Continuity of SOMO investigation into the consequences of the occupation economy under threat
SOMO has received notice from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Israel may refuse researchers Pauline Overeem and Lydia de Leeuw entry into Israel until the end of 2023. The two were stopped at the Israeli border last July, and their plans to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories were thwarted. The Ministry was informed of this decision during a talk with the Israeli deputyambassador. This jeopardises the continuity of SOMO’s investigation into the Israeli occupation economy. In talks with the Israeli embassy, the Ministry was not able to uncover the exact legal grounds for the entry ban. Reference was made to comments about boycotts made by the SOMO researchers in a personal capacity, although none of this was verified. SOMO is now looking into legal options for challenging the Israeli government’s decision.
SOMO’s situation fits within the general trend of isolation and unfounded criminalisation of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations and their international partners by Israeli authorities. SOMO is calling on the Dutch government to take a clear stand in opposition.
Independent investigations are desperately needed now
A recent World Bank report sounded the alarm on the socio-economic situation in the Palestinian Gaza Strip: soaring unemployment and a 6 per cent economic contraction in the first quarter of 2018. The Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip has had disastrous consequences, both economically and in terms of human rights. The same applies to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. At the same time, the United States has cut off financial aid, which has made the situation of the Palestinians even more acute.
Foreign companies that do business with or are active in the illegal Israeli settlements benefit from the occupation economy and perpetuate the occupation. Due to the intensive trade relationship between the Netherlands and Israel, Dutch businesses – such as supermarket chains and companies in the energy sector – run the risk of involvement in human rights violations and war crimes.
Pauline Overeem: “It is now particularly important to conduct independent research into the scope and the impact of the occupation economy and the role played by foreign companies.”
Reason for refusal unclear
In response to parliamentary questions in the Dutch Lower House, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok indicated that positive statements about the BDS (an international call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel) made in a personal capacity by the SOMO researchers seem to have been the reason for Israel to deny the SOMO researchers entry into the country. The two SOMO researchers are not members of or active in the BDS movement. However, the Israeli authorities have provided no evidence for this alleged support of the BDS movement. In the case of Overeem, her suspected personal sympathy for BDS was never mentioned as grounds for denial of entry when she was questioned at Ben Gurion airport.
Lydia de Leeuw: “Our denial of entry and expulsion is part of a broader trend, in which Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the local organisations with which SOMO cooperates, are actively obstructed by the Israeli authorities. Therefore, it is not only important to contest this denial of entry for the continuity of our own research but also for the protection of a strong civil society.”