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Israel Frees Jailed Local Activist

Friday January 09, 2004

A 44-year old Berkeley peace activist detained and jailed in the Occupied West Bank for participating in a New Year Eve’s protest over the construction of Israel’s new “security fence” was freed on bail Thursday morning after nine days in a Ministry of the Interior detention center in Khadera, north of Tel Aviv. 

Kate Raphael, a member of the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS), a group formed to monitor Human Rights abuses in the area, was arrested as she filmed a protest in the West Bank town of Budrus, an event attended by an estimated 400-500 Israeli, Palestinian and International peace activists. 

After paying the 7,000 shekel bail fine (about $1,700) and spending at least one more night in jail than originally expected, Raphael now faces a pending deportation order which would force her to leave the country by Jan. 17. 

Fellow activists in the region along with Raphael’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, say Raphael will fight the deportation and hopes to stay until Feb. 8, her originally planned departure date. If she beats the deportation order, she said she also plans to travel to Iraq for several weeks. 

If deported, she’ll be barred from re-entering Israel for 10 years, and while on bail she can’t return to the West Bank. 

“I’m really gratified to not be in prison, but I’m still really concerned about what is going on in Budrus,” said Raphael over the phone from a cafe in Tel-Aviv on the night of her release. 

Raphael was arrested at one of a string of protests in Budrus, which lies along the 400 mile-long “fence” dubbed “the apartheid wall” by activists outraged that the barrier effectively annexes large chunks of Palestinian land. 

Erected from what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called security concerns, the wall juts far off the course of Palestine’s 1967 border, or Green Line, encompassing enclaves of Jewish West Bank settlements while leaving towns such as Budrus that lie near the settlements largely cut off from basic services and denied access to much of their farmland. 

Angie Zeltzer, a British IWPS member, said one of the organization’s key functions is to protect local Palestinians from violence by the surrounding Jewish settlers—whose population she says now equals that of the Palestinians. 

Raphael was arrested on the day Israeli police fired on protestors with rubber bullets and tear gas as the protestors tried to stop bulldozers from tearing out Palestinian olive groves along the proposed route of the wall. 

Arrested along with her were four Israelis and three other internationals, including Swedish parliamentarian Gustav Fridolin, who agreed to leave the country. According to Zeltzer, eight to 10 Palestinians were also injured by Israeli police. 

The Israeli activists have now been released and the other internationals have said they intend to fight deportation. 

Another American peace activist in the West Bank with IWPS is Dunya, who wouldn’t give her last name because she said she fears reprisal from the Israeli government. Dunya said Raphael’s hadn’t been able to communicate with her lawyer as often as she needed during her incarceration. IWPS members approached shared their concerns with the American Consulate, but Dunya said that although Counsular officials did visit Raphael, they often “only paid lip service” to her concerns. 

Dunya said the State Attorney’s office in Israel and the Ministry of the Interior have been purposely vague and uncooperative throughout. 

Raphael said she also saw gross human rights violations while in jail. She said when Israeli officials routinely mistreated other women prisoners, mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe found without passports who were domestic and sex workers trying to work off the cost of their ticket to Israel.  

A spokesperson for the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco refused to comment either on the detention or on the protest that took place outside their office Tuesday, attended by around 100 of Raphael’s supporters, including Women in Black and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT). 

Critics of the detention and deportation of international peace observers say Israel’s actions constitute obvious signs of weakness within their position. 

“It’s of great concern that Israel doesn’t allow observers into Palestinian territory,” said Dunya. “I would hope that one would ask what they have to hide.” 

Barbara Lubin, long-time activist, director of the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance here in Berkeley and a friend of Raphael’s agrees. “It’s really disgusting that Kate or anyone is thrown out because they trying to support the Palestinians who are suffering under this occupation,” she said. “I find it outrageous. But it’s still not as disgusting as their behavior towards the Palestinians.”