Israeli Prison Confiscates Book About Occupation From Ex-lawmaker Serving Time

The Prisons Service won't allow jailed former Joint List lawmaker Basel Ghattas 'contraband material': a book about Israel's policies in the West Bank

Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas sits at the Magistrates Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel December 23, 2016
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The Israel Prisons Service has refused to allow relatives of former Joint List MK Basel Ghattas to bring him a book that discusses Israels policies in the West Bank, calling it contraband material.

The ex-lawmakers family brought Eyal Weizmans Hollow Land: Israels Architecture of Occupation with them at his request on a visit to the security wing of Hadarim Prison, where he has been held in recent weeks. However, the prison wardens confiscated the book during a routine search upon their entry into the facility. They called the book contraband material and said Ghattas was not permitted to receive it.

The prison informed Ghattas that he could get the book back upon his release from prison. He is serving a two-year sentence for using his parliamentary immunity to smuggle cellphones to security prisoners. The Prison Service has also confiscated a memoir Ghattas was writing.

Ghatta told prison officers that the book, published in 2017 in Hebrew, does not contain any incitement or material that threatens Israels security.

Weizman, an architecture professor at the University of London and a leftist activist, is the brother of actress Einat Weizman, who expressed support for Ghattas at a demonstration held on his behalf prior to his imprisonment. Eyal Weizman told Haaretz he and his sister met Ghattas before he went to prison. We spoke at length about how construction in the Galilee is similar to the settlements, he told Haaretz. He said Ghattas asked for a copy, so Weizmans sister gave one to the family to bring him.

Forbidding its entry into the prison is ridiculous, Weizman said. Is the occupation hidden from the prisoners? There is nothing secret there but an architectural-military analysis of the system of occupation, and not allowing it in is continued abuse of the prisoners.

Besides confiscating the book, the Prison Service confiscated about 2,000 reference and study books in the wing during a raid of prison cells about a week ago at Hadarim Prison. Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for masterminding a terror campaign that murdered Israeli civilians, is also held there.

The prisoners said the Prison Services Dror unit raided the wings cells in the middle of the night to confiscate the books. Prison Service officials told prisoner representatives that they are engaging in academic studies without going through the Palestinian Open University, which is forbidden by law. The prisoners countered that the books were legally brought in by the Red Cross or their relatives after thorough searches by the prison wardens. The prisoners are considering legal action against the confiscation of the study books.

Books were not confiscated at this stage. Books were collected and the material is being examined for their propriety, the Prisons Service commented.

In 2015, the High Court of Justice upheld a decision preventing security prisoners from engaging in academic studies. The ruling followed a petition by some prisoners against a decision by the government and the Prison Service to forbid their studies. The expanded panel of judges ruled the Prison Service was authorized to do so based on the Shin Bet opinion that terror organizations were funding the studies and that prisoners are also compensated according to their level of education.