Do not expel Salah Hammouri, France tells Israel

A man stands next to a sign reading Paris Airport and Paris

Salah Hammouri during a visit to France in September 2018, following his release from a previous stint in Israeli detention without charge or trial. (Liberté pour Salah Hamouri)


Israeli occupation authorities on Tuesday extended the detention without charge or trial of Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri.

But it appears that for now the Jerusalem-born political prisoner has avoided expulsion to France, where he is also a national.

At a hearing in Givon prison attended by Hammouri and his lawyers on Tuesday, an occupation judge delayed the Israeli government’s order to expel Hammouri until at least 23 January, when another hearing is scheduled.

The occupation court also ordered Hammouri held “until further notice,” according to Addameer, the prisoners rights group where he works.

Despite the delay, Addameer warns that Hammouri remains “under imminent threat of forcible deportation from his hometown Jerusalem to France.”

Israel has held the 37-year-old without charge or trial since March, his latest detention at the hands of a regime that has subjected him to persecution since he was 15, including harassment, imprisonment, travel bans, surveillance and spyware attacks, and forced separation from his family, including his wife and children.

Tuesday’s hearing followed an abortive effort to give legal cover for Hammouri’s expulsion on 1 December, when Israel attempted to hold a hearing without allowing either his lawyers or the French consul-general to attend.

But Hammouri “refused to stand without the presence of his lawyer and further refused his forcible deportation,” according to Addameer, compelling occupation authorities to reschedule the hearing for this week.

Addameer noted that for each of these hearings, Hammouri “was transferred from Hadarim prison via bosta under extremely harsh conditions, cuffed with two metal cuffs on his hands and feet and one chain connecting both,” and that he remained shackled throughout the hearings.

A bosta is an Israeli prisoner transport vehicle in which detainees are deliberately subjected to hours of physical and mental pain and anguish in metal cages.

France speaks out

Israel’s latest pseudo-legal maneuvers come after French diplomats “spelled out our position to the Israeli authorities as clearly as possible: Salah Hammouri must not be expelled.”

“Our mobilization is continuing so that he may be allowed to exercise all of his rights and live a normal life in Jerusalem, the city of his birth and residence,” the foreign ministry in Paris reiterated on Monday.

Following Tuesday’s hearing – which Hammouri’s lawyers and the French consul-general attended – the foreign ministry in Paris stated that “he must be allowed to exercise all of his rights and live a normal life in Jerusalem, the city where he was born and where he resides.” The pretext for expelling Hammouri is his alleged “breach of allegiance” to Israel.

Israel’s demand that the Palestinian population it occupies show it “allegiance” is absurd on its face, but it is also illegal, as are its habitual expulsions of Palestinians from Jerusalem.

“The forcible deportation and transfer of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem is considered a war crime” under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute and the Fourth Geneva Convention, Addameer notes.

“Moreover, the criterion of allegiance to Israel is illegal,” the group states, noting that “international humanitarian law explicitly forbids the occupying power from demanding allegiance from the occupied population.”

The staunchly pro-Israel French government has been slightly more outspoken than usual on Hammouri’s case – undoubtedly due to grassroots campaigning in France.

The foreign ministry has repeatedly emphasized that Paris has raised the matter with Israel at the “highest level.” This includes President Emmanuel Macron bringing up Hammouri’s case in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

But human rights defenders and French lawmakers say Paris is not doing enough.

Elsa Lefort, Hammouri’s wife, on Thursday thanked lawmakers who continue to demand that the Macron administration do more to stop Israel’s persecution of Hammouri.

Lefort also hit back at politicians who are defending Israel’s behavior.

“In the National Assembly, there are deputies who fight relentlessly against injustice, and then there are those who read out slanderous and hateful statements,” Lefort tweeted.

“Caroline Yadan, the post of Israeli ambassador [in Paris] is already taken, so there’s no need to try so hard,” Lefort quipped in response to that lawmaker’s recitation of talking points smearing Hammouri as a “terrorist.”

Yadan’s talking points targeting Hammouri are similar to those being disseminated by CRIF, a Jewish communal group and France’s main Israel lobby.

Yadan, a member of Macron’s Renaissance party, is a hardline opponent of Palestinian rights who regularly justifies Israel’s targeted attacks on Palestinian civilians.

“Act immediately”

Last week, several major human rights organizations in France, joined by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, called on Macron to “act immediately” to stop Israel from expelling Hammouri.

“The planned deportation is a brazen maneuver aimed at hindering Salah Hammouri’s work defending human rights, but it is also an expression of the Israeli authorities’ long-term objective of reducing the number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Amnesty stated.

On Thursday, Addameer urged Paris to “protect the right of Salah Hammouri to remain in his hometown Jerusalem” and “refuse his forcible deportation categorically to France.”