By Mahmoud El-Yousseph
Mostapha was born and raised in the Ain El-Helwi refugee camp in southern Lebanon. He was arrested on July 19th at the Allenby border crossing with Jordan. Israeli security officers questioned him because he was a peace activist and the co-founder of the popular debkeh (Palestinian dance) troupe Raj’een, which performed at numerous events in Belgium and across Europe.
Mostapha was interrogated by Israeli police and Shin Bet security service for 20 days before he received a visit on August 8 from the Belgian consul. That was 20 days of interrogation without anybody knowing his whereabouts. On August 16, he appeared in court, but was again sent back to jail for more interrogation. His family in Lebanon was unable to establish a contact with him. His uncle Salah Awad told me that a few years ago Mostapha attempted to visit Palestine via Ben Gurion airport, but was denied entry and following a lengthy interrogation he was told that he was not welcome. So he was put on the next plane leaving for Europe.
Let’s examine the Israeli claim closely! Since Awad arrived at Tel Aviv airport years after Israel claimed he joined the PFLP, why didn’t Israel arrest him then or tip Belgium officials about his alleged illegal activity? Reasons? i) Those are Mikey Mouse charges, ii) it is to intimidate and smear any activist who supports Palestine and criticizes Israel, and iii) he was the contact person for Liala Khaled, Sahar Francis and Ahed Tamimi when they attended a European Parliament conference on Palestinian women held in Brussels on September 2017. That was two month before the arrest of 17 years-old Ahed Tamimi by (IOF), which drew international attention and condemnation against Israel. By continuing to hold Awad, Israel has violated his human and civil rights by falsely imprisoning him rather than extraditing him to Belgium to stand trial.
According to Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun, there are currently approximately 6,500 Palestinian prisoners, among them 330 prisoners are from Gaza, 680 from Jerusalem and the occupied Palestine since 1948, 6,000 from the occupied West Bank, 63 women and girls, 350 youth and children,34 prisoners from various Arab countries. Among the prisoners, there are 600 Palestinian prisoners held under Administrative Detention Act, which means they are in prison without charge, trial or release date. In addition, Israel continues to hold the remains of 261 Palestinians killed in the line of duty and/or during midnight raids or at checkpoints for no reasons. Thus denying their families of providing proper burial and paying their respects.
I personally know the pain, the agony and the fear of unknown the prisoners families and loved ones are going through. In the past Israel held my father for 18 months in 1948 after he crossed the border from Lebanon to look after his mother and his older brother. During the 1982 Israeli invasion into Lebanon, Israel did the same thing to my younger brother who was visiting our mother and our older brother from Germany with his German wife and their 5 year old daughter. My brother was also held for 18 months.
Since Mostapha is a Belgian citizen, It is critical that Belgian officials demand his immediate release to hold Israel accountable. President Trump last week imposed a sanction on Turkey for refusing to release an American priest accused of spying inside Turkey. The International community always acts as deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to the issue of Palestinian prisoners, whereas it would go to the end of the world to help free an Israeli prisoner. Take for example the case of the Israeli soldier who was captured in 2006 by Hamas while in uniform inside his tank near Gaza, whose name became a household name over night. Why? Every western leader who visited the Middle East during his captivity has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Israel’s claim against Mostapha Awad is poppycock. The basic element of democracy requires Israel- who claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East- to either charge or free Mostapha Awad.