‘Completely immoral’: UK-based professor banned from visiting family in Palestine due to activism
“I was traveling to Palestine, specifically east Jerusalem, with my wife and son. We arrived in Tel Aviv last Friday afternoon. Within an hour, I’d been interrogated. My wife and son were allowed to go through, but I was told that I’d be denied entry on the basis of my support of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement, and because I’m a member of the Palestine solidarity campaign,” Professor Kamel Hawwash told RT.
He had to wait for a flight to Brussels and then to Birmingham, where he lives.
He was denied entry based on legislation passed by Israeli authorities last month aimed at preventing “illegal immigration,” according to a document Professor Hawwash was handed.
He became only the second person to be barred from entering Israel due to the new law. Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), was the first Brit to be denied entry. The third person was the head of Chile’s Palestinian community.
The Israeli authorities see these people’s activities as anti-Israel, which Professor Hawwash contests, saying “they were pro-Palestinian and against Israeli policies, which haven’t ended the occupation, haven’t given the Palestinian citizens an Israeli quality [of life], haven’t allowed the refugees to return.”
However, another deeply human tragedy is intertwined with the law, Professor Hawwash told RT.
“Until Israel decides it will allow me in, I won’t be able to see my relatives: I have two uncles who are in their seventies; my mother-in-law is in her seventies, and I won’t be able to see them, perhaps, before they die.
“When my wife found out that I wouldn’t be allowed in, she broke down, phoned her mother and told her what had happened, and my mother-in-law said, ‘That means I won’t see Kamel before I die.’ So that’s the tragedy of what has happened,” he said.
What the Israeli authorities are doing is “completely immoral” and “unacceptable,” but “that is the nature of the Israeli state,” Professor Hawwash told RT.
“I have never taken part or promoted violence at all. Am I a critic of Israel? Absolutely. But really, I’m not guilty – it’s Israel that’s guilty of crimes against the Palestinian people,” the Professor concluded.
The Professor’s detention and deportation has triggered scathing response from officials and activists.
In particular, Richard Burden, a Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, where Hawwash lives, said it was “utterly shocking” that the professor had been denied entry.
“Following the Knesset’s decision to pass the new entry restrictions, I had already been in touch with the government and the Israeli Embassy over how this ban would affect people living in Britain,” the MP said, as cited by the Independent.
“My constituent Kamel Hawwash is being denied entry not only to Israel, but to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and access to his family – it is utterly shocking that now he may never see them again.
“The relaxed attitude our ministers are showing to Israel’s actions is scandalous. Human rights defenders in Israel have rightly spoken out against this new law preventing peaceful campaigners from visiting their country.
“It is time for British ministers to speak out too,” he said.
Ben Jamal, director of the PSC, said that Israel is using the law to “ban foreign human rights activists,” as the BDS movement “peacefully pressures Israel to comply with international law and cease human rights violations,” as cited by the Independent.
So, according to Israel, “human rights activism is a security threat. Fundamental democratic norms and freedoms don’t matter,” Jamal added.