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 Letter from Israel
 Darlene Wallach, USA
 June 14, 2002
 
Hi all,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am doing great.

I'm in the process of writing about Balata Camp where I was illegally detained by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) soldiers.

I'll update you about my case also. The three of us fighting deportation are all out on bail, which is unprecedented here in Israel. The judge is incredible. She wants to see the facts, all the facts before she makes a ruling on our case.

Josie Sandercock from England, Makoto Hibino from Japan and I are fighting deportation from Israel after being illegally detained by the IOF, transported to the police in Ariel, an illegal settlement in the West Bank and then arrested by the Minister of the Interior at Ben Gurion, next to the airport.

I will go into more complete details after our case has been decided.

I along with seven other internationals from Australia, Denmark, England, Iceland, Japan, Jordan, and the USA were detained on Saturday, June 1st and arrested on Sunday, June 2nd. When we were arrested I told Josie and Valerie I was going on a hunger strike to protest being illegally arrested. Josie decided to join me on the hunger strike and we announced it the men in another compartment in the van in which we were being transported.

There were two other women besides myself:
Josie Sandercock—England
Valerie Courreges—French citizen living in USA—deported Sun 9 Jun

There were five men: Hrafnkell Brynjarsson—Iceland—deported Sat 8 Jun
Makoto Hibino—Japan
Mashhour Abu-Eid—Jordan—returned to Jordan
Mikael Nielsen—Denmark—deported Sat 8 Jun
William (Liam) Barry—Australia—deported Sat 8 Jun

Josie, Makoto, and I went to court on Sunday, June 9th. It was such a wonderful surprise to walk into court—the courtroom is very small—and see it packed with supporters. People I did not know were their to support us. After spending eight days in prison (nine days counting detention) it felt so great to have such support!

The judge Shidlovski-Or (sp?) chewed out our lawyers for not bringing translators telling them it is their responsibility since the court does not know what language the defendants speak. Our attorney Mahmoud spoke and presented our defense. The prosecution was not ready and the judge chewed him out for not having charges as to why we are to be deported. The judge told the prosecution that she could not send us back to jail for two days without charges for the next court date. She therefore set bail for the three of us which is unprecedented in Israel. This is the first time bail has been set on a deportation case.

Josie and I tried to take our visa cards with us when we left prison for court on Sunday in case we could get bail. We were not allowed to take money nor visas nor passports—in Israel you need your passport to get cash from a bank with your visa card. We should have had our lawyer fill out a form telling the prison to send our passports and visa cards with us to the court.

By the time we found out we could get bail the banks in Israel were closed. Josie arranged with her family to wire the money first thing Monday morning. THANK YOU! LAW came up with the cash Sunday night but it was too late to pay the court. The money was sent first thing Monday morning but it took many hours and Josie and I were processed out of prison starting at 15:30 Monday afternoon. It took over an hour and each person seemed determined to drag out the time it took for their particular step.

Josie and I had been returned to Neve Tirtzah, the women's prison in Ramle Sunday after court. We did not know that Makoto had been kept in Jerusalem. The agreement among the three of us was to meet up after our release in front of the Ramle prison complex to take a taxi to Jerusalem.

Josie and I went to two of the men's prisons looking for Makoto. The second prison was where Makoto had been held. When I asked if he had been released I was told they did not think he was being released. I looked for someone with a cell phone to call one of our lawyers. Mahmoud Jabareen told me he couldn't get through on the phone. I went back to the men's prison and someone called over to me to tell me Makoto had not been returned to the prison on Sunday, the court had released him and they did not know where Makoto was. I thought this was very strange. The prison still had all of the things they had taken from him—cash, camera, computer, etc. We called both our lawyers and found out Makoto had remained in Jerusalem and was already at the Faisel Youth Hostel.

Josie and I took a taxi to the Arab quarter - the Damascus Gate. It was pretty funny actually. When we got in the cab we said how much to Jerusalem. The driver said 150 shekel. He asked where in Jerusalem. We kept saying the old city, Damascus Gate. As we got to the outskirts of Jerusalem he asked again. I finally said Al Quds and he turned pale—that was pretty funny. He asked some taxis how to get to the Damascus Gate. One of the taxi drivers gave him directions to the Jaffa Gate. As we got closer to Al Quds, Josie saw a sign for the Damascus Gate pointing straight ahead. The driver wanted to turn right. We kept demanding he go straight. He asked a car next to us and finally followed our directions. He dropped us almost in front of the Faisel Youth Hostel. When we got out Josie gave him the 150 shekel we had negotiated in Ramle. He was upset, we think he wanted hazard pay. I do not in any way shape or form understand his fear of driving his cab into the Arab quarter—totally unfounded. (The Friday before we were arrested a large group of us had taken two cabs back from the Women in Black demonstration to the Faisel Youth Hostel. The Israeli taxi drivers REFUSED to drive into the Arab quarter. They dropped us on the road outside of the Arab quarter.)

I broke my eight day hunger strike around 19:30 Monday evening with a great tasting falafel purchased outside the Faisel Youth Hostel. The hunger strike was so effortless. I was never hungry and never felt tempted to eat.

Heesham welcomed Josie and I and told us how much he appreciated our appeal of the deportation order. He also was throwing a party for the three of us and making all kinds of delicious salads.

The hostel was packed. A group of thirty people from Japan forming an ISM [International Solidarity Movement] contingent was in the hostel also. The man who formed the Japanese ISM group read the letter Makoto Hibino had written to a Japanese Minister in Israel, telling him to stop supporting Israel. Makoto said he would translate his letter for Josie and I.

Heesham likes to cook and he had so many different delicious salads out for everyone to stuff themselves. I don't think I have seen so many different kinds of homemade salads before—even at Fresh Choice or Sweet Tomato (all you can eat salad bars in California).

Elana Wesley and her husband David drove in from Yaffo to spend the night and go to court in our support the next day. It was so great to meet them. Elana had spoken with Tom Segev a reporter from Ha'Aretz to interview us the next morning at 08:30 before court.

btw if you ever come to Al Quds, you must stay at the Faisel Youth Hostel and get to know Heesham the manager. The better I get to know him the more I love him. The Faisel Youth Hostel has a great atmosphere—Heesham is an amazing man and thanks to him the Faisel Youth Hostel is a safe, comfortable, friendly, hospitable place.

Tuesday we were due back in court at 10:00. Tom Segev started interviewing Makoto, Josie, Brian—a freelance videographer who was in Balata during and after we had been detained, and myself. I got a call from one of our lawyers at 09:20 telling me to be at the court at 09:30. Tom Segev walked with us to court. By the time we got everyone together and got to court it was around 10:00, so there was no time to meet with our attorneys, Mahmoud Jabareen and Gaby Lasky, before court.

The courtroom was packed. The two USA Embassy people who had visited me in prison arrived a little late. One of them sat in the front row next to the prosecutor—there was no where else to sit but I thought it was pretty funny and so did everyone else.

Our attorneys had arranged for two translators, and English translator for Josie and I and a Japanese translator for Makoto. It made a huge difference. We understood what utter lies and made up untruths the prosecution was saying. We wrote notes to our lawyers and let them know Brian was available to testify refuting the prosecution.

Again the prosecution did not have the charges against us as to why we are to be deported. We heard later that day that the judge had ordered the Ministry of the Interior to get the charges written up by the end of the day. We took a short break in the court session and started up again. The woman translating for us thought there was a longer break and missed the entire next session. It was okay, Gaby came over and translated the important points.

Basically the judge chewed out the prosecution again for not being ready. She told the prosecutor she is not going to do what the Ministry of the Interior wants her to do. She is going to rule on the facts. She can't rule on facts that are not there. It is her job to rule on the facts.

The judge told the attorneys the following schedule:

The defense has until Sunday to file their arguments—our and any other supporting affidavits.

The prosecution has until the following Sunday to answer to the defense arguments.

The judge will take two days to look at the facts and rule on the facts on June 25th.

The judge told us we could not go into the Occupied Territories, we could go anywhere in Israel but stay out of the Occupied Territories. We told her we are staying in East Jerusalem and she said that it was okay. She has a great sense of humor. I respect her and trust her to do a good job and not bow down to outside pressure to do the wrong thing.

Our lawyer Mahmoud told us yesterday there is no more court only paperwork. He warned us we could still get deported. He also told us to fix our tickets in case we get deported so we would be taken right to the airport as opposed to back to prison in Ramle.

The case looks very good in our favor.

You may want to have a look at the UN website for Balata Camp.

I am in great spirits. The support from Palestinians and Israelis is incredible.

Josie Sandercock has news about Balata all over England. Her mom and boss have done an incredible job of keeping Balata in the public eye. Too bad the USA is such an impossible nut to crack.

btw Brian the videographer told me his father is a lawyer. His father went to the State Department in Washington D.C. to check into our case. The State Dept. basically told him they knew nothing about the case, if they knew about the case there would be nothing they could do and if there was something they could do about the case it was unlikely they would to anything about the case.

One time while we were still in prison I had managed to call the USA Embassy about something. I had asked them to call the British Embassy about the same thing for Josie. Eve from the USA told me she did not know if she could call the British Embassy but she would check.

After court on Tuesday I asked Eve and Mikael from the USA Embassy to please find out about the Masshour the Jordanian journalist. They promised to call the Jordanian Embassy and took my cell phone. I have not yet heard from them. However Elana Wesley called to let me know Masshour is back in Jordan and is okay. Which is a great relief to me.

The Japanese Embassy has done a great job of taking care of Makoto.

The British Embassy has done some supportive things for Josie.

The USA Embassy brought me and Valerie a bag of magazines, which were very nice to have, when they visited me in prison. J

osie and Makoto have to extend their stay in order to fight the deportation. We think it is pretty funny.

Sorry for the lengthy email. I hope it is clear.

Darlene

Darlene Wallach, an American software engineer, is one of the eight International Solidarity Movement activists arrested by Israeli Defense Forces on June 2, 2002.