaction to peaceful protests of this nature. Still fresh in the memory is the violent attack launched by Israeli commandos on an unarmed Turkish boat that was trying to breach the blockade of Gaza with humanitarian aid last year.

Anne is an experienced political activist, comrade and friend, and she knew the risks associated with making this trip, but all right minded people should be appalled at the way she and the other activists have been treated by the Israeli authorities. Write letters of condemnation to your MP and to the Israeli embassy, and demand their immediate release from custody.

The latest but unconfirmed news from Israel is that the British activists will be put onto a flight back to the UK due to land at Luton airport at 23.55 Monday 11 July.

UPDATE 12 July. Two of the detained activists Mick Napier from Edinburgh and John Lynes form London landed at Luton airport last night. There is no word of when the other activists will be returned to the UK, including Green party members Pippa and Anne. There is another flight from Tel Aviv tonight, so we are hoping they will be aboard it. Meanwhile The Morning Star reports that an Al Jarzeera reporter Daniel Poort arrested with the activists said this, 'immigration officials appeared to detain passengers on suspicion, including two young Dutch tourists with no connection to the protests.Those arrested were not questioned until they arrived at a prison in Bir el Saba, more than 60 miles away, he said. The bus was very crammed and 10 men were packed in about three and half square feet area. It was claustrophobic, infested with cockroaches, hot and stuffy and they kept us in the bus for six hours. We were treated like dogs.'

UPDATE 13 July. Anne Gray together with six other British activists were deported from Israel yeaterday. They landed at Luton airport around midnight last night, and appear to be all well. Pippa was not amongst them. Anne will issue media releases when she's had a rest.


Anonymous said...

Why did Anne Gray appear on Press Tv? This is a TV channel run by the Iranian Govt's Propaganda Ministery. The Iranian Govt has imprisoned, tortured and murdered its opponents, as well as rigging the last election. Is this something the Green Party supports? Do you not agree with Israel's right to exist? You must be aware that if Israel has lost in 1948, 1967 or 1973, millions of jews would have been slaughtered. Is it really Green policy to support anti-Semitism? Tony Riley

Tony Greenstein said...

The crocodile tears of Tony Riley are impressive. There is no greater supporter of Ahmedinajad than the Israeli government, which by threatening Iran reinforces support for the regime.

The BBC's record is as bad as Press TV. It has supported dictators through thick and thin.

Certainly Israel has a right to exist, as a non-racist state. Strange formulation 'right to exist'. You'd think it was a child, albeit a badly behaved brat.

More to the point is whether the Palestinians have the right to exist and live undisturbed by settlers whose existentialism cloaks their murderous intention.

So, no we're not aware that millions of Jews would have been slaughtered in 1948 (not least because there were only 3/4 million there then at most). And since Israel attacked Egypt and Syria in 1967 it hardly applies in any case.

Next excuse?

Anonymous said...

I am well aware of who runs Press TV and whilst I couldn't stomach watching it for a while after the rigged election, it does happen to be quite good on Palestine and a few other issues. No, neither I nor the Green Party support the Iranian government in its human rights abuses. I must have signed a few letters and petitions about all that in the last few years.

But what does it mean, Israel's right to exist ? Does the right to exist involve a right to land theft and killing of civilians ? I think it should be recognised that at least 200 Palestinian villages were destroyed and their inhabitants expelled or killed in 1947 and early 1948, BEFORE the Arab-Israeli war began (see for example Ben White; Israeli Apartheid, a beginner's guide, Pluto Books 2009). Further mass expulsions and the demolition of hundreds of Arab homes in E. Jerusalem and in Qalqilya took place in 1967 - not exactly a self-defensive act against Nasser and allies. Mass evictions, house demolitions and land seizure continue today. Israel now has almost 80% of pre-1948 Palestine compared to the 55% accorded to the new Israeli state in the UN plan of 1947.

Criticising the Israeli government - as many Jews do both outside and inside Israel - is not anti-semitic, it's about a particular government not about Jewish people. I don't tell people of different ethnic groups from myself that they are racist just because they disagree with me. I try to tackle their political arguments. I would advise you, Tony, to do the same.

Anne Gray

Mike Shaughnessy said...

With reference to Tony R's contribution re analogous comparisons with Hamas. It should be noted that it was the humiliating way that Israel treated the PLO, that gave way to the more 'extreme' Hamas organisation. If Israel was prepared to negotiate a just settlement with the Palestinians, a way forward mutual to all might be found.

Anonymous said...

12,000 + rockets fired into Israel tell a different story. The PLO hated this Iranian Govt because of their Islamisation policy which is now being carried out in Gaza by Hamas. The Hamas constitution calls for the eradication of jews from Israel - the same jews who built Jerusalem of course. Re: 1967, the Israelis pre-empted Egyptian and Syrian plans - remember Nasser. If the West Bank and Gaza were to go back to pre-six day war borders, syria would bombard Israel from the Golan Heights on a daily basis - using Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Gaza would be owned and operated by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan. Israel's right to exist means not being used by Arab countries as an excuse to oppress their own people, while blaming the Jews for everything. Looks like you've all fallen for it. Why don't Palestinians have any rights in Jorda,, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc? I find it interesting that the Greens all hate Israel but are willing to accept Iran. Why not put that in your leaflets at the next election? To appear on Press TV is just pure vanity. Tony Riley

Anonymous said...

PS: How "Green" is it to fly to Israel and back?!!! Tony Greenstein - SHJ? Tony R

Anne Gray said...

Tony R, I tried to reply to your first post but my reply seems not to have got onto the site. So I'll re-post that and then go on to your outburst today in a separate post.

TR: you misguided middle class j***-haters are hilarious.

AG ** Well that is a real insult in my book and entirely unjustified. I have had close Jewish friends all my life. In fact it was one of them who first encouraged me to visit Palestine in 1989 - with a group of Jewish lawyers engaged in human rights work. And it was partly my dear friend and colleague (now alas deceased), co-founder of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who encouraged me to go back. I can't think of any of my Jewish friends who are not critical of the Israeli state. If an Iraqi came to me and said 'Tony Blair and the British government have wrecked my country', I would certainly not regard him as racist. I would listen to his political arguments.

TR: The dozy bint wants to try being in Hamas' custody and see how much she likes it. Not so long ago so salafist fascists slaughtered an Italian Peace Activist in Gaza, perhaps for not wishing every living jew dead and every homosexual murdered etc. Be careful who you mix with.

AG ** Sure I would not welcome being locked up by Hamas either but what on earth has that got to do with it ? Hamas will not lock up fewer people because of anything Europeans do or don't do in a non-violent challenge to the Israeli state's visa policies. I too mourned Vittorio, and nobody knows who killed him or why - Hamas ? Al Qaeda ? some criminal ? Anyway Hamas does not actually 'wish every living Jew dead'. According to Khaled Hroub's book the party has changed its tune a lot since its 1988 charter which called for the 'destruction of Israel', although most writers on Arab politics think that what that meant was the dismantling of the zionist state rather than mass murder, just as when the ANC demanded an end to the apartheid state they didn't mean they wanted to murder all S. African whites. But by 2006, according to Hroub, Hamas accepted a two state solution based on the de facto borders of 1967. The problems surely is that no Palestinian party or negotiator can clearly recognise the Israeli state unless there is agreement on what its borders are. (Just as an estate agent cannot sell a house if there is a boundary dispute about the garden). And with the settlements growing all the time, the land grabbing goes on.

** Lastly, about homosexuality - ok, Israel has a relatively good record on gay rights whilst the rest of the Middle East does not. But Israel killed over 1400 civilians in the war on Gaza, straight or gay, and the overall ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israeli deaths in hostilities since the start of the first intifada in 1987 has been about 10 to 1. I'm afraid that rather colours the general picture about murder for me.

TR: I imagine when the Nazis were wiping out the jews in 43, you'd have claimed pacifism excused you from going and doing anything about out.**(you mean 'that')

AG:*** NO!!! Actually I did join a pacifist movement as a teenager, but dropped that position when I was about 20, precisely because people kept talking to me about the holocaust. Force IS justified to defend people who are being slaughtered or driven from their homes. Which is exactly the official view of NATO about, for example, Libya. But if this logic was applied everywhere, wouldn't we also see a 'no fly' zone over Gaza ?

TR:At least your harmless.

** well I'm glad you think so, I'm actually a pretty peace loving individual. Which means a few days in jail and a few insults about 'jew hater' isn't going to make me give up the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Anne Gray

Anne Gray said...

In response to T Riley's latest....

TR: 12,000 + rockets fired into Israel tell a different story.

AG: Even the true figure (5088 during 2001 to June 2011, according to Israeli government sources) is horrible, I know. But the destruction of a country and its people over 60 years unfortunately provokes a reaction.

TR: The Hamas constitution calls for the eradication of jews from Israel

AG: As I said in an earlier post, the Hamas charter of 1988 is pretty irrelevant now and not reflected in Hamas’ positions since 2006.
TR - the same jews who built Jerusalem of course.

AG: Well, you might say the Romans built London about 1600 years ago, but find me the Italians who think that makes London their colony.

TR: …Why don't Palestinians have any rights in Jorda,, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc?

AG: Well, good question (I’m sure they would like to know too), but you haven’t answered it. More to the point, why do Palestinians have virtually no rights in Israel and in the occupied territories ?

TR I find it interesting that the Greens all hate Israel

AG:No we don’t! This is entirely in your head.

TR: but are willing to accept Iran.

AG: No we don’t do that either ! Whoever said we did ?

TR: To appear on Press TV is just pure vanity.

AG: Well, as I explained before, whatever the faults of Press TV they are actually quite good in their coverage of Palestine. There seems to be quite a lot of self-indulgence in your own posts, and personally I have more important political tasks than responding to any more of them.

Deborah Fink said...

Tony Riley typically conflates Jew with Israeli, no doubt to get a knee jerk reaction and implication of anti-Semitism. Tony, it is not about 'Blaming the Jews' but about the Israeli government. Get it? And actually, to tar all Jews with the Israeli government's brush is in itself anti-Semitic and invites anti-Semitism. But then Zionists are often anti-Semitic and they like it as it can encourage Jews to move to Israel, while helping to silence debate.

Typically, he goes on about the rockets... if they have killed more people than Israel's F16s, helicopter gunships, etc...But once again, small acts of terrorism committed by an occupied and oppressed people, is seen as worse than the huge acts of sanctioned terrorism committed by a state,simply because it is committed by a state and not called terrorism. Such an attitude also belies racism towards Palestinians.

Debbie (Jews for Boycotting Israel Goods)