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British journalist returns home after being prevented from entering Israel

Alex Nunns, Red Pepper | 03.09.2004 00:52 | Anti-militarism | Culture | Repression | London

British journalist prevented from entering Israel

'I'll be back', declares Jasiewicz

Foreign Office Minister must make a statement, says Jasiewicz's editor

Ewa Jasiewicz, Red Pepper correspondent, has returned to Britain after being prevented from reporting from Israel and the occupied territories. She decided to abort her Israeli Supreme Court appeal against deportation three hours in to the hearing on Wednesday morning when it became apparent that the case might result in a damaging precedent being set. This would have seen a journalist forbidden from entering the occupied territories based on secret evidence, in spite of the fact that two District Court judges had already ruled that the evidence did not demonstrate that Jasiewicz was a threat to the security of Israel. Jasiewicz and her legal team were prevented from seeing the evidence of the Israeli Shin Bet intelligence agency upon which the case hinged.

Yael Berda, Jasiewicz's lawyer, said: 'Accepting such a decision from the Supreme Court would mean the secret service could stop any journalist from entering the occupied territories based on secret information that could not be contested in any way. A Supreme Court decision cannot be appealed.'

As she left her detention centre, Jasiewicz shouted 'I'll be back!'.

Jasiewicz said: 'Much as I would like to have seen the appeal through to the end, the risk of other journalists being barred from witnessing and writing on the suppressed and silenced realities of life in occupied Palestine based on Shin Bet secret 'evidence' was too great. I have made many sacrifices in the past three weeks but I will never sacrifice what I consider to be my right to move freely, write honestly and enjoy relationships with the people I meet in this process'.

Lawyers Yael Berda and Lea Zemel will make a formal request to the Israeli government to either show the secret information or allow Jasiewicz to travel to the occupied territories.

Red Pepper's editor Hilary Wainwright said: 'This marks a dangerous new departure in the attitude of the Israeli government towards freedom of speech. The Israeli courts admitted that Ewa was not a security threat. The only threat Ewa posed was to Israel's moral legitimacy. Ewa's detention was an attempt to control the way Israel is seen by the world, an attempt that backfired. But this is just the thin end of the wedge. Journalists must be allowed to report freely from Israel and the occupied territories. I call on Baroness Simons, Foreign Office Minister responsible for the Middle East, to make a statement censuring the Israeli government'.

26-year-old Jasiewicz had travelled to Israel to write a commissioned piece for Red Pepper magazine about the Israeli left. She was stopped by Israeli authorities on arrival at Tel Aviv airport on the 11th August and spent the next three weeks in detention. From the 28th August she was prevented from talking to the press after her plight had roused considerable media attention. This went against the Israeli authorities' stated case that they did not object to Jasiewicz's journalism but only feared that she may be 'manipulated' by violent groups.

Israeli authorities claim that Jasiewicz is a political activist who 'had been in contact with members of terrorist organisations'. Jasiewicz admits involvement with the International Solidarity Movement, a non-violent organisation that stages protests against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, but denies ever aiding terrorists. On 25th August Tel Aviv District Court judge Drora Pilpel concluded that Jasiewicz was not a direct threat but said that she 'might be taken advantage of because of her naivete and her ideological belief against what she calls fascism and racism'.

Jasiewicz was supported by MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbot, the British National Union of Journalists and the International Journalists' Federation. She also had the backing of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists, who said in a letter to Ariel Sharon that 'The arrest of foreign journalists and the limiting of their journalistic work causes damage to the good name of Israel'.

Available for comment:

Ewa Jasiewicz: 07749 421 576
Hillary Wainwright, Editor, Red Pepper: 0797 321 5351
John Toner, NUJ Freelance branch: 0207 843 3713
Yael Berda, Jasiewicz's lawyer: 00 972 508 743 083

Alex Nunns, Red Pepper
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