by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
Israelis have signed up for a campaign of civil disobedience, vowing to
risk jail to smuggle Palestinian women and children into Israel for a
brief taste of life outside the occupied West Bank.
The Israelis say
they have been inspired by the example of Ilana Hammerman, a writer who
is threatened with prosecution after publishing an article in which she
admitted breaking the law to bring three Palestinian teenagers into
Israel for a day out.
Ms Hammerman said she wanted to give the
young women, who had never left the West Bank, “some fun” and a chance
to see the Mediterranean for the first time.
Her story has
shocked many Israelis and led to a police investigation after right-wing
groups called for her to be tried for security offences.
It is illegal to
transport Palestinians through checkpoints into Israel without a permit,
which few can obtain. If tried and found guilty, Ms Hammerman could be
fined and face up to two years in jail.
But Israelis joining
the campaign say they will not be put off by threats of imprisonment.
Last month, a
group of 11 Israeli women joined Ms Hammerman in repeating her act of
civil disobedience, driving a dozen Palestinian women and four children,
including a baby, through a checkpoint into Israel.
The Israeli women
say they are planning mass “smugglings” of Palestinians into Israel over
the coming weeks.
“The Palestinians who join us are mainly
looking to have a good time after years of confinement under the
occupation, but for us what is most important is our act of defiance,”
said Ofra Lyth, who helped establish an online forum of supporters after
attending a speech by Ms Hammerman.
“We want to overturn this immoral law that
gives rights to Jews to move freely around while keeping Palestinians
imprisoned in their towns and villages,” she said, referring to
regulations that bar most Palestinians in the occupied territories from
entering Israel, and Israelis from assisting them. Exceptions are made
for Palestinians with permits, sometimes issued for a medical emergency
or to some labourers with security clearance.
For the Palestinian
women, though, it is not about making a statement or defying an unjust
law, said Ms Lyth.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
“The Palestinian women tell us: ‘Go ahead
and make your political point, but for us we’re breaking the law so that
we can enjoy ourselves and remember how life was before the checkpoints
and the wall.’ One woman told me: ‘I just want to be able to breathe
For Palestinians in the West Bank, it is not often easy to
breathe. The territory is home to a growing population of 300,000 Jews
in more than 100 settlements. The settlers are able to drive into Israel
on roads that the army oversees with checkpoints.
It was through one
such settler crossing, near Beitar Ilit, south of Jerusalem, that Ms
Hammerman took the three Palestinian teenagers this year.
protection, she has not identifed the young women or the West Bank
village where they live. She refers to the women as Aya, Lin and Yasmin.
They, too, could face jail for breaking the law.
In Ms Hammerman’s
article, published in the Haaretz newspaper in May, she admitted that
she was aware her actions were illegal.
She told the women,
who were 18 and 19, to take off their hijabs for the day and dress in
western-style clothes to avoid attracting attention from soldiers at the
checkpoint. She also taught them an easy Hebrew phrase -- Hakull
beseder, or “Everything is okay” -- in case a soldier spoke to them.
She then took
them on a tour of Tel Aviv, visiting the city’s university, a museum, a
shopping mall and the beach, which she noted none of them had ever seen
even though it is only about 40km from their village.
an Israeli human rights group, said Israel introduced a permit system to
limit Palestinian movement out of the West Bank in the early 1990s –
about the time the young women were born.
wrote that the only dangerous moment during the trip was when a
plain-clothes policeman stopped them and asked for the women’s identity
cards. Ms Hammerman lied to the officer, telling him that the women were
Palestinians from East Jerusalem and therefore entitled to enter
In June, Yehuda Weinstein, the attorney general, was reported to
have approved a police investigation of Ms Hammerman after a settler
organisation, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, complained.
The ranks of
Ms Hammerman’s supporters have swollen since the group placed an
advertisement, titled “We refuse to obey”, in Haaretz this month. The ad
said the group was “acting in the spirit of Martin Luther King”, the US
civil rights leader, and demanded that Palestinians be treated as
“human beings, not terrorists”.
Over the past week, the online forum has
attracted more than 590 Israelis signing up to repeat Ms Hammerman’s act
of civil disobedience.
“That has really surprised and encouraged
me,” she said. “I did not realise there were so many other Israelis who
have had enough of this outrageous law.”
Still, the coverage
of Ms Hammerman and her supporters in the Israeli media has been largely
hostile. During a television interview last week, she was accused of
endangering Israelis with her trips. The show’s host, Yaron London,
asked whether she had inspected the Palestinian women’s underclothes for
explosives before allowing them into her car.
She will will not be
deterred, though. She said the group had discussed future trips for
Palestinians, including taking them to pray at al-Aqsa, the mosque in
Jerusalem that has been inaccessible to most Palestinians for at least a
decade, and visits to Palestinian relatives they cannot see in
Jerusalem and Israel.
“We need to get Israelis meeting
Palestinians again, having fun with them and seeing that they are human
beings with the same rights as us.”
She said her immediate goal was to
kick-start a discussion among Israelis about the legality and morality
of Israel’s laws and challenge the public’s “blind obedience” to
Ms Lyth added that the Palestinian women “who have gone on our
trips are the heroes of their village. They and their families know they
are taking a big risk in breaking the law, but harassment is part of
their daily lives anyway”.
Till now the trips have been
restricted to smuggling Palestinian women and children only, said Ms
Hammerman. “It is harder to bring men in without being discovered and
the authorities would be likely to treat Palestinian men much more
harshly if they were caught.”
Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest
books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His
website is www.jkcook.net.