Israel arrests brother of slain activist Bassel al-Araj

Israeli occupation forces arrested Said al-Araj, brother of slain Palestinian activist Bassel al-Araj, earlier this week.

A picture of Said and Bassel was circulated by local media following his arrest:

Said’s arrest comes days after fellow activists, Haitham Siyaj and Saif al-Idrisi, were placed under administrative detention – without charge or trial – for six months.

Pictures of Siyaj and al-Idrisi – both of whom were friendly with Bassel al-Araj – were circulated by local media following the Israeli military court’s confirmation of their administrative detention.

The Palestinian Authority had imprisoned Siyaj and al-Idrisi in the recent past. Israeli forces pursued them following their release from PA detention, according to prisoners rights group Samidoun, and arrested them in September.

Siyaj and al-Idrisi underwent harsh interrogations that lasted 44 days at the Russian Compound detention center in Jerusalem, where Israel notoriously tortures Palestinian prisoners.

The pair “experienced torture and ill-treatment which included long interrogation sessions, deprivation of sleep and food, stress positions and threats,” Addameer, another group campaigning for Palestinian prisoners, stated.

Israeli authorities even brought Siyaj’s mother to the interrogation center to pressure him.

Bassel al-Araj was shot and killed in March 2017 during an Israeli raid on a home in the town of al-Bireh, near Ramallah, the seat of the PA in the West Bank. He, too, had previously been held by the PA.

His slaying was met with protests calling for an end to PA security coordination with Israel.

Palestinian dancer sentenced

Palestinian artist Mustapha Awad was sentenced to one year in an Israeli prison on 28 November.

Awad, 36, was born in Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon and was granted asylum in Belgium at age 20.

Like very many Palestinian refugees, Awad had never been to Palestine and decided to visit this past summer, but he was detained by Israeli authorities on 19 July as he tried to enter the occupied West Bank from Jordan and has been imprisoned since.

“Instead of being welcomed to his homeland or even being interrogated and deported as numerous Palestinians with international citizenships – as well as international solidarity activists – have been, he was seized by occupation forces and taken to interrogation inside occupied Palestine,” Samidoun stated.

Israel accuses Awad, the co-founder of a folk dance group, of membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which his legal team has denied. Israel considers that political faction, along with virtually all other Palestinian political parties, to be a “terrorist” organization.

“Awad was interrogated for nearly a month, sometimes under severe pressure and reportedly up to 20 hours out of the day, deprived of sleep,” Samidoun added.

Belgium’s failure

Despite Awad’s citizenship, Belgium has done nothing to demand his release from Israeli jails.

The closest any Belgian official has come to express timid concern over Awad’s arrest came from the country’s foreign minister Didier Reynders in October.

Reynders tweeted that consular assistance was being provided to Awad and that Israel had been asked for clarification about the charges against him.

“It seems that Belgium is abandoning a Belgian citizen because they know they can not do anything,” Belgian lawyer Alexis Deswaef stated.

“You would have to hit the table very hard and say that you do not treat a Belgian citizen like that. Because tomorrow, it may be you, it may be me [that is treated in this way]. And it’s unacceptable.”


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.