Jerusalem24 – Israeli authorities deported at 6 AM on Sunday Jerusalem-born, Palestinian French lawyer and human rights defender Salah Hammouri.
37-year-old Hammouri has been arbitrarily detained by Israel without charge or trial since March 2022, and had been fighting a pending deportation order enabled under Israeli law by the revocation of his Jerusalem residency for “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel”.
When we spoke two weeks ago to Milena Ansari, International Advocacy Officer at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Hammouri’s deportation had been stayed on 4 December and his legal team were informed it could not take place until 1 January at the earliest.
So what happened in the run-up to yesterday’s shock announcement by the Israeli government that it had set Hammouri on a flight to France in the early hours of the morning?
Ansari tells Jerusalem24 that Hammouri’s family was notified on Thursday by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the scheduled deportation. The Ministry were themselves notified by their Israeli counterparts.
Hammouri himself wasn’t notified until Saturday, and his legal team received no notice at all.
“We know for sure he was put on the flight at 6 AM,” says Ansari, “on an El Al plane – a national [Israeli] plane, and this was intentional: Addameer talked to many airlines and told them they’d be complicit in a crime if they carried out the flight.”
The timing was also deliberate, according to Ansari: due to the lack of notice, phone calls to France to try and elicit some last-minute pressure on Israeli authorities were thwarted as everyone Addameer attempted to contact was either on leave or couldn’t be reached due to the beginning of the holiday season in France – “and of course there’s the World Cup” the same day.
“When everyone is living life at the fullest, Palestinians have their basic rights taken away,” laments Ansari.
Ansari emphasizes that there were “no legal procedures” left to engage in. “His legal counsel clearly said they exhausted all legal procedures prior to deportation.”
In a press release issued by the Israeli government on Sunday morning, in which Hammouri is described as a “former resident of Jerusalem”, outgoing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked boasts that “it is a tremendous achievement that just before the end of my term I was able to bring about his deportation with the tools at my disposal, and promote the fight against terrorism.”
The action was “orchestrated” by Shaked’s Ministry, says Ansari, when she decided to refuse the arguments presented by Hammouri’s legal team at a court hearing on 6 December, claiming instead that there was “no reason” to extend his detention and that deportation was preferable.
“So we believe this is what changed, or what made the deportation more imminent.”
As far as Shaked herself, “She took glory in this decision, this attack of deportation,” Ansari says.
And Ansari believes there is more to come. With the latest round of Israeli general elections ushering in even more right-wing extremists, “we see that they glorify how right-wing they are with oppression and domination to get more power in the new government.”
“I hope this is a clear message to the international community, that this is the State of Israel: […] that their Interior Minister described the deportation of a civilian from his homeland that is occupied as an ‘achievement’.”
“Definitely not over”
In addition to Hammouri’s French wife Elsa, whom he had not seen in years, a French delegation met the new exile at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris where he landed.
Hammouri addressed the crowd and media to say he would “lead the fight from here now, and not let Palestine go.”
“He’s a strong human rights defender, and a resilient one,” says Ansari. “His fight is definitely not over. There are millions of exiles and refugees all over the world, and Salah only joined them.”
As far as his fight is concerned, Hammouri has submitted a case before the International Criminal Court, and also has a case pending in France regarding the hacking of his phone by the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware.
“It’s okay to feel sad,” says Ansari, “but it’s really important to know our fight is not over. We are resilient Palestinians and our fight will continue.”
And Ansari emphasizes that the onus is indeed on the Palestinians to do the fighting.
“A simple World Cup game can get them [the French] to prioritize that over standing for justice and accountability. So it’s really on Palestinians now to be loud and push for accountability.”
Will Salah be back?
Ansari is hesitant. “It’s a tough question.”
“We know how brutal this occupation is, embedded in laws and practices that make it difficult to challenge.”
“But we don’t take motivation from the Israelis, we take it from ourselves.”
Listen to the full interview on Wake Up Palestine, and watch our earlier interview with Milena below to find out how Hammouri’s case may have have repercussions for all Palestinian Jerusalemites.