Ittijah - Union of Arab Community Based Associations

Press Release
8 February 2004

Balad Cultural Association Raided By Police: Board Member of Ittijah Arrested

Mohammad Kana’neh, Board Member of Ittijah, was arrested yesterday, February 7, in his home in A’rabi. Mohammad Kana’neh is the General Director of the Balad Cultural Association and the General Secretary of the political movement "Abnaa el Balad". Also arrested was Hussam Kana'neh from A’rabi, member of the central committee of “Abnaa el Balad”. In a court hearing yesterday evening, the police was given the right to detain the men for 10 days. The detainees were not given any reasons for their arrest, nor were they allowed contact to their lawyer.

As a member of "Abnaa el Balad" reported to Ittijah, the arrests took place at four o'clock in the morning in the private homes of Mohammad Kana'neh, Hussam Kana'neh and Yoaf Bar, a member of the movement from Haifa. The homes and cars, as well as the office of the Balad Cultural Association and "Abnaa el Balad" in Haifa were raided and vandalised, including the wilful destruction of documents and equipment. Other equipment, such as laptops and mobile phones, were confiscated. It was also reported that police officers attempted to frighten the families of the detainees. One police officer was said to have ripped of a wire from the wall and threatened Mohammad Kana'neh's son with it, pretending that he could give him an electroshock.

The Balad Cultural Association, established in 1996, is a cultural association that aims to raise awareness for the Palestinian culture and history among Palestinians in Israel. It works primarily with high school and university students. "Abnaa El Balad" (“Sons of the Country”), established in 1969, is a political movement in Israel. After the mass strike and demonstration among the Palestinian population of Israel on 30 March 1976 (“Land Day”), it converged from local cultural clubs and students’ groups to a country-wide political movement. “Abnaa el Balad” calls for the Right of Return, an end to the Israeli occupation, and the establishment of a democratic secular state.

Both institutions are officially registered in Israel and operate legally under Israeli law. However, they have frequently been targeted by the police in the past. Last year, a children’s’ summer camp of the Balad Cultural Association was raided by the police. Mohammad Kana’neh and other organizers were detained for one week and four days of house arrest. Following the arrest, Mohammad Kana’neh was rejected from leaving the country to Jordan in August, and is currently not allowed to leave the country according to a security order imposed on him last November. Sakhar Abdu, staff member of the Balad Cultural Association, was detained for one hour in December while entering Israel from Jordan.

Ittijah strongly protests against the arrests of Mohammad Kana'neh and Hussam Kana'neh, and against all other action undertaken against the Balad Cultural Association and "Abnaa el Balad". We protest against the fact that no reasons were given for the arrests and that no access to a lawyer was given, which is illegal under Israeli and international law. Above all, we protest against the unnecessarily radical mode in which the action was undertaken. Mohammad Kana'neh, Hussam Kana'neh and Yoaf Bar are responsible citizens who respect the law and would not oppose a regular investigation. There was no reason to treat them like criminals.

Ittijah is very worried about increasing political harassment and persecution of all those who oppose the policy of the Israeli government. Yesterday's action assembled an act of vandalism, not a police investigation, and attempted to frighten the detainees as well as their families. Apparently, the case of the Balad Cultural Association and "Abnaa el Balad" is one more example in which the state aims to spread fear in order to silent opposing opinion holders. This is what we call political persecution, and a clear symptom for the lack of the Israeli government's will and respect for democracy.

We hereby urge the Israeli government to step back from all political persecution and political harassment against civil society institutions in Israel. We express our solidarity and support for these institutions and their members.

Ittijah will hold an emergency meeting next week, in order to organize united peaceful resistance against such actions.

(Note: Ittijah will update you on the developments in the case. For additional information, contact to "Abnaa el Balad" and interview requests, please contact Ameer Makhoul at Ittijah. Notes of support and solidarity should also be addressed to Ittijah.)