Increased deportations and denied entries hamper efforts of human rights activists

by Andreas Sejr Andersen

Hebron based human rights activists are suffering under increased pressure from Israeli authorities to limit their work.

A new joint task force, established by the Israeli interior ministry and public security ministry, urges Israeli citizens to call a hotline to supply the task force with information about individuals involved in BDS activities, in order to eventually deport them. Although the hotline hasn’t been established yet, increased efforts to limit human rights and BDS activists in the West Bank are already being felt.

“Right now, they (the Israeli authorities) already try to limit the number ofpeople entering the West Bank at Ben Gurion airport,” an ISM-activist called Jenny stated. She went on to give several recent examples where activists involved with EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment in Palestine and Israel), CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team) or ISMhave been denied entry at Ben Gurion airport. The reason being they were suspected of planning to take part in BDS or other human rights activities, sometimes with no explanation offered. “I think they (the Israeli authorities) just don’t want eyewitnesses to the abuses inflicted upon Palestinians on a daily basis”.

The aforementioned human rights groups’ tasks in Hebron are monitoring checkpoints that schoolchildren have to pass, in order to reach school, as well as documenting offences by Israeli soldiers and police. Tasks difficult to fulfill due to low numbers of activists in Hebron at the moment. “Many schools ask for an international presence, because they have problems with soldiers harassing the schoolchildren, but there aren’t enough people to be everywhere,” Jenny said.

The taskforce is claimed to be an effort to prevent the BDS movement from gaining popularity. Although ISM doesn’t have any official ties to the BDS. The human rights movement has been singled out by several media outlets, as a possible target for the taskforce. Another ISM activist named Anny complied “Probably everybody in the ISM still supports BDS”. “It is an excuse to keep as many Palestinian supportingactivists as possible out of the West Bank,” Jenny continued. The Israeli government has made denouncing the BDS a top priority, claiming it is the biggest enemy of the Jewish state at the moment. “It is probably because they (the Israeli authorities) are getting more and more scared of the BDS movements’ impact, that they have taken to these new measures.” Anny stated.

The joint task force will, as stated earlier, rely on tips by Israeli citizens. To answer the question ofwho might call in with such details, Jenny exhaled slowly: “The settlers here in H2 have been trying to single us out many times, calling for action to stop our work. The last time was in autumn ‘15 when they hung placards with our faces in the Israeli controlled parts of the town. We had a Hebrew speaker translate the text on them, he said that it basically suggested we deserved to die.”

PNN is not aware of any activists deported by the new task force yet.

Anny and Jenny are false names.