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How did Israel’s Shabak make Majd Kayyal disappear?

On Saturday, April 12, “Adalah” – the most respected Human Rights NGO in Haifa – published “breaking news” about the detention of political and media activist, journalist Majd Kayyal, who happened to be also the editor of Adalah’s internet site. Majd was arrested at a border crossing from Jordan called “Sheikh Hussein” on the Jordan River, immediately on his arrival to the Israeli checkpoint. He was on his way back from Beirut, where he participated in a public conference held on the occasion of 40 years of the newspaper “Al-Safir”, in which he regularly publishes articles.

Adalah reported that its lawyer tried to meet Majd in detention, but the police didn’t allow this, claiming that there is an order prohibiting Majd from meeting lawyers. Adalah further noted in its statement that its lawyers will represent Majd on the next day, Sunday, 13.4, in hearings of the police request to remand the detention.

Adalah’s short message about Majd’s detention ends with an optimistic note promising further details…

According to foreign sources…

Since the initial announcement of Majd’s detention, Adalah didn’t publish any further details.

Instead, we read on their site general discussions concerning the law that forbids Israeli citizens from visiting “enemy countries” and the law that allows the authorities to prevent a detainee meeting his lawyers. No names, no details, no Majd. Yesterday he was detained and today he disappeared, as if he never existed.

You could think that Majd was released… After all, hundreds of people are arrested every day for little or no reason by the Israeli police and most of them are released without anyone writing a word.

Searching the net for Majd Kayyal in Hebrew brings very little fresh news. A site called “KafeHafukh” (White Coffee) reported (Tuesday 15.4) that in the routine briefing at the US State Department, the speaker Ms. Psaki expressed concern about reports on the arrest of journalist Majd Kayyal. She added: “We have seen the reports… that he’s being held incommunicado detention, but we have not been able to confirm these reports. We’re continuing to seek more information”.

If the State Department can’t determine the facts despite their “concern” – how would we discover what happened to Majd?

The couple of magic buttons leads us to search in English for “Majd Kayyal” and we can easily find Ali Abunimah’s report in “Electronic Intifada”. It says that the Haifa Court extended Majd’s detention from Sunday, 13.4, until next Tuesday, 22.4. Electronic Intifada even publishes a protocol of the court’s hearing in Hebrew and English. From this protocol we learn that the court prevented any publication about the proceedings against Majd and that Majd is still prevented from meeting his lawyers.

Another reliable source, journalist Richard Silverstein in his site “Tikun Olam”, also publishes details about Majd’s detention and a photograph of the police’s request for GAG order.

We also learn that the judge who extended the detention and ordered the “disappearance” of Majd is Zayed Falah, a former military prosecutor.

About Majd

To be honest with my readers, I must clarify that I know personally Majd Kayyal as a neighbor and a family friend ever since he came to this world some 23 years ago…

He is the son of prominent proud Palestinians activists from Haifa.

The Kayyal family was displaced from their ancestors’ village of Birwa when it was occupied and destroyed in 1948. Birwa is well known as the birthplace of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. On its ruins was established the Zionist settlement of “Akhihud”, while the original inhabitants are forbidden from returning to their lands.

Majd’s cousin, Asil ‘Asli, was killed by the Israeli police in the second Intifada demonstrations in October 2000 in the Galilee village of Arabeh. He was one of the 13 Arab demonstrators murdered in the territories occupied by Israel since 1948 at the first days of the Intifada. Their killing symbolizes for many the unity of fate of the Palestinians in their struggle against Zionist occupation and apartheid.

Majd grew into political activity and we often met in many demonstrations: On Land Day, in the days commemorating the events of October 2000, in protests against the demolition of homes and land confiscation, in solidarity activities with Palestinian prisoners.

In the commemoration of the Nakba on May 15, 2011, we were detained together in a demonstration in Bir’am forest, just in front of the village of Maroun Ar-Ras on the other side of the Lebanese border, where a peaceful “March of Return” of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon met with murderous fire of the Israeli army.

Majd was arrested in November 2011 with the crew of the ship “Tahrir”, which was on its way to Gaza with humanitarian supplies as part of the campaign to break the siege.

Majd is an example of the new generation of young Palestinian activists, sharing his time between Internet activities on more traditional ones in the streets. He finds time for creative writing and journalism, the struggle for human rights and the struggle for national and social liberation.

He was among the activists who organized the opposition to the “Prawer plan” for ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Bedouin from the Naqab (Negev) and the destruction of dozens of villages. When news came of the cancellation of that plan (at least temporarily) I saw him full of happiness and satisfaction.

No wonder the police and Shabak (GSS) are looking for an opportunity to shut up Majd. His mother, Suhair Badarne, told us that in one recent “interview” with the Shabak in Haifa the interrogator warned her they were planning to frame Majd and have him imprisoned for a long period.

The Forces of Darkness

The evil forces prefer to operate in the dark. Majd is held now, as far as we know, in the damp and dark cellars of the “GSS Division” at the Jalameh detention center (“Kishon”), isolated from the outside world. The steamroller of repressive mechanisms is applied upon him in order to force him to confess of crimes he did not commit.

It’s the only reasonable explanation for preventing him from meeting his lawyers, for the prevention of even eye contact with his family during the remand proceedings, for the sweeping publication ban on details of the proceedings against him (all according to foreign sources, of course).

If the investigation was about the offense of entering an “enemy country” – it could be held in the open and wouldn’t even require detention, as Majd traveled openly to Lebanon to attend a public event. He also reported himself on his experiences in Beirut, among other places in a post (in Arabic, of course) on “Jadaliyya”.

Many Israeli journalists visited all “enemy countries” and reported their trips without being arrested or punished. If Majd Kayyal is detained and persecuted because of his trip to Lebanon – the problem is not of Lebanon being an “enemy country” but the attitude of the State of Israel regarding all the Palestinian people in the country as enemies.

The total blackout imposed on Majd would not be possible were it not for the indifference, consent and naturalness with which Israeli public opinion accepts the denial of basic human rights of any Arab, just for being an Arab. A journalist, a human rights activist, a political activist is detained for a prolonged period while GAG is imposed and he is denied meeting his lawyers. These are draconian measures that make mock of the thin veneer of proclaimed democracy.

The Forces of Light

A group of Anarchists named “Unity” called for a demonstration on Wednesday (16.4) morning in front of the offices of “Haaretz” newspaper in Tel Aviv to protest the non-publication of the affair and attract media attention to it. They planned to shift the vigil later in front of police and Shabak offices nearby, to demand the immediate release of Majd and cessation of political persecution against him and against the Palestinians in general.

Majd’s friends are planning a demonstration on Thursday, 17.4, at 19:30, in “Prisoner’s Square”, Carmel Avenue (Ben Gurion) near the Haddad hotel in the German Colony in Haifa. Another demonstration is planned outside the courthouse in case the police will apply for remand on Tuesday (22.4) morning.

Public struggle can at least remove the veil of secrecy over human rights violations against Majd Kayyal. Help us in this struggle.

This post was originally published in Hebrew.

Hot News

(Wednesday 16.4, 18:00) Under the pressure of protest and publications here and abroad, the police informed Adalah that the GAG order over Majd’s detention will be removed tomorrow (Thursday, 17.4) at 12:00.

You may freely write and demonstrate about the case, demand Majd’s release and protest the fact that he is prevented from meeting his lawyers!

Good News

(Thursday 17.4, morning) The public pressure helped – Thanks to all of you who took part in lifting the veil of darkness by protesting and publishing! This night Adalah lawyers were at last allowed to meet Majd Kayyal.

Now we demand Majd’s immediate release. See you in the demo today at 19:30 in the German Colony, Haifa.

Even Better News

(Thursday 17.4, 17:30) Majd was released from the Jelemeh detention center and is now under house detention…

Thanks again to everybody that published and protested!

There was no legal justification for Majd’s detention in the first place – and it couldn’t stand even 5 hours of public scrutiny.