Popular Struggle Coordination Committee
Press Release , Monday, 20 December 2010

Israeli Home Front Commander to Expel Member of Silwan Neighborhood Committee from Jerusalem

On November 28th Adnan Gheith, a member of the Al-Bustan Neighborhood Committee and a dignitary of Silwan, was served with a letter informing him that Yair Golan, the Israeli Home Front Commander, is intending to expel him from Jerusalem for a period of four months. The expulsion is to be executed based on an Administrative Decree – with no charges and no evidence – by power of the Emergency Defense Orders established under the British Mandate. Gheith’s lawyer was informed that the expulsion is intended to curb Gheith’s political activity, since the security apparatus considers him to be a central instigator of unrest in Silwan.

On November 28th, at the peak of three months of political persecution and intimidation which included arrests, harassments and repeated threats, Adnan Gheith was summoned to yet another of many investigations at the police station at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. Once Gheith – a 34 year-old and one of the leaders of the struggle against home demolition plans in Silwan – appeared at the police station as required, he was served with a letter informing him that the security authorities had presented the Minister of Internal Security with evidence concerning his activity in the Jerusalem area and that the Military Commander intends to expel him from Jerusalem and its surroundings for a four months period.

In view of the brutal tactics of repression employed by police against the community in the service of the Elad organization and the Silwan settlers, it is clear that Adnan Gheith’s expulsion constitutes an experimental exercise of power on part of the Israeli Police, the Shin Bet and the Israeli Army, intended to prepare the ground for massive home demolitions in the al-Bustan neighborhood and for a deepening Jewish settlement in Silwan.

In an attempt to stop democratic and legitimate protest, the State makes distorted and cynical use of the law. Despite months of repeated arrests, in which Gheith was led handcuffed to interrogation no less than seven times - and with courts releasing him time after time - the police has not managed to present the slightest bit of evidence against him. The State has now decided to no longer bother with the criminal procedure where evidence is required, but rather to circumvent it by using the security apparatus. With the expected approval of the order, Adnan Gheith will be expelled from his community, home and family without charges and with no evidence, using a draconian and anti-democratic Mandatory emergency law.

The expulsion order from Jerusalem, which General Yair Golan intends to issue against Adnan Gheith, tears yet another mask off the face of Israeli democracy, and will push the residents of Silwan between a rock and a hard place. In contrast to the security rhetoric employed by the authorities, this action will do nothing to promote the security of Jerusalem, but rather harm the already-shaken sense of security of the residents of Silwan. This cynical use of Mandatory law is not truly intended to secure Jerusalem, but rather to secure the future of Jewish settlement in Silwan.

Lacking any legal basis for action against Gheith, the security forces seek to criminalize him inevitably, as his very residence in his home will be considered a crime if the expulsion order against him is issued. If the military commander indeed issues the said expulsion order in the coming days, and if Adnan refuses to comply with it and remains within Jerusalem, he will be liable to criminal action.

It would seem as if the Israeli government is now turning to unconstitutional and undemocratic means in the face of Palestinian and international pressure to end settlement in East Jerusalem. Gheith’s expulsion from Jerusalem will not only exact an unbearable cost on him and his family, but also on the residents of Silwan. In addition, if this extreme step is taken, it would constitute another dramatic chapter in the crumbling of Israeli democracy.

Since the 1990s, Silwan has seen one of the most powerful settlement enterprises in the Occupied Territories. With the massive help of various Israeli authorities, many properties passed into the hands of right-extremist organizations – Elad and Ateret Cohanim – who also effectively control tourism and archeology in the area (for details see here)

Al Bustan is a neighborhood in Silwan whose residents especially suffer from settlement in their midst. If the Israeli authorities’ severe neglect of this neighborhood were not enough, in the last years the police and the settlers’ private security forces have made the residents’ lives a waking nightmare. In recent years the municipality has also intensified the policy of housing demolitions in the neighborhood, and lately has been promoting a plan to erase a significant part of it, erecting instead a commercial and tourist site for use by the settlement and its visitors. For this purpose, the municipality intends to demolish 22 houses which are homes to Palestinian families. Scores of additional families may also find themselves homeless since they cannot meet the municipalities economic and administrative requirements (for details see here).

To face this situation, a residents’ committee was created in the Al Bustan neighborhood several years ago. This committee works to promote the residents’ interests alongside other neighborhood committees, including those of Wadi Hilwa, Batn Al Hawa and others. These committees, including the Al Bustan committee, operate in two main fields. One is to promote and address community needs, and the other is to lead the nonviolent protest against the occupation in the village. As part of their struggle in recent years the residents have made their story public, garnering widespread Israeli and international support which in 2006 managed to halt the municipality’s intention to demolish more than 80 homes in the neighborhood.

One of the members of the Al Bustan neighborhood committee is Adnan Gheith. Adnan, 34 years old, was born and has lived in Silwan for his entire life and today raises his four children there. For years Adnan has been investing much of his time and energy in promoting the interests of the residents of Silwan in general and of Al Bustan neighborhood in particular. Two years ago, Adnan and his friends set up a protest tent against the municipality’s intention to demolish houses in the neighborhood. The protest tent is used by the residents to present their story and has become a symbol of the nonviolent struggle against occupation and discrimination. The tent has been visited in the last years by scores if not hundreds of Israelis, diplomats, members of foreign government and even the former presidents of Ireland and the USA, Mary Robinson and Jimmy Carter.

Opposed to these neighborhood committees are the right-extremist organizations, which are actively and intensively supported by the state authorities. Adnan, who has become one of the prominent leaders in Silwan’s nonviolent struggle against the occupation, was marked by the settlers and by the security forces acting in their service as a target for harassment and threats. In recent months, as tensions rise and the settlers make more aggressive attempts to take over additional areas in Silwan and elsewhere, Adnan’s life has become a daily nightmare. Arrests and detainment for no reason, threats and scare tactics, raids on his home in the dead of night and a long list of additional forms of persecution have become an everyday matter for him and his family. Today Adnan’s life is palpably in danger, as are those of other committee members in Silwan. The Israeli authorities use any means necessary to attain their goal – repressing the nonviolent protest against the settlement enterprise in Silwan.

Three months ago, a new chapter began in the State of Israel and its security forces’ molestation of the residents of Silwan and on Adnan in particular. About ten days before an Elad security guard shot and killed Samer Sarhan, a resident of the Al Bustan neighborhood and member of the residents’ committee, Border Police and special forces came to arrest Adnan from his home in the dead of night. The arrest was carried out in an aggressive and threatening manner. Dozens of soldiers surrounded the house at about 2:30AM. When Adnan and his family woke, soldiers who had come down from the neighbors’ roof were trying to break into the building. Adnan tells about this arrest: “When I got up and turned on the light in the living room I saw lots of soldiers and they were all aiming their weapons at me. My brother who lives in the same place was also awakened by the noise and when he arrived the soldiers tied him up and pushed him aside. My parents, who live a floor under me, were also blocked and detained. My head was covered with a sack and my hands and feet were tied”. He was then led to Ras El Amud where he was questioned for about half and hour. In the morning, after hours of waiting, there finally arrived a Shin Bet man which presented himself as “Itzik”. Itzik claimed that Adnan was responsible for the situation in the village and could change it and bring an end to stone-throwing. A central issue raised in the talk was the Al Bustan residents’ protest tent. Adnan tells that during this talk he continued to claim that he is not responsible for the situation in the village and that the ability to change its reality is in Israel’s hands. “The day you commit not to demolish houses”, said Adnan, “will also see the end of stone throwing and of the protest tent”. To this Itzik replied that it was not in his power, and Adnan in response said that what he was asking him is also not in his power. After a few hours Adnan was released with no conditions and without being presented with any charge that could have justified the violent arrest in the middle of the night and the emotional scars it caused his children and family.

On 22 September this year, an Elad security guard killed Samer Sarhan, a member of the Al Bustan residents’ committee. A day after Samer was killed, large forces again came to Adnan’s house at 3AM. Again all the soldiers wore ski-masks. A Shin Bet man who called himself “Yaniv” came to Adnan and told him they wanted to question him and that it would not take more than an hour to an hour and a half. Adnan answered that for questioning they didn’t have to come to his house and scare his four children and entire family in the middle of the night, and that if they had summoned him by phone or in writing he would have come by himself. Adnan relates the sense of escalation he felt that night: “This time I had a feeling that they want to harm me, and my family who felt that too was very scared. Finally I did come out anyway, because I saw they were about to break in by force and I didn’t want my children to witness that”. After leaving through Ras El Amud the soldiers took Adnan, still cuffed, to the entrance to Elad’s visitor center although it was not on the way to the police station. Note that the passage through the entrance to the City of David took place several times during his various arrests. At the entrance to the settlers’ visitor center, by the guard’s pillbox, a Shin Bet men who called himself “Boaz” was waiting for him. He started shouting and threatening Adnan. “He said I would end up dead like Samer”, says Adnan. From there he was taken to the Russian Compound where he was questioned by a policeman, who accused him of being behind the disturbances in Silwan and of being a member of a terrorist organization since he is associated with Fatah. This time Adnan was left in custody for six days, even though he was not questioned again after his arrest. After two days at the jailhouse, Adnan was transferred to solitary confinement with no explanation. After six days he was released to 3 days of house arrest, again without being accused of any crime.

Three weeks later, the Shin Bet man “Itzik” again called Adnan and summoned him to another talk at the Russian Compound. Once again Adnan found himself in a talk where the interrogators try to threaten him and claim that they see him as responsible for the situation in Silwan. Adnan again denied the claims and complained that they were persecuting and harassing him for no reason.

On November 1st, mayor Nir Barkat participated in the dedication of a school for girls at the Ras El Amud neighborhood in East Jerusalem. On the same day there was also a hearing at the administrative court regarding the intention of the municipality and the police to demolish the Al Bustan residents’ protest tent. At 5AM police officers cam to Adnan’s home and looked for him. Around 6:30 a Shin Bet man calling himself Doron called Adnan, and demanded that he come immediately to the police station for another talk. Adnan, who was transporting pupils to school at the time, told him that he would arrive after work. About half an hour later, after letting the pupils off, Adnan found himself surrounded by policemen in the center of Silwan. He was taken to the Russan Compound, where he was taken to the detectives’ room. An interrogator who called himself “Yaniv” was waiting in the room, and he started to shout, swear and threaten him. Adnan says that once again they began threatening to harm him, and his family too this time. “Yaniv started threatening and said that I’d end up like Samer and that I’ve already seen how a security guard killed him. Then two others entered the room. One was “Doron” and another whom Doron presented as his commander. Doron told me that from now on the respectful treatment towards me was over, and that they would start doing all kinds of things against me. Later I was sat to talk alone with the third interrogator, the one whom Doron presented as his commander, and he asked me to make sure that from now on my arrests would go through quietly. I told him that what he was actually asking me was insane, that he was in effect telling me in advance that they intend to arrest me without any connection to my actions. He repeated his demand that the arrests would go through quietly and that I should make sure that my family doesn’t come out and get involved when I’m arrested. And then he told me that next time the family comes out it would end differently and that maybe my brother or my son would get a bullet”. Later Adnan was questioned by a police interrogator, under the suspicion that he was responsible for graffiti painted near the school which Barkat visited that morning. The policemen did not mind that Adnan was never there and was in fact in custody at the police station for long before the mayor arrived at the school and during his entire visit there. At the end of the interrogation Adnan was supposed to be released on bail, but after his family members had already arrived to post his bail the policemen suddenly decided to arrest him. The next day they brought him to be released before a judge, requesting 20 days of house arrest and a deposit of NIS 5,000. The court refused the police request and released Adnan with no monetary deposit and only 3 days of house arrest.

Two or three weeks after this arrest, Adnan again received a phone summons to come to the police station, this time from someone who presented himself as “Danny”. When he arrived at the station he was interrogated by “Bilal” who again started to threaten him that all kinds of steps would be taken against him. The main issues that interested the interrogator were the residents’ protest tent and the stone-throwing in the area. Adnan tells that he tried to get the interrogator to understand the realty in which the children live: “I told him that the protest tent has nothing to do with stone throwing, and that a lot of children are carried away by it because they don’t have even one playground in the whole village, as well as because of continuous pestering by the settler security guards who create provocations to pull the children to throw stones. Afterwards I explained to him that the protest tent is seen by the residents as a symbol for their legitimate protest against the authorities’ attempt to demolish their homes, and that the day the municipality and the police demolish the tent many residents would see it as a sign for the beginning of housing demolitions”.

These many arrests and detentions join a long series of earlier harassments. Every time a political event takes place in Silwan, Adnan is summoned, detained or finds himself being arrested for no reason and without it being based on specific suspicions against him. This is what happened in April this year, after the march of the extreme right through Silwan. On that day, dozens of Kach followers conducted a provocative visit to the village. In parallel residents of the village staged a counter-demonstration where they carried placards and Palestine flags. Several days later Adnan was summoned to the police station for a “talk”. In early September, following a demonstration of Israeli left activists against the settlement enterprise in Silwan and the policy of housing demolitions, Adnan was detained for police questioning. During the last months there have been at least 7 cases where the police made illegal use of detainment and arrest in order to subject Adnan to political pressure.

On November 28th Adnan was summoned to the Russian Compound, where he was served with the aforementioned notice of his planned expulsion from Jerusalem. Two days later, on November 30th, Adnan was again summoned to the police station, where a police interrogator threatened him not to dare participate in a conference planned that day in Silwan, attended by a senior British diplomat, and not to appear in any press conference.