France Slams Israel’s Expulsion Of French-Palestinian Lawyer

French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri (R) arrives at the Parisian airport of Roissy, after he was expelled from Israel, on December 18, 2022. - Israel expelled French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri on December 18, 2022, the culmination of a lengthy judicial saga in which he was accused of security offences and held without charge since March. (Photo by Daphné BENOIT / AFP)

French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, held without charge in Israeli prisons since March accused of security offences, arrived in Paris on Sunday following his expulsion from Israel condemned by Paris.

Hamouri, 37, had been held in Israel under a controversial practice known as administrative detention, which allows suspects to be detained for renewable periods of up to six months.

He arrived at the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday morning, an AFP correspondent saw, the culmination of a lengthy judicial saga after his deportation.

“I have changed location but the fight continues,” an emotional Hamouri said at the airport, where he was welcomed by his wife Elsa, politicians, NGO representatives and supporters of the Palestinian cause. 

“I have an enormous responsibility to my cause and people. We can’t abandon Palestine. Resistance is our right.”

Israel’s interior ministry earlier on Sunday announced the deportation following Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision to withdraw his residency status.

“We condemn today the Israeli authorities’ decision, against the law, to expel Salah Hamouri to France,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

An Israeli military court sentenced Hamouri, who holds French citizenship, to administrative detention in March, accusing him of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and said he “endangers security in the region”.

Israel, the United States and the European Union consider the PFLP a “terrorist group”. It has been implicated in several deadly attacks on Israelis.

Hamouri denies links to the PFLP.

– ‘Illegal’ deportation –

The French foreign ministry said Paris had been “fully mobilised, including at the highest level of the state”, to enable Hamouri to defend his rights, benefit from all possible assistance and lead a normal life in his native east Jerusalem.

“France also took several steps to communicate to the Israeli authorities in the clearest way its opposition to this expulsion of a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem, an occupied territory under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” it added.

“It’s a happy day for a family reunited but for the Palestinian people, it’s a sad day,” Amnesty International’s France chief, Jean-Claude Samouiller, told AFP.

He described the expulsion as a “crime of apartheid”.

Supporters said Hamouri’s deportation from his birthplace by an “occupying power” was illegal.

Amnesty International and French NGOs said Hamouri’s deportation aimed to hinder his human rights work and was part of Israel’s “long-term political objective to diminish the Palestinian population” of annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.

Hamouri has been arrested and jailed by Israeli authorities on several occasions, including in 2005.

Following that arrest he was tried and convicted by an Israeli court on charges of plotting to assassinate Ovadia Yosef, a prominent rabbi and spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political party.

Hamouri was released in December 2011 as part of a prisoner swap.

He has always maintained his innocence.

Born in east Jerusalem, Hamouri does not have Israeli nationality, but he held a residency permit that Israeli authorities revoked. 

“We didn’t think it was possible to deport somebody from his birthplace,” Hamouri’s mother Denise said earlier.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Last month, he was informed he would be deported, but the expulsion was delayed as his lawyers contested the case.

– ‘A great achievement’ –

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities confirmed the revocation of his residency, paving the way for Hamouri’s imminent expulsion despite a new administrative detention hearing scheduled for January 1.

“It is a great achievement to have been able to cause, just before the end of my term, his expulsion,” Interior Minister Shaked said on Sunday. 

Benjamin Netanyahu, winner of the November 1 legislative elections, is expected to form a new Israeli government with allies from ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties.

Hamouri worked for the prisoner support group Addameer. In November 2021 it was among six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel’s army said could no longer operate legally in the West Bank, after Defence Minister Benny Gantz said they were collaborating with the PFLP.

In April Hamouri, along with rights groups, filed a complaint in France against Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group for having “illegally infiltrated” his mobile phone with the spyware Pegasus.

He is one of several Palestinian activists whose phones were hacked using the Pegasus malware, according to a report in November by human rights groups.