Photo: neufal54 via Pixabay

Documents from the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs show that two SOMO employees are no longer allowed to enter Israel because of research done by SOMO on companies in occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

The two researchers, Lydia de Leeuw and Pauline Overeem, travelled to Israel in July 2018, but were stopped at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. The researchers were interrogated and detained (one night and 4 hours respectively). They were then expelled from the country. Until the end of 2023, they are not allowed to enter Israel. According to the authorities, De Leeuw is active in the BDS movement. Overeem was not given any reasons.

With the help of the Israeli law firm Michael Sfard, SOMO recently managed to get hold of the underlying documents. These documents show that the researchers were refused entry, partly because of their work for SOMO. SOMO has been investigating companies in the occupied Palestinian territory for years, focusing on agriculture, gas and raw materials.

The documents also refer to SOMO’s longstanding advocacy, together with other international organisations, for the release of a UN database of companies active in the OPT. Recently, SOMO co-authored an opinion piece on the Dutch companies in this database.

Pauline Overeem: “Obstructing research in this way fits within a broader trend: civil society organisations are being more and more restricted and undermined by the Israeli authorities. For our Palestinian and Israeli partners this is already a daily reality.”

Lydia de Leeuw: “We call on the Dutch government to take a firm stand on the freedom of expression and the importance of civic space in Israel and Palestine. To ensure that organisations like SOMO can continue their (research) work unhindered.”