Israel seeks to expel lawyer Salah Hamouri

Man holds a portrait of a man

Protests calling for the release of Salah Hamouri have recently been held in France.

Alain Pitton ZUMA Press

Israel is seeking to expel the Palestinian French human rights defender Salah Hamouri from Jerusalem.

Hamouri was summoned to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, an Israeli detention center synonymous with the torture of Palestinian prisoners, on 3 September. There he was given a letter from Israel’s interior ministry informing him that his status as a permanent resident of Jerusalem would be revoked, according to the human rights group FIDH.

The decision was reportedly based on Israel’s 1952 Law of Entry, under which Israel assesses if Palestinians may stay in their homeland. FIDH warned that the law violates article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from deporting people living under occupation.

Hamouri, a lawyer, was given 30 days to appeal the decision.

Aged 35, Hamouri was born in occupied East Jerusalem to a French mother and Palestinian father and has lived there since. Israel is seeking to expel him and never allow him to return.

He has previously spent about eight years in Israeli occupation prisons.

France reportedly asked Israel to “postpone” Hamouri’s expulsion.

Hamouri holds French citizenship.

Anna Azari, an Israeli diplomat, told Eric Danon, the French ambassador to Israel, that Hamouri faces expulsion due to his active membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist party.

Azari smeared Hamouri by calling him one of the “terrorists among us.”

Israel considers virtually all Palestinian political parties to be “terrorist” organizations – a pretext to routinely arrest Palestinians for political activity.

Hamouri was imprisoned in 2005 over charges that included membership of the PFLP and a plot to kill Ovadia Yosef, a prominent rabbi.

Hamouri has insisted he is innocent.

After three years in administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial – he accepted a plea deal from Israel’s military court in order to obtain a shorter sentence.

He was released in 2011 along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in a deal between Israel and Hamas. The prisoners were freed in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israel arrested Hamouri again in 2018 and detained him for more than a year without charge or trial.

Eric Danon appealed to Israel’s foreign ministry that Hamouri be able to remain in Jerusalem.

The French government said it was inquiring into “the reasons for this decision” and that it was calling for “its immediate withdrawal.”

“Salah Hamouri must be able to lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born and where he resides,” the government added.

Elsa Lefort, Hamouri’s French wife, was deported from Israel in 2016 and banned from returning for 10 years.

France called on Israel to allow his wife and son to visit him in Jerusalem.

Revoking residency status

In 2018, Israel passed a law that would enable the revocation of people’s residency status in East Jerusalem if they should be found in “breach of allegiance” to Israel.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in June 1967, and formally annexed it in 1980. There are about 420,000 Palestinians living there.

Between 1967 and last year, Israel revoked the residency status of almost 14,700 Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Among the excuses offered for the revocations were that Palestians had temporarily moved elsewhere to study, work, be closer to family or get married. Sometimes Israel has withdrawn residency from Palestinians because of actions allegedly carried out by their relatives.

Bargaining chips

The Israeli government announced earlier this month that the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces will not be returned to their families.

Israel’s policy has been that it withholds the remains of Palestinians it killed during alleged attacks on soldiers and civilians.

Benny Gantz, the deputy prime minister, had requested that the measure be taken a step further.

Under Gantz’s proposal, Israel will withhold all Palestinian bodies its occupation forces kill, even if they don’t subscribe to a Palestinian political party.

“Refusal to return the bodies of terrorists is part of our commitment of maintaining the security of Israeli citizens,” Gantz said. It was also part of Israel’s commitment to “bring home” the bodies of Israeli soldiers who were killed or went missing in battle, according to Gantz.

By making this comment, Gantz was admitting to Israel’s policy of withholding Palestinian bodies so that they may be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner swaps.

Adalah, a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians in Israel, described the new decision as “extreme, barbaric, illegal policy” which was “motivated by vengeance.”

Adalah is now leading the fight to return the body of Ahmad Erakat, a Palestinian whom Israel extrajudicially executed in June.

Israel said that Erakat had intentionally rammed a military checkpoint with his car, causing minor injuries to a soldier. Video of the incident shows that soldiers shot Erakat when he got out of his car, holding his hands in the air.

His family said that the 26-year-old was running errands ahead of his sister’s wedding when he was slain.

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Allegiance to Israel? That is totalitarian. It comes straight from Orwell and Kafka. And what is France doing? Why the pussy-footing? Why not a robust demand for Hamouri's release and a threat of sanctions? Why is Israel permitted to get away with this kind of action if not because of its misuse of history, its abuse of the Nazi genocide, the world-wide, mindless acceptance of Israeli exceptionalism. There are no exceptions when it comes to human rights and democracy. No excuses. Hamouri's detention is simply legal thuggery and the entire democratic world should say so.

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