ISM: Report of the Beit Sahour IDF raid from Kristin Razowsky

13 May 2003 — On May 9, 2003, at approximately 12:40 pm, the Israeli military entered the media office of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Beit Sahour, Palestine. Present were myself — Kristin Razowsky (“Flo”) — an international from Austrailia who is working with Human Rights Watch, and a local Palestinian woman from Beit Sahour.

The soliders entered the offices, took the phones out of my hands that I was speaking on and proceeded to search the office. We were not informed as to what the reasons were for this search until the Australian women asked one of the soldiers what the search was about and he replied that we were working for an “illegal organization”. I am assuming he was referring to the ISM.

There were roughly 20-30 soldiers present. The three women, including myself, were taken outside where even more soliders were gathered with military and police jeeps, and a large type of armored truck of which I had not seen before. Possibly there were other types of vehicles present, but since the situation was quite chaotic, I am unaware if there were. A female police officer took each of us, one by one, into the stair well in order to search us. Myself and the woman from Beit Sahour were taken back into the office in order to collect our belongings. At this time, I witnessed the soldiers confiscating computer equiptment, magazines, telepones, video tapes, CDs, files and other objects from the office.

During this entire encounter, there were many soldiers with video and still cameras recording myself and the other women. We were then taken into the large armored truck and waited for approximatley thrity minutes before we began to move. We were told that at some point we would be officially arrested and that myself and the woman from Australia would be deported. The soldiers did not know what our actual charges would be (as the ISM has never officially been deemed illegal by the Israeli Government), and that they were “only following orders”. After this thirty minute wait in the armored truck we were taken several miles down the road and then moved into police jeeps. Each woman was in a seperate jeep.

We were all taken to the police station in Gush Etzion, near to Jeruslaem. At this point I was questioned by the investigator of the station. I was told that if I did not answer the questions it would make things much harder for me later on. I repeatedly demanded to speak with an attorney and my Embassy to which I was repeatedly told only later would I be allowed these phone calls. At this point, I was charged with being in a “closed military zone”.

Since I had nothing to hide, I cooperated and answered the inspectors questions. I told the investigator that since I had been allowed through the Bethleham checkpoint [by Israeli soldiers], I was not aware that I was in a “closed military zone”.

After the interrogation I was photographed and fingerprinted. At this point one of the officers called my Embassy and I was allowed to speak with a representative for only a few minutes. I was still not allowed a phone call to an attorney. The Palestinian woman from Beit Sahour was released and allowed to return home. Myself and the Australian woman were told that we were going to be taken to a hearing with the Interior Ministry.

We were then transported to Pisgat Ziev to have this hearing. When we arrived at the Interior Ministry, I was promptly told that my visa was being revoked and that I was to be deported. I said that I thought I was coming to a hearing and questioned how they could punish me before this hearing even happened. I was told that the hearing would eventually happen but that I was going to be deported. I asked if this was happening because they assumed that I was working with the ISM. I was told “Yes.”

At this point I returned to my demand to speak with an attorney and was told that from jail I could contact a lawyer. The deportation order was signed by the Minister of the Interior and I was transported to the Emmigration Detention Center in Hudera, Israel. I was told that I had 72 hours in order to fight the deportion. If in that 72 hours, I failed, I would be deported (meaning Monday, May 12).

Miranda Sissons, assistant director for the Middle East and North Africa with Human Rights Watch, detained for 13 hours. (Ed O’Loughlin)

The Austailian woman was released, her charges dropped, approximatly four hours after we arrived at the detention center. None of the officials at this center could tell me why she had been released and not me, but it seems likely it was due to the fact that she works for Human Rights Watch and is not assumed to be working with the ISM.

I spent from Friday evening until Monday evening in this deportation center awaiting the outcome. Through the help of so many amazing Human Rights groups in Palestine and Israel, I was able to secure a lawyer. My lawyer, at the last moment, was able to obtain a freeze on the deportation order. It came through at about the same hour I was to be deported. After much work on my lawyer’s part, I was released conditionally from the detention center. These conditions are as follows:

  • I must remain in Jerusalem during the next two weeks while my case is argued in court.
  • I must report to the Immigration Office twice a week.
  • If I am arrested in the next two weeks, try to escape the law or fail any of these conditions, I must pay to the State of Israel 10,000 shekels.
  • If my deportation order is not cancelled within the next two weeks, I must agree to leave the country (be deported) at the time determined by the court.

    All of this comes at a time when the Israeli Government has greatly stepped up it’s attack on the International Solidarity Movement. Since the killing of Rachel Corrie severel months ago in Rafah Gaza, when she was run over by an Israeli-driven, American- made bulldozer, the Israeli Government and Military have continuously targeted and attempted to discredit the work of the ISM.

    The ISM is a Palestinian led organization dedicated to nonviolent direct action in defense of the civilian population of Palestine living under Israeli military occupation.

    It is imperative to continue this work as it brings much needed international attention to the reality of Palestinian life under this occupation. If the Israeli Government is allowed to continue this attack on international peace workers, the situation in Palestine will move forward without any international eyes to witness. This eyewitness pressence is crucial as much of the information about the situation here is coming from the side of the Israeli Government.

    This sole sorce of information is extremely dangerous as it covers up reality with lies in order to justify the collective punishment of an entire civilian population.

    The ISM is not pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, nor for or against any peoples. The ISM is against the occupation of Palestine and for freedom and justice.

    I am a 28-year-old American-born Jewish peace activist.

    For further information, please contact Flo on +972-67-361-708. Flo lives in South Minneapolis. This is her second trip to Palestine.