Dear Secretary Powell,
I am writing to urge you to take immediate action in response to Israel’s double-arrest and beating today of leading Palestinian human rights activist and physician Dr. Mustafa Barhgouthi.
Dr. Barghouthi, who is head of the non-governmental Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute and president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, was seized by Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem this morning after he gave a press conference at the American Colony Hotel.
After being detained for hours at the notorious “Russian Compound” prison in west Jerusalem, he was then deposited at the Ram checkpoint on the edge of occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank and promptly rearrested by Israeli occupation forces. The BBC World Service reported this afternoon that Mr. Barghouthi was beaten by the occupation border police at Ram checkpoint.
Mr. Secretary this action by the Israeli occupation authorities against a leading member of Palestinian civil society can be seen only as a deliberate attempt to further inflame the situation in the occupied territories, to maliciously interfere with the work of human rights organizations, and to intimidate all Palestinians into submitting to Israel’s cruel and endless occupation.
The United States must demand that Dr. Barghouti be released and that his attackers are held accountable. The United States must demand that Israel stop its attacks and intimidation against Palestinian human rights organizations and stop the racist and illegal policy of preventing Palestinians from entering occupied Jerusalem.
Today’s actions, as well as Israel’s continued attacks and blockades against Palestinian civilians violate the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which Israel has been ordered by the Secretary Council to adhere to, and which protect all civilians under military occupation, and in particular the work and activities of civil, religious, medical and relief institutions.
The United States as one of the original High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Conventions is bound by international law to ensure that the Convention is respected.
The fact that The United States is not only failing to make Israel abide by the Convention, but is actively blocking efforts by other states signatories to examine Israel’s grave and continuous violations, will likely be seen by many observers as further incontrovertible proof of US complicity in and approval of Israel’s actions.
The attack by Israel on Mr. Barghouthi, an internationally renowned and respected figure, will destroy the already slim chances that the just announced visit to the region by General Anthony Zinni could reach any positive results. It is therefore up to the United States as its chief sponsor and armorer to restrain its Israeli client in the way that the full force of international law and opinion have not been permitted to.
2 December 2001
Endnote: Mustafa Bargouthi was released later on the same day with a broken knee bone.
Ali Abunimah is vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network and a well-known media analyst, Abunimah regularly writes public letters to the media, coordinates campaigns, and appears on a variety of national and international news programs as a commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is one of the founders of The Electronic Intifada. Ali Abunimah contributed to “The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid” (Verso Books, 2001).