Warning: Visiting Israel Is Dangerous
by Stephen Lendman
Don’t visit Gaza by sea. In May 2010, nine Mavi Marmara activists died trying. Anyone planning Gaza, West Bank, or East Jerusalem trips be warned.
Interdictions, beatings, arrests, interrogations, detentions, deportations, or even death may follow. Israel’s indeed dangerous.
Arrivals supporting Palestinian rights risk harshness. Don’t come wearing jerseys or bearing signs saying solidarity with Palestine. Don’t say you plan West Bank, East Jerusalem, and/or Gaza visits. Worse is admitting you’ll help build schools, plant trees, or repair damaged wells.
Don’t suggest you plan protesting against illegal settlement construction. If asked, don’t tell. Any one or combination of these may result in close encounters with security forces leaving lasting impressions and realization that avoiding trouble requires staying mum.
On April 14, Danish activist Andreas Ias learned the hard way. Jordan Valley Brigade deputy commander Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner rifle-butted him in the face. Hospitalization followed. His offense was peacefully participating in a Palestinian demonstration.
He and others were singing songs calling for Palestine’s liberation. The incident was videotaped. On April 16, Andreas said IDF claims about protester violence were “a complete lie….If I thought this would happen I would have protected myself. It came out of nowhere” for no reason. It was unprovoked.
Two female activists were also injured. Others were assaulted and shoved to the ground. Rarely do investigations and punishment follow similar incidents. Practically never for IDF officers, especially high-ranking ones.
Eisner was about to be promoted. He was transferred to a staff position. Israel said it’s for two years. Chief of Staff Benny Gantz wants the dust to settle and headlines to disappear. So does Netanyahu and other officials.
Eisner wants to lay low for a while. He’s not even apologetic. He said he “does not accept this as a moral failure in any way.” Why should he? It’s official Israeli policy.
He’ll be back but more circumspect not to get caught on videotape. His offense wasn’t assaulting Andreas. It was showing up on You Tube for the whole world to watch.
These type incidents are commonplace. Most occur out of sight and mind. Only aggrieved Palestinians and supporters know them. Headlines and videos don’t tell others.
On April 17, a Haaretz editorial headlined, “Israel’s leaders incite the public against peace activists,” saying:
Following the Eisner/Andreas incident, “the officer was widely criticized by the public – not for using excessive force, but for granting human rights groups a photo op serving their interests.”
Damage control required Gantz and other Israeli officials to say and do something. “Such reactions are necessary, but certainly not sufficient.”
Beating up on nonviolent peace activists can’t “be swept aside” with denunciations or transfers. Criminal offenses require punishment. They also demand policy changes. What’s almost daily routine must stop.
They don’t because Netanyahu, other officials, and top military officers call activists “anarchists,” “provocateurs,” and “terror supporters.” Palestinians are called worse. Doing so sanctions violence.
Haaretz said Netanyahu and other officials “should memorize the verdict Jerusalem Magistrate Judge Haim Li-Ran” rendered recently regarding Sheikh Jarrah solidarity activists in Jerusalem, saying:
“The right to demonstrate or express an opinion is deeply rooted in the foundations of democratic government….Thousands of human being have paid and are paying with their lives on this alter.”
Protesting is a human right. International law permits it. Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:
“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Article 22 affirms “the right to freedom of association with others….” In democratic societies, no restrictions are permitted “in the interests of national security or public safety….”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 20(1) says:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Everyone has the right to do it without getting rifle-butted or otherwise brutalized.
On April 18, Haaretz writer Zvi Bar’el headlined, “World nations should issue a travel warning to Israel,” saying:
Eisner’s assault on Andreas “was spectacular.” Someone whose life was threatened might react that way. Doing it unprovoked was intolerable. It resembled a Serengeti “kill scene.” Eisner was predator, Andreas the prey.
“When a country behaves as if it is a nature preserve where the species living in it feel they are in danger of extinction,” its policies go off the rails.
Tourists visiting actual nature preserves know restrictions they must observe. Israel calls itself civilized. In fact, it’s a “dangerous preserve and responsible nations should have issued a travel warning for this country long ago, or at least published a detailed guide of what is permitted or forbidden to do here.”
Forewarned is forearmed, perhaps not to come. Anyone visiting “Somalia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya or Sudan, or merely to go on a safari, knows what” to bring, wear, say, go, and not go.
Israel once welcomed visitors hospitably. “But when it grew fat and expanded its living space,” it decided who can come, who can’t, what’s permitted, what’s not, and what to expect from a nation mindless of international standards by enforcing its own.
“This is how Israel is turning itself into an enclave of nationalist fundamentalism in which the covenant between its citizens (the Jewish ones, of course) is not based on equality or shared values but on the ceaseless marking of its borders with the outside world.”
“This is an enclave which (feeds on alleged) threat(s)….” It thrives on them. It provides pretexts for challenging anyone for any reason or none at all. Those believing sovereign Palestine is justified and presents no threat pose “existential danger” enough to get “whacked in the face,” whether he’s Danish, Palestinian, Israeli, or any one else.
Come at your own risk. Human rights activists beware. Israel’s a jungle, a wild nature preserve. Step out of line and get eaten alive or at least see an M16 close up enough to know it’s dangerous without being fired.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.