Theresa in the Bengurion airport detention centre after being prevented by Israel from attending the Celebrating Nonviolence conference in Bethlehem last December.
UPDATE: Theresa remains in detention after an Israeli judge today postponed a decision on her appeal against denial of entry until November 15th.
Theresa McDermont came to Israel to pick olives with Palestinian farmers for one month. Instead, she has been sitting in a detention cell for 12 days at Ben-Gurion airport.
McDermont, a Scottish post office worker, said she hoped to be a volunteer for Rabbis for Human Rights, the organization that runs the olive harvest project designed to help Palestinian farmers cultivate land near the Green Line.
According to McDermont’s lawyer, Gabi Lasky, there is no reason for her detention and she is being detained under no charges. She said a possible reason for McDermont’s detainment could be that “Israel doesn’t want activists for human rights.”
McDermont attended the International Solidarity Movement’s (ISM) International Nonviolence Conference held in Bethlehem last December.
Micky Rosenfeld, the police spokesman, said no one is held without reason. According to Rosenfeld, “just mentioning the ISM” offers enough suspicion to deny someone’s entry into Israel, adding that Israel has denied entrance to ISM members before.
The ISM has been targeted, said Rosenfeld, because there is concrete evidence that in the past, it has provided terrorist groups with financial aid.
Rabbi Arik Asherman, spokesman for Rabbis for Human Rights, said a volunteer for his group has never before been denied entry.
McDermont will have a court hearing Monday, to decide whether she will be allowed entry into Israel or returned to Scotland.
The ISM has responded firmly to these unfounded allegations with a letter to the Jerusalem Post:
Ori Raphael’s article on Theresa McDermont, the Scottish volunteer with Rabbis for Human Rights (“Rabbis for Human Rights volunteer held”, Nov. 12th) made a slanderous accusation against the International Solidarity Movement.
The idea that there is “concrete evidence” that the ISM has “provided terrorist groups with financial aid” is transparent nonsense. Israel has indeed deported and barred the entrance of many human rights workers who come to work with the Palestinians, including ISM volunteers. However, this is always done through the use of “secret evidence” or by denying visas.
The ISM has never been an illegal organization. In point of fact the Israeli courts have ruled several times that involvement in the ISM is not reason enough to deport or deny entry.
If there was any truth in Rosenfeld’s accusations then the ISM would have been banned by Israel and the US long ago. Raphael’s article fails basic journalistic standards, as it does not seek our statement on Rosenfeld’s accusations.
Raphael’s lack of a minimal level of factual accuracy is also demonstrated when he states that the Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference held in Bethlehem last December was an ISM organized event. In fact it was primarily organized by the Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian NGO, as anyone doing 5 minutes of fact-checking would discover.
We insist you give us some form of redress.
ISM Media Co-ordinator, Ramallah