A letter from Gordon Bennett, Ellie Clayton and Aimee McGovern — currently under house arrest in Tel Aviv.

Kufr QaddumAs many of you may already know, we are currently volunteering in the occupied Palestinian Territories with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – a non-violent Palestinian-led solidarity organization. Much of the work that we do is documenting human rights abuses, taking pictures and videos, writing reports and carrying out direct action, such as attending demonstrations. Hence our presence in the village of Kufr Qaddoum on Friday the 21st of September.

As Friday’s demonstration progressed, it became clear that the army were targeting international observers for arrest – a tactic regularly used by the Israeli authorities to prevent human rights abuses being reported in international media. The three of us were eventually beaten and arrested after taking pictures of the demonstration.

What followed was a 48 hour ordeal of detention – being split up, strip-searched, shackled hand and foot, denied access to prescription medication and imprisoned in cockroach-infested cells with no idea of what was going on.

We were eventually brought to court, where we were charged with fabricated offences – throwing stones at soldiers and knowingly being in a ‘closed military zone’. No evidence was brought against us, because there was none. After 48 hours, we were released to 24/7 house arrest in this flat in Tel Aviv, where we await a decision as to whether we’re to be deported at the end of the week. We’ve been told by the British consulate in Jerusalem that this is not a punishment they have heard of being used before for British nationals, so for this reason we are unsure of our status.

Thankfully for us, during this ordeal ISM and Israeli activists from Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) have provided us with legal assistance, a translator, transport, accommodation and support in Tel Aviv. They’ve also acted as guarantor for our conditions of house arrest – if we were to take even one step outside of this building, our friend would be charged 3500 pounds. Without their help, we would likely have been held for seven days in prison and then deported immediately.

Both ISM and AATW are working on tiny budgets and regularly have to face these kind of crippling financial costs to maintain their work against the occupation in Palestine. Donations are desperately needed to allow both organisations to continue. The three of us would like to appeal to our friends and families to make a donation to support their ongoing work.

As international citizens, we are provided with some legal protection under Israeli law. Palestinians, on the other hand, are not. Two Palestinian men were arrested at the same time as us, facing the same charges. They are still awaiting trial, but there’s no way they’re going to get the chance of moving to house arrest after just two days inside – Israel’s ‘administrative detention’ regime for Palestinians can mean being held indefinitely without charge for months or years. It’s a regime that has been criticized time and again by human rights organisations.

Please write to the Israeli government: the Minister of Public Security, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, at sar@mops.gov.il, and the Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Danny Efroni at avimn@idf.gov.il, calling for:

  • The immediate release of Majd Obeid (23) and Abdelateef Obeid (25), or for them to be promptly tried in a hearing which meets internationally recognized fair trial standards;
  • An end to the policy of administrative detention for Palestinians;
  • An end to the arrest and trial of Palestinian minors as adults;
  • An end to ill-treatment of Palestinians in detention;
  • An end to the harassment and arrest of international and local human rights defenders.

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