Thanks to reader Ira Glunts, who informs me that Jeff Halper, the only Israeli who joined the Free Gaza Movement voyage, which successfully broke the Israeli blockade of Gaza, has been arrested. Halper is the founder of the International Committee Against Home Demolitions and a lecturer in anthropology at Ben Gurion University. Israeli police took him into custody at the Erez crossing on his return. He has been charged with entering Gaza in violation of an IDF order prohibiting Israelis from entering the enclave:
Police on Tuesday detained an Israeli activist who had sailed to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s blockade of the coastal region. They accused Jeff Halper, who also holds United States citizenship, of violating a ban on Israelis entering Gaza.
Halper was among 44 “Free Gaza” activists from 17 nations who sailed in two boats from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip on Saturday in defiance of the blockade. He spent three days in the Gaza Strip before entering Israel through the Erez border crossing, where police detained him.
According to Halper, Israeli forces at the crossing initially told him that if he came with the boat he should return the same way. However, he said, they allowed him to cross into Israel shortly afterward.
“He is being questioned at the police station in Sderot for entering the Gaza Strip in defiance of a military decree banning Israeli citizens from doing so,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
You see, if he was an IDF soldier he could enter and depart at will as long as he was “defending” the Occupation.
I expected that Israel would “take it out” on someone involved with the trip either by detaining the international activists in Gaza or hassling the boat once it set sail for its return journey. Israeli authorities make it a point for those who resist them to “pay” for the few victories they earn against the Occupation. But I didn’t think of the jeopardy which Halper faced as an Israeli citizen.
It should be pointed out that numerous Israelis have violated similar embargoes against visiting Lebanon and Syria. One wonders why visiting Gaza is viewed with so much more alarm. In fact, one of them is Lisa Goldman, a freelance journalist who devised a journalistic stunt of surreptitiously visiting Lebanon. She was not prosecuted. Unfortunately, I doubt she’ll be writing in defense of Halper. No doubt Israel will attempt to “teach him a lesson” and make an example of Halper to deter any other similarly adventuresome Israelis should they contemplate such troublesomeness in the future.
Halpter’s situation is further complicated by the fact that he is a U.S. AND Israeli citizen. Do you think our State Department will express an iota of concern for Halper’s welfare? We’re always terribly concerned by hostile governments which impede our own citizens’ ability to exercise their right to travel. What about this case?
The expanded Hebrew language version of the Haaretz report also notes that Halper declined to meet with Ismail Haniyeh, as most of the other FGM voyagers did on their arrival in Gaza. This likely would have opened him to further potential criminal charges.
The article further reveals that senior civilian-political elements in the government imposed their decision to allow the ships to reach Gaza and were opposed by the military, which preferred to prevent them from docking. Only now, after threatening explicitly to use force against the FGM does the defense establishment swear it never intended to use “hostile action” to subdue the boats.
We should monitor this situation closely and be prepared to make a hue and cry if he is not released shortly and to ensure he does not face further charges for his brave actions.