Alison Russell, a Scottish-born Belgian citizen and Human Rights Defender, was detained by the Israeli occupation authorities while documenting the demolition of a house in Masafer Yatta, in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank.
She was deported after very perfunctory proceedings at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Israeli police alleged in a public statement that Alison “supported a terrorist organization”. Her attorney pointed out that this claim had no basis. Nevertheless, the presiding judge issued a verdict couched in fiery nationalist rhetoric, claiming that “There are many faces to Hamas terror. There are various kinds of terrorists. Some terrorists wield guns and bombs while others use a computer keyboard”.
The Human Rights Defender was taken to the Ben Gurion Airport, and deported, with a decree issued to bar her re-entry. Itamar Ben Gvir, the Kahane linked Minister of Police in the Netanyahu government, issued a personal statement celebrating “The deportation of the Belgian terrorist supporter who had supported the Hamas Nazis” and “congratulating the Judea and Samaria Police for their good work”.
In the last month and a half, the charge of being a “supporter of a terrorist organization” has become an excuse for an extensive campaign of political persecution against anyone who dares to post any protest the unfolding genocide in Gaza. This is affected against Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship, and against Israeli Jews such as the teacher Meir Baruchin who was detained for almost a week on completely unfounded charges. In the Gaza Strip, a far more brutal procedure for the same allegations is implemented. A Gazan journalist or political activist accused of “supporting Hamas” may expect to be targeted and/or have their family targeted by a missile from an Israeli warplane. Such was, for example, the fate of Ahmed Abu Artema and countless other Palestinian activists and journalists.
Nowadays in Israel, all it takes to be charged with “supporting terrorism” is to express sorrow and pain over the killing of children in the bombing of the Gaza Strip. State Attorney Amit Isman strongly criticized these detentions, but Israel’s police, controlled by Ben-Gvir, persist in carrying out such detentions.
In the case of human rights defender Alison Russell, the far-fetched charges of “supporting terrorism” or “keyboard terrorism” cover up the real reason for her detention and deportation. In court, the state asserted that “she had many times disrupted the activities of the IDF troops, whenever she came in contact with them”. Indeed, it is highly disturbing for the troops to have outside observers and witnesses present where acts of oppression take place, which often constitute blatant violations of International Law.
Not in vain do the soldiers regularly confiscate the mobile phones of activists and even the footage of international TV crews. Alison, like the other human rights defenders who come from all over the world to express solidarity with the Palestinian people in their difficult time, together with Israeli people of conscience, are struggling to stem the wave of ethnic cleansing which is going on all over the West Bank, under cover of the war in Gaza.
The shepherd communities, the most vulnerable part of Palestinian society, have become the target of a brutal attack by the fanatic settler militias, and already sixteen such communities have been forced to leave their land under violent attacks and explicit threats of murder.
The tiny villages at Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills are attacked by settlers on one side and the army on the other: The settlers attack the villages, destroy whatever is at hand and threaten entire communities with murder, and in these criminal acts they enjoy complete immunity from the police and army. For its part, the army arrives to destroy the houses of the villagers, houses which were declared to be “illegal” by the Supreme Court. Alison was detained and deported when she tried to document the destruction of one of these houses..
The police had stated “a deportation order from Israel” was issued to Alison, as well as a decree to “prevent her from entering Israel” in the future. We would like to emphasize that Alison never wanted to “enter Israel”. She wanted to come to the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, by the express invitation of Palestinian residents to document and intervene in human rights abuses and stop an ongoing nakba.
In the words of Alison herself, “The UN, created when the world was saying ‘nie wieder faschismus,’ has given up on Palestine. But right now, right here, in a tiny little corner of Palestine, there are a dozen villages that are under direct and immediate threat. When the handful of determined people that are here manage to organize a group to sleep in the hamlets, we delay their expulsion…I’m here ‘cos I really think our action is effective. Please make it more effective by getting involved too.”