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Restricting freedom of movement: an Israeli attempt to silence leaders of the popular struggle

International Solidarity Movement

Khatib during a speaking his speaking tour in Canada. Photo: Tadamon!

On August 4, 2010 about 1 PM, Mohammed Khatib from Bil’in was denied exit to Jordan via King Hussein Bridge. Khatib was on his way to Spain via Amman when Israeli border officials prevented him from crossing the border to Jordan. Denying the leaders of the non-violent Popular Struggle to go abroad is clearly an attempt to silence Palestinians who speak about human rights violations committed by Israel.

This is not the first time Israel has prevented leaders of the Popular Struggle from going abroad. Earlier this year Iyad Burnat, the leader of the Popular Committee in Bil’in was denied exit via King Hussein’s Bridge when on his way to Europe via Amman. Burnat and his 5 year old daughter were detained at the border, and after hours of waiting they were sent back to Bil’in. Later Burnat was given permission to travel abroad, on condition he did not speak about the situation in Bil’in. He is now threatened with arrest if he chooses to do so.

Both Khatib and Burnat had valid visas for their destinations, and had been planning their departure months in advance. Since Israel denies the vast majority of Palestinians entry to Jerusalem where the consulates are located, obtaining a visa is a time consuming process.

Crossing the border back to Israel after travelling abroad is also a complicated and potentially dangerous process. In 2009 Mohammed Othman was arrested at the Jordan border when returning from a speaking tour in Norway. Othman was held under administrative detention for months, without trial, allegedly considered a “security threat”.

Mohammed Khatib and other activists for the Popular Struggle can tell of frequent human rights violations: arrests and night raids carried out by the army, and theft of Palestinian land that makes life extremely difficult in their villages. As more and more people become aware of the situation in Palestine, Israel needs to find new strategies to silence those Palestinian voices speaking out – and denying Palestinians freedom of movement and freedom of speech is one tactic.

At 10 PM last night Mohammed Khatib returned to Bil’in. He reports that the reason Israeli border police gave for refusing to let him pass to Jordan was that the Israeli intelligence, Shebak, had given them instructions. The refusal came despite Khatib’s possession of a valid ruling by an Israeli court – issued on Tuesday – which allowed him to travel. This legal ruling was ignored by the border officials and proves once again that Israeli officials do not even follow their own legal system.