A month ago Phil posted on an event here in New York discussing Jewish perspectives on BDS. One the speakers that night was Yonatan Shapira, who spoke in favor of boycott. Shapira recently returned to Israel and sent this update. Translation by Dena Shunra.
I moved back to holy land two and a half weeks ago, and yesterday I was summoned for a chat with the Shabak.
So yesterday, Rona from the Shabak called and asked me to come over for a chat with her at the Dizengoff Street police station. She refused to tell me what it was about over the phone, and explained that I was not going to be arrested, and that this was an introductory or friendly conversation.
I got to the Dizengoff Police Station and was sent to a second-floor office in the back building, where a dude was waiting for me who introduced himself as Rona’s bodyguard. I was taken into some room or other and underwent a rather intimate physical examination, to make sure that I hadn’t installed any kind of recording device on either of my testicles. Having found to be clean, I was brought into the room where Ronna sat. She was a fine-looking young woman of Yemeni extraction, in her early thirties.
Rona said that she knew I am an activist working for BDS and for a general boycott on the State of Israel and wanted to know what else I do within the framework of this activity. I said that everything was well-known and made public on the Internet and in the media, and that I have nothing to add and I don’t intend to talk about it with her.
Rona stressed that there is a law being made in the Knesset and that it is very much possible that my activity will be illegal soon. She continued to try and drag me into a political discussion and asked if I knew that the BDS is actually a Palestinian organization.
Rona raised the topic of the Warsaw graffiti and wanted to know whether it was my own private initiative or whether it was also part of BDS, and if I understood that I had overstepped a boundary and hurt the feelings of many people (and apparently, also hurt the feelings of the Shabak.) I again suggested that she listen to interviews and read articles that had been published on the subject. She said that she had already listened and read, but that she wanted to know more. I told her that I would be glad to give a public lecture on the subject for anyone who wants to hear it, and that I would do so in a public and open manner, but not within the framework of a Shabak interrogation.
Other than the BDS topic, Rona asked if I knew that the demonstrations in Bil’in and Na’alin are not legal, and that the whole region is closed to Israelis and internationals every Friday, from eight to eight.
She spoke at length about how the soldiers feel in these demonstrations and about how they are irritated when I talk to them and also answer them.
Rona said that she had been there in the past, and that she had been hit by stones, and that it is terribly unpleasant, and that the presence of Israelis at the demonstrations inflames the violence of the Palestinians, and that I should think about how the poor soldiers feel, and that all she’s trying to do is for the good of the state and comes from her desire to protect the people living here.
I answered that everything that I do also comes from my desire to protect the people living here, and I inquired about where she has all that information about my activity from, and asked if they are also tapping my phone. She said that she could not answer but that in general, the Shabak had more important things to do. So I asked her what I was doing there, and why I had been invited for some sort of political interrogation if they did indeed have more important things to do. I asked again if my calls were being tapped, and Ronna said that she could not answer.
She asked very earnestly that I not publish the details of our conversation, because she’s not the sort of person who seeks fame… In response I said that as a person dedicated to a non-violent struggle against the occupation I would speak and publish everything, including all details of this conversation, and other conversations, if there are indeed such conversations in future. I documented the entire conversation on a slip of paper until Rona started talking about that piece of paper and about what I was writing it. Finally, she confiscated my dangerous piece of paper, claiming that I was not allowed to bring in a recording device and that it was illegal.
Fortunately, I remembered most of the conversation and Ronna has not yet confiscated my memory.
Maybe she’ll do that at our next meeting.
That’s it, she may have said a few more things, but that was the main deal.
As far as I’m concerned, I understand that what interests them is our activity on BDS, and that they may even be trying to prepare cases for us, so they’ll be ready for the moment when the new law is voted into existence.
Noam Sheizaf adds:
I find this account of the conversation very reliable, and similar to other accounts of political interrogations of Jewish activists I heard of. We should remember that political interrogations of Palestinians are not that friendly or polite.
I also think that Yonatan could be right in assuming the police or the Shabak is putting together files on Israelis involved in the BDS. One of the many anti-democratic aspects of the new Knesset bill [Hebrew document] is that it will be possible to enforce it on past actions as well.