Yesterday, I received the happy news that Mohammed Othman, a vocal proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, was released from an Israeli military prison after a lengthy detainment. Othman was held without charges since September when was picked up as he attempted to enter the West Bank via Jordan following a visit to Norway, a country whose government had recently divested from an Israeli corporation directly involved in the occupation. Othman was widely credited as having been a crucial player in Norway’s decision to divest.
Othman’s detention was deeply troubling to me not only because it seemed to be a severe human rights violation, it also indicated that the Israeli government was beginning to crack down on free-speech.
But the exhilaration I felt for Othman’s release quickly wore off when I heard, this morning, about the detainment and possible deportation of Jared Malsin, the American Jewish editor of the English section of Ma’an News Agency.
According to Ma’an, Malsin has been held by Israeli authorities since Tuesday, when he attempted to enter the country via Ben Gurion airport, outside of Tel Aviv. After being subjected to eight hours of interrogation, Malsin was deemed a security threat and was scheduled to be deported to the Czech Republic, where he’d been on holiday.
Ma’an further reported: Hebrew-language interrogation transcripts obtained by the news service reveal that Malsin was deemed a security risk on the apparent basis of his political beliefs. Interrogators gathered online research into the journalist’s writing history, which the transcripts indicate included news stories “criticizing the State of Israel,” among other allegations that he “authored articles inside the territories.”
Malsin, who resides in the West Bank, appealed the deportation order. As of 11:00 AM Thursday, his expulsion had been temporarily stayed.
Whether or not Malsin will eventually be deported is of great import. But at the same time, it’s beside the point.
What’s really at stake here is free speech. Even if Malsin is granted permission to stay in Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli authorities have sent a clear message to Malsin and anyone else who dares to speak out against the government—dissent will not be tolerated. And no one is exempt from harassment or punishment.
We seem to be moving into a dark chapter in the history of Israel. Malsin’s detainment and possible deportation, especially when considered within the context of the arrest of Mohammed Othman and various leaders of non-violent resistance, indicates a state that is intent on cracking down—even if one has done little more than spoken out against government policy.
The question now is: What’s next? Or, better said, who is next? Who will be the Israeli government’s next target?
And how many of us will speak out?
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