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  May 11, 2010

Israel lifts gag order on new arrests

Two Israeli activist leaders of Palestinian origin were secretly arrested in recent weeks.
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In the past two weeks the Israeli internal intelligence agency, the Shabak / Shin Bet, arrested two prominent Israeli activists in the middle of the night. The men are well known leaders of Palestinian organizations inside Israel but were arrested and prevented the right to see counsel under emergency regulations, akin to those Palestinians in the occupied territories are subjected to. The men were arrested under secret evidence and a gag order was issued to the Israeli press regarding their arrests. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky spoke to the men's relatives, the legal organization representing them, and to one of them, prior to his arrest last week.


LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER, TRNN: On Monday, May 10, the Israeli internal intelligence agency, the Shabak, lifted a gag order it imposed on the Israeli press in regard to the arrest of two Israeli citizens. In the past two weeks, Dr. Omar Said and Amir Makhoul, both Palestinian-Israeli political activists, were arrested by Shabak agents in the middle of the night. News of their arrests spread quickly throughout the Israeli-Palestinian community and on various Israeli blogs. Both men are known political activists with wide networks of support throughout the Israeli-Palestinian community. The same day, activists in the northern city of Haifa organized a protest to demonstrate against what they perceive is state silencing of political arrests. The Real News spoke to Amer Taha, a lawyer and the nephew of Dr. Said, one of the arrestees.

AMER TAHA, LAWYER, NEPHEW OF OMAR SAID: We were surprised that [inaudible] arrived home with Omar Said. And they entered the home in a very nasty way, with lots of the people of Shabak, which they were [inaudible] not a casual [inaudible] [inaudible] and some of them, they were protecting the house from surrounding the house with the police officer [sic]. He's a doctor of pharmacology. He finished his degree here in Haifa in Technion. At the same time, he's one of the leaders of Tajamu', of Balad, and he's a very, very active political active and a well-known political active. As I heard from his lawyer, since yesterday was the first time time to visit him after 15 days�.

TARACHANSKY: The Real News spoke to Jarar Makhoul, the wife of Amir Makhoul, the second arrestee.

JARAR MAKHOUL, WIFE OF AMIR MAKHOUL (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Some officers were in civilian clothes; some had guns and handcuffs on them. I asked to see the arrest warrant, and the officer wouldn't let me. I ask again to see the warrant. We argued for 15 minutes. I wanted him to show me his ID and the warrant. He opens and closes his book and shows me the ID from a distance, so I wasn't able to identify the officer's name. Some of them entered my eldest daughter's room. They took her computer. They entered the youngest daughter's room. They took her computer also and her cell phone. They took my laptop and Amir's laptop. They took our cell phones, even the daughters'. One of the officers stood really close to me and started yelling. He told me, "Shut your mouth! You want violence, I'll give you violence."

TARACHANSKY: Though Amir Makhoul was arrested on 6 May, a warrant for his arrest was issued on April 23, two weeks prior, and a day after he was prevented from leaving the country on a business trip to Jordan. The reason the Shabak gave his lawyer for why he wasn't allowed to leave the country and why the arrestees weren't notified of the arrest warrants against him was that the warrants were issued as part of the Emergency Regulations and constitute a security concern. The Real News spoke to Abeer Baker, a lawyer with Adalah, which is a legal organization representing the arrestees.

ABEER BAKER, STAFF LAWYER, ADALAH: The gag order was issued on 22 April, and according to the police, this gag order is relevant to both Omar Said and Amir Makhoul. And then we said, okay, you let Amir Makhoul, for two weeks, to move freely, to talk to everybody without any restrictions. How come now, after you let him move freely, you come and arrest him and say he's very dangerous to the security of the state? Coming at three o'clock in the morning and invading the house, the purpose�we think that the purpose is to make the story here really shown, to be shown and presented very dangerous, and to intimidate the family, to intimidate the Arabs also to say, "Oh my God, what's going on? What did he do?" while they could have, really, like, knock on the door and say, listen, we have an arrest warrant, arrest, you may come with us.

TARACHANSKY: Palestinian and Israeli activists and bloggers suggested Makhoul was targeted because of his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. In October, at the Alternative Information Center's conference on the economy of the occupation, The Real News spoke to Makhoul about his political views and the work of Ittija, a coalition of Israeli-Palestinian organizations, where he serves as the general director.

AMEER MAKHOUL, GENERAL DIRECTOR, ITTIJA: The Israeli policy in general, its very strong and comprehensive policy, is how to ensure that the Palestinian leading figures and leading structures to be outside of the game. This is [an] Israeli national security need.

TARACHANSKY: Because both men were arrested under emergency regulations, they weren't entitled to prisoners' rights such as the right to counsel and certain basic conditions.


TARACHANSKY: When you say that these kinds of arrests happen for security reasons, what constitutes a security threat by Israeli very definition?

BAKER: Oh my God. It is a very, very complicated question, okay? But on the other hand, it's very simple to answer: there is no clear classification what a security offense is. We face�like, in many cases this term and this classification is made in order to make the court give harsh sentences.


TARACHANSKY: On Monday, when the gag order on the Israeli press was lifted, Ha'aretz reported that the two men were accused of having connections to individuals connected to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party, which Israel defines as a terrorist organization.

BAKER: What we claim and argue, that this is a very�a vague crime. You can't put the limit this way. I can be a student at [inaudible] university, and with me, my, like, classmates might be�there might be Lebanese, there might be Syrian. Everybody has his own political opinion and view. But I shouldn't cut and cancel my relationship with them because they belong to a party that Israel defines as terror organization or they have political views against Israel�.

TARACHANSKY: On Wednesday, the Israeli court at Petah Tikva will decide whether the secret evidence the Shabak collected on Dr. Omar Said is sufficient to keep him in jail.



Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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