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Israeli targeting international activists

Arrested Irish American appeals Israeli targeting of international activists

An Israeli judge Tuesday agreed to hear ISM activist Pat O'Connor's appeal of his deportation from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. O'Connor is awaiting his trial in Maasiyahu prison in Ramle where he has been held since his arrest on January 24.

O'Connor was arrested by Israeli security agents after planting olive seedlings in the village of Biddu with Palestinian, Israeli and international activists. During the arrest, the security agents claimed he was carrying a false Irish passport however the Irish embassy has confirmed the validity of O'Connor's passport.

Israeli attorney Gaby Lasky states in the deportation appeal that "Israel conveniently turns humanitarian activists into security threats with the cynical use of 'security considerations'." She is demanding that Israel declassify the Kafkaesque blacklist on which many human rights activists find themselves placed.

Because no criteria have been published determining who should be denied entry, Israeli authorities use the tactic to deny entry to a substantial number of foreign humanitarian aid workers and dedicated human rights activists who pose no threat to Israel or its security. There are over one hundred documented cases. The tactic of using a catch-all phrase like "security concerns" as grounds to deny entry to anyone who the Ministry of Interior disagrees with or dislikes creates an opportunity for political discrimination. Mr. O'Connor is a victim of such circumstances.

The Palestinian Authority has issued a letter acknowledging Mr. O'Connor's human rights work and inviting O'Connor to remain in the Occupied Palestine Territories. However, Israel does not acknowledge the Palestinian Authority's right to invite internationals into its own territory. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Pat O'Connor has been supporting nonviolent protests as a volunteer with the ISM since October 2002. Although he was never arrested, he was denied entry to Israel in March 2003. The denial of entry was upheld in Israeli court based on "secret evidence" that neither Pat nor his attorney was allowed to see or challenge. Mr. O'Connor is adamant when he says "the secret evidence will not stand up to scrutiny because I did nothing wrong. Israeli authorities are using illegitimate means to stop legitimate protests for Palestinian rights. I have a moral duty to reject these illegitimate measures and support international law." O'Connor has since changed his name legally and was allowed by Israeli authorities to return twice in 2004 to Israel and the OPT on valid US and Irish passports.

Palestinians are guaranteed rights under international law and they aspire to be free from Israeli occupation. According to Mr. O'Connor, "It's the responsibility of the international community to support international law and human rights, and since our governments are failing to do that, then citizens have to take that responsibility upon themselves."

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