Israel to exile Palestinian-French human rights lawyer

Israel’s interior ministry will revoke the permanent residency of Salah Hammouri, a Palestinian-French human rights defender born and raised in Jerusalem.

The ministry formally notified Hammouri’s lawyers of its decision on Monday, citing his “breach of allegiance” to Israel as the reason.

In 2018, Israel passed a law enabling the revocation of the residency of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem should they be found in “breach of allegiance” to Israel.

“The very concept is ludicrous,” Hammouri wrote for The Electronic Intifada last year. “How can a brutally subjugated and colonized population be expected to pledge loyalty to its occupier?”

Israel’s interior minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision was based on Hammouri’s previous arrests by occupation forces, as well as “secret information,” according to the prisoners rights group Addameer where Hammouri works as a lawyer.

The ministry did not conceal that it wanted to make an example out of Hammouri, “to deter others from breaching allegiance to the state of Israel,” Addameer reported.

“International law forbids occupiers from compelling allegiance from occupied” people, said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, in light of the news.

He added that “such demographically-driven moves” are “about maintaining apartheid.”

Israeli occupation forces have detained Hammouri numerous times since 2001.

In 2005, he was detained over accusations including membership of the leftist party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Occupation authorities also accused him of involvement in a plot to kill Ovadia Yosef, a prominent rabbi who habitually incited genocidal levels of violence to “annihilate” Palestinians.

Hammouri has always maintained his innocence, but accepted a plea deal from the Israeli military court after three years of imprisonment without charge or trial in order to obtain a shorter sentence.

He was released along with more than 1,000 Palestinians in 2011 in a prisoner exchange between Israel and Palestinian political and resistance organization Hamas. The Palestinians were exchanged for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel detained Hammouri again in 2017 and held him for more than a year without charge or trial.

Elsa Lefort, Hammouri’s French wife, was expelled by Israel in 2016 while expecting the couple’s first child and banned from returning for 10 years.

Fabien Gay, a senator representing a suburban region of Paris, demanded in July that France’s foreign minister intervene in Hammouri’s case. Gay said that Hammouri had been subjected to years of harassment by Israeli authorities because of his political and human rights work.

Gay made his demand just after Shaked announced that she had signed the initial revocation of Hammouri’s permanent residency.

“The French government must defend its citizens everywhere and stand by their side,” Gay stated.

The French lawmaker said Hammouri has the right “to continue his solidarity work without being intimidated or bothered by the Israeli government.”

Gay asked the French government what it has done to protect Hammouri’s rights. France however appears to have turned its back on its citizen in this case.

“Jerusalem is my home. Elsa and I had hoped to establish a life together as a family here and that is being denied to us,” Hammouri wrote last year.

“No matter what the Israeli interior minister decides,” he added, “my family and I remain committed to pursuing justice and to building a family life with dignity and peace in Palestine.”




Allegiance to Israel is a totalitarian concept. Freedom of thought is by definition inimical to prescribed allegiance to anything and how can democracy function without freedom of thought? Of course, a global campaign is underway to shut down both. What is required are dutiful citizens, maybe fell-wed, but dutiful to the "line" spun by those with wealth and power. That France under Macron will rally to the defence of its citizen is a vain hope. Only the old anarcho-syndicalist tradition could rally to that, but that has been badly damaged. Truly democratic regimes welcome free thinking criticism. Israel is a paranoid, dictatorial, repressive, colonial regime which fears it.

Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.