Fear of the doctoral student in math
The "classified information" was once again at work, in the High Court of Justice hearing Monday on the petition by Jihad Al-Shwaikh to receive an entry permit to Israel. He was accepted as a doctoral student in math education at the University of Haifa; his advisor is Professor Anna Sfard. Al-Shwaikh was born in 1967 in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, and has lived in Ramallah since 1990. He took one course on-line, advised by Sfard, because he did not receive an entry permit.
The state claims that it is not obligated to permit Palestinians from the territories into Israel. Its main contention - that "he was active in the Popular Front terror organization" - was accompanied by intelligence information provided to justices Aharon Barak, Ayala Procaccia and Esther Hayut in camera.
"The security information is up to date," President of the High Court Barak told attorneys Kenneth Mann and Sari Bashi, representing Al-Shwaikh. Although a written verdict has not yet been rendered, it may be concluded from Barak's statements that the justices were persuaded not to let Al-Shwaikh study in Haifa.
It is difficult to argue with classified intelligence data. That is precisely its purpose. Let it not be disputed, let the facts to counter it not be brought to light. After all, it was not suggested that Al-Shwaikh be brought to the hallowed halls of Israeli justice so he could confront the claims. That is the nature of classified information: we know things about you you do not even know about yourself. So shut up.
The "security information" probably shows the Palestinian is dangerous. If the representatives of the Shin Bet security service and the army sitting behind closed doors with the justices gave them information about Al-Shwaikh's "danger" to the Israeli public and to Israel, they apparently gave false information. Those who wrote the supposedly up-to-date (and retroactive) "classified report" about Al-Shwaikh and represented him as dangerous based on details that are not made public are putting one over on the justices.
Al-Shwaikh represents no danger. The contention with which the state responded, that Al-Shwaikh was "active in the Popular Front terror organization," has not been proven. True, he was arrested in 1988 in the first intifada, a popular uprising that even Israeli public opinion accepted as a legitimate act. Tens of thousands of young Palestinians who opposed the Israeli occupation filled every prison compound, jail and Shin Bet interrogation facility. Mass arrests were intended to subdue them. But the Shin Bet interrogators were unable to extract even a confession of (standard) allegations against him: "incitement" to a strike against the occupation, painting slogans on walls, throwing stones at army vehicles or burning tires.
Were Shin Bet personnel privy to the conversations in which Al-Shwaikh came out passionately against suicide bombings? Did the three Kathe Kollwitz reproductions hanging in his apartment in Ramallah implicate him? Is it the leftist positions he espouses openly - with an emphasis on the development of human beings and freeing them from the thralls of tradition, on equality in the distribution of income, opposition to religious coercion, women's rights, criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its alienation from its people - or his stubborn, rational, critical secularism in a society that is so much seeking divine compassion? Or perhaps the writers of the classified report on Al-Shwaikh did not hear him speaking at all in his own milieu?
The security establishment knows full well that Al-Shwaikh is dangerous neither to Israel nor Israelis, neither in Ramallah nor in Haifa. Something else scares the system in the possibility of his studying math education at an Israeli university. Here is the best guess: Al-Shwaikh has been married since 1993 to an Israeli citizen. They met and fell in love in 1990. They have a nine-year-old boy. Israeli lawmakers, with the assistance of well-known liberal jurists, are now finalizing the law for the policy that will in effect prohibit Israeli Arabs from marrying residents of the territories.
The policy is already in force. In 1993, when Al-Shwaikh and his wife sought "family unification," they were not told to go and live in Jenin as people are told today. They were told they had been "turned down due to a security impediment." But the security impediment came before the official policy and paved the way to it. Al-Shwaikh's studies in Haifa might turn into family unification through the back door.
Al-Shwaikh is frightening precisely because his case, which goes against every stereotype, might speak to the heart of the justices. That is the reason the state must cover itself with "classified information" - so as to frustrate Al-Shwaikh's nefarious plan to upset the demographic balance in Israel.