Israel issues travel ban against Amnesty campaigner from West Bank
Israel has issued a travel ban against a Palestinian campaigner for Amnesty International amid a growing Israeli crackdown on human rights groups inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On 26 October, Israeli authorities stopped Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty's campaigner on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), from leaving the West Bank to attend a relative's funeral in Jordan.
Zeyad was forced to wait at the Allenby Bridge on the Israeli border with Jordan for four hours before being told he was banned from travelling abroad by Israeli intelligence for "security reasons", Amnesty said in a press release on Thursday.
In September, he was denied a humanitarian permit to accompany his mother to Jerusalem for cancer treatment also on the grounds of "security reasons" which were not disclosed to him at the time.
Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty International, condemned the travel ban and described Israeli authorities' claim to have security reasons for banning Zeyad as "totally absurd".
"Their failure to provide any details to justify the ban reveals its true intent. This is a sinister move imposed as punishment for his work defending human rights of Palestinians,” Naidoo said in a statement.
“As well as violating Laith’s rights to freedom of movement and association, this travel ban further illustrates the Israeli authorities’ chilling resolve to silence human rights organisations and activists who are critical of the government. It also highlights the cruel and inhuman nature of their policies.”
Since he started working with Amnesty International in November 2017, Zeyad had been granted three permits to enter Israel, each lasting for six months.
Crackdown on rights groups
Over the past few years, Israel has increased its crackdown against NGOs and activists working within Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Last month, Israeli forces raided the Ramallah offices of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian human rights organisation, and took five laptops and memory cards and searched through belongings, the organisation said.
Last year, Israel revoked the work permit of Human Rights Watch's Israel-Palestine director and US citizen Omar Shakir, accusing him of supporting the Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sancitons (BDS) movement. He is currently appealing a deportation order.
Israel has also issued a series of travel bans against prominent pro-Palestine activists including Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS movement, and Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian rights organisation Al-Haq.