RAMALLAH, Palestine: Palestinian lawmakers have accused Israel of an anti-democratic crackdown, with dozens of elected officials detained, placed under investigation or restricted in their movements.
Of the 84 MPs elected to the Palestinian Parliament from the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2006, 36 are in Israeli jails, two-thirds of those under what is known as “administrative detention,” under which the evidence against them is not disclosed.
The measures are among the harshest ever against elected Palestinians in the occupied territories and come on top of restrictions imposed on Arab-Israelis in the Israeli parliament.
Khalida Jarrar, an MP from Ramallah, the main city in the West Bank, said she was woken up by Israeli troops in the early hours of Wednesday and told she had 24 hours to leave the city and move to Jericho, in the desert.
The military said Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – which has an armed wing that is regarded a terrorist group by Israel – had been “inciting for violent actions against Israel.”
“Even speech has become illegal in their ad-hoc and contrived legal system,” said Mona Mansour, a Palestinian MP from the northern city of Nablus.
“Politicians have no role in military activity,” she said. “What [the Israelis] are doing violates Palestinians’ right to representation as enshrined in international law.”
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said it should not be a surprise that MPs from Hamas and other groups were detained, since membership of a terrorist organization fighting Israel would “constitute a violation.”
As well as the detention of parliamentarians in the occupied West Bank, Israel has taken steps against Arab-Israeli members of its own parliament, the Knesset.
Around a fifth of Israel’s 8 million people are Arab-Israeli – Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship – although they have only 12 of the 120 seats in parliament.
Three of those Arab-Israeli MPs are under investigation for having visited Qatar this week, a trip the Knesset’s ethics committee said was not authorized. Qatar is a significant ally of Hamas, the group fighting Israel in Gaza.
Bassel Ghattas, a member of the left-wing Balad party, said he had travelled to Qatar to appear on al-Jazeera TV and carry out other media interviews. He accused Israel of being intolerant of criticism.
“Whether inside Israel or in the occupied territories, [they] cannot tolerate the presence of Arab parliamentarians being active and critical,” he told Reuters.
Haneen Zoabi, another Balad MP, was banned last month from speaking in the Knesset for six months after she said the Palestinians accused of abducting and killing three Israeli teenagers in June were not terrorists.
While she can still vote, the ban is the harshest ever imposed on a Knesset member, officials say.
Israeli police this week recommended that Zoabi be charged with incitement to violence and insulting public workers, after she accused Arab-Israeli policemen of being collaborators for arresting citizens protesting against the Gaza war.