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Israeli police raid leftist homes

Jan. 5, 2011 12:42 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 6, 2011 11:07 A.M.)
By Mya Guarnieri

correction appended

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Israeli activists who participate in protests against their country's separation barrier came under state attack on Wednesday, with special forces entering homes in Tel Aviv.

Israeli special police forces showed up outside one home in central Tel Aviv, shared by a number of left-wing activists. After spending some time outside the residence, forces attempted to enter and conduct a search. Activists said that they were not shown a search permit and refused to submit to the search.

A spokeswoman for the activists, who requested not to be identified, quoted a witness to the incident, who said "there was an aggressive attempt to do a search without a search warrant," and speculated that the attempt may have been connected to those involved in a protest outside the residence of the US ambassador on 1 January. Protesters gathered outside the building in protest of what were reported to be US-made tear-gas canisters whose fumes killed a Palestinian protester the day before.

"It's not clear whether it was in connection to the episode at the embassy or if it was the private initiative of the [israeli] police. Their excuse was that they suspected [someone in the house] of holding drugs," the witness said.

The move comes amidst a general crackdown on left-wing activities. In recent weeks, the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, has been calling protesters asking them to come in for “friendly chats.” All those who have reported receiving the calls have refused, since by law they are not required to comply with the requests unless they receive an official summons from the police.

Last week, a Tel Aviv court sentenced the prominent left-wing activist Johnathan Pollak to three months in jail for his role in a small, non-violent protest held in Tel Aviv against the Israeli siege on Gaza. Pollak was the only protester who was arrested for the demonstration, which was held in 2008, leading many observers to believe that Pollak is being singled out and punished for his continuing activism, and role as the spokesman for the West Bank's Popular Organizing Committee, which issues news and testimony from the village of Bil'in.

Earlier in December 2010, Matan Cohen, an Israeli who is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and is studying in the United States, was detained for several hours in Ben Gurion International Airport upon return to Israel. His luggage was searched and officials told him he was suspected of being involved in “hostile terrorist activities.”

Cohen reported that while he has been questioned briefly upon leaving the country he has never been detained upon arrival.

“This is definitely a step up in the level of political repression against anti-apartheid activists in general, and BDS activists in particular,” Cohen remarked.

Only one home was targeted by police on Wednesday.
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