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Israeli forces detain BDS movement leader in West Bank raid

Mahmoud Nawajaa, 33, is the general coordinator of the Palestinian National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Committee
Mahmoud Nawajaa was detained in the middle of the night in the small West Bank village of Abu Qash (Supplied)

Israeli forces detained a prominent Palestinian activist for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the early hours of Thursday morning, relatives told Middle East Eye.

General coordinator of the Palestinian National BDS Committee (BNC) Mahmoud Nawajaa, 33, was arrested in his home in the occupied West Bank village of Abu Qash near Ramallah at around 3am, his wife Ruba Alayan said. 

“Around 50 soldiers were there,” she said. “They broke the doors and the locks, and they covered Mahmoud’s eyes, handcuffed him, and also took his computer and some personal effects.”

Alayan added that the couple’s three young children witnessed the arrest.

“They woke up and they were terrified. We were all surprised by what happened, there was no reason for it and none of us expected it,” she said.

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The raid came just a day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Israeli forces reportedly detained at least 17 other Palestinians on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Nawajaa shared a photo of himself and his children the day before he was detained (Social media)
Nawajaa shared a photo of himself and his children the day before he was detained (Social media)

According to Jamal Jumaa, another leading member of the BNC, Nawajaa’s whereabouts remained unknown.

“Until now we have no idea where Mahmoud was taken,” he told MEE on Thursday morning. 

Jumaa said his colleague’s arrest was part of a broader Israeli crackdown on the Palestinian struggle against the occupation, whether violent or non-violent.

“They are attacking any form of resistance movement in Palestine, including the BDS movement,” he said.

Established in 2005, the BDS movement seeks to apply financial pressure on Israel to address its violation of Palestinians' rights, a tactic the Israeli government has actively sought to discredit.

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Over the years, Israeli authorities have increased efforts to fight BDS, passing a number of laws seeking to criminalise calls for a boycott of Israel or Israeli companies.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to unveil a plan to annex large swathes of the West Bank - a move that would be illegal under international law. While details of the planned annexation have yet to be revealed, illegal Israeli settlements have continued unabated, as well as other repressive measures by Israeli forces. 

With Netanyahu currently on trial for corruption, and staunch Israel supporter US President Donald Trump facing a difficult election in November, some hypothesise that the Israeli government has been scaling up its push to seize more land in the occupied Palestinian territory while it can.

“In the past few days, they have arrested many people, demolished Bedouin dwellings and expanded settlements,” Jumaa said “There has been a large-scale attack on the Palestinian people in general these days.”

BDS movement cofounder Omar Barghouti issued a statement on Thursday calling for Nawajaa's release.

"Mahmoud is a leading Palestinian human rights defender who is highly regarded in Palestine and around the world for his tireless and passionate advocacy of Palestinian rights. As a young civil society leader, Mahmoud is a role model for Palestinians, young and old, and an inspiration to advocates of Palestinian rights everywhere," Barghouti wrote.

"It is high time for states not just to defend Palestinian and other human rights defenders, like Mahmoud, but also to impose lawful, targeted sanctions to end Israel’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and entire regime of oppression of the Indigenous Palestinians."

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