Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Guilty of the crime of pushing for Palestinian unity

26 November 2012

Mahmoud Ramahi

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 26 Nov 2012

Israel has arrested Hamas activists in the West Bank, among them Mahmoud Ramahi, a lawmaker who said week that the Palestinian reconciliation process in which he is involved would allow President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations with Israel

On Thursday [22 Nov 2012] morning Israeli military correspondents reported that during the night, 55 Palestinians had been detained in the West Bank, including Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. A simple check revealed that not a single member of Hamas’ Reform and Change party was detained at night. The non-detainees didn’t know how to interpret the early announcement of their detention: a warning, bureaucratic confusion, or a need to tell the Israelis that once again, the IDF and Shin Bet security service are tirelessly working to prevent … what?

Dr. Mahmoud Ramahi, secretary of the Legislative Council and one of the prominent Hamas political activists on the West Bank, worked as usual on Thursday, coming and going in the operating rooms where he works as an anesthesiologist. A week ago on Saturday, in a conversation with Haaretz, he said all participants in Hamas demonstrations in the West Bank who “expressed their wrath at the attack on Gaza” knew they were risking an Israeli retaliatory action: detention. Ramahi and over 20 of his friends had already been arrested and tried for the crime of participating in (and winning ) the elections in 2006, which the United States pressured Israel and the Palestinian Authority to hold as part of its democracy offensive in the Middle East.

Ramahi was released after three years, then detained once again and held in administrative detention for 20 months – without a trial, without an indictment, without the right to defend himself. He told Haaretz he had asked the military judges to tell him what was found in the “classified material” that led to his detention. “Tell me so that at least I’ll know what’s forbidden,” he said, and didn’t receive a reply.

On July 5 of this year Ramahi was released. Less than five months later, at about 2 A.M. on Friday [23 Nov 2012] morning, the military jeeps once again surrounded his home in El Bireh. His wife Amani opened the door to the soldiers (with their little son Omar at her side ) and saw about 20 masked soldiers. She believes many others remained downstairs. The soldiers ordered her to call her husband. “They didn’t enter the house, didn’t carry out a search, everything was very short, maybe five minutes,” she said Saturday. Ramahi went out to the balcony at the entrance. She brought the soldiers his ID card, his shoes and his jacket. And once again she saw him led downstairs, disappearing into the darkness with a roar of engines. That night, four other Hamas members of the Legislative Council were also arrested in the West Bank.

A few hours later, on Friday morning, Ramahi contacted his wife from Ofer Prison. “The captain (the Shin Bet officer ) allowed him to speak to me,” said Amani Ramahi. “I asked him whether they had told him why he was detained, or whether they had informed him that it was an administrative detention, and he said they hadn’t. Last time they told him immediately that he was an administrative detainee. This time they didn’t say anything, as though they don’t know what to do with him, as though it’s a political decision” – in other words, as though it’s not in the hands of the army or Shin Bet.

Like many other close relatives of Palestinian prisoners, Amani Ramahi was not permitted to visit her imprisoned husband regularly. During the three years of his imprisonment she visited him only four times, and in the 20 months of administrative detention only twice. Now she is afraid she will once again be prevented from seeing him for a long time.

During the past week Ramahi was busy talking with Fatah members to promote the intra-Palestinian reconciliation and plan joint activities (on the committee headed by Jibril Rajoub, an appointee of PA President Mahmoud Abbas ). The war brought the two sides closer, strengthening the voices demanding unity, which was one of the achievements of the Palestinian side, Ramahi had said on the fourth day of the fighting (Haaretz, November 19 ). Already then he predicted that the failure of morale would be Israel’s.

The widespread conclusion in Ramallah is that the detention of the Hamas political activists reflects Israel’s frustration at its failure in Gaza, and is also an attempt to prevent the Palestinian reconciliation process, in which Ramahi is playing an important role.

The conversation with him was long, there wasn’t space in the newspaper for all of it. I had planned to publish in today’s column the parts that deal with what will happen after the cease fire. And now comes his new detention, this nonchalant routine that arouses no reaction.

“Israel and the United States are preventing the PA from reaching reconciliation with Hamas. It’s in Israel’s interest not to prevent this reconciliation,” he told me, among other things that I postponed to this column. “But the Israelis don’t listen to us. They come to talk to us once we are in prison, they send us people from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last time I refused, I said that I don’t negotiate when I’m under detention. When I get out we’ll talk, you and I.”

Why block reconciliation?

As I’ve already written, Ramahi said that the intention is not to bypass the PA and the PLO. On the contrary, reconciliation means that Hamas will join the PLO and establish a national unity government. The United States, Europe and Israel should provide guarantees to that unity government, so that it can continue to function. “Any Palestinian unity government is only in Israel’s interest, to Israel’s benefit,” he said.

At the next stage, Ramahi said: “We will rehabilitate Gaza and the West Bank and the society that is divided due to the political rift. We know that these changes are possible because change is taking place in the world. We think that some day Israel will accept the two-state solution, otherwise it won’t continue to exist. If there’s a national unity government we’ll support Abu Mazen (Abbas ) in his policy of obtaining the rights of that state. Strengthened, Abbas will negotiate with Israel about implementing the UN resolutions. That’s preferable to what exists now. Hamas hasn’t said that it wants a two-state solution, but it didn’t object. When [Hamas' founder] Sheikh Yassin said in 1999 that a Palestinian state would be established within the 1967 borders, he in effect said that there’s a second state within the 1948 borders. (It’s often asked ) whether there be ties between the two states. We won’t discuss ties now. When the state is established, it will discuss whether there will be ties with Israel, Jordan.”

And what about the settlements? “Israel even ignores the fact that all the 1967 territories are occupied. First let it recognize their status as occupied territory, and then we’ll negotiate about the settlements.”

We had also discussed – how not to? – the fact that Hamas is talking only about a hudna (truce ) for a limited time, not about peace.

“The coming generations will decide what’s next,” he said, giving the routine answer. Last Thursday I told him that the hudna solution requires further explanation and clarification and another meeting. With a half-smile he said, “First we’ll see whether or not they arrest me.”

  • Tweet

Please support the IOA so that we can continue covering the Israeli Occupation. To help, please CLICK HERE

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

pabelmont 26 November 2012 at 11:22 AM

He will not negotiate while detained. Good. Important. (By this rule, perhaps no Gazan should negotiate.) But, if released, for whom (other than himself) is he a negotiator?


Hilary Rost 26 November 2012 at 7:38 AM

Unfortunately as a pensioner I cannot contribute to your cause financially. However, having been to Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, as a Christian and being married to a Jewish Holocaust survivor I do know something about the situation – which seems far worse now than when I was there.
What I can contribute I do, by passing on your message via the media to my friends, explaining over and over again the injustice which is being done. It is not much, but like the dripping of water on a rock I hope that it makes a difference.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: