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.