Detainment of Palestinian researcher is an attack on intellectuals

Detainment of Palestinian researcher is an attack on intellectuals

RAMALLAH: Israel’s detainment of Ayman Nasser, a researcher for Addameer Prisoner Support Network, a Ramallah-based NGO, is a crime born from a long tradition of attacking Palestinian intellectuals and human rights defenders. By attacking Palestinian civil society yet again, Israel does not simply violate human rights, it reaffirms that the Palestinian intellectual community continues to be a greater threat to Israel than the force of arms.

Nasser was arrested during a raid on his home in the Saffa, situated near Ramallah in the West Bank, on Oct. 15, 2012, and has toiled in Israeli occupation prison since. He was charged with organizing on behalf of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, participating in the annual Palestinian Prisoners Day and attending a festival that commemorated the life of the late Mustafa Abu Ali, the assassinated Secretary General of the PFLP.

As Nasser’s alleged crimes are all public gatherings that drew the participation of thousands of Palestinians and internationals, it is clear he was singled out in the way that countless Palestinian intellectuals were targeted in the past.

In July 1972, Ghassan Kanafani, the Palestinian novelist and PFLP activist, was killed by a car bomb in Beirut that was largely believed to be the work of the Israeli Mossad. The following year, Israeli forces assassinated poet and writer, Kamal Nasser. In 1987, cartoonist Naji al-Ali was killed after being shot in the face by a Palestinian hitman working as a double-agent for the Mossad.

In recent years, the suppression of the Palestinian intellectual community has assumed a more bureaucratic form.

In violation of the Oslo Accords, which regard the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single unit, Israel implemented heavy movement restrictions that effectively banned all academic travel between the divided territories in 2000. Institutions of higher learning have suffered in Gaza as a result of the ongoing blockade and frequent bombing campaigns, with few students have been permitted to study in the West Bank. As journalist Dylan Collins notes, “Only three [U.S. funded] students have been lucky enough to make the trip and complete their studies in the West Bank” since the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada.

In a 2007 court case, Israel argued that Palestinian universities are “greenhouses for breeding terrorism” and that it was not obligated to allow a “foreign enemy” into “its country,” in which the government includes all of the West Bank, recently recognized as a sovereign Palestinian state in the United Nations General Assembly.

In September 2012, a court struck down an appeal by five Gazan students who desired to study in the West Bank.

Israel’s contempt for unarmed demographics of Palestinian society reared its head again when the offices of three civil society organs were raided in the dead of twilight on Dec. 11. Military jeeps entered Ramallah, delegated to full Palestinian control under Oslo, and soldiers ransacked the Palestinian Women’s Committee in the Qaddura refugee camp, Addameer Prisoner Support Network and the Palestinian NGO Network, an umbrella network that represents over 130 civil society organizations. Computers, files, money and recording equipment were stolen.

During the first 45 days of Nasser’s detention, according to an Addameer representative, he was interrogated for 20 hours a day with his hands tied behind his back. While not in interrogation, he was held in isolation in a small room with a single blanket, blasting air conditioning and a continually on bright fluorescent light. He is presently awaiting trial, which will most likely result in convictions.
Ayman was “targeted specifically for his opinions and his political views as well as the local work he does,” Addameer told me in an interview last month. As a defender of human rights, his imprisonment confirms that the 45-year military occupation of the West Bank has little to do with security; it is the product of Israel’s colonial aspiration to preserve hegemony over the remains of Palestine.
*Patrick O. Strickland is the Israel-Palestine Editor for