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Israeli Gag Order Lifted On Reporting Arrest Of Druze Doctor – OpEd

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Yesterday, the Shin Bet lifted the gag order prohibiting reporting on the case of the 38 year-old Druze doctor, Eyad Jamil al-Jawhari.  He’d been arrested on June 28th as he attempted to enter the occupied Golan heights at the Kuneitra border crossing.  His entire family had been waiting for him, as he hadn’t visited them in the past three years (he’d spent a total of ten years in Syria pursuing medical studies and a career in family medicine).

Now, Haaretz and Yediot have reported the arrest and confirmed his identity.  No Israeli publication has reported the reason for his arrest, which means there is a partial gag order still in effect.  The reason they likely refuse to release the charges is that they haven’t dreamed them up yet.  They’re still working him over in the GSS section of Kishon Prison.  An Israeli court has granted them ten days of detention in which to do so, a period that can be further extended with the court’s approval.  They will likely craft the charges based on what they can elicit from him.  I spoke with Dr. al Jawhari’s attorney, Yihya al-Jawhari (an uncle) yesterday, who told me he hasn’t been permitted to talk with or see his client.  He was told he could see him on Thursday.

The attorney also told me that the doctor leaves a pregnant wife behind in Syria.  When he was arrested, he was planning to return permanently to the Golan to establish a family medicine practice there.  He intended to have his wife follow him when the Israeli authorities would permit it (they’d prevented both of them from returning together numerous times).

Among the many surmises about why the Shin Bet might’ve been making an example of him is that he was a highly educated medical professional (receiving his MD degree in Syria two years ago).  He was seeking to bring his expertise to benefit the Druze community of the Golan.  This may be precisely the sort of young, charismatic individual the security services would want to take down.  The purpose, if there can be said to be any, would be to prevent the Druze from improving their communities and offering better services like the medical practice Dr. al-Jawhari might’ve offered.  Any such organizing might be interpreted as leading residents to resist Israeli Occupation and bring the Arab Spring to the Golan.

Another complicating factor in the case is that the detainee was arrested by the Shin Bet ten years ago, which was the same year he went from the Golan to Syria to begin his medical training.  I don’t yet know the substance of the charges against him then or what happened at that time.  It seems quite possible that it might be related to seeking permission from the authorities to leave.  Israel would exercise very tight control on who it allowed to leave and there may’ve been a dispute between himself and them about denial of permission.  It might also explain why, on his deciding to return permanently to Israel-occupied Golan, the Shin Bet would want to extract its pound of flesh from him in retaliation for his earlier temerity in resisting its dictates.  But so far this is speculation.  I’ll report on that as soon as I find out.

As I reported yesterday, Dr. al-Jawhari’s lawyer was told by the Shin Bet that his client was “suspected of endangering the security of the State.”  Which means precisely nothing.  In the case of Ameer Makhoul, it meant having a cup of coffee in the hotel lobby at an environmental conference in Amman with Hassan Jaja, a landscape designer.  From this, the Israelis conjured a Hezbollah operative seeking intelligence information.  The security services even conceded that he refused to be a spy.  But merely having the meeting was a criminal act, regardless of the substance of the meeting itself.  The police also alleged all sorts of computer spy gear and documents transmitted by embedding them in innocuous images.  All this from a single cup of coffee.  So imagine how they will go to town on Dr. al-Jawhari.

A trusted Israeli source I spoke with says he believes the fact that the gag was lifted less than 24 hours after Antiwar.com published my first account of the secret arrest and only a few hours after my own blog post, is strong evidence that we played an instrumental role in breaking it.  Unfortunately, we haven’t eased the victim’s suffering or freed him from the maws of the State.  But we’ve done almost as much as any journalist can do.  Let’s be thankful for that.

A special note of thanks to the Israelis who helped me research and report this story.  They are a brave bunch for placing their love for Israel and what it should be above their own personal safety.  I value our partnership and could not do this without them.  I regret that I cannot name them and offer the credit that is due.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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