The sun is yet to set on the Empire …
New York Times Report below
The sun is yet to set on the Empire …
New York Times Report below
Two officers from the British intelligence agency GCHQ oversaw the destruction of hard drives at The Guardian newspaper’s office last month in an effort to stop the paper from reporting on the documents that Edward Snowden gave them. The incident was reported Monday night by The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger.
The British government essentially forced the newspaper to destroy the hard drives that contained files that the National Security Agency whistleblower gave them.
The Guardian’s lawyers believed the government might either seek an injunction under the law of confidence, a catch-all statute that covers any unauthorised possession of confidential material, or start criminal proceedings under the Official Secrets Act.
Either brought with it the risk that the Guardian’s reporting would be frozen everywhere and that the newspaper would be forced to hand over material.
“I explained to British authorities that there were other copies in America and Brazil so they wouldn’t be achieving anything,” Rusbridger said. “But once it was obvious that they would be going to law I preferred to destroy our copy rather than hand it back to them or allow the courts to freeze our reporting.”
Any such surrender would have represented a betrayal of the source, Edward Snowden, Rusbridger believed. The files could ultimately have been used in the American whistleblower’s prosecution.
In the column that first broke the news, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger described various attempts at intimidation that the British government made before Rusbridger agreed to finally destroy the hard drives.
Two months ago, a senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister called Rusbridger and demanded that the paper return or destroy documents exposing the National Security Agency’s surveillance. A month later, Rusbridger received another phone call from the government. “ You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back,” the official allegedly said.
More meetings with British government officials occurred, with an official telling Rusbridger, “you’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”
After The Guardian continued to hold steadfast, the government took an action described by Glenn Greenwald as “thuggish.”
“And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents,” writes Rusbridger.
The account in The Guardian was published after Greenwald’s husband David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was detained in Britain for 9 hours under a UK anti-terrorism law after crossing through Heathrow airport on his way back from meeting Laura Poitras, Greenwald’s reporting companion, in Berlin. Miranda was questioned about his partner’s reporting and threatened with jail. Rusbridger vowed that the detention–and seizure of documents Miranda was carrying–would not deter The Guardian.
“We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London,” wrote Rusbridger. “The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.”
Outrage has erupted in Britain over Miranda’s detention. The British Labour Party has demanded a review of the anti-terrorism law used to hold Greenwald’s partner. The law has disproportionately targeted Muslims.
And Miranda’s lawyers have said they are planning to take legal action against the British government for his detention.
While The Guardian editor vowed to press on despite the destruction of the files and Miranda’s detention, he closed out his column with a warning:
We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack.
LONDON — Pamela Geller, the controversial anti-Islam blogger and activist infamous for her staunch criticism and denigration of Islam, has been banned from entering the United Kingdom by Home Secretary Theresa May.
In a two-page letter which Geller uploaded onto her blog, Atlas Shrugs, the Home Office informed Geller that has been “excluded from the UK” on the basis that her “presence here would not be conducive to the public good.” Her previous history indicated to the Home Secretary that Geller may attempt to “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”
Below the letter in her blogpost, Geller reacted to the decision:
In a striking blow against freedom, the British government has banned us from entering the country. Muhammad al-Arifi, who has advocated Jew-hatred, wife-beating, and jihad violence, entered the U.K. recently with no difficulty. In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam, the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead.
Geller and her co-founder of Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA), Robert Spencer, who has also been banned from entering the UK, had been due to attend and speak at a rally in Woolwich organized by the English Defense League, the far-right movement which purports to share with Geller a mutual concern over the Islamisation of Europe, on Saturday, June 29. “Today is a sad day for freedom of speech,” EDL leader Tommy Robinson stated after Geller announced her ban.
It was in Woolwich that on May 22, the soldier Lee Rigby was murdered by two assailants armed with knives and a meat cleaver. One of the suspects, Michael Adebolajo, justified the action by stating that, “The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.” Since the attack, several mosques and Islamic community centers across Britain have been desecrated with graffiti, including swastikas and the letters EDL and NF. On June 23, a small explosive device was left outside a mosque in Walsall, near Birmingham.
In a statement, a Home Office spokesman said: ‘We condemn all those whose behaviors and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.’
Under British legal provisions introduced in 2005 to combat terrorism and extremism, the Border Agency under the auspices of the Home Office has the power to either deport or deny entry to non-UK citizens who engage in “unacceptable behaviors.” This covers people who use the media or public speech to “foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs, seek to provoke others to terrorist acts, foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts, or foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”
On the basis of Geller’s work with SIOA, Jihad Watch, and Atlas Shrugs, as well as her previous public statements, the Home Secretary personally deemed that if she were to “espouse such views” in the UK, Geller “would be committing unacceptable behaviors and would therefore be behaving in a way that is not conducive to the public good.”
Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.
Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.
Hawking’s decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.
In April the Teachers’ Union of Ireland became the first lecturers’ association in Europe to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and in the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to support a boycott, the first national academic group to do so.
In the four weeks since Hawking’s participation in the Jerusalem event was announced, he has been bombarded with messages from Britain and abroad as part of an intense campaign by boycott supporters trying to persuade him to change his mind. In the end, Hawking told friends, he decided to follow the advice of Palestinian colleagues who unanimously agreed that he should not attend.
By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.
However, many artists, writers and academics have defied and even denounced the boycott, calling it ineffective and selective. Ian McEwan, who was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011, responded to critics by saying: “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed … It’s not great if everyone stops talking.”
Hawking has visited Israel four times in the past. Most recently, in 2006, he delivered public lectures at Israeli and Palestinian universities as the guest of the British embassy in Tel Aviv. At the time, he said he was “looking forward to coming out to Israel and the Palestinian territories and excited about meeting both Israeli and Palestinian scientists”.
Since then, his attitude to Israel appears to have hardened. In 2009, Hawking denounced Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza, telling Riz Khan on Al-Jazeera that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was “plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”
The office of President Peres, which has not yet announced Hawking’s withdrawal, did not respond to requests for comment. Hawking’s name has been removed from the speakers listed on the official website.
Why we Won’t Mourn for Margaret Thatcher
Written by Liverpool Trades Union Council
Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 and the vast majority of ordinary people greeted her passing with undisguised joy.
The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.
During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.
And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.
Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.
In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.
Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.
After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.
Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim – to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.
And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.
During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality? She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes; she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.
She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.
There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.
Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world.
At the age of 12, Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher helped her family hide a young Austrian Jewish refugee from the Nazis. The experience left a permanent mark on her consciousness. It reminded her that the strength of her moral conviction is worth far more than the prevailing wisdom of her generation.
Thatcher, who passed away Monday, served as an inspiration to an entire generation of policy makers and statesmen. The Baroness may have begun her career as a chemist, but it was in politics that she finally found the perfect mixture for the elements of her personality. Long before Israel’s Iron Dome began defending Israel’s citizens from terror, the Iron Lady was defending Western liberty, freedom, and democracy. While there are certainly leaders who are made by history, Thatcher was one of those rare politicians who made history herself.
In her economic and foreign policies, Thatcher emphasized self-reliance and self-preservation. She saw the forces of freedom being subverted and undermined by the most dangerous of totalitarian ideologies. She had the courage and the chutzpah to speak out against these dangers – even when it was more politically convenient to simply turn a blind eye.
It is no surprise that the Baroness was a great admirer of the State of Israel. Unlike many of her fellow members of Parliament, the Iron Lady had the ability to see Israel for what it was: a bastion of liberty in the world’s greatest hotbed of tyranny. As she herself once put it—in a statement quite fitting for Israel’s upcoming Independence Day—“the political and economic construction of Israel against huge odds and bitter adversaries is one of the heroic sagas of our age.”
Thatcher belonged to a generation of luminaries that is slowly fading. She stood shoulder-to-shoulder with visionaries who never hesitated to stand up for basic values of human decency. Like Winston Churchill, her predecessor, Thatcher had no delusions about the threats that free-loving peoples face – and the steps that a democracy must take to defend itself from those who seek to do it harm.
The international community could use a healthy dose of her moral courage today. As Bashar Assad slaughters his people with impunity, the United Nations continues to inexplicably single out, scrutinize, and demonize the liberal democracy to Syria’s south. As terrorists in Gaza rain rockets down upon Sderot and Ashkelon, the UN Security Council only finds its voice to condemn Israel when it defends itself. As the West spins around in circles on the Iranian nuclear program, the centrifuges in Iran are simply continuing to spin.
It is our generation’s responsibility to pick up the torch of moral clarity that the Baroness set down. It is our responsibility to continue supporting democratic institutions and aspirations in the Middle East. It is our responsibility to continue defending our people and our state from those who seek to take our freedoms away.
Just as the Iron Dome protects Israel’s south, we must protect the Iron Lady’s legacy – and speak out on behalf of the values of Western civilization to which she devoted her life.
The writer is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and former Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
“I don’t pretend to know night-time from day, but if I were your God I’d have something to say” (Ben Gurion Prison, 14th March 2013)
These words, scrawled inconspicuously on the wall just above my head amid a plethora of other graffiti, drew my eyes as I sat on a dirty, broken bunk in an Israeli ‘facility’.
Or at least that’s what the Israelis call it. In my lexicon, rows of cells with no door handles on the inside and double bars across the windows are found in a ‘prison’.
That’s where I found myself on 13th March, six hours after arriving at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport at the start of a photographic holiday.
Initially, things were as I would have expected on arrival in Israel.
At about 4 pm, I waited patiently in a queue to have my passport checked with a colleague from work that I had met by chance on the plane.
I stepped forward and was asked why I was visiting Israel and whether I’d visited before. I told the immigration official that I was visiting as a tourist and that I’d visited before as a child and in 2011.
This answer sufficed for him to tell me that my passport was being retained and that I should direct myself to a room in a quiet corner of the immigration hall for “a few more questions.”
I was surprised – I’ve travelled extensively without problems – but aware that security at Ben Gurion airport is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. I was also uncomfortable at having surrendered my passport, aware that this ran contrary to UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice because of the risk of passport cloning by Israeli authorities.
At first sight, the room indicated by the immigration official wasn’t too unwelcoming; generic airport seating and a drinks vending machine for those who travel with currency. Every seat was taken, though. I wasn’t sure if that was reassuring or not.
However: a young German female and I were the only Caucasians present. Travellers to Israel were being selected for interrogation based on their racial or ethnic profile. This appalled me and I set about counting. During the six hours that I was to spend in and around that room, 25 travelers were similarly detained; only three of us were Caucasian.
My turn for interrogation came at 6:40 pm, 2½ hours after my arrival.
I followed a young Israeli woman in uniform into a small office. We sat at either side of a desk and a computer. On my left sat two casually dressed males. I was later informed that they were officers from Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.
“Why did you come to Israel?” the woman started aggressively.
“For a much-needed holiday, a photographic holiday,” I replied calmly.
She failed to understand and asked me to speak up.
I repeated my answer, just as loudly and clearly as I had the first time.
It was already clear that no pleasantries were on offer in this office.
“Where are you going in Israel?”
I told her that I would first spend two or three days in and around Jerusalem, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to pray for my brother (I explained why) and traveling to Bethlehem and Masada, before moving on to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Galilee and, I hoped, Eilat.
I was, of course, faced with the usual conundrum for anyone arriving in Israel wishing to include the West Bank as part of an itinerary. Mention any West Bank destination other than Bethlehem and you will be refused admission to Israel; fail to mention it and have it suspected and you will be refused admission anyway. I did also intend to visit the West Bank.
“Who do you know in Israel?”
“How long in Israel?”
“About three weeks.”
“What? Three weeks in Israel? Three weeks is too long! No one comes for three weeks to Israel!”
I considered pointing out that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism might see things differently, but thought better of it.
Instead, I repeated that I had three weeks in which to see as much of the country as I could.
One of the two men intervened.
“And the Gaza Strip? And the West Bank?”
“I am not visiting the Gaza Strip or the West Bank,” I said firmly but politely.
I felt as though I had been catapulted into a scene from a cheesy spy thriller, but although uncomfortable at being forced to state only a partial truth, I remained completely calm.
“Where are you staying in Israel?” the woman resumed.
I told her the name of my guesthouse, that I had booked two nights and handed her a copy of the reservation.
“Why only two nights?”
I explained that I only ever book one or two nights when I travel, so that I can plan my holiday on the fly and stay longer in places that I like.
“Where have you traveled this year?”
“Paris, Prague, Dublin and Turkey.”
“How can you travel so much? It’s not possible that you can travel so much.”
I explained that some of my trips were for work rather than for pleasure.
More intrusive questions followed, about my family, my marriage and family holidays. Almost every question was followed by an inevitable “Are you sure?”
One of the men stood up.
“What about the Gaza Strip? When did you go to the Gaza Strip?”
“I have never been to the Gaza Strip,” I replied calmly.
At times, their interrogation, although intimidating, bordered on caricature.
The woman resumed.
“Is it your first time in Israel?”
“No. I came with my school when I was 13 and again in 2011.”
“Why did you come with your school? Are you a teacher?”
“No, I was 13!”
“What’s your job?”
I told her that I work in consumer electronics; I didn’t tell her that I also freelance as a photojournalist.
“When was the second time?”
“How long in Israel?”
“Where did you go?”
“Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Bethlehem.”
“What? In two weeks? Only Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Bethlehem? That’s not possible!” she mocked.
I explained that it would easily have been possible to spend the entire two weeks in Jerusalem, so much was there to see in and around the city. I added that this was the main reason for me returning to see more of Israel.
“No one comes to Israel more than once!”
Another strapline for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Other questions followed in quick succession.
I told her the name of the convent where I had stayed and that I had spoken to people in restaurants and shops as well as to other guests in the convent.
I reeled off a couple of random first names from memory and told her that we had spoken about Jerusalem’s religious and other tourist sites.
I recall thinking that it was a bit like conversing with a persistent toddler.
One of the men intervened.
“So you didn’t meet any Palestinians?”
“No, I didn’t,” I said clearly, gathering that there must be some kind of prohibition on speaking to Palestinians.
“Are you sure?”
“So if I take your phone I won’t find the names of any Palestinians?”
“No, you won’t.”
“It’s better if you tell me now because if I find them you’ll be in big trouble.”
I repeated my answer.
“Do you know any Arabs in London?”
“I have friends from many different countries owing to my work and studies.”
“What about Mohamed?”
“Mohamed? Who’s he?” I laughed.
He asked for my phone.
For an instant, I considered refusing – this seemed beyond the bounds of reasonable questioning – but any refusal would have been pointless.
He seemed satisfied with a quick check. I later discovered that he had used £5.00 of my PAYG credit without asking permission.
The woman asked me to write down my name, home phone number, mobile phone number, home e-mail address, work e-mail address, father’s name and grandfather’s name.
One of the men asked if I had any other e-mail addresses.
“A facebook account?”
I had read an article suggesting that Israeli immigration officers ask travelers to open e-mail and facebook accounts for them to trawl, so I opted to say that I hadn’t.
This was a mistake.
He showed me on-screen an old e-mail address of mine entered in the sign-in page of a facebook account.
I started to explain, entirely truthfully, that I’d not actively used the e-mail address for years and that the facebook account has always remained entirely blank, but he cut me short and yelled at me from close proximity.
“You’ve been lying since the moment you walked through the door! Everything you’ve said has been a lie! Either you start to tell me the truth or you’re going to find yourself in serious trouble. I can make things very difficult for you. If I refuse you entry to Israel, you will have problems in many other countries. You will have to answer lots of questions about why you were refused entry to Israel. Now, tell me about your time in the West Bank. Who did you meet? Which Palestinians did you meet? Which Israelis did you meet? I want names. NOW!”
I repeated, quite simply, that I had not visited the West Bank.
“GET OUT! GET OUT!” he snarled at me.
It was about 7:25 pm. I shrugged my shoulders and walked outside.
He returned ten minutes later with my phone.
“You will not be entering Israel tonight.”
I sensed that there would be no tomorrow.
A shocked fellow detainee asked him why but he walked away.
On the face of it, I had been denied entry because I had forgotten about an e-mail account unused for years and a never-used facebook account; neither contained a single reference to either Israel or Palestine.
At 7.55 pm, an immigration officer led me to the baggage handling area.
The left-luggage attendant joked that he had completed a claim form because my rucksack had remained unclaimed for so long.
I guess he must repeat the same joke every day.
I was then led to a large room, closed to prying eyes. Everything was white. It contained a huge x-ray machine and a long row of tables.
I said that I didn’t have a laptop but that, as a photojournalist, I was carrying a lot of photographic equipment. This was the first time I mentioned that I also freelance as a photojournalist.
My luggage was x-rayed.
Two intelligence officers started to rifle through my rucksack with an electronic device as I was gestured into a small room by the immigration officer.
“Empty your pockets.”
I pulled out some British coins and my press credentials. My passport still hadn’t been returned to me.
I was then asked to remove my shirt and shoes and to unbutton my fly. I fixed the official in the eye as if to question this and he indicated that I should proceed.
I’d never been subjected to a strip search before.
Not in Soviet Russia. Not in Albania. Not in Latin America. Not in the US.
Only in Israel.
He patted me from head to toe and then swabbed me with an electronic device, including around my genitals.
An unwelcome invasion of privacy for me as a Caucasian male, I pondered how degrading and invasive this process must be for other travelers.
The contents of my rucksack and hand luggage had now been security-checked and were strewn all over the tables. I was asked to repack. Just the paraphernalia of modern life required by any backpacker on holiday.
Minus my bottle of water – they’d thrown that away.
At 8.25 pm, I was escorted back to the original room in the immigration hall. There were free seats now. An immigration official sat near to me.
A Muslim woman waiting when I arrived just after 4 pm was still there. There was no change in the ethnic profile of those waiting.
I had had no access to a toilet for over 5 hours and no food for 12 hours.
I phoned my guesthouse, knowing at least that I would no longer need accommodation that evening. I told them that I had been detained by Israeli immigration, that I did not know why and that I may or may not be allowed through the following day.
When I finished the call, the immigration official informed me that I was being deported. He apologised that I had not been told before and pointed out that he was not in charge. I asked him whether he knew why I was being deported; he said he didn’t.
At 9:20 pm, a female intelligence officer entered the room.
She also informed me that I was being deported and said that my flight to the UK would leave at 5 pm the following day.
I again asked why I was being deported.
“But what’s the reason?”
“Security. That’s all I can say.”
At 9:55 pm, two men told me that they were taking me to a ‘facility’ where I could eat and sleep.
One smiled as he read a form bearing my photo given to him by an intelligence officer.
“What did you do? Did you throw stones at the soldiers?”
I explained that I had just arrived in Israel on holiday and asked him if the form explained why I had been denied entry.
He said that my refusal came not from Israeli immigration but from the Shabak. I later learned that Shabak is another name for Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.
I was transported to a prison in the back of an armored prison van, a journey of around 10 minutes from the airport.
Once there, a warder told me to leave my baggage downstairs and to take only my money and any jewellery. I could not take my stomach medication.
He asked my nationality and why I was there. I told him that I was from the UK and that I had come to Israel on holiday.
He offered me food – which I refused in protest at my unjust detention – and then apologized as he showed me to my cell, adding before he slammed the door that I should bang on the door if I needed anything.
It was 10:20 pm, over six hours after my arrival.
The lights were off, but I could see that the cell contained three double-bunks. Two were half-occupied and the occupants were trying to sleep.
I sat on the free bunk.
The cell stank of urine. There were double bars on the window. The door had a peephole but no handle on the inside. I could see a toilet and a basin. The walls of the cell and the underside of the bunk above me were covered in graffiti.
I used the toilet – my first opportunity for seven hours – and settled down to meditate on my bunk. I knew I wouldn’t sleep so I didn’t even try. I later discovered that I had been bitten by bed bugs merely from sitting on the filthy bunk.
As the night wore on, I could periodically hear other inmates shouting and banging on the doors of cells in the same corridor. Some of the voices were female. The only response I ever heard was an unsympathetic “Go to sleep!”
Two more men entered at around 7 am. They talked to one of the other occupants in Russian.
As daylight started to penetrate the barred window, I could see more of my surroundings. My bunk was broken in several places and there were bare electric wires sprouting from the wall right next to my head.
I began to read the graffiti. Those detained here had come from all over the globe. There were so many different languages represented.
I was shocked to think that all these people were being deported.
Much, if not all, of the text was harsh in its condemnation of Israel and its human rights record. I noticed a number of slogans calling for a ‘Free Palestine’. The few anti-Semitic comments and swastikas sickened me.
My eyes were most drawn, though, to some words in small, inconspicuous lettering immediately above my head: “I don’t pretend to know night-time from day, but if I were your God I’d have something to say.”
I found these words comforting and I memorized them.
I refused breakfast and lunch and tried to explain to my cellmates – only one of whom spoke a few words of English – that my refusal was in protest at my unjust detention. I should not, in any case, eat without my stomach medication.
I was sharing the cell with a Thai and three Moldovans. The Thai was being deported after four years in Israel and one of the Moldovans after ten years.
At 10 am, a cleaner arrived and we were ushered out of the cell. The Thai and one of the Moldovans left for their deportation flights. I joined the other two Moldovans for a quick cigarette outside, amusing myself with the thought that this was the only sun I would see in Israel. They also left an hour or so later.
At 4:10 pm, 24 hours after my arrival, a warder informed me that I was being taken to catch the 5 pm flight to London. He granted me access to my stomach medication. I had difficulty swallowing it without water. I hadn’t drunk any water for well over 24 hours.
I sat alone in a sealed compartment in the middle of an armored truck. Two immigration officers sat in the front, one carrying handcuffs.
We passed through a number of security checkpoints.
At one, the door to my compartment opened.
“Hello,” said a very young Israeli woman.
I returned her greeting with a smile and had a strong sense that she found it difficult to imagine that I had done anything wrong.
Maybe she had that feeling every time she saw someone pass in one of those armored trucks on their way to a deportation flight.
At 5:45 pm, I was escorted across the tarmac towards my flight, the first passenger to board.
One of the immigration officers explained that my passport would be handed to the captain, only to be returned to me when we reached the UK.
I was greeted by the Easyjet crew at the top of the mobile stairway. The captain handed me my passport and smiled.
“You’re on British soil now,” he said.
I still don’t know for sure why I was denied entry to Israel.
I imagine, though, that Israeli intelligence Google-searched my human rights photojournalism in advance of my arrival and decided not to interrogate me around that as to deny access to a holidaying photographer is less likely to attract criticism than to deny access to a photojournalist.
Until such time as our Governments apply genuine pressure on Israel to permit travelers to openly state on arrival that they wish to visit the West Bank without risk of being denied entry, I fear that other people, too, may find themselves in the same distasteful predicament.
Britain and France are poised to take action − possibly including the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors, according to senior European diplomats − in protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to move settlement construction ahead in the area known as E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
“This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat said.
Netanyahu’s decision Friday to move ahead on planning in E1 and to build 3,000 housing units in the settlement blocs and in East Jerusalem, has apparently shocked the foreign ministries and the leaders in London and Paris. Not only do Britain and France view construction in E1 as a “red line,” they are reportedly angry because they view Israel as having responded ungratefully to the support the two countries gave it during the recent Gaza operation.
“London is furious about the E1 decision,” a European diplomat told Haaretz.
According to three senior diplomats from various EU countries, Britain and France were coordinating their moves against Israel, which they will reportedly implement over the next few days, and have discussed the extraordinary step of recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv for consultations. This step has never been taken before by these countries toward Israel. It would be so extreme that Britain and France may not take such action at this point but, rather, could invoke it in the case of further escalation of Israeli actions against the Palestinians. A final decision in the matter will be made today by the British and the French foreign ministers.
A source in the Prime Minister’s Bureau said Israel was planning more steps against the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians will soon realize they made a mistake in taking unilateral steps that breached agreements with Israel,” the source said.
Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz decided Sunday morning to confiscate the tax money that Israel had collected for the PA in November − a total of NIS 460 million − and to use it against the PA’s debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.
Britain and France are said to have informed Washington of their reported moves against Israel, as well as other European countries, including Germany.
Among the more moderate steps under consideration are suspending strategic dialogue meetings between the two countries and Israel, making a decision in each country to label consumer products that originate in the territories, and even promoting sanctions against the settlements in EU institutions.
At this point, Germany is not expected to join a move to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv, but it might join more moderate steps. Netanyahu will be in Berlin Thursday for a periodic bilateral summit. According to a German diplomat, Netanyahu is expected to hear sharp opposition from Chancellor Angela Merkel over punitive steps against the Palestinians by Israel, especially construction in E1.
The EU is putting heavy pressure on Israel to retract its decision to move ahead on construction in E1. Five senior European ambassadors have lodged very sharply worded protests with the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem since Friday evening.
A senior European diplomat said that Friday evening, shortly after the government’s decision was announced, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and French Ambassador Christophe Bigot called Foreign Ministry director general Rafi Barak and held what was described as a “very tough” conversation. The British and French ambassadors told Barak they were calling on Israel to rescind its decision on construction in E1.
Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp, EU Ambassador Andrew Standley, and the German deputy ambassador called the Foreign Ministry yesterday morning. The Dutch ambassador, whose country abstained in Thursday’s UN vote on Palestinian nonmember-state status, told Barak that if the E1 construction went forward, his country could not support Israel in future UN votes. The German deputy ambassador conveyed a similar message.
Standley asked officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau for clarifications about the decision to speed up construction in the settlements.
Netanyahu spoke out harshly against the PA at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, claiming it “was waging a struggle against the very existence of the State of Israel.”
The cabinet voted unanimously Sunday to reject the UN General Assembly resolution recognizing Palestine as a nonmember observer state. The cabinet decision described the West Bank as “disputed territory” over which “the Jewish people has a natural right and territorial claims.” At the start of the meeting, Netanyahu compared last week’s UN resolution with that body’s 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Netanyahu read out a cabinet decision in response to the 1975 resolution in which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Israel would expedite construction in the settlements in response to the resolution.
Livni was invited to the meeting by Hague following an amendment to British law that prevents private citizens from seeking arrest warrants against Israeli officials in Great Britain.
A full report can be read HERE
Britain has amended a law that allowed for issuing arrest warrants against Israeli politicians who visit the country, British Ambassador Matthew Gould announced Thursday. Gould called opposition leader Tzipi Livni, against whom an arrest warrant was issued in 2009, and told her the Queen has signed the amendment “to ensure that the UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons.”
Lawyers working with Palestinian activists in recent years have sought the arrest of senior Israeli civilian and military figures under terms of universal jurisdiction. This legal concept empowered judges to issue arrest warrants for visiting officials accused of war crimes in a foreign conflict, under the principle of universal jurisdiction which holds that some alleged crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere, regardless of where the offences were committed.
After the warrant was issued against Livni in 2009, Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced that Britain would no longer tolerate legal harassment of Israeli officials in that fashion.
Ambassador Gould added Thursday that the change in the law will ensure that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations.
Livni welcomed the amendment, and told Gould that she is “pleased that the warrant issued against me opened Britain’s eyes and will put a stop to the cynical use of British legislation against IDF commanders and soldiers.”
Livni added that “real justice has been done, and it will distinguish between leaders and commanders who defend their country against terrorism, and real war criminals.”
Also see THIS Ynet report
UK amends law that allows arrest of Israeli officials
Queen of England signs amendment to bill that enabled to issue arrest warrants against foreign officials, prevented IDF commanders, Israeli politicians from visiting UK. British ambassador to Israel: UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons
Is the UK government equating a respected Palestinian community leader with an extremist settler who advocates racism and mass killing of civilians? (ActiveStills)
But it later emerged that Home Secretary Theresa May issued the exclusion order only two days before Raed Salah entered the UK for a speaking tour. Crucially, neither he nor his tour organizers had any idea there was such a ban in place. A lawyer acting for the Home Office admitted as much in the High Court on 15 July, saying Salah “didn’t do anything wrong.”
Following his initial arrest, UK courts have released Salah on bail pending the outcome of his challenge to a government order that he be deported, and have also rejected a government appeal aimed at having his bail revoked.
While the UK Border Agency (UKBA) gave no prior warning to Salah, it was revealed last Wednesday that the same agency gave a written warning of a ban to an extremist Israeli settler named Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, who has incited the murder of non-Jews, including civilians and children.
A UKBA letter to Elitzur detailing an exclusion order was published by the Voice of the Jews website on Wednesday. It said Elitzur fell foul of UK policy against “Unacceptable Behavior,” and gave examples including the justification of “terrorist violence” (“Restraining order from the UK to author of The King’s Torah” [Hebrew], 10 August 2011).
The letter is addressed 20 July, only two days after Salah was released on conditional bail pending a full hearing of a judicial review against his deportation from the UK. It states that Theresa May on 11 July (while Salah was still detained) “personally directed that you [Elitzur] should be excluded from the UK on the grounds that your presence here would not be conducive to the public good” — exactly the same grounds she used to exclude Salah.
It then goes on to specify Elitzur’s authorship of a book called Torat Hamelech or The King’s Torah, which details how Jewish religious law supposedly permits the killing of non-Jews and “advocates Jewish discrimination against Gentiles,” as the UKBA put it.
According to the letter, the book further states: “Anywhere where the presence of a gentile poses a threat to Israel, it is permissible to kill him, even if it is a righteous gentile who is not responsible for the threatening situation.” Israeli media reported quite extensively on the book from the time it was published (see “Another rabbi detained over ‘racist book’,” Ynet, 19 August 2010).
Why wait till now?
While Salah strongly denies making the anti-Semitic statements attributed to him by enemies, and cited by the Home Office, Elitzur make no bones about writing the racist book. The website of the Jewish religious school in Yitzhar (an Israeli settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank) openly lists Elitzur as the author of The King’s Torah, along with another rabbi, Yitzhak Shapira (“Od Yosef Chai” [Hebrew], accessed 11 August 2011).
Why the ban was only issued last month remains unclear. The King’s Torah was published in 2009, and got more attention in the Israeli press in 2010 when Elitzur and Shapira were arrested for incitement to racism. The Voice of the Jews article claims “Elitzur had no plans to travel to Britain in the near future, and the step was taken as a preventative one.”
Home Office confirms letter
The Electronic Intifada contacted the Home Office — the UK’s interior ministry — to ask why the letter had been issued now (the UKBA is part of the Home Office). Although a spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the letter, the official refused to comment on the timing, stating only: “We can confirm that Mr. Elitzur has been excluded from the UK on grounds of unacceptable behavior. The government will refuse people access to the UK if we believe they might seek to undermine our society. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values.”
The spokesperson also declined to comment on whether the case had been coordinated with Israel, or if it had any links to Salah’s case, saying that they don’t discuss the details of individual cases.
Could the UKBA’s ban on Elitzur be designed to “balance out” the ban on Salah and make it appear as if UK policy is non-discriminatory, or to somehow equate Salah — a well-respected community leader who has not called for violence — with a racist extremist who has? It is difficult to tell from the evidence. However, it is clear that while allegations of racism against Salah are, at best, based on extremely shaky evidence, Elitzur’s racism is not in doubt.
As a settler leader, Elitzur has been at odds with the Israeli state, mainly on the basis that Jewish settlers should have an even freer hand to colonize the West Bank. In 2009 he was involved in what Israeli journalist Didi Remez described as a “settler rebellion” against the so-called settlement freeze.
Elitzur detailed plans for how to thwart the Israeli army and police: “When in every settlement a police patrol car becomes an unwanted presence, and administration inspectors understand they have 10 minutes to run away before their tires are punctured, the government’s ability to enforce its decrees will drop sharply” (“Document: Settlers prep to terrorize West Bank,” Didi Remez’s Coteret blog, 6 December 2009).
Elitzur was arrested by the Israeli police in 2010 over his co-authorship of The King’s Torah (“Another rabbi detained over ‘racist book’ “, Ynet, 19 August 2010).
The case seems to have been quietly dropped since then, although it is possible the charges are still technically active. The UKBA letter to Elitzur was addressed to “Mr Yosef ELITZUR, Yitzhar, West Bank.” The copy appearing on the Voice of the Jews site included headers suggesting it had been faxed to the yeshiva.
Israeli goverment and US tax-exempt support for extremism
Despite apparently being at odds with the school, it emerged at the time that Israel actually funded Od Yosef Chai yeshiva. According to journalist Max Blumenthal, the school received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Israeli government departments in between 2006 and 2010. It also benefited from donations from a US tax-exempt, nonprofit organization called the Central Fund of Israel.
Blumenthal says Yitzhar and its yeshiva are notorious for hosting “a small army of fanatics who are eager to lash out at the Palestinians tending to their crops and livestock in the valleys below them.” The settlement also has apparent links to alleged Jewish terrorist Jack Teitel, and was apparently the launching base for 2008 attacks on the Palestinian village of Burin using homemade rockets (“How to Kill Goyim and Influence People: Israeli Rabbis Defend Book’s Shocking Religious Defense of Killing Non-Jews,” Alternet, 30 August 2010).
The timing of the UKBA letter to Elitzur, two days after Salah was released on bail, seems unlikely to be a coincidence. Did the government have reason to believe Elitzur was intending to travel to the UK, perhaps to speak or raise funds? We simply don’t know, and the government won’t comment. If we take Elitzur at his word when he says he was not intending to travel soon, the government ban smacks of tokenism after the ban of Salah. And why was Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the other author of <em>The King’s Torah</em>, not also banned? Many questions remain unanswered, but perhaps the only thing Salah and Elitzur do have in common is that the Israeli government is unlikely to shed any tears over their respective exclusion orders from the UK.
Dena Shunra contributed reporting and translation from Hebrew to this article.
*Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation will be published by Pluto Press in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.