RAMALLAH, May 12 (JMCC) – American activist Ryan Olander’s heart pounds as he travels from the city of Jerusalem
, through Israeli checkpoints, to other areas of the West Bank
. He is certain that he will eventually be deported by Israeli authorities, punished for supporting Palestinians in their demonstrations.
“I was arrested and released four times,” Olander recalls. “ The last time was when I took part in a demonstration against the occupation in Sheikh Jarrah
, in East Jerusalem.”
“I was of course humiliated and beaten -- they tried to deport me but failed to produce legal justifications.”
Olander says in a phone interview that he was told that his visa to Israel would not be renewed when it expires in less than a month.
“I felt that they know everything about me. I’m sure they were and still are monitoring all my moves, running background checks on me and other activists, preparing to arrest or expel us.”
Olander is one of an estimated 600 international activists that currently live in the Palestinian territories, taking part in demonstrations against the occupation in villages like Bilin
, and Masara
. All are candidates for deportation, and many are being watched by Israel’s intelligence service, or Shabak, according to a recent court admission.
Ellen, twice arrested and almost deported, says, “We know from the very first moment that the Shabak is surveilling us and has files on us. They don’t want us to be in the conflict zones or to come here to see the reality of the occupation and convey its ugly face to the world.”
Neta Golan, an Israeli living in Ramallah
and a leader of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that brings foreign activists to the occupied Palestinian territories, says that Israeli monitoring is not new.
“We know that Israeli intelligence has been monitoring international activists for a while. But the admittance itself is new. It confirms that Israel is greatly damaged by the presence of international activists who support Palestinians.”
Golan says that earlier this year two activists were arrested from the offices of the ISM in Ramallah under the pretext that their entry visas had expired.
“When Israel gathers information on international activists, it either arrests or deports them immediately, or refuses to renew their entry visas,” says Golan.
Activists renew their visas by leaving the Palestinian territories and reentering through Israeli border crossings, where citizens of many Western countries can gain new visas upon entry.
But in more than 2,000 documented cases, Israel has refused to grant foreign passport holders the required Israeli visa, says Golan. “Since 2004, Israel has intensified its campaign against international activists. It deports or expels five people a week on average,” she adds.
Among those deported are Palestinians with international citizenship and no Palestinian identity card.
Last month Israel set into motion military order 1650
, which makes it possible to expel any person from the West Bank who is there without a “permit.” This order targets both international activists and Palestinians.
ISM, along with Palestinian and international human rights groups, is currently pursuing cases in the Israeli courts that challenge the legal basis for deportations and expulsions.
And Golan says that while Israel’s campaign against international activists has negatively impacted the numbers of international activists in the occupied Palestinian territories, it has not brought their activities to a halt.
“Every day, new delegations come that want to join our campaign to support the Palestinian popular struggle,” says Golan.