Hussam Khader brought to Ofer Prison hearing, returned to Megiddo Prison

There are a couple of ways to approach this story.

One is to explain that Hussam Khader, a well-known Fatah activist, who was taken into custody by a very large group of masked IDF forces who raided his home at 2am the very beginning of June, was brought yesterday to Ofer Prison along Road 443 between Qalandia checkpoint and Modi’in for an Israeli military court hearing on whether or not to enact a request — already granted in principle — from an Israeli military prosecutor, to send him for a six-month sentence of Administrative Detention (renewable).

The military judge, Michael Ben-David, refused, for the second time, to enact the Administrative Detention order without real evidence that such a severe sentence is necessary.

However, this means that Hussam Khader is still in prison, one way or another.

After the hearing, he was taken out of container number 6 (the one, apparently, reserved for Administrative Detention orders) and returned to detention in Ofer Prison in preparation for his return later in the day in military prison transport to Megiddo Prison, which is inside the Israeli Galilee just outside the northern edge of the West Bank (above Jenin).

So, was the military judge’s refusal to rubber-stamp a six-month Administrative Detention order an act of great justice? Or was it a cynical continuation of the status quo, by another name?

Hussam Khader’s latest detention was the 25th, in the last 35 or 36 years of his life (starting when Hussam was 15 or 16 years old, and still a child according to most other jurisdictions).

Once, he was deported, via Israel’s northern “border” (still not agreed, after all these years) with Lebanon. This, he said, was the worst of all the bad things that had ever happened to him.

He has spent years in jail.

The 24th time Hussam was arrested was, like this time. also in his home in Balata Refugee Camp, on the outskirts of Nablus, in 2003. After weeks of interrogation under nearly continuous sleep deprivation (this is recognized as a form of torture), Hussam agreed to a plea bargain. His kids were young, but safe with his mother (who was alone, but who had Hussam’s younger sister and brother for support). He was released in September 2008 — a year early, for good behavior. He passed his time writing in diaries he kept, and that he intends to publish some day. When he got out, and returned home, he promised his children — then five years older — that he would make up to them for all the time he was away.

When he was taken away again three weeks ago, Hussam told his two younger children who were home at the time, and his mother, that they had all been through this before, they could do it again, and he looked into their eyes and said everyone must be strong… [See our report on June 2 – here].

Though I was allowed to get inside to the Ofer military courts area for the hearing yesterday, I was told that the Administrative Detention hearing was closed, and I should not enter.

Hussam’s lawyer, Jawad Bulous (who has offices in the Galilee as well as in East Jerusalem) said later that he told the military prosecutor that Hussam Khader was working for peace, and that he had done so openly. He noted that the Palestinian press had prominently reported Hussam’s call, a few weeks ago, for Salam Fayyad to stay on as Prime Minister in a new post-reconciliation Palestinian government. [Hussam made this call even before the Fatah Central Council had issued a statement asking for the same thing, a position which was then criticized by several Hamas officials and spokespersons].

Yes, Bulous said to the military prosecutor, Hussam did meet Hamas leaders outside the country, but he did so as a messenger of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This apparently happened prior to the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas announced in Cairo in late April, an agreement which was formally signed by President Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo on 3 May.

Just under a year after his early release from Israeli jail last time, Hussam Khader criticized the Palestinian leadership in one of the plenary meetings of the Fatah General Conference convened in Bethlehem in August 2009 (it was the first time they had been able to agree in 18 years, and the outcome was a clear consolidation of Abu Mazen’s political power). In the plenary meeting, Abu Mazen told Hussam Khader to sit down and shut up, which Hussam Khader reluctantly did, explaining later that he could not be too disrespectful to the older man, to the leader.

Hussam Khader, with large popular support that was not represented in the carefully-controlled list of official delegates (selected individually by Abu Mazen’s representatives who decided who would be permitted to attend the Fatah General Conference, and who would not), was then not elected to the very important Fatah Central Committee. [See our report in August 2009, posted here.

In the months immediately following the Fatah General Conference, Hussam Khader was not permitted to travel abroad, and was stopped at the Allenby Bridge crossing, and sent home to Nablus.

However, that changed in recent months, and he was, as he told me several weeks before his arrest, indeed permitted to travel abroad — apparently during the Arab Spring, and the moves for Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

In the meantime, Hussam continued his activism, and also travelled constantly to various cities in the West Bank for meetings and discussions — all of which was public, his family notes.

And, he worked diligently to rebuild his connection to the various addresses in the Palestinian leadership.

Still, he is the only Fatah activist to have been detained in what Jawad Bulous called a recent new wave of political activists — all the others are Hamas activists in the West Bank.

This, as my friend from Machsom Watch commented this morning, shows that we never can know what is really going on.

But, a journalist’s job, or mission, is at least to try…

After Sunday’s hearing, Jawad Bulous said that the only claims made publicly by the Israeli military prosecutor are that Hussam has caused (or will cause) public disturbances and presents a threat to public safety — without any explanation.

At this point, Bulous said, the military judge advised him to stop there, and said he needed the Shin Bet to come, because no explanation was given, and the judge said for him it’s a very important issue. The session was suspended, but no date was set, immediately, for the sealed Shin Bet session with the Judge. [See our earlier here.]

And, Hussam Khader is back in prison… in Israel, though he is a Palestinian who was arrested in his home in Balata Refugee Camp near Nablus in the military-occupied West Bank.

In any other similar situations — though there really are none — this would be considered a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Conventions applicable to the conduct of military occupations.

Palestinian reactions? Here’s a sample:
(A) “So Hussam Khader is jailed without giving any evidence, without any solid explanation? Sometimes, in fact many times, the IDF have assassinated Palestinians without any evidence. Sometimes, in fact many times, they have even killed the wrong person. And, these people are dead. Hussam Khader is still alive“.
(B) “He is one of over 6,000 Palestinians in the same situation, at the moment“.
(C) “Nobody who has been released from prison wants to go back inside. But Hussam Khader is better prepared to deal with this than most people“.
(D) “This is exactly what it means to live under occupation. This is the occupation“.
(E) “This is just to make him shut up, to sit at home and be quiet“.
(F) “Israel knows what it’s doing. They listen to us via the Sim chip in our mobile phones. Maybe there is a microphone planted somewhere in this room. They control us completely, and they know the most intimate things about us. We are naked in front of them“.
(G) “Israel knows what it’s doing. Maybe they want to make a hero out of Hussam Khader (by appearing to persecute him)… Maybe he will become the next Prime Minister. Yes, really, I mean it. Wait and see.“…

So, we are waiting to see…

This is leading to a paralysis so complete that we now see a people who are hesitating and are now saying they do not want to move towards implementing a State, when this is held out in front of them, when it is almost within reach. They have been saying, privately, but defiantly, in recent weeks, that they do not want a State, if what it will mean is a continuation of the situation that exists now, and if the same people will be ruling them…

And so on and so forth.

Meanwhile, in container number 7 at Ofer military court, another military prosecution was going on at the same time on Sunday, with another sad story of the occupation. Ma’an News Agency reported that “The Ofer Israeli military court sentenced popular protest coordinator Naji At-Tamimi to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,914), his colleagues said. Naji and Basem At-Tamimi were taken by Israeli forces from their homes in April and held without charge. Naji was charged with inciting and participating in rallies and organizing demonstrations against Israeli land confiscation and settlement building. Israel has declared such demonstrations illegal. In a statement released shortly after the sentencing was handed down, the Popular Struggle Committee in Nabi Saleh, where Naji is from, said it rejected Israel’s characterization of the protests as illegal, and said it considered the sentencing of Tamimi for his role in the protests as a ‘violation of the law’, noting it prevented Palestinians from defending their property”… This is published here.

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