Monday, July 10, 2006

Detention Diary

Detention Diary

[During my detention, I kept a diary, herewith transcribed with some editing, adding info that I preferred not to record in case of seizure, and removing or summarizing the less interesting passages.]

Wed., June 7

I started to write something two days ago on my PDA, but it was taken away from me (see below), and I was denied the use of pen and paper until late yesterday. I can only imagine the phone calls and requests that allowed me to have my pen restored, and I thank all who made it possible. My first priority was to write an op-ed, which I completed late last night. I can therefore devote my attention to bringing you up to date since my arrival:

Mon., June 5

The plane from Amman touched down at 11:00 p.m. last night, and even before leaving the aircraft I called my local support person to announce my arrival and to suggest calling me back every hour until I left the airport to make sure everything is OK. By prior arrangement, my U.S. support person also reached me before I got to passport control, and we adopted the same procedure.

At passport control, the officer seemed to have the most trouble with my length of stay. Up to a month seems routine, as in my previous visits, but 2-3 months seemed to invite further inquiry. I told them quite honestly that I was exploring business options that might enable me to spend up to three months each year. It would have been hard to avoid saying this, because my luggage was full of the tools and supplies for my project. There's also the fact that I was born in Iran, but I've always been able to explain that on previous visits. [In retrospect, they appear to have flagged my passport number.]

This time was different, however, not just a few questions to clear things up. My policy was to always respond with the truth, but only enough information to answer the question and hopefully allow me through with minimal delay. In this case, however, the hours wore on, and they repeatedly came back with more questions, returned to their office (presumably to check the info), and then more questions.

Eventually, we collected my bags and went to a room that had high-tech x-ray and chemical sniffer devices, but mostly they checked every item in my bags individually by hand, squeezing the toothpaste and testing nearly everything for chemical residue. They found my piano tools particularly intriguing. There was also a body search, very careful but not a cavity probe, which I told them I would not permit (and they said they had no intention of doing).

Next came the "conversation" with "Dani" from the security services. In retrospect, his job was first to verify the info already gathered without revealing how much he already knew. I realized that by this time it would have been easy for him to have found my business website, the articles that I had written and ones that had been written about me, just by using a Google search engine.

The next phase appears to have been to try to tempt me into giving false information in order to make my expulsion easier. Did I know the International Solidarity Movement? Oh, yes! A wonderful group dedicated to nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and MLK. Was I a member? There's no such thing, but I consider myself quite active.

The final phase was to probe for information about the ISM, its "leadership" and other participants. We started with info available from the ISM website and public sources, but when he started to ask about other individuals, I responded that I was not comfortable with answering such questions. It was apparant at some point that "Dani" had used information supplied by Lee Kaplan, so I made sure to point out as many as possible of Lee's errors and to suggest that he is not well regarded in professional journalistic circles.

The interrogation was cordial. You know me. I try to exude charm and enthusiasm, and adverse circumstances bring this out in me even more. I feel the need to win people over, even when it's absurd to think I can. This case was no exception, but the result was a relatively friendly encounter, with the sense that whatever I do is out of the best of intentions, with caring and understanding for both Israelis and Palestinians.

There came a point when the interrogation phase clearly ended, and he apparently felt compelled to open a political discussion that was typical of so many that I have had with those who perceive Israel's actions as "preemptive defense" rather than aggressive expansion and ethnic cleansing. As expected, he concluded that I am naive and being used to serve purposes that are more sinister than I perceive. I responded that he was naive if he thought that Israel's policies would bring peace or even security, and that his loyalty to Israel and the "necessary" services that he performs for the state are in fact being used to serve purposes that are more sinister than he perceives. I invited him to come to some of our actions as a participant rather than an intelligence officer and to see how Palestinians view their own situation.
He said that he thought I was a nice person and would inform Immigration accordingly, and that the final decision would be in their hands. I said that I thought his recommendation plus ten shekels might get me a latte in some places. Perhaps I underestimated the price.

Back at Passport Control it was another two hours before Immigration announced their decision. As expected, I was denied entry, without explanation. I advised them that I intended to appeal the decision. I and my belongings were then transported to the detention facility. I was able to keep in touch via mobile phone with my contacts during this time, so they knew what was happening. No one seemed to object to me using and charging my phone.

The facility is spartan but more comfortable than most ISM apartments (sorry). If they would give out keys with the rooms, it wouldn't be half bad. They allowed me the use of my mobile phone and PDA, and in fact my entire carry-on after removing my camera. They also announced that I would be placed on a 6:00 p.m. flight to Amman, forcibly, if necessary.

A lot of you probably already know a lot of what happened next, thanks to reports from the ISM and my friends here and in the U.S. However, I can perhaps provide a few details.

First, I met with my lawyer, Gabi Lasky in the early afternoon and she tried to get an injunction to prevent my deportation after our meeting. Unfortunately, she was unable to do that in time, so I determined to delay my departure. Based on the experience of others, I decided not to bother resisting until I got to the aircraft, so as to minimize the opportunities for rough treatment. As we entered the airport, I spoke to the guard on the van with me.

"You know that I work with a nonviolent resistance group?" (He didn't.) The reason I'm telling you this is that I'm going to cause some trouble for you, and I'm sorry for the possible inconvenience or frustration, but I want to assure you that I will never use violence or try to harm you in any way.

"I plan to resist being placed on the aircraft, and will not go under my own power. You will have to carry me to put me on the plane. If you get me on the plane, I will not cooperate with the pilot and crew. I will not fasten my seatbelt, stow my table or sit in my seat. If necessary to prevent the aircraft from leaving, I will remove items from the overhead bins and take off all my clothes. However, under no circumstances will I do anything to harm the crew or passengers on the aircraft."

Why would you do this?" he asked.

"Because I want to appeal the decision of the immigration authorities."

We arrived at the aircraft and he spoke with the other security personnel and the aircraft crew. He then came back and said, "OK, you have to get out now and go to the plane."

Not wanting to risk injury while being pulled out of the van, I got out, but promptly sat on the tarmac and refused to budge. Speaking in Hebrew amongst themselves, they seemed to debate what to do with me, and eventually some of the more senior officers tried to convince me that if I was cooperative it would increase my chances of being able to return, and that in any case I could appeal my case without being present.
I told them that I was sorry for the extra work it might cause them and I knew they had their orders and a job to perform, but that I was not going to go willingly. More discussion in Hebrew, and then the driver of the van came over to pick me up by the shoulders while the guard grabbed my legs.

I allowed my body to go limp. The two were then joined by several others, each propping up some portion of my sagging body. (Not difficult to sag when you're my age.) They got me to the narrow steps of the small aircraft that shuttles to Amman, where they bogged down for lack of room for the bearers on the stairs. My left leg dropped to the steps and the procession ground to a halt.

All of this was taking place in front of presumably appalled passengers for the flight, who had at some point arrived in the shuttle bus. A little more discussion in Hebrew, then everyone stepped back and the young guard said, "Paul, go back to the van and wait there." I grabbed my carry-on, which someone had brought, and headed back to the van under my own power while they deliberated further out of earshot. Finally, the young guard came back and said, "OK, you got what you want." (Was he smiling ever so slightly?) I apologized again for the inconvenience, but added, "Do you see the power of nonviolence?" Back at the detention center I heard him describing what happened to a colleague. I don't speak Hebrew, but I heard him use the English phrase "very classy", and thanked him. All in all, it went very smoothly.

Of course, the conditions of my detention changed immediately. No more carry-on, mobile phone or PDA. Not even books, pen or paper. My medicine, razor and other necessities would be by request only, and under supervision. Back to my room, now even more spartan than before.

In the short term, the situation was fine with me. I desperately needed to sleep, having had only three hours the night before my departure from the U.S. and almost none since. I crashed on the bed, awoke for dinner and then back to bed.
Before I closed my eyes, however, the guard came by and announced that they would have to put me in a cell with another detainee because they needed my cell for a woman detainee. I gathered my meager possessions and moved next door.

My new roommate turned out to be a 67-year-old Palestinian who had lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and whose home was now in Sacramento. His family was split between his home in the U.S. and the one in Palestine, in a village near Bil'in. Despite my fatigue, we spent the next few hours swapping stories and talking politics, although I was mindful of the possibility of listening devices. Finally, shortly before midnight, I begged indulgence and went to sleep.

Tuesday, June 6

At 4:00 in the morning there was a loud banging on the door of my cell, which then opened. "Are you Paul? Come with me! You're going home!" bellowed the big man authoritatively. He took me to his office, which was that of the senior officer of the detention facility. He was either angry or doing a good job of pretending to be.

He told me that if I didn't agree to leave, I would be forcibly placed on a flight at 12:00 noon, that Jordanian police would be waiting on the flight, that they would shackle me to my seat and that they might use forms of brutality that he couldn't even predict. He was holding a video camera and viewing some previous footage that he said would illustrate what it would be like. After viewing it by himself for awhile, he changed his mind and said, "No, I'm not going to show it to you."

He then proceded to rant that his only purpose was to assure me that one way or another I would be on the 2:00 flight (didn't he just say 12:00?). Whether I agreed or disagreed, it didn't matter, because I could either make it difficult or easy for myself. He also complained that his own staff was not following orders about how to deal with me, but I had no idea what this might have been about.

Finally, he asked me if I understood what time I would be placed on the flight. I responded that I had no idea. It sounded like the whole thing had been fabricated to intimidate me, and that he couldn't even remember what time he had made up. In any case, the whole thing seemed rather superfluous even if true, since he had supposedly made up his mind about what to do and didn't need my blessing, so what was the point of waking me up in the middle of the night?

Taken back to the room, I discovered that my roommate, Mohammed, had been moved. I could only speculate that this was the reason I had been temporarily removed and that perhaps the commander's complaint about his men was that I was supposed to be deprived of all contact, even with other detainees. From my own point of view, I enjoyed being with Mohammed, but it was a trade-off against the privacy and quiet of a single room - a viewpoint apparently lost on my jailers. A bit later, Mohammed returned under guard to get an item that he had left behind, which he retrieved in total silence, having apparently been warned not to open his mouth during the procedure.

At around 11:00 a.m. I was allowed to receive a phone call from my lawyer, Gaby at the main desk. She told me that the court had finally issued the injunction against my expulsion, and had given the Interior Ministry two days to explain its action. No further action could be expected on my case until Thursday. Still deprived of my cell phone, calls came in for me at the desk. Three came in that day, to the annoyance of the shift supervisor. Little by little, a few of my possessions started to creep back in, as well, first a small book of traveler's Hebrew, then a few toiletry items.

The big one, however, was my pen, for which I probably have to thank friends and supporters calling in, Gaby Lasky and especially Eve Zuckerman of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy, which was also apparently getting a lot of calls. Toward the end of the day, they collected me from my cell and told me to get the pen from my baggage. I asked them for some paper, so they handed me a few sheets of copy paper.

That set up my agenda for the evening. I finally finished a 700-word op-ed just before midnight and hit the sack wondering how I was going to get it out. [See]

Wed., June 7

I spent the morning hand washing laundry, doing exercises and copying the rough op-ed from the night before. Not knowing what to expect, I made a couple of extra copies in fine print on small pieces of paper in case of an opportunity to smuggle it out. I also enclosed one of the copies in the small plastic bag that holds the plastic utensils for the meals and buried it in my Metamucil. Then, I squirreled away a pen and some paper in a place I defy anyone to find, as a hedge against future adversity. I also started this diary.

Given the number of calls at the main desk yesterday, I was surprised not to have any this morning. Finally, I was allowed to take a call in the afternoon from Eve Zuckerman at the Embassy. She reported that she was receiving calls from people complaining that they had called the detention center but were not being allowed to talk to me. That confirmed my suspicions, and of course they preferred to let me think that no one was calling rather than that they were not allowing me to take the calls.

Eve asked if she could convey any message from me. I said I had written a piece that I wanted to send to my friends and had been planning to ask someone to record my reading of it, for playback and transcription. Was there any way she could help with that? She seemed ready to do what she could, but her office lacked the recording equipment. She asked the detention center superviser if he would be willing to send it by fax, but he refused.

Later that afternoon, my lawyer Gaby Lasky called to check on me and told me that the Jerusalem Post had published a piece reporting that one of the reasons I was being refused entry was a piece I had written in 2002, (published later in "Peace Under Fire"), called "Sleeping in the Bed of a Suicide Bomber". I immediately wrote a reply and now found myself with two pieces for publication and no idea how to get them out.

No sooner had I completed the letter to the Jerusalem Post than the door to my cell opened and the guard told me that due to a large influx of detainees I would have to move to another shared room. It was larger, with three bunk beds instead of two. My new roommates were a Sri Lankan, a Thai and two Palestinians coming from the U.S. on U.S. passports. The Sri Lankan was a Tamil seeking (and denied) asylum, who would be faced with terrible choices upon return. Apparently, Israel is not sympathetic to asylum. The Thai was an out-of-status chef who was deported within hours, to be replaced by a third Palestinian-American. We all started swapping stories, jokes and frustrations in English and Arabic. It almost felt like Ramallah.

One of the Palestinians was a middle-aged man named Asaad from Florida. Like many others in the detention center, he was being told that he could not go to the West Bank through the airport. Israel considered him Palestinian, not American, and he would have to use the servant's entrance, i.e. Jordan. He learned that my previous roommate, Mohammed, had succeeded in getting to the West Bank, probably by posting a large bond. That would be his strategy, as well.

A young Palestinian Katrina refugee named Ayham from New Orleans had slugged an impolite Israeli security officer for pushing him at the airport. He expected to be sent back within the hour, but was given a reprieve by the intervention of a lawyer who had come for another family. (Anyone without a lawyer was pretty much out of luck.) The third Palestinian, from Seattle, decided to accept deportation back to the U.S. on an early morning flight. We all shared my insect repellant and finally went to sleep before midnight.

Thu., June 8

The man from Seattle was taken to his flight before dawn, and I settled down to copy over my letter to the Jerusalem Post. Must be something about writing that letter, because as soon as I finished it, I was immediately called to move again, this time back to "solitary confinement" in my previous room, now vacated by the group of women who had been there. On the way out, I let the copy of the letter slide off the table and onto the bed so that Asaad can smuggle it and my op-ed out if he leaves soon. We already exchanged contact information.

The guard told me that quite a few calls had been coming in for me, including journalists, but that all had been refused because my only right was to talk to my lawyer and my embassy. "All right," I said, "let me talk to my embassy."

"No you can't talk whenever you want. You really only get one call." Apparently the amount of support irritated them and they decided to get stricter. The embassy was now being told that they had no right to talk to me, although I still had the right to a visit. "So I want to ask them to visit me," I said.

"We will make the call and inform them of your wish." That was fine with me.
No news by lunch time, so I asked again. At 2:00, they allowed a call from Eve at the embassy, despite their previous statements. She reported that the Consul turned down my request for a visit, which is reserved for arrestees, not detainees. Since I have the option of allowing myself to be deported at any time, that courtesy does not extend to me. That sounds more like what I was expecting.

Back in "my" room, the women had left a pile of meal trays and four untouched small salads. That was good, because I'm eating too many carbs for my diabetes and no matter how much I ask, they don't seem to get the message about my dietary needs. They seem willing enough, but they end up bringing me salads of corn and beets instead of greens. The lower echelon guards here are all pretty OK. They're mostly polite and even sympathetic, trying to make the best of the situation. Once you start going up the chain of command, however, it seems to be a different story. We all know that when you get to the head of state you're in really nasty territory.

I started a routine of testing my blood sugar more regularly. They don't allow the equipment in the room, so this means getting permission to do it in the corridor under supervision.

I probably have less knowledge than anyone of what is happening around my case, but I know that my treatment is very different from that of all the other detainees, who have more or less the same priviledges that I did before I resisted going on the plane. The supervisors keep saying that I don't deserve special treatment, but then treat me differently anyway. I guess their main priority is to keep me away from the press and incommunicado as much as possible. My priority therefore has to be just the opposite. I have some ideas for smuggling in my phone tomorrow.

I also suspect that this is becoming a tug of war in which the bigger players are thinking in terms of winning and losing, not finding a mutually satisfactory solution. Not a good sign. Eve told me that the Interior Ministry had reported back to the court that the rejection of my visa request was based on "security reasons" and confidential information. Of course that's what we should expect. Even if the secret information is that I was observed spitting gum on the street, it is to their advantage to keep everyone guessing, including me. (If I placed the state of Israel in danger, you would think I might know where, when and how, but it's a mystery that I will probably never solve.) It's the job of the court not to fall for this nonsense, but it's rare that courts defy cops in any country.

Friday, June 9

I wonder to what extent the cells are wired. The guard dropped by this morning to ask me not to touch the grate outside the window. Apparently it sets off an alarm, which got on their nerves. I wonder about video cameras and microphones. There are two smoke detectors in this rather small cell and another in the bathroom. Why so many? On the other hand, their combined vantage points take in almost everything in the room. Also, I got transferred back to this cell right after a discussion about trying to get another detainee's mobile phone to work, which makes me wonder if they heard what I said.

Well perhaps not. I tested the theory twice this morning by pretending to have smuggled in a cell phone and to use it to talk to my contacts. I was either a very bad actor or the surveillance is not as great as I suspected, or perhaps they were too busy to monitor. In any case, no reaction.

I just succeeded in smuggling in my cell phone and used it to make and receive some quick calls with my contacts, including one that my support person used to quickly record me dictating my op-ed and a letter to the Jerusalem Post. He's going to have it transcribed, edited and then hopefully published I used my visits to my blood testing equipment to get the phone. The procedure is now routine enough that they don't pay much attention to what I do. I just slipped the phone down my crotch (sorry). My Ex Officio desert wear pants have webbing in lieu of underwear, and catch the phone perfectly. They are also baggy enough that the phone doesn't show, although I suppose it could be taken for manhood (sorry again). I'm leaving it there even in my cell, in case they suddenly burst in saying "Where's your phone?" and make me wait in the corridor while they search the room.

Surprise! The U.S. Consul, Richard Greer and Eve Zuckerman from American Citizen Services came to visit today and brought some reading and writing material. They asked how I was being treated, my health, etc., and we talked about the asshole who threatened me Tuesday morning, who suddenly became much more accommodating when they arrived. The visit itself was much more important than the subjects covered, and it looks like my conditions might improve slightly (or at least not get worse) as a result. My guess is that they got enough calls nagging them that they felt to change their minds about visiting.

Gabi called, too, and they allowed me to take it at the front desk. She says that the judge now made the two-day deportation injunction indefinite, pending a hearing, and requested an early court date. That means I'll be here another week, at least, and probably longer, although whether they keep me at this facility or transfer me is another matter.

I had my first cigarette in 20 years just to be able to sit with the group that is permitted outside their cells to smoke. For them it's hard because they have nicotine fits waiting, but for me it's a rare opportunity for social interaction and perhaps to find out more about what's happening in the facility. I didn't have much chance to talk with Asaad this time because he was busy with his lawyer, but had a nice chat with one of the guards, Gadi. He was mildly interested to learn more about the ISM and I think he came out somewhat sympathetic to our motives, if nothing else, although he he thinks we are wasting our time. He said he thought it was not good to mix politics with humanitarian work. I said I agreed; that's why we stick to politics. We both laughed.

Shabbat started at sundown and it looks like a weekend shift of guards - faces that I haven't seen before. My blood sugar level was at 154 at 11:00. Too much bread and rice and not enough exercise, although I'm doing an hour regime each morning. Dror, the supervisor of security, was kind enough to bring extra salads for lunch, but two of them were beets and corn, both high carb. They try but have no clue. I'm losing weight, which is good, and the readings are not really dangerous, but if they remain higher than I like, I'll ask for a doctor and get her to prescribe a special diet.

Saturday, June 9

I guess I should describe my surroundings and routine. My room faces east, with a large double-pane window that pivots inward on the left hinges or can be set to pivot on the bottom and open slightly at the top. It is tinted and has blinds between the two panes that can be raised or lowered. A fairly elaborate system.

The summer sun shines directly in the room from about 6:00-7:00 a.m. while the temperature is still cool. Great time to take off my shirt and enjoy it before it gets lost in the trees above. It's quiet and the birds are usually the loudest sounds at that time, even though there's noise from the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway which is only a few hundred yards away.. A pair of pigeons resides in the tree just opposite and have a permanent water supply from the leaky water tank atop the small building below, which the staff use for some indeterminate purpose. Between that building and the main structure is a covered parking area to my left, and a couple of tables and chairs that the staff use to relax under the shade. After the sun hides behind the trees, I do my exercise routine and then start a new day in my diary, as I'm doing now.

Breakfast is usually at around 8:45 but sometimes gets delayed up to an hour or so. It and dinner consist of a sub sandwich of either egg, cheese, salami, turkey or avocado. Lunch comes around 12:45 (also sometimes delayed up to an hour) and is a hot meal of meat, rice and a vegetable, with a side salad and sometimes humus Israeli style, meaning heavy on the tahina. Dinner is usually 8:00-8:30.

After breakfast, I ask to leave the room to take my meds, which are not allowed in the room. After meds, I do daily toiletries, including shaving, brushing, etc. I seem to be taking a shower and washing my clothes every other day. When I had to change rooms the other day, I had to take my wet clothes with me and hang them in the other room. It's then time for me to turn on my phone and receive my daily phone call. I do this in the bathroom to be on the safe side. Still haven't found a way to charge the phone, and there's not much battery left. I had been hoping to transfer the SIM card to a phone with a longer lasting battery in Ramallah, but for the time being I'm stuck with this.

At 10:30, it's time for another trip out of the room to test my blood sugar. I then read or write. When reading and writing materials were forbidden, a guard let me have a small traveler's Hebrew book that I had brought, which I used to pass the time trying to learn some Hebrew. After lunch it's much the same, although I usually have a nap, as well, and after dinner more of the same. There's satellite TV in the room, but I haven't tried to use it.

The air conditioning is much too cold, so I ask the guards to keep it off all the time. There's enough cold air in the conduits to keep things comfortable for me in my desert clothes. I leave the window open all day, but close it as the sun goes down to stave off the mosquitos. The room manages to stay comfortable and mosquito free.

Great plan, but totally disrupted today with another influx of women detainees. This time I was taken to the largest cell (eight beds) before lunch. It's the corner cell next to the office and has a view from two sides of the building. My cellmates are a Chinese, a Ghanan and a Sierra Leonean. The Chinese speaks only Chinese and Hebrew, but I get his story from the other guys. He has been in Israel 6 years, has made the money he wanted to and has deliberately put himself out of status in order to get a free ticket home for good. The young Ghanan, Jeff, ended up on his own here after his mother was deported. He's willing to go back, but not before his embassy locates his mother in Ghana so that he doesn't land there with no place to go. Aba, the Sierra Leonean, was a refugee who was allowed asylum until the war there ended. He's afraid that some people might be a threat to him there, but he has little choice.

It turns out that all three have mobile phones and that the guards allow them to string their chargers into the cell from outlets outside the door! I use the occasion to make a quick phone call and give the numbers to my contacts. Soon the calls start coming in, including an interview with No'am Ben Ze'ev at Ha'aretz newspaper. I was planning to get my phone at the next opportunity and have one of the guys charge it for me, but before I could I was transferred back to "my" cell. I wonder how many calls came in to those guys after I left. One of my callers told me about the Israeli assassinations of Hamas leaders in Gaza and the end of the Hamas truce. It doesn't pay to think that things can't get worse.

Actually, they briefly tried to transfer me to a cell at the opposite corner before bringing me back here. I guess they thought it was empty, but it turned out there was a woman in there. We both were surprised when I walked in. That means that I have now been inside every cell on this floor, which are the only ones in use. In terms of bunk beds, there are three with two (= 4 beds), two with three and one with four. One of the rooms is usually for storage of luggage, but when things get busy the luggage ends up all over the stairs and corridors.

The cell next door, where I had earlier been placed with Asaad and the other Palestinians, is now inhabited by a Palestinian family with jetlagged young children screaming and banging on the walls at 3:00 a.m. The soundproofing is actually pretty good, but my circadian rhythm is still off, so I hear them when I wake up in the night.
[I edited the third paragraph of part five as shown below. As I stated in the intro to the diary, there are certain things that I didn't feel comfortable writing in the original, in case it got seized. When I put it all together, I will need to do some more additions, but this one, about the way I got my op-ed out, is important enough to give to you now:

I just succeeded in smuggling in my cell phone and used it to make and receive some quick calls with my contacts, including one that my support person used to quickly record me dictating my op-ed and a letter to the Jerusalem Post. He's going to have it transcribed, edited and then hopefully published I used my visits to my blood testing equipment to get the phone. The procedure is now routine enough that they don't pay much attention to what I do. I just slipped the phone down my crotch (sorry). My Ex Officio desert wear pants have webbing in lieu of underwear, and catch the phone perfectly. They are also baggy enough that the phone doesn't show, although I suppose it could be taken for manhood (sorry again). I'm leaving it there even in my cell, in case they suddenly burst in saying "Where's your phone?" and make me wait in the corridor while they search the room.]

Sunday, June 10

Had a strange dream last night that I was back in California working on pianos at the wrong address. I was supposed to be at a church or school but accidentally ended up at the JCRC [Jewish Community Relations Council, the main center of Israel support in the SF Bay Area]. They insisted on practicing a play before I finished tuning, then were trying to get people to buy condos in the West Bank settlements. They approached me but I told them I already owned a place built on ethnically cleansed land in California. For some odd reason it seemed that the whole thing took place while I was on furlough from the detention center.

No early sun today. The overcast quickly burned off, but not before the sun was already in the trees. The wind is ENE, so it might recondense over Nablus, where they occasionally get a cool summer sprinkle from such conditions. Great weather when it happens.

There's ISM graffiti on the underside of nearly every upper bunk in the place. Most of it is unsigned, but Andrew Muncie's is in the large room. I added mine to this room today. It reads, ISM is about:
justicenonviolencerespectcompassionprotection from harmbuilding trustresistance to oppression andsolidarity with the oppressed
for all persons, Palestinian and Israeli, oppressor and oppressed.Paul Larudee, June, 2006.

The chief officer who apparently thinks I'm a dangerous terrorist was giving a tour to some young people this morning and stopped at my cell, apparently to explain the special handling of my detention. I waived hello through the window and to my surprise he opened the door to show off his trophy. I grabbed his hand, shook it warmly and placed my hand on his shoulder and smiled like we were the best of friends. "Are these new trainees?" I asked.

"Chinese? Do they look Chinese?"

"No, trainees, are you training them?"

"Oh, yes. That's right."

"Well, how do you do? I'm pleased to meet you." They acknowledged the greeting, a bit befuddled by the situation.

"Is everything all right with you? Is your blood sugar OK? Do you need anything?"

"Thanks. Dror and Chaim and the others are doing their best to take care of me." You would have thought it was a suite at the Intercontinental. "Nice meeting you."

Later, guards Dror and Avi changed $100 for me today and are trying to get some more test strips for my glucose tester. Got to admit they really are making an effort. ... Just got called to the phone at the main desk, and it was Dorothy Naor asking for details about the strips. Incredibly, the same commander who was so cordial in front of the recruits got upset when I expressed delight at hearing her voice and engaged in the barest minimum of small talk. "She's a dear friend that I haven't seen for a long time," I explained.

"Just the information, no small talk!" he said. I held my hands out in bewilderment and looked at the other guards for an explanation. "What's his problem?"

"He has orders," they said. I think I may have embarrassed him earlier by not playing my role in front of the recruits. Perhaps I didn't look like a supporter of terrorism.

I fixed the toilet room door, which hasn't been able to close completely since I came here. Turned out to be simple, just a couple of loose bolts that turned themselves out. Of course I didn't have a screwdriver, but one of my luggage keys worked to get them in far enough to close the door. The lock's been mangled, so it won't lock, but at least the latch works.

Dorothy and Israel Naor appeared out of nowhere with a new test kit, some books and writing materials. At least I got to see them face to face, if only from a distance. They were at the security gate and I was at a second floor window, but we were able to shout to each other.

I guess I should have mentioned in my description of the place that the heavy steel doors have a window in them facing the corridor. There are no cells on the other side of the corridor, only an exterior wall with windows that permit me to see the other side of the building from my cell. That is where all the arrivals and departures take place, so I get to see a lot of the coming and going.

Monday, June 12

This marks a week that I've been here. That makes me a longtermer, since most of the detainees only stay a few days at most. I've slimmed down a bit and I'm starting to get in better shape with the exercise routine. The guard Gadi was right; I'm not going to get far studying Hebrew without a dictionary. Like Arabic, you have to know the vocabulary and grammar a bit to even figure out the correct vowels.

The supervisor Gabi came and asked if I was keeping a phone in the room. Someone obviously read the interview with No'am Ben Ze'ev in Ha'aretz. Of course I don't keep the phone here, and I didn't even use it for the interview.

I made a project out of creating a backgammon/chess/checker set for the kids next door, and some origami toys. Just for the fun of it, I think I figured out a way to bust out of here, although I can't imagine the benefit of doing that.

I'm fairly creative about killing time, but I feel like I should do more serious writing. The problem is that I have no news from outside and little or no opportunity to exchange ideas, so nothing to react to. It's like being on an extended camping trip in the middle of nowhere.

I haven't seen Asaad since yesterday, so I wonder if he got in, went to Jordan or went home. There's commotion almost every morning before dawn, because that's when a lot of the flights to Europe leave, so he may have been on one of them. There have been a lot of Palestinians coming and going, all with foreign passports. I don't get to talk much (or at all) with them, but the only one that I know got in was Mohammed.

Tuesday, June 13

Nothing much happened in the morning, but I wrote out arguments for my case, which turned into a kind of op-ed. Later, I edited it down to that kind of length and called it "Am I a Security Threat to Israel." It wasn't quite finished when my lawyer, Gaby, appeared. It seems they don't like me to know of a visit in advance, so that I have no opportunity to plan or prepare, and they have almost entirely cut off all calls, so that if Gaby wants to talk to me she has to come here.

She had very little news except that the court still has not set a date and that she dropped by the court to read the full response of the Interior Ministry to the judge's order to show why I am being refused entry. It seems that they're accusing me of working with terrorist groups, but that they are allowing the security services to make their decision for them, which according to Gaby is not permitted and may provide us with a legal argument. I read the draft of my op-ed to her to see if there was anything in it that could be used as a legal argument, and she offered some of what she had in mind.

After Gaby left, I returned to my cell and finished revising the op-ed. Soon thereafter, I got a new cellmate, a Romanian named George who speaks only Romanian and Hebrew. I asked him to speak Romanian to me because I at least stand a chance with a Romance language, but he insisted on using Hebrew, since that is what he is used to speaking to non-Romanians.

The good news is that he has a working mobile phone with a good battery, so I quickly placed a call to my contact who spread the word. I was soon connected to another recording device that permitted me to send the op-ed for transcription.

[See for the edited version. I would, however like to re-insert the last paragraph of the original, as follows:

"That Israeli state paranoia should motivate the sacrifice of civil liberties will surprise few who have tested the system. And to those who in ignorance of the persistent and pervasive Palestinian nonviolent movement continue to ask, "Where is the Palestinian Gadnhi," it is instructive to consider the lengths to which Israel will go to assure that dissent and nonviolent resistance are eliminated."]

It didn't take them long to move me to another cell (presumably to remove access to George's mobile phone), this time the very first one that I had been in, now inhabited by three Palestinian-American shebab [young men] whose combined age is only one year more than mine (61 and 60, respectively). One of them is Ayham, who was in the cell with me and Asaad last week and is still around, waiting for his case to be adjudicated. The other two are Nureddine (Nur) and Hassan, who is a diabetic like myself, and an asthmatic, as well. Nur keeps saying he's going crazy and asking why they won't let him go to his Mom's place in Beit Hanina to eat Maqlouba. Hassan is having problems with his asthma because he's coming from vacation in China where he was affected by the pollution and some overexertion.

Wednesday, June 14

It was freezing last night because the shebab insist on keeping the air conditioning on. They also leave the window open too late, which lets in some mosquitos, although the cold air discourages a lot of them. These guys came with jackets and sweatshirts, but I had to use two blankets.

My phone battery is almost dead, but I was able to receive a call at the prearranged time that told me that I now have a court date, and it's tomorrow! The shebab like to keep the television on all the time, but I can sleep anyway. Ayman's court date is going to be June 20. Nureddine's lawyer finally succeeded in establishing that Nur has the right to travel through Tel Aviv airport because his family is among those residents of Beit Hanina who are considered Jerusalem residents. In the other half of the town split by the wall, the inhabitants are considered West Bank residents and need permits to visit the other side of the village. If Nur's family had been from that side, he would have had to return to the U.S., then travel to Jordan and enter that way. As it is, he is not considered a resident himself, even though his family is. He therefore still has to prove that he is only coming for a visit before returning to school, and not intending to try to live there. Hassan has a similar problem, but his family are considered West Bank residents, so it may be more difficult for him.

I learn from the guys that Asaad was sent back to the U.S. early yesterday morning despite his lawyer's efforts. He never got to see his family, and the Israeli authorities didn't even allow him to go to Jordan, where he might have been able to bring his family from the West Bank for a short visit.

Hassan has been coughing a lot since yesterday, and I tried to impress upon the guards how dangerous that can be. They finally took him to the doctor at the airport, who gave him a strong antihistamine that seemed to help. There are two guards named Chaim, and the taller one managed to buy some test strips for the new tester that Dorothy bought me. It came with only ten strips, so I soon ran out, but Chaim got me fifty.

Thursday, June 15

Court date today, but the guards never let me know officially, so I can't let on that I heard in advance by unauthorized means. They came and only gave me a few minutes to get ready, but of course I was ready well before, and drafted a statement for release, as well, and wrote out an extra copy. It was great to get out and see some of the countryside and see some of Tel Aviv. It breaks the isolation a bit.

On the sixth floor of the courthouse with twenty minutes to spare, Dorothy spotted me and came up to give me a hug, then Israel, Elana, Tanya and others, a dozen or more. I met Adam Keller (Director, Gush Shalom) for the first time, as well, and he did the interpreting of the proceedings for me. I was astonished that my two guards (actually higher officers at the detention center) allowed so much interaction, but I guess they weren't expecting so much company and didn't know what to do. Folks brought stuff for me, too - more reading and writing materials, some additional sugar free Metamucil and some lunch with a big salad. I love them all.

Before the procedings started, I read my statement to the group (not the court), and Adam made about twenty copies for circulation. I'm not sure to what extent it got out, so here it is again, with some slight revisions:

"Israel Must Welcome Nonviolent Resistance

"The officials of the state of Israel who denied me entry on the basis of secret evidence and who continue to persecute the International Solidarity Movement and Palestinian nonviolent resistance may think of the us as troublemakers. We are. They think that such troublemaking is at odds with peacemaking. It is not.

"There is a big difference between causing trouble and causing harm, and it is in the nature of nonviolent resistance to cause trouble in order to prevent harm, not to inflict it. Nonviolent resistance is purposefully confrontational, but it applies the principles of respect, compassion and justice for all persons, Israeli and Palestinian, oppressor and oppressed.

"Nonviolent resisters like us act out of the conviction that our efforts may spare the tragedy and misery of the last 58 years of conflict from future generations of Palestinians and Israelis. We believe that the only viable resolution for the land of Palestine, including Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, lies in integration, equality and sharing - not segregation, discrimination and conquest, with one people "here" and another "there". It is only when the full rights of all persons are respected that the inhabitants of this beloved land will know peace and reconciliation.

"Apologists for Israeli policies are fond of lamenting the lack of a Palestinian Gandhi, apparently unaware that Gandhi was a confrontational troublemaker and that thousands of Palestinians participate in nonviolent resistance actions planned and organized by Palestinian committees in homegrown Palestinian grassroots movements. If Israel chooses to treat these movements and the Israelis and international citizens who join in solidarity with them as if they were a mortal danger to its existence, it should come as no surprise if the victims of its repression resort to more violent means of expressing their grievances."

Gaby scolded me for not previously mentioning my association with Sindyana of Galilee. It shows that I was involved in legitimate commerce with Israel, importing Israeli products to the U.S. OK, Sindyanna is a group that aims to support Palestinian agriculture, but in terms of commerce it's kosher as far as its business activities are concerned. Luckily, Hadas Lahav of Sindyanna gave her a call. I talked to Hadas and thanked her, but I wish I could have seen her.

Gaby was great, pointing out how "respectable" I am, my intentions to engage in commercial activity and refuting the arguments that my ISM activities were in any way a threat to the Israeli state. However, the prosecution finally fell back on "secret" evidence that only the judge was allowed to see. She recessed for about 40 minutes to view it, then came back saying that the rest of the arguments were a waste of time. She mentioned that the Interior Ministry could consider conditional entry if it chose to do so, but it sounded like she was not going to push it. A hopeful sign, but probably a long shot. She said she would give her decision Sunday at 8:30 a.m. It's clearly all politically motivated even if some specious arguments are framed in terms of security.

Back at the detention center, Nur says that his father is coming to pick him up so that at last he will be able to go to Beit Hanina and eat maqlouba. I share the problem with charging my mobile phone, and Hassan says he thinks he can take care of it. I smuggle the charger into the cell at the next opportunity and at his next break for his blood test, he and the other two plug it into an outlet outside the room and string the cord under the door, with a chair and an ashtray covering it from view. If they spot it, Hassan will say it's his, what's the problem and point to the way the guards are letting others do it. We're nevertheless cautious to prevent the guards from seeing us use the phone.

Nur's father doesn't show up, so Nur calls and finds out that they say the Interior Ministry has approved his entry but that according to them the paper work is not yet complete. Nur is extremely disappointed that he will have to spend another night.
The guys have playing cards from their flights, but don't know any games to which more than one of them knows the rules. I teach them two-handed whist (in Arabic tarnib) and we from then on there's a game in progress most of the time.

After I express my frustration in language that these guys understand, Ayham lets me use his jacket so that I don't freeze. Seems like the weather in the upper bunks is a lot warmer, so he doesn't mind, even with the air conditioning on.
Friday, June 16
I used some harsh language last night to vent my frustration with the freezing temperature in the room, but Ayham just smiled and said, "OK, now you're talking our language." It's weird to hear him switch from baladi Arabic ("cheef halach") to a thick New Orleans 'hood dialect, although I suppose they're viewed comparably in their respective cultures. His family had a small market and suffered a half million in losses from hurricane Katrina, no insurance. When he first arrived, he complained about waiting four hours. Now he's scheduled for a June 20 court appearance and he's pretty much settled in. Next to me, he's been here the longest.

I have to admit that the guards are pretty patient with the shebab in the room with me. Everything is a crisis with them. They are constantly demanding a cigarette break, different food, adjustment of the air conditioning, etc. Nur is going crazy thinking that his family is going to pick him up within hours and take him to Beit Hanina to eat maqlouba. He's driving us crazy, as well.

Thanks the shebab's wheedling, the guards let us exercise in the yard late in the day, when the weather is cool. Nur practices some soccer with Dror, the security chief. Hassan jogs. I'm unable to, because I slightly strained my right foot, but I do calisthenics. Things have definitely loosened up some since my earlier conditions of confinement, but only because the rank and file have relaxed enforcement, not because the ones on top have given permission. I think they've decided that I'm a pretty lousy terrorist.

If, as expected, the court thinks otherwise, we need to plan what's next. Gaby says that we can file an appeal to the High Court, in which case I'll be here several weeks more. Otherwise I'll have to go to Jordan. I started the discussion today by phone with my colleagues, but we'll have to wait for the decision to know what kind of reaction to make.

Saturday, June 17

Hassan and I, the two diabetics, were permitted to exercise in the yard again this morning. This is partly because the supervisor today is Verit, a woman officer who is nice to us. She also got us some excellent salads for lunch so that we could cut down on our carb intake. The other guards don't like her that much because they say she's tough on them.

I tried to call my friends in Jordan today, but the connection was bad. I talked to Betty (my wife) instead, and she let them know that I might be there soon. It's amazing that the guards never say anything about the phone cord under the door. Earlier today, another Palestinian detainee in the last cell unplugged our charger so that he could plug in his own, and Hassan had to make an excuse to open the door and plug it back in.

The Palestinian family with the small children finally gave up and went back to the U.S. The kids were screaming from being closed in all the time with nothing to do, and the adults were going crazy along with them. They decided not to wait any more for their lawyer to try to plead their case. Another small victory for ethnic cleansing.

Sunday, June 18

Abu-el-Afieh and Dror took me to court again early this morning. I missed breakfast, and so I asked "Abu" if I could buy a ka'ki (sesame bun) from a vendor at the courthouse. It was a big one, so I offered to share, but neither he nor Dror accepted. The group of friends was smaller this time, because they knew that nothing much was going to happen. Still a real treat to be with them, a taste of what I was hoping to be able to continue for days and weeks.
The whole proceeding took less than 30 seconds, I think. The decision was announced, upholding denial of entry to me, the written decision was issued, and Judge Pilpel granted Gaby's motion to stay my departure for twenty-four hours to permit an appeal to the high court.

Outside the courtroom, Abu let me meet with Gaby and the rest of the group for about ten minutes to read the decision and discuss what to do. Gaby seems to feel that there are grounds for appeal in the decision, but whether it makes sense to do it is another matter. I don't mind staying longer if it helps prevent our volunteers from being turned away in the future, but that depends a lot upon the legal aspects of the case, so it needs further discussion.

Abu finally said that we had to get back to the detention center, but before we left I made a point of asking Gaby in front of him how we were going to continue the discussion and make arrangements for my departure. Since he was the one who had restricted my phone priviledges, I wanted Gaby and the group to be present for his response.

"You like to use your mobile in your room?" He asked.

"That would be great," I replied. It was his chance to appear magnanimous in front of everyone, which is what I was counting on. It also spares him the headache of giving me access to the desk phone. Of course it's only confirming what I am already doing, but at least I can now do it openly.

Back in my cell, the discussions go on for the rest of the day, and we finally reach consensus at around 9:00 p.m. It makes no sense for me to stay, because the appeal would have to be filed without proper time for research, whereas it can still be filed after my departure within the next two weeks. We therefore don't have to decide whether to file or not, but in either case I don't have to be here.

There's a midnight flight to Amman and I ask Chaim, the shift supervisor, if I can get on it. He confirms that I can and asks me to draft and sign a waiver of the 24-hour permission for me to stay. I then arrange my bags. One of the guards was interested in a Small Planet travel guide to Israel that I had, so I ask if I can leave it for him. They say no, it's forbidden. However, they allow me to leave behind a bunch of magazines and other materials that were given to me by the embassy and my friends, so I just leave it with them for "anyone" to take.

I then go back to the cell to wait to be taken to the aircraft. I say goodby to the guys, play a last game of whist and leave the cell phone with Hassan. They'll need it more than I will. I also give a last call to Betty to confirm arrangements to get to my friends' place after I arrive in Amman. I then ask Hassan to pass on a special message to Chaim the guard (vs. Chaim the supervisor). He's the one who took me in the van when they tried to force me on the plane and he's the one who carried most of my weight as part of that effort. We had had a conversation about my political activities earlier and he expressed surprise that I had so many Israeli friends.

"Do they all agree with your political views?" he asked.

"No, not at all."

"You mean some of them have opposite views?"

"Well perhaps not opposite, but different."

"Are your views as extreme as Uri Avnery's?"

"Actually, mine are probably more extreme." He could hardly imagine that, but he said that he considered himself a right-winger. I in turn found that hard to imagine, because he bore no resemblance to some of the settler types I had seen in the West Bank settlements, but we left it there.

During the two weeks of my detention, he and I had shared jokes and discussions, and he was always ready to help any of the detainees as much as he could to make things easier within the limits of the circumstances. All the detainees agreed that he was an excellent human being.

So I said to Hassan, "Tell Chaim about the book I left for him and remind him that I when he asked if I had any Israeli friends with opposite political views, I said I didn't. Tell him that I've changed my mind and that perhaps now I do." He said he would.
Soon it was time to leave, so we said our last goodby and I headed for the van. I was placed on the plane, but my passport was given to the pilot for safekeeping. I said goodby to Dror and the other Chaim and then made my way to my seat.

I had known that by taking the night flight I would miss the chance to catch a last glimpse of Ramallah, Jericho and whatever else of Palestine I might be able to see out the window other than indistinguishable lights, but it really didn't make sense to wait until the following evening. The flight was as hard as I imagined it would be, and probably much like those of my fellow detainees. Were forty years of visits to Palestine coming to an end for me?

[That is the end of my diary entries, but I think I'm going to try to write an epilogue as the last installment. I also will make an effort to download some totally forbidden photos that I took there, although I seem to be having serious problems doing that from the device I used to take them.]


When I landed in Jordan, the pilot delivered my passport to Jordanian security, who then questioned me for an hour (in Arabic, because they had no one at that hour who spoke much English) and asked me to report to security headquarters (Mokhabarat) the following day for more interrogation in English. It was all pretty routine stuff and nothing that wasn't already public or perhaps ancient history, such as when I first came to Jordan, etc. However, I suppose that my name will henceforth be flagged as a "person of interest" whenever I go through Jordanian passport control.

I also forgot to mention that I tried one last desperate ploy to remain in Israel. After returning from the court decision, the shift supervisor, Verit, was still on duty, so I asked her to marry me. I know Betty might have a problem with that, but Verit only smiled and said nothing, so I ended up on the flight anyway.

On a more serious note, the number of Palestinian foreign passport holders brought to the detention center during my stay was a real eye-opener, and only one that I know of was successful in being allowed to stay, but only with the help of a lawyer and a large bond, and perhaps a visa for a very limited time period. All the rest either didn't try, gave up or were ultimately unsuccessful and were shipped back where they came from. There was no pretense at treating them like other citizens of the U.S., Canada or other countries. In Jordan, I met two others in similar circumstances and the Jordan Times interviewed me about what I had witnessed.

This appears to be yet another measure designed to squeeze Palestinians out of their hoomeland. First, Israel makes sure that some members of a family lose the right to live there. Next, they make it impossible for them to visit, so that their family must leave to see them. Finally, they make family unification possible only outside Palestine. Families are perhaps the most powerful institution in Palestine, so when denial of jobs, education, health care, and even food and water fail to remove Palestinians from their land, family pressures are applied.

I cannot begin to thank all the network of friends and total strangers who helped to support me during my detention. If it is true that you don't know who your friends are until you need them, I am truly rich in friendship. I will probably never know the full extent of the support I received and the help in getting my messages out. I won't name most of you, but I want to especially thank my first line support persons in the U.S., Israel and the West Bank, and of course my lawyer Gabi Lasky. It was worth my incarceration just to meet her, and I hope she continues to be a devil's advocate. Adam Keller is another that I was pleased to meet for the first time, and yes, I have your phone number. There are so many more that I hope to see again and that I invite to keep in touch. I also want to thank my hosts in Amman, who are old friends and with whom it has been a pleasure to renew my relationship. Although at this writing I am a few days away from a speaking engagement and meetings in Lebanon, I would also like to thank my hosts there, as well.

I also want to thank the ISM Media Group and its partners, whose incredible work is so important in getting the Palestinian story to the public. They are a really dedicated and hardworking bunch who put in long hours to draft, polish and place stories for the press. They deserve huge credit for using my experience as a vehicle to let the U.S. and the world see a face of Israel that it might not otherwise know.

There is, however, one person who facilitated the efforts of the ISM Media Group and myself in unexpected ways, and to whom I reserve special thanks. Despite frequent inaccuracies of fact and unkind words, he has provided me and the ISM with more opportunities to reach public opinion and to embarrass the Israeli state than anyone else I can think of. I refer to Lee Kaplan, who considers himself our arch enemy. His tireless work has made it possible for me to publish more op-eds in the last few weeks than at any time in the past. I realize that some of my colleagues may be concerned about encouraging his efforts, but my own view is that if all of our opposition were like Lee Kaplan, the inhabitants of Palestine would today be living in freedom and equality, Lee included, if that is his wish.

Finally, let me say that I do not consider this the end of my dream to return to Palestine and start a piano service business there as well as work with the International Solidarity Movement. Where there is a will there is a way, and the ISM is about both. As a Palestinian-led movement, it embodies the Palestinian spirit of "sumud" or steadfastness. We are a contentious bunch of strong-willed and opinionated individuals, but we always seem to surmount our differences in order to work towards a just future by just means. As such, I believe that we are following a long tradition of nonviolent resistance of which we are only a recent manifestation.

The Palestinian cause is not a popular one, which is why cowardly politicians and press and even activist groups will continue to vilify or ignore those associated with it. Even the advocates for justice in Iraq, Darfur, Myanmar, Tibet and other regions have set Palestine to the side for fear that it will taint and undermine their efforts in those causes. However, nonviolent resistance in Palestine continues to welcome the participation and support of those who are not afraid to be condemned for their efforts and who find inspiration in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." As long as such persons exist, I believe that Palestine will one day welcome all who wish to live there in freedom and equality.

Paul Larudee
Amman, Jordan
June 30, 2006


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