Salah Hamouri

Salah Hamouri photographed by Alain Bachellier

Jonathan Kuttab, Friends of Sabeel North America, December 9, 2022

Salah Hamouri is a Palestinian human rights lawyer, from Jerusalem, who has just been informed he will be deported to France in 3 days. He has appealed this decision, but the hope that Israeli court would provide him with justice is minimal. Salah is a lawyer with Addameer, a Palestinian human rights organization concerned with prisoners’ rights. He is currently in prison under administrative detention. Like more than 800 other Palestinians, he is kept in jail, on the basis of “secret evidence” without any charges or trial.  Just because some Israeli official considers it necessary “for public safety and security” that he be kept in jail, for 6 months’ (renewable indefinitely). Salah has been in administrative detention now for about 9 months, and he is convinced it is because of his human rights advocacy. The fact that the organization he worked with, Addameer, is one of the six civil society organizations Israel declared to be a terrorist organization is undoubtedly part of the “secret evidence” used to justify his detention, and threatened deportation before Israeli courts and tribunals.

Salah’s case is noteworthy, however, for additional reasons: First is that he has been stripped of his Jerusalem residency because of “secret evidence” (again), showing that he has failed in his “duty of loyalty” to the state of Israel which has occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, where he resides.  This bizarre charge would have been hilariously ridiculous if it were not so serious.  What “duty of loyalty” is owed by Palestinians to their occupiers? For Israel, This goes beyond the need to punish resistance to the occupation, by requiring the occupied people to have a “duty of loyalty” under threat of losing their residency, and facing deportation!

What makes this case particularly ominous is the new Israeli government with its far-right agenda and the open racism and hostility of some of its components, who are being given key positions of authority over the lives of Palestinians both in Israel, Jerusalem, and the rest of the occupied territories.  It is no secret that these newly empowered racists have made it clear that their ideology and agenda views Palestinian Arabs as a threat to the Jewishness of the state who need to be forcibly deported and removed from the state altogether. Like their mentor and hero Meir Kahana, they hold this view for Israeli Arab citizens in Israel and not just for West Bankers.  Now they are in a position of power to implement their program.

Under Israel’s system, such radical violations of human rights and international law are usually introduced slowly, with legal and judicial acceptance and justification. The courts play their role by presenting what looks like some independent restraining element of review and examination, but then approve the measures; Zionist supporters abroad  try to downplay these activities and seek to justify them as either temporary or needed for security.  They also work hard to shield Israel from any scrutiny or accountability for such blatant actions, which often go against their own professed values.  From torture, to house demolitions, to settlement activities, to administrative detention, to annexation of territory, deportations and extra-judicial killings, the pattern is always the same: Each of these activities were undertaken gradually, with trial balloons to test public reaction, and with judicial complicity and justification, all the while resisting any accountability or sanctions, and leading to a feeling of impunity.  Every effort is made to avoid any external pressure, or involvement by any international body or court.

Eventually, the effort to justify the actions is abandoned, and is replaced by strenuous attempts to prevent any sanctions or accountability, branding such efforts as anti-semitism, or biased and unfair targeting of Israel.

It is therefore important to carefully note what happens with Salah Hamouri. His bizarre case may well be the first step towards mass withdrawal of residency status as well as citizenship,  leading to a forcible deportation of Palestinians. We need to create and demand sufficient international reaction and pushback before this too  becomes a regrettable but acceptable norm of how Israel behaves towards the Arabs under its control.

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