Activists return from Israeli detention

14 July 2011

Pippa Bartolotti (deputy leader of the Wales Green Party) and Anne Gray (London Green Party) were part of a 40-person delegation, on their way to the Al-Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Society, in Bethleham. The group had been invited by 14 Palestinian civil sector organisations, had letters to prove that, and had a code of conduct as a group not to demonstrate.

Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Bartolotti was the only one in her forty-strong delegation let through to the airport. Then, she received a text from fellow traveller Joyce Giblin, saying, "help, Pippa, we're being attacked."

40 people had been detained, in a small room, with a fracas ensuing after burly men (suspected of being members of the Israel Army) pulled an Arab man out of their group, to take him away.

Bartolotti, holding up her text on her phone to assembled TV crews, made a decision to re-enter the airport, banged the door back into the customs area with her suitcase, and had the door opened to be confronted by 20 security guards.

One grabbed for her mobile phone, without asking, and the TV crews were asked to go away (which they passively did).

Bartolotti was then attacked by 3 men and 1 woman, and despite not resisting her arrest, was held face-down on the ground, handcuffed and detained for an hour.

She was then put into a paddy-wagon, held there for 90 min, was told she was being taken to a hotel, and then driven to a prison. There, Barlotti was reunited with the rest of her group.

Bartolotti said, "After five days, I was deported. I was never charged with any offence. I was not offered a phone call, and I was never given documentation of her detention. I was asked to sign some paperwork in Hebrew, but I refused.

"This weekend, I will meet with my MP, Paul Flynn (Labour), to whom I will pose a number of questions:

- Why was the UK consulate so subservient to Israeli authorities (the consulate, in my view, only ensured that we were being fed, and why did they let our detention last 5 days?)

- Why were some activists in the 40-person delegation interrogated when trying to depart London Luton airport, by personnel presumed to be members of the UK security services?
- If Israel has trade agreements with the EU, and participates in Eurovision and UEFA, why aren't EU citizens travelling to Israel being treated in accordance with EU human rights expectations?
- Why was my passport retained until I was back on UK soil?
- Why was I denied a phone call whilst I was in Israel?
- Why was I assaulted by Israeli airport officials despite not resisting arrest?"


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