Jamal Juma’ has been arrested by Israeli authorities on December 16. This latest arrest is yet another escalation of Israel’s attack on Palestinian human rights defenders and clamp down on the right to freedom of expression and the right to association.
Israeli security first summoned Juma’ for interrogation at midnight of December 15. Hours later, they brought him back to his home. Juma’ was handcuffed while soldiers searched his house for two hours as his wife and three young children looked on helplessly. The parting words of the soldiers were directed at his wife: she would only see her husband again through a prisoners exchange. Since then, Juma’ has been detained, and banned from speaking to a lawyer or his family, with no explanation for his arrest.
Jamal, 47 years old, was born in Jerusalem and has dedicated his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. The main focus of his work is on empowering local communities to defend their human rights in the face of violations brought about by the occupation. He is a founding member of a number of Palestinian NGOS and civil society networks. Juma’ has been the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign since 2002. He is widely respected for his work and has been invited to address numerous civil society and UN conferences. His articles and interviews are widely published and his work has been translated into several languages. As a highly visible figure, Juma’ has never attempted to hide or disguise his activities.
Jamal Juma’s is the most high profile arrest within an intensifying campaign of repression of grassroots mobilizing against the Wall and the settlements. Initially arresting local activists from the villages affected by the Wall, the Israeli authorities moved towards the detention of internationally known human rights defenders such as Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh. Mohammad, another member of the Stop the Wall Campaign, was arrested nearly three months ago when returning from a speaking tour in Norway. After two months of interrogation, the Israeli authorities could still not press any charges against him and therefore passed an administrative detention order against him. Abdallah Abu Rahma, a leading figure in the nonviolent struggle against the Wall in Bil’in, had been taken from his home in the middle of the night a week before Jamal was jailed.
With these arrests, Israel aims to weaken Palestinian civil society and its influence on political decision making at national and international level. This process clearly criminalizes the work of Palestinian human rights defenders and Palestinian civil disobedience.
It is crucial that the international community combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human rights defenders struggling against the Wall. The Israeli policy of targeting organizers calling for Israeli accountability is a direct challenge to the decisions of governments and global bodies such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. This challenge shall not go unmet.