An Israeli judge Sunday refused to hear my friend Kate Raphael Bender's appeal of her deportation order which she recieved after being arrested in the Palestinian village of Bil'in while participating in a nonviolent demonstration against the Wall. Judge Tal said he could not hear Kate’s case because her visa was no longer valid. Her visa expired on Saturday, after five weeks in detention.
Below is Kate's statement which she was unable to read in court yesterday. Please read it and pass the link around widely.
Kate Raphael Bender's Appeal of Deportation
Sunday January 16, 2005
The ministry of interior bases its arguments for my deportation on 2 things:
1. That I participated in what it called ‘a violent demonstration’ against the segregation wall and that I failed to leave a closed military zone; and,
2. That I was previously arrested under similar circumstances and required to leave the country.
The two issues are basically one issue because if, as I will argue, it was unlawful for Israeli occupation forces to arrest me one month ago in Bil'in, it was equally unlawful for them to arrest me one year ago in Budrus. If the ministry of interior is wrong to exclude me on the basis of the demonstration in Bil’in, it does not become right because I was wrongly excluded one year ago.
[My re-entry into Israel was perfectly legal. I changed my name as permitted by law in the US, I never told anyone at the border or the ministry of interior that I had not changed my name. ]
Israeli police had no jurisdiction to arrest me in Bil’in. Bil’in is a village in Ramallah district, in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in June 1967. On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 242, calling for ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict’ and the ‘termination of all claims or states of belligerency.’
The demonstration at which I was arrested took place entirely on land belonging to Bil’in, at least four kilometers from the internationally recognized Israeli border with the West Bank (Green Line), in an area containing Palestinian homes. It is clearly in ‘Area B’, as shown on the map from the Israeli organization B'Tselem. Under various agreements signed by Israel and Palestinian negotiators between 1993-1999, Bil’in should by this time have been part of a sovereign Palestinian state. I was present, at the invitation of the village, as were the only Israeli civilians in the area.
Only the Palestinian police have the legitimate authority to arrest me in Bil’in or in Budrus.
I have a letter from the Palestinian minister of state, dated January 12, 2005, inviting me to remain in Palestinian territory and to return at another time to do humanitarian and human rights’ work.
Even if the court decides to exclude me from Israel’s borders, Israel cannot revoke my permission to visit the Palestinian Authority.
On the issue of whether I knowingly remained in a closed military zone and whether the demonstration was violent, I submit the video footage I was making at the time of my arrest (This file is HIGH RESOLUTION and will take a LONG time to download). The tape shows that the protest was non-violent. It also shows that only the actions of the IDF were violent and, as the ministry of interior itself acknowledges, only Palestinians were injured, and that my intervention and that of other international observers was necessary to prevent serious injuries or deaths, such as occurred in Biddu and Beitunia, where six non-violent demonstrators were killed 10 months ago.
The tape will also show that I was never given an order to leave a closed military zone, that no order was given to the crowd in my hearing in English, that the border police knew I was in the area and did not tell me to leave.
Arrest, harassment, intimidation and deportation of journalists and other observers had become increasingly common practice of the Israeli army and security police. Over the last 4 years the state has denied entry to hundreds of journalists. 204 journalists have been shot at by Israeli forces and 9 have been killed. Two weeks ago, Israeli forces shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian cameraman who was working for and Israeli television station in Gaza. At least 450 Palestinian journalists, most working for foreign press outlets, have been denied press cards by the army. In the last week, several members of the Israeli women’s human rights group Machsom-Watch were arrested at three different checkpoints and told that the army is considering prohibiting their monitoring in the checkpoints. This restriction comes a few months after Machsom-Watch released a photo, which shocked the nation, of a soldier forcing a Palestinian to play the violin.
The International Press Institue chronicles Israel’s growing disregard for the freedom of information and of the press, guaranteed by its own laws.
Armed forces who are acting lawfully and for the benefit of the citizens they serve should have no objection to scrutiny from civilians, whether local or foreign. On the other hand, tight control over information is one of the characteristics of totalitarian regimes. In this period, following the election of Abu-Mazen as president of Palestine, when the world will be watching Israel’s efforts towards peace, do you want to move towards more openness or more secrecy?
The demonstration at which I was arrested was on the site of construction of the segregation wall, what Israel calls ‘The Separation Fence’. As you know, in July 2004, The International Court of Justice in the Hague found the construction of the wall illegal.
The court noted that:
‘An estimated 100,000 dunams of the West-Bank’s most fertile agricultural land, confiscated by the Israeli occupation forces, have been destroyed during the first phase of the wall construction …, which involves the disappearance of vast amounts of … olive trees, wells, citrus groves and hot houses, upon which tens of thousands of Palestinians rely for their survival.’
The court found that:
‘The route chosen for the wall gives expression to the illegal measures taken by Israel with the regard to Jerusalem and the settlements as deplored by the security council. … that construction … thus severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self determination and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.'
‘The court is of the opinion that the construction of the wall and its associated regime impede the liberty of movement of the inhabitant of the occupied Palestinian territories… they also impede the exercise of the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living.’
‘The court considers that Israel cannot rely on a right of self defense or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall …. The court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall and its associated regime are contrary to international law.’
The court ruled that:
‘Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the work of construction of the wall, being built in the occupied Palestinian territories … to dismantle forthwith the structures therein situated and to repel or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto.’
The new construction at Bil'in is a clear example of Israel’s refusal to comply with this ruling of the world’s highest legal body. Moreover, it has exacerbated its crime by beginning to build new settlements and settlement expansions on Palestinian lands lying between the wall and the Green Line. Such new construction is currently taking place on the land of Jayyous in Qalqilia, and Mas'ha is Salfit, both communities I know well and where I have relationships. These settlement activities make plain that the purpose of the wall is not security but the annexation - some might say theft – of as much as 17% or nearly 1000 kilometers of the West Bank.
Not only the world’s court found the wall in violation of its laws. The Israeli supreme court also found, in June 2004, that ‘there’s a lot of injustice in the construction of the wall.’ Only a few days ago Israel’s high court again issued an injunction halting construction on the wall in ten villages in the Western Jerusalem area, because the revised route required by the court’s June ruling ‘does not conform to the high court ruling regarding the barrier’s potential to violate human rights.’ Evidently, even rulings by Israel’s own legal authorities are not heeded by the army and those who are responsible for determining Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.
So, can I be lawfully arrested and deported for activity designed to prevent the state of Israel from committing a crime? – this is what this court must decide.
Relevant to that decision, certain questions about the rights and responsibilities of individuals, and the rights and responsibilities of states. The ministry of interior claims the right to revoke my visa because ‘every country preserves the right to exclude foreign people from entering its borders, for any reason or no reason at all.’ Where does this right come from?
The rights of a state, as opposed to its powers, which come from force of arms, derive from international agreements and mutually accepted standards of behavior and justice. Certainly at times there are states that, because they repeatedly ignore or violate international decisions and standards, are considered to have given up their ‘rights’ to do as they please. South-Africa, Germany, Iraq and Yugoslavia have at one time or another been said to fall into this category. Did Yugoslavia have the right to expel the Albanians from Kosovo? Did Germany, Romania or France have the right to deport the Jews to Poland and Czechoslovakia? Did Kuwait have the right to expel 400,000 Palestinians? Did the US have the right to deport Emma Goldman and thousands of other Russian Jews to the Soviet Union?
The state of Israel has never satisfied the conditions set by the UN for its establishment in the partition plan of 1947: that it drafts a democratic constitution and accords full civil and political rights to all citizens living in its territory. It stands in violation of more than 85 resolutions of the UN, beginning with Resolution 194 in 1948, and enshrining the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and ending with Resolution 1544, in May 2004, condemning the killing of civilians and demolition of homes in Rafah. It is in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, the international covenant on civil and political rights and the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, all of which it had signed. It is in violation of its own Declaration of the Establishment of the state of Israel which guarantees ‘the full social and political equality of all of its citizens without distinction of religion, race or sex’. It is in violation of the UN convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of Apartheid, which defines particular systems of discrimination and segregation as a crime against humanity.
Now it defies the world court’s order to cease construction of and dismantle the wall.
Can Israel justly claim the ‘rights’ that belong to every state regarding who enters its borders, when it refuses to accept the responsibilities that belong to every state, to adhere to international standards of human rights and justice.
Ultimately, however, this case is not about rights. It is about what is right. The question is whom the state of Israel should welcome and whom it should not.
Gideon Ezra, minister of internal security, recently articulated a double standard for deciding whom to allow entry into Israel and whom to reject. He said that Jews who come to the country in order to protest the dismantling of the illegal settlements in Gaza will be accepted, while people who come to oppose the wall will not. Is this a good policy?
The most important question for Israel, according to what I was taught as a child, is supposed to be: What is good for the Jews? What increases security for the Jews?
The people Mr. Ezra is proposing to allow to enter Israel are coming here to block an action which will begin to bring the state into compliance with international law. On the other hand, my actions and those of others who come to support human rights, are meant to help Israel comply with international law. Which is best for Israel and the Jews?
We know from bitter experience that parts of the world barely tolerate Jews, when we are only trying to live quietly in our own established communities. The world will certainly not forever tolerate a Jewish state which flagrantly violates international law in order to extend its territory, nor should it.
The world should not and will not continue to tolerate any state which does not accord equal rights to all its citizens, regardless of national origin, race or religion. The world should not and will not continue to tolerate any state which pursues policies of transfer, ethnic purity or demographic superiority. The world should not and will not continue to tolerate any state which illegally occupies another people’s land for 38 years and which defies rulings of the world’s highest court.
The South-African experience showed that eventually the world will take measures to end Apartheid. Many Jews actively struggled against Apartheid in South-Africa. For our own survival, for the soul of our people, and because it is moral, it is time we struggle against Apartheid in Israel.
I believe that I violated no law of the state of Israel. But if the court finds that I did, it must also consider the words of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal: ‘individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic law, to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.’
We, the Jewish people, know better than anyone the importance of individual responsibility to act in the interest of humanity. Does the state of Israel want to punish those who take such responsibility? Does Israel want to deprive itself as well as the Palestinian nation whose borders it unfairly controls, of the presence of people who are doing exactly what we would have wanted any foreigner living in Germany or Poland in 1936 to do?
On these grounds and based on the materials I submitted, I request that the deportation order against me be revoked. Alternatively, I submit that Israel can expel me from its own internationally recognized borders, but cannot interfere with my ability to remain in Palestinian territory, since I hold a valid Palestinian visa. Therefore, if you choose to expel me, I demand to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
Kate Raphael Bender
Kate has been receiveing conflicting information about when she will be deported.The number for the Tzohar prison where Kate is being held is +972(0)8.998.7770. Kate is hoping that if enough people call to inquire about when Kate will be returned to the States this will expedite the process.
For Kate's statements about the hearing, please see the press release on the ISM website.
People interested in supporting Kate on her return can contact her here at +972.(0)547.870.198 or by email at email@example.com.