A Prisoner’s Wife

I used to tell my husband, Ameer Makhoul, “One day, they’ll come for you.” As chairman of the Public Committee for the Protection of Political Freedoms he’d begun to organize an awareness-raising campaign to push back against the security services’ harassment of our community, the Palestinian citizens of Israel.  

Come for Ameer they did, late one night this May, pounding at our door, ransacking our house and terrifying our two teenage daughters. And now I’ve joined the ranks of Palestinian prisoners’ wives, many thousands of us from the occupied territories as well as within Israel.  His July 13 hearing – persecution, really – could begin the legal nightmare that ruptures our family for many years. This is the likely course of events unless Ameer gets a fair trial and his coerced statements are rejected or suppressed by the court.  

“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her July 3 speech in Poland at the 10th anniversary meeting of the Community of Democracies. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.” But the head of Israel’s General Security Services said three years ago that Palestinian citizens’ organizational efforts for equality constitute a “strategic threat,” even if pursued by lawful means. 

That’s not how democracy works.  We may be a minority of 20 percent, but our rights to organize and insist on full equality and civil rights ought to be sacrosanct. That’s what our entire community believes. The Public Committee that Ameer chaired was established within the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, the community’s overall coordinating body.  It’s a vital position and the leading organization protecting our civil rights.

And now he faces the most serious charges leveled against a Palestinian citizen of Israel since the creation of the state in 1948. He is accused of being a spy (for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah) and having contact with a foreign agent. His trial will likely last for months.

After his arrest, Ameer was held incommunicado for 21 days and tortured. Then Israeli officials pressed their charges, based on the “confession” he made during this time, when he was deprived of sleep, shackled in a painful position to a small chair, and not allowed to see his lawyers.

Ameer denies all charges. As he said in his first letter from Gilboa Prison, he was “forced to explain to them in a very detailed way how exactly I did what I didn’t do, ever.” And if the prosecution needs any more information to make its case, all they have to do is use “so-called secret evidence, which my lawyers and I have no legal right to know about.”

Clinton’s Krakow speech focused on civil society: Ameer is a civil society activist. He directs Ittijah, the Union of Arab-Based Community Associations – a coalition that brings together 84 non-governmental organizations. Clinton criticized several governments by name – but not Israel – for intimidation and assassination of activists. Why does America’s drive to promote human rights stop at Israel’s door?  

Throughout his life, Ameer has struggled for the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel – there are more than 35 laws on the books that discriminate against us – as well as those of the Palestinian people overall. He has the ability to lead and to convene diverse viewpoints, bringing them together across sect and ideology. His ability to network locally, at the Arab level, and internationally, coupled with his clear strategic vision – this is what Israel is trying to silence.

The youth also look to him for leadership, which infuriates the Israeli security services. They told Ameer so when they hauled him in for questioning during our community’s protests against Israel’s assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

During that interrogation they threatened to put him away if he kept up his activism, saying, “We can ‘disappear’ you. You should know that the next time we bring you in you will not see your family again for a long time.”

The few times we’ve been allowed to visit him thick glass has separated us and our meetings were taped. Ameer asked me for a copy of my new book to read in jail, but they wouldn’t let me even take him that. My daughters really miss their father. They often say, “If only we’d been able to hug him before they took him away.” That’s one of the things that hurts them most, not being able to hug their father.

Ameer still suffers from the torture and abuse inflicted on him, and they still try to break his spirit. They only allow 20 people into the courtroom even though it can hold many more, so when he sees it empty, he thinks no one cares. But far more people want to attend the trial than they allow in – family, community activists, politicians, and supporters from all over the world.

I have never thought of myself as a “wife” but rather as Ameer’s partner in life and in activism. But these days, as I wait with the other wives for our allotted visit, I find myself reflecting on the traditional Christian marriage vows: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” No man, I think, unless he’s an Israeli jailer.

Clinton spoke of “the cowardice of those who deny their citizens the protections they deserve.” Ameer deserves the protection of the law: the right to meet his lawyers in private – Israeli officials have been taping those meetings too; the right to see the evidence against him, much of which the prosecution plans to withhold on security grounds; freedom from torture; and inadmissibility of confessions secured under torture. When will Clinton call for a Palestinian activist’s human rights and an end to his persecution?

Janan Abdu is a social worker, feminist activist, and researcher with Mada al-Carmel, the Haifa-based Arab Center for Applied Social Research. Read other articles by Janan.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on July 14th, 2010 at 5:21pm #

    Again, this is another clear example of the blatant racism and discrimination that Israel practices against its Muslim and Christian Citizens. Similarly, it exposes the Israeli justice system in its bias and discrimination. Ameer Makhoul is punished because he is active in the leadership of a group for the protection of public freedoms for citizens of Israel. Israel and its Zionist system have no room for such audacity.

  2. John Andrews said on July 15th, 2010 at 12:02am #

    What can anyone say to this?

    Surely there are few places on the face of our planet that are more institutionally and inherently evil than the Zionist state? My heart goes out to all its victims.

    The writer asks “Why does America’s drive to promote human rights stop at Israel’s door? “. Presumably this is an ironic question. America (like all national governments) has never ‘promoted’ human rights. The cause of human rights has only ever been ‘promoted’ by national governments in the service of cynical interests, and only ever raised as an issue in the countries of their enemies. Hence we’re passionately concerned about human rights and ‘democracy’ in Iran, say, but not Saudi Arabia; or North Korea, but not Burma; or Cuba but not Haiti…

    For what it’s worth, I’m sure Mr Makhoul has done absolutley nothing wrong, that he is just a good man with the sad misfortune to be living under one of the most despicable regimes on Earth. I wish him and his family well, and strength for the ordeal ahead.

  3. mary said on July 15th, 2010 at 12:59am #

    Janan – you are a remarkable woman. I am very sorry to learn about your husband’s unlawful arrest and trial and the terrible stress caused to him and your family. He has you and your daughters standing with him and I am sure that you have ALL of us standing with you in spirit. You will prevail.

    Only today British Jews are criticizing Israel in many regards and want changes made. I will find the link and put it here later.

    I also heard that there was commotion at Athens airport this morning where anti Israel protesters caused disruption to an El Al flight.

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/anti-israel-protesters-delay-el-al-flight-in-athens-1.301921

    The Libyan aid boat was diverted to Al Arish in the end but Gaddafi’s son has separately donated $50m to Gaza and Israel has allowed the transfer to be made.

    All chinks of light I know.

  4. mary said on July 15th, 2010 at 2:36am #

    ZBC have to get the Zionist Federation’s opinion of course.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8824000/8824006.stm

    A study of more than 4,000 British Jews suggests that although most feel a strong affinity with Israel and strongly support its right to self-defence, a majority believe the country should swap territory for peace, and negotiate with Hamas.

    Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Jonathan Hoffman, vice chairman of the Zionist Federation, debate the importance of British Jews’ sense of identity.

    ~~~~~

    This is the link to the report –
    (www.jpr.org.uk/publications/publication.php?id=235)

    PS Hoffman is a fanatical and zealous Zionist and heckles at every pro- Palestinian gathering I have ever attended.

  5. mary said on July 15th, 2010 at 2:45am #

    Who are the terrrrrrrrrrists as Bush Jnr used to call them? The Turkish aid foundation according to Obomber’s crowd.

    Just look at the photo in this link. Enough to put the fear of God into you if you are a passenger on one of these aid boats.

    http://www.imemc.org/article/59132

  6. Maien said on July 15th, 2010 at 7:32am #

    Thanks Mary, for the info and the reminder. So 4,000 British Jews feel it is progress to now negotiate. They will continue to kill and steal for land but now want permission from their victims, so they can call it peace. Nothing changes. Does anyone really believe that the killing will stop. Please remember how ‘democracy’ is treated by the Israeli colonisers. It is actually apartheid, insured by or through terror. and the usual strategy is deployed. Ignore the issue. Land. Announce your peaceful intentions and hopes. And keep murdering others in order to steal their land.

  7. mary said on July 15th, 2010 at 8:15am #

    Maien. I think that the movement to obtain justice for the Palestinians is growing. Israel’s barbaric acts will no longer be tolerated.

    For instance, the ex PM of the Malaysia stated -

    “More importantly, we must send a message of hope and solidarity to the Palestinians that the peace-loving people of the world will never abandon them, come what may, and we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their struggle for liberation.

    “The Muslim world continues to be taken in by (the United States) President Obama’s rhetoric he is committed to change and he is for peace.

    “His actions contradict his spoken words. Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama then escalated the war in Afghanistan, a war started by President George W. Bush. It is not surprising the UN chose not to allow a debate on Malaysia’s resolution condemning Israel for its dastardly acts.”

    http://irishingaza.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/malay-mail-july-12th-2010/

  8. mary said on July 16th, 2010 at 8:51am #

    Gilad Atzmon (why don’t we see him on DV lately?) writes about that survey of British Jews.

    The Jewish community in Britain seems to be over the moon. A survey that was published a few days ago suggests that British Jews are nothing but ‘peace lovers’. The Guardian was also quick to report that 77% of “British Jews favour a ‘two-state solution’ in Israel”.

    In practice, this actually means that at least 77% of British Jews believe that millions of dispossessed Palestinians should continue to dwell in refugee camps and never be allowed to their homes, cities, and villages. I am actually far from impressed with British Jewry’s inclination towards peace.

    Click to read more …

    http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-british-jews-support-israeli-war-crimes.html

    and more importantly this from Rebel News about Ameer Makhoul

    (www.rebelnews.org/opinion/middle-east/309539-free-ameer-makhoul)

  9. mary said on July 16th, 2010 at 12:39pm #

    Apologies Eds. You had already posted Gilad Atzmon’s article! Thanks.

    This is the latest PSC newsletter. The Israeli Arab Member of the Knesset has had her parliamentary privileges removed for participating in the flotilla. There are obviously some spiteful and petty people in the Knesset who are full of hate.

    http://www.palestinecampaign.org/Index7b.asp?m_id=1&l1_id=4&l2_id=106&Content_ID=1396

    There is also a link within to this article by Janan on Electronic Intifada which includes a nice photo of her and her daughters.

  10. mary said on July 25th, 2010 at 10:32am #

    Another Palestinian leader is jailed for allegedly spitting at a policeman, a charge which he denies. He was on the Free Gaza flotilla which was attacked by the Israelis.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10755531

  11. mary said on July 29th, 2010 at 3:40am #

    Some inspiring news here about a Palestinian woman opening a radio station.

    http://www.infocusnews.net/content/view/44381/1385/

    “We broadcast success stories of women regionally, internationally, or locally in which they can take example from, and they know that they can do something and they can achieve something regardless of the situation,” she said.

    The day-to-day situation for many Palestinian women living under occupation involves supporting their children while their husbands are in prison, finding housing after their homes are demolished, and navigating their way through Israeli checkpoints.

    ~~~~
    Just hope that there is no connection to the PA quislings as I see the station is based in Ramallah.