An acclaimed Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender whose deportation from his homeland last December caused shock waves across the globe is coming to Galway to deliver a talk on Tuesday evening.
Salah Hammouri was interned without trial for seven months before Israel deported him from Jerusalem, the city of his birth, in what Amnesty International described as a “war crime” and a clear breach of international law.
The son of a French mother and a Palestinian father, Hammouri was expelled to France on December 18 last. Since then, he has found that the French Government has tried to silence him by enforcing the banning or cancellation of speaking events involving Hammouri in his adopted country.
The Galway talk at Richardson’s, Eyre Square, on Tuesday, April 25, is Hammouri’s final engagement on a whistle-stop tour of Ireland which has included public meetings in Dublin, Navan, Omagh, Belfast, and Ennis over the course of a week.
Hammouri is a lawyer and researcher at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, an NGO which provides support to Palestinian prisoners. Addameer is one of seven human rights organisations which were designated as “terrorist entities” by the state of Israel in October 2021.
The following August, Israeli forces raided and closed down the offices of Addameer. Hammouri was in administrative detention, being held without charge or trial, at the time. He was held without charge from March to December, when he was deported, under a system of detention which has been compared to internment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
Salah has spent nine years, about half of his adult life, in Israeli prisons. The revocation of Salah’s residency status in East Jerusalem, the city of his birth, has been described as a war crime by Amnesty International.
“The deportation of Salah Hammouri demonstrates the Israeli authorities’ utter disdain for international law, and illustrates the discriminatory laws and policies which form the heart of the apartheid system,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Salah Hammouri’s plight over the past year is one that no Jewish Israeli will ever be subjected to: he was deported and stripped of his residency status under a law which was tailor-made to enable the expulsion of Palestinians.”
A 2018 amendment to the Entry Into Israel Law gives the Israeli Minister of the Interior the power to revoke the status of “permanent residents” of Jerusalem who are considered to have “breached allegiance” to the State of Israel.
Only Palestinians are classified as permanent residents. This power is used in neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem such as Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian residents are expelled (and have their homes demolished) in order to make way for illegal Israeli settlements.
Addameer, established in 1991, supports political prisoners held in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons. The centre monitors the number of prisoners being held, offers free legal aid, and advocats for their rights at both national and international levels, as well as working to end torture and violations of human rights.
The organisation estimates there are currently 4,900 political prisoners from Palestine, including more than 1,000 administrative detainees who are being held without any charge or trial.
Israel’s declaration that Addameer is a “terrorist entity” has been rejected by the Irish Government and other governments across the European Union.
Hammouri’s life has been defined by the occupation of his country. He was first shot and jailed by Israeli forces at the age of just 16 and, at 37 years of age, had spent nine years of his life in Israeli prisons before his deportation to his mother’s native country.
The talk at Richardson’s will alllow a Galway audience to hear first-hand about the difficulties faced by a human rights lawyer in Palestine, his work on behalf of political prisoners, and the role the Israeli system plays in Israel’s system of Apartheid. It is estimated that 800,000 Palestinians have been detained by the Israeli military since the occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967.
Since his forced exile to Paris, Hammouri has found that public talks he was invited to give were cancelled or banned in the cities of Nancy and Lyon. The Israeli Embassy in Paris wrote to the Mayor of Lyon to call on the city to pull out of an event because of his involvement.
In another case in February, the organiser of a pro-Palestine event in Versailles was told by a French intelligence agent that it would be banned if Hammouri was to take part. The event was due to discuss Amnesty International’s classification of Israel as an Apartheid state in a comprehensive 2022 report and, as it happened, Hammouri was not among the guest speakers.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from deporting protected persons from the occupied territory or forcibly transferring them within the territory.
It also prohibits the occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into an occupied territory – which Israel constantly through its policy of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“Aspects of Salah Hammouri’s experience will be familiar to all Palestinians who live under Israeli control – whether it’s harassment, family separation, or the trauma of being forced from their homes. Salah Hammouri’s case is a reminder that Israel’s justice system is purpose-built to oppress and dominate Palestinians,” said Amnesty’s Diana Eltahawy.
She said that his high profile as a human rights lawyer, campaigining on behalf of political prisoners, put him at “particular risk” of being targeted by the Israeli authorities.
The talk at Richardson’s next Tuesday is being organised by the Galway Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Salah will be joined by Rania Muhareb, an Irish Research Council and Hardiman PhD scholar at the Irish Centre for Human Rights here in Galway. Rania is also originally from Palestine.
Ciaran Tierney is a digital journalist, a language planning officer, and an award-winning current affairs blogger. Find him at http://ciarantierney.com/ and on Twitter @ciarantierney