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IDF releases conscientious objector after 67 days in prison

Omri Baranes sat in military prison for 67 days for refusing to join the Israeli army.

After spending 67 days in military prison, Israeli conscientious objector Omri Baranes was officially released from IDF service on Thursday. Baranes, from the city of Rosh HaAyin in central Israel, was recognized by an IDF committee as a pacifist and was thus released on conscientious grounds. The conscientious objectors committee originally reject her request, leading Baranes to refuse to serve in the army and sit in prison.

According to the IDF conscientious objectors who oppose all forms of violence or service in any army are eligible for exemption, as opposed to those who refuse to enlist due to their opposition to a specific army policy — such a the occupation. These kinds of conscientious objectors usually sit for a lengthy period in military prison and are usually released on grounds of unsuitability, as was recently the case with Tair Kaminer, who sat in prison for around 150 days.

“I am very happy that I finally received an exemption from the conscientious objectors committee,” Baranes told +972. “It was a long journey and perhaps I could have avoided it, but now that I am exempted it is all behind me. The first step of not joining the army is over and now I will work through different channels toward peace and equality.”

In her original declaration to the army, Baranes wrote that “bombs and weapons are not the solution to conflicts. War carries the heavy price of victims: our soldiers are killed, as are citizens and residents from both sides. I refuse to be part of an organization that sees things in black and white, which views all the residents of an enemy country as potential enemies, and thus may harm innocent people.”

Yasmin Yablonko, an organizer for conscientious objector organization “Mesarvot,” responded to Baranes’ release:

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Palestinian journalist ordered to spend three months in admin. detention

The Supreme Court upheld the army’s request to extend Omar Nazzal’s remand by three months only, instead of four. The judges did not specify why he posed a security threat, and how he would cease to in three months’ time.

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal, who was detained in April while trying to leave the West Bank en route to an international conference, will spend at least another three months in administrative detention, the Israel Defense Forces ruled on Friday.

Since his arrest at Allenby Bridge border crossing, Nazzal has been in administrative detention with no charges, a formal indictment or a scheduled court hearing.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet Security Service claim that he is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel views as a terrorist organization. Nazzal denies the charge and demands either to be sentenced or released.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. Administrative detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial — without any way to defend themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled, based on classified evidence that the defense was unable to view, that Nazzal’s remand must be extended by up to three months, instead of the four months the army had planned.

The judges did not specify why Nazzal would be a security threat for the next three months, but not for another month afterwards.

Nazzal has been huger striking for the past 19 days, protesting his administrative detention and in solidarity with another administrative detainee, Bilal Kayed.

Journalists’ associations worldwide have condemned Nazzal’s detention and called for his imminent release. The Union of Journalists in Israel (of which the author of this piece is a board member) has yet to weigh in.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Left-wing Palestinian parties join forces for upcoming elections

Five parties announced the establishment of the ‘Democratic Alliance’ that will run in the upcoming municipal elections. The goal: a third party option to Fatah and Hamas.

Five left-wing Palestinian parties in the occupied territories announced they will run on a joint list in the upcoming municipal elections. Elections are expected to take place on October 8th in over 300 municipalities, village councils, and regional councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The parties, which will run together under the name the “Democratic Alliance,” have not ruled out the possibility that this will be the first step in forming a similar alliance on a national level.

Senior officials of the five parties are trying to position the leftist bloc as an alternative to Fatah and Hamas, which will focus on both the unity of the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and, yes, on social justice. Namely, equality between men and women (the alliance is committed to ensuring that at least 30 percent of its representatives are women) and resistance to corruption.

The platform also includes support for full access to electricity, water, social services, infrastructure, lighting, and free public parks. According to some members of the party, the alliance drew inspiration from the establishment of the Joint List during the last elections to the Knesset.

Counting on undecided voters

Should they take place, these will be the first municipal elections in the occupied territories to succeed. The 2005 elections were not completed in full and elections in 2012 only took place in the West Bank, as they were boycotted by Hamas in Gaza. It will also be the first electoral event shared by the West Bank and Gaza in a decade, since Hamas’ victory in the general elections of 2006, its rise to power in Gaza, and the ensuing rift between both parties. Hamas’ participation in the upcoming elections, and its concurrent presence in both Gaza and the West Bank, is seen as a positive sign toward mending the rift.

Although they ran independently, each of the left-wing parties partook in those same elections, reaching a little less than ten percent of electoral support. The latest poll conducted by Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that were general elections to be held today, Fatah would win by 34 percent, Hamas by 31 percent, and left-wing parties (independently) by...

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Palestinian hunger striker to remain handcuffed to hospital bed

The Beersheba District Court also ruled that Bilal Kayed, who has been hunger striking for 58 days, will be prevented from seeing his doctor, citing ‘adequate’ treatment he receives at Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital.

The Beersheba District Court decided in a precedent ruling that Bilal Kayed, a hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee, would be prevented from seeing his doctor.

The court also ruled that he would remain handcuffed to his bed, and accused Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the organization that represented him, that they petitioned in bad faith.

Kayed went on a hunger strike 58 days ago to protest his extrajudicial detention, which could be extended indefinitely. On July 17, he was hospitalized at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center after his health deteriorated.

In hospital, despite his poor health, he was handcuffed to his bed and guarded 24/7. In addition, he made a request to see his own doctor, but was refused by the Israel Prisons Service (IPS). Kayed’s unsuccessful petition was against these two provisions. His lawyers said he would appeal.

Hidden agenda

The court upheld IPS’ assessment that he might escape or be smuggled out, because the window in his ground-floor room has no bars.

In coming to assess the detainee’s risk, the court relied in this case – as in all administrative detentions – on classified reports, to which the detainee and his lawyers have no access. It was to protest this injustice that Kayed started hunger striking.

As for Kayed’s request to see his doctor, the judge ruled that it would be unnecessary because he receives “adequate” medical attention. He stated that Barzilai’s medical staff are “experienced” in treating Palestinian hunger strikers, and that he receives regular visits of the Red Cross. On this basis, the judge ruled that a second opinion is not indispensable.

“It is hard not to believe that the petition wasn’t motivated by a genuine concern for the petitioner’s health, but a hidden agenda that does not belong in court,” he wrote. “I have come to the conclusion that the request to see a private doctor was not made in good faith.”

“During the hearings, the IPS claimed that PHR are driven by a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with the petitioner’s health,” says Amani Dayif, the head...

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Israeli jurists to IDF: Release conscientious objector Tair Kaminer

Kaminer has spent nearly 170 days in prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF due to her opposition to the occupation.

Dozens of Israeli jurists sent a letter last friday to the Military Advocate General, calling for the release of Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer, who has spent nearly 170 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF over its policies in the occupied territories.

The jurists argue that Kaminer’s sentence is disproportionate, and that she should be released from the army and allowed to take part in civil service. Kaminer is the longest-serving imprisoned female conscientious objector.

Kaminer, 19, appeared last Thursday before the IDF’s conscientious objectors committee, and has yet to receive a response regarding her exemption request. The committee has historically decided to not exempt female conscientious objectors such as Kaminer, who declare their refusal to enlist in the army due to their explicit opposition to the occupation (as opposed to pacifism, for example).

In their letter the jurist state that while they have differing opinions on the nature of Kaminer’s refusal, they are unanimous in their belief that there is no reason to imprison someone who believes that military service goes against their core moral beliefs, and that Kaminer’s refusal to enlist is an expression of “freedom of consciousness.”

“Under circumstances in which there is no real fear that a moderate response toward a person who refuses to serve will lead many others to refuse and put state security at risk,” they write, “the state is not allowed to punish a person with a lengthy prison sentence for conscientious objection. This kind of sentence is disproportionate.”

Before her imprisonment, Kaminer performed a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma following multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city. “The children I worked with grew up in the heart of the conflict and have had extremely difficult experiences from a young age, experiences that caused them to feel hatred, which can be understood, especially when it comes from young children,” Kaminer wrote in a statement published this past January.

“Like them, many children who grow up in Gaza or in the West Bank, in an even more difficult environment, learn to hate the other side,” the statement read. “They, too,...

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What are settlers doing at the 'March for Equality?'

Israeli settlements enjoy preferential, subsidized budgets, and play an integral role in a system of segregation and dispossession. Who let them join the ‘March for Equality’ with Israel’s most underserved and disadvantaged communities? 

Israeli social activists and local government leaders began a march on Jerusalem this week, the March for Equality, demanding equality in state funding for social and educational services in their underserved communities in Israel’s economic and geographic peripheries. As the marchers progressed along their way from the Negev desert to Jerusalem, they were joined by members of Knesset, the head of the country’s largest labor union, and others.

The struggle over education and welfare budgets for Israel’s disadvantaged communities is important and just. The idea of an inclusive march, which fosters unity among residents of dispersed peripheral communities is also great. Such a struggle is worthy of all of our support.

There is only one problem: the participation of settlers. Among the initiative’s participants, which include the mayors of two of Israel’s most impoverished towns, Rahat and Netivot (a Bedouin municipality and a majority Mizrahi town, respectively), were local government leaders from the Binyamin, Gush Etzion, and the South Hebron Hills settlements in the West Bank. The settler leaders did not come to express solidarity with Israel’s weakest communities, but rather to try and find room for themselves under the banner erected by neglected, downtrodden towns in the Israeli periphery.

Their participation raises three troubling questions: firstly, what budgetary discrimination do West Bank settlements suffer? (I’m speaking about non-Orthodox settlements. Ultra-Orthodox settlements do indeed suffer from serious budget shortfalls.) Just yesterday the government approved the transfer of an extra NIS 82 million to West Bank settlements, in addition to the NIS 340 million that was promised as part of coalition agreements.

And those are supplements to the settlements’ regular budgets. The Molad think tank pointed out this week that pre-schools in the Hebron hills settlements receive thousands of shekels more per child than those in Ashkelon and Ashdod, cities inside the Green Line considered to be in the periphery. Government grants for development, nutrition, and agriculture are larger in the settlements, Molad notes, and generally speaking the government invests 28 percent more per West Bank settler than per resident of the Galilee. (And that’s excluding the added costs of security spent on settlements in the West Bank.)

Another example: the Adva Center found that in...

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IDF: Secret intel shows Hamas lawmaker is ... a member of Hamas

The army issues an administrative detention order again a Palestinian parliamentarian using secret evidence to ‘prove’ some very un-secret allegations. Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians without charge or trial.

The Israeli army this week submitted secret evidence to a military court in order support an administrative detention order it issued against Hamas legislator Abed al-Jaber Fuqaha.

According to the army, the secret evidence proves that al-Jaber Fuqaha is … a member of Hamas, information which can hardly be considered secret considering he was publicly elected on the political party/terrorist organization’s slate.

“Information was received, according to which [al-Jaber Fuqaha] is a member of the Hamas terrorist organization and endangers the security of the region,” the IDF Spokesperson said. (The full statement can be found below.)

It is important to note that legally and politically speaking Israel, and the Israeli army, does not differentiate between the militant and political branches of Hamas, the latter of which democratically won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections to have been held, in 2006.

Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to imprison primarily Palestinians without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are limited to six months but there is no limit on the number of times they can be renewed, making them indefinite.

Fuqaha was released from a previous round of administrative detention just a year ago, and has spent a total of seven years in Israeli prisons. In 2014 he joined a mass Palestinian hunger strike to protest against prolonged detention without charges or trial.

As previously reported here by Noam Rotem, Fuqaha is the seventh Palestinian legislator in Israeli custody, along with Ahmad Sa’adat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who is serving a 30-year sentence; Marwan Barghouti, who is serving four consecutive life sentences; Hatem Hafisha and Hassan Yousef who are being held in administrative detention, Jerusalem resident Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and PFLP lawmaker and feminist activist Khalida Jarrar.

Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months in prison last December after spending eight months in prison, some of which were spent in administrative detention.

Israel is currently holding over 600 Palestinians in administrative detention, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. In total, more than 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held as “security prisoners,” as opposed to criminal prisoners, in Israeli...

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WATCH: Thousands of Israelis demand opposition to right-wing gov't

Left-wing Jewish and Arab parties come together to protest the rightward shift of Israel’s already far-right government. ‘We’re first and foremost against the government but there are also certain people in the opposition who forgot what their role is,’ Zandberg says.

Two thousand Jews and Arabs protesting Israel’s increasingly right-wing government marched through central Tel Aviv Saturday night under the banner, “building resistance, building an opposition, building another path for Israel.”

Marching and delivering speeches together for the first time since elections last year were Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh and Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon. Both of their speeches emphasized the need for a joint Jewish-Arab response to the radical right-wing politics dominant in Israel today. Odeh went as far as saying that “there is a nationalist camp, there is a Zionist camp, and we need to create a democratic camp.”

Speaking with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg explained, “we’re building an opposition, first and foremost against the government but we also oppose certain actors in the opposition who have forgotten what their role is.”

Members of Knesset Yousef Jabareen, Michal Rozin, Dov Khenin, Ilan Gil-On, and Abdullah Abu Ma’aruf also participated in the rally.

The following is a live video feed I broadcasted from the protest:

The makeup of the political parties represented and the rhetoric used Saturday night sparked speculation that the protest could signal the start to broader cooperation between Meretz and Hadash, the latter of which is one of several parties that comprise the Joint List.

In one such analysis, put forward by Local Call co-editor Yael Marom, the two parties might be laying the foundations for a united front ahead of the next elections. During the previous election cycle, Hadash MK Dov Khenin spoke about building “a broad democratic camp.”

A source in Hadash, who asked not to be named, later said that in response to the growing racism and far-right politics in Israel that it was decided to strengthen Arab-Jewish cooperation between Meretz and the Joint List. The intention, the party source added, is to strengthen the collaborative work in the Knesset and to step up activities on the street, like the protest in Tel Aviv and monthly anti-occupation marches in the West Bank. However, the...

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Israeli tribunal upholds ban on British human rights activist

Human rights activist Gary Spedding was refused entry to the country in 2014 over suspicions that he would ‘incite a riot.’ Jerusalem tribunal shortens ban from 10 to 5 years.

An Israeli tribunal rejected last week an appeal filed by a British human rights activist who was banned from entering the country for 10 years. The tribunal based its decision on secret evidence handed over by the Interior Ministry.

Gary Spedding, a 26-year-old human rights and pacifist based in Northern Ireland, was refused entry and banned from Israel in January 2014 due to his social media activity. Spedding, who is active in reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland as well as Israel/Palestine, had planned on visiting Israel for a round of meetings, including with several members of Knesset.

Despite previous visits to the country without any problems, Spedding was denied entrance at Ben Gurion Airport, where he was told that his activity on social media raises suspicions that he may incite riots in Israel and the occupied territories. He was held at the airport, where he was informed that the Interior Ministry refused his entry and banned him for 10 years. He was promptly sent back to the U.K.

Refusing entry and deportation of political activists who are critical of Israel’s occupation has become a common occurrence in the past few years. However, unlike most activists, Spedding decided to appeal the Interior Ministry’s decision. Attorney Gaby Lasky appealed the Interior Ministry’s decision to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, where she argued that the decision to refuse him entry stemmed from his political opinions, and that the ban harms not only Spedding, but the Knesset members and Israeli citizens who are interested in meeting with him.

Although the appeal was filed in October 2014, the tribunal only came to a decision last Wednesday. Judge Sarah Ben Shaul Weiss’ decision is laconic and does not truly get to the heart of the matter or respond to the arguments made in the appeal. “According to the law, the interior minister has broad-ranging powers derived from the Entry to Israel Law,” Weiss writes. “The appellant has no right… to enter Israel, even if he previously entered the country and was not accused of disturbing the peace during his previous entries.”

Weiss did recognize that some of the reasons stated for refusing Spedding entry are invalid, cutting his ban down to...

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Famed feminist British historian refuses prestigious Israeli award

Catherine Hall withdraws from $330,000 prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Famed British feminist historian Catherine Hall announced she will withdraw her acceptance of a prestigious award presented by Tel Aviv University for political reasons. Hall was awarded $330,000 by the Dan David Foundation, and was supposed to accept the award at a university ceremony held Sunday. The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement called on her and other recipients to refuse the prize due to Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation.

Three months ago it was announced that Hall would be awarded the prize for her groundbreaking research on the history of gender, race, and slavery. Hall is a well-known feminist political activist. According to a statement published Friday by the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which supports BDS, Hall withdrew from the prize “after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine.”

BRICUP’s statement included the BDS movement’s reasons for targeting Israeli academic institutions, which include dozens of joint projects between universities and the Israeli army, cooperation by Israeli academics in developing military strategy and planning the separation wall, etc.

The Dan David Prize, a joint initiative by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University, will be given to two other social historians, three leading economists on poverty and inequality, and three nano-technology researchers. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious in Israel, and is often presented by Israel’s president.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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For first time in years, Israeli academics pay solidarity visit to Palestinian university

An Israeli delegation of academics visits Kadoorie University in the West Bank city of Tulkarm to show support following a string of IDF raids on the campus.

For the first time in many years, a delegation of Israeli academics made an official visit to a Palestinian university. The first, small delegation arrived a month ago, and the second, last Saturday. The visits – meant to express support for Palestine Technical University — Kadoorie following a string of incidents by the IDF that are damaging its academic freedom – come after years in which no Palestinian university agreed to meet with any Israeli academics, out of concerns it would hurt BDS efforts and due to anti-normalization with Israel and the occupation. Kadoorie University appears to be the first in the Palestinian academic world to determine that meeting with Israelis who actively oppose the occupation does not violate the boycott or anti-normalization efforts.

The Israeli delegations were initiated and led by (full disclosure) my mother, Anat Matar, along with Hilla Dayan, both within the framework of “Academia for Equality.” Beyond solidarity, the point of the meetings is to start organizing an international conference for academic freedom, which will be held at the university in Tulkarm at the end of the year.

The connection with Kadoorie University was formed as a result of Amira Hass’ article last December in Haaretz, when she reported on the military’s harassment on the university and its students. It began in 2002, with the partial expropriation of the institute’s agricultural land – established as an agricultural school by an Iraqi Jew, Ellis Kadoorie, in the 1930s – that the army turned into a shooting range for soldiers. Bullets from the range sometimes hit the library building, which is nearby.

Since the latest wave of violence that began in October, Hass reported, youth would come to throw stones toward the soldiers in the shooting range and at a nearby checkpoint, and the soldiers would shoot tear gas, putrid skunk water, rubber bullets and even live bullets into the heart of the campus, sometimes even raiding it. According to data collected by the university, which was presented at the meeting on Saturday, over the course of 85 days the campus was attacked 130 times, 138 employees and students were injured by army gunfire, hundreds suffered from tear gas inhalation, several of the greenhouses were ruined, the library building was...

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Gag orders in Israel have tripled over last 15 years

As the Military Censor has become more liberal, authorities have turned to gag orders as a convenient alternative for controling the dissemination of information.

Over the past 15 years, the number of gag orders issued in Israel has more than tripled. But that is only a rough estimate because no state body actually monitors them.

Noa Landau, the former news editor of Haaretz newspaper and currently a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, has submitted a freedom of information request to the courts’ directorate and the answer she received consisted only of the number of requests for gag orders that have been submitted over the last five years. It did not specify how many of them have been upheld, fully or partially, what kind of information was gagged (the defendant’s name, the charges, the mere fact that an investigation was ongoing?), who submitted the requests, etc.

A similar freedom of information request was submitted to the Justice Ministry, which said in response that it is unable to provide relevant information. Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces have yet to respond. Even if they do, the data will be incomplete, because private individuals are also entitled to request gag orders, as well as the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, which is not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. What’s more, the army has its own judicial system which is also authorized to issue gag orders (as it has done in the recent case of the Hebron shooter, Sgt. Elor Azaria).

Upward and onward

According to the figures revealed by Landau, 231 requests were submitted in 2015, as opposed to 186 in 2011 (more than a 20-percent increase). The proportion of the requests that have actually been upheld remains unknown, but the legal experts and journalists that she sampled were hard pressed to think of an instance where a request for a gag order has been rejected. Also, the number of gag orders that newspapers received roughly corresponds to the number of requests.

In 2004, the Seventh Eye media watchdog reported that in 2000-2001, the annual rate of gag orders stood at around 60, and climbed to 110 in 2003. These are based on data collected from the newspapers themselves, where the orders aren’t archived systematically. Be that as it may, in the space of a decade and a half, the number of...

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Palestinian journalist to spend four more months in Israeli detention

High-profile Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal has been arrested on terror charges that Israel considers classified and therefore neither he nor his lawyer can see. The army issued an order to keep him in jail for another four months – without trial. 

The Israel Defense Forces issued on Monday a four-month order for the administrative detention of Omar Nazzal, a Palestinian journalist who was arrested last week at Allenby Crossing on his way to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Sarajevo.

Initially the Shin Bet claimed that Nazzal, a freelance journalist and a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Guild, was an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel defines as a terror group. But Nazzal’s attorney has denied that his client is involved with the PFLP. The military prosecutor acknowledged on Wednesday, at a hearing held at Ofer Military Prison, that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Nazzal. Nevertheless, he claimed that there was enough classified material against him to justify administrative detention. The military court accepted this claim.

As a consequence of the administrative detention order issued against him today, Nazzal will be imprisoned with neither the right to know what he is accused of, nor the right to defend himself against charges. Administrative detention orders can be extended for up to six months at a time, with no limit on the number of renewals.

Nazzal’s attorney, Mahmoud Hassan, tried last week to convince the military court that his client was just a journalist, and that the state could not possibly regard him as an authentic security risk given that the army chose not to arrest him at home, but rather to wait until he arrived of his own free will at the Allenby border crossing in order to travel abroad.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in response that “Nazzal was arrested for his involvement with the Popular Front that, based on top-secret intelligence submitted to the court, poses a clear and present danger to Israel’s national security. His administrative detention was declared lawfully and as a last resort after every other option to neutralize the danger had been ruled out.”


The detention of Omar Nazzal has elicited condemnations from journalists’ organizations around the world, while demonstrations in his support were held last week in various locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

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