Palestinians Defy Israel’s Jerusalem Ban
by Patrick Strickland –
Banning Palestinians from East Jerusalem is part of Israeli crackdown on human rights activists, rights groups say
Two Palestinians have taken refuge in an International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Jerusalem in defiance of an Israeli order banning them from entering their home town for several months.
Samer Abu Eisheh, a 28-year-old freelance journalist from occupied East Jerusalem, recently received orders from the Israeli military informing him that he was banned from Jerusalem for five months.
Another Jerusalemite, 32-year-old Saleh Abu Sbeih, was handed a six-month ban.
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“I don’t know why they are giving me a military order,” Abu Eisheh said, speaking to Al Jazeera by telephone from inside the ICRC office. “I am a media man.”
Abu Eisheh said he expected Israeli forces to arrest him nonetheless. Asked why he and Abu Sbeih chose the ICRC office, he said that “no place in Jerusalem is safe, but the ICRC” was the most secure option.
“We know at the end of the day they will arrest us – tomorrow, after a week, at some point. We will not make it easy and we will raise our voices.
“I don’t have any place to go,” he said. “That’s why we are not going anywhere.”
Israeli forces regularly arrest influential members of Palestinian communities, including political leaders, and activists, according to rights organisations.
Yet in East Jerusalem, Israel often subjects Palestinian residents to house arrest orders and city bans, among other measures.
“Israel is increasingly resorting to banning Palestinian Jerusalemites from their city and expelling them from it,” Rafat Sub Laban, Addameer’s advocacy unit coordinator, told Al Jazeera.
“In the past month, four Palestinians received similar bans by the Israeli military which de facto forcibly displaced them from their city,” Sub Laban added.
He said that Israeli authorities resorted to city bans and house arrest orders “as an easier alternative [to arrest] in order to target social and human rights activists, especially when they have no grounds to arrest them”.
Noting that the uptick in Jerusalem bans comes on the heels of an ongoing crackdown on Palestinians in the city, Sub Laban described the measure as “part of a larger policy aimed at imposing control through collective punishment and discriminatory laws and practices”.
At the time of publication, an Israeli military spokesperson had not replied to Al Jazeera’s request for a comment.
Abu Eisheh was first arrested on August 17 after returning from a trip to Lebanon, where he participated in an Arab youth camp with people from across the region.
“The [Israeli] occupation is scared of youth activists,” Abu Eisheh said, explaining that he was told he was being held on “secret evidence” when he was first arrested.
According to Abu Eisheh, Israel “doesn’t want us to have communication with people outside. They are scared of us telling the world what is happening to Palestinians in Jerusalem”.
He said Israeli intelligence officers interrogated him for 44 days before eventually releasing him. “They were asking me about Lebanon, why I went there, who I met,” he said. “The first two weeks they interrogated me 17-20 hours each day.”
Upon being released, he was then placed under indefinite house arrest. But 81 days later, an Israeli court sent him a military order informing him that he was banned from the city for five months.
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Along with the rest of the West Bank, Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. Today, more than 547,000 Israelis live in more than 125 Jewish-only settlements throughout the territory, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Back in 2011 and 2012, Israeli forces arrested three Palestinian lawmakers who had been camping inside the ICRC in East Jerusalem for several months.
“It’s time to say no to these kinds of military orders because they are not legal,” Abu Eisheh said.
“Checkpoints, home demolitions, arrests, kids being interrogated, the bodies of martyrs not being returned – Israel is pushing the city to explosion with these crazy policies.”
Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera