60-year old Palestinian geographer and cartographer Khalil Tufakji, who has spent years researching Israeli settlements constructed on Palestinian land, was ordered to appear at an Israeli police station last week, where he was told by a plainclothes officer that he cannot travel abroad for the next six months due to ‘security concerns’.The ban on travel for Tufakji comes in the wake of a series of abductions of Palestinian non-violent campaign leaders and intellectuals by Israeli forces. Some Palestinians have called the recent crackdown an assault on the Palestinian moderates, and have even speculated that Israeli forces are trying to push out the moderates in favor of more extreme ideologues.
Khalil Tufakji was part of the Palestinian negotiating team during the Oslo Agreement of 1993, with a focus on borders, land and settlements. He frequently travels abroad for lectures and conferences. The renowned professor also heads the Cartography Department of the Arab Studies Society, which was established in 1980 to document the Palestinians’ history.
He said he was surprised to receive the order, particularly because he was not planning any specific travel abroad in the coming months.
Tufakji received the travel ban from the Israeli secret service, the Shin Bet, who cited unspecified security concerns as the reason for the ban. They invoked a 1948 ‘Emergency Regulation’ which allows Israel to ban someone from travelling abroad if they feel such travel may “harm the security of the state”. The Emergency Regulations were put in place by the British mandate prior to the creation of the state of Israel in order to impose martial law on the indigenous Palestinian population during riots that resulted from the theft of their land.
Ironically, because the Emergency Regulations were applied by the British mandate to the entire population of then-Palestine, including the Zionists who were living there at the time, Zionist leaders made harsh protests against the martial law – one such leader, Yacob Shimshon Shapira–who would later become the Israeli Attorney General and Minister of Justice, compared the British government to the Nazis for daring to impose such regulations, adding, “No government is entitled to enact legislation of this kind.”
These regulations were turned into law by the newly-formed Israeli state after its creation in 1948. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “They included, in part, provisions against illegal immigration, establishing military tribunals to try civilians without granting the right of appeal, allowing sweeping searches and seizures, prohibiting publication of books and newspapers, demolishing houses, detaining individuals administratively for an indefinite period, sealing off particular territories, and imposing curfew.”
Tufakji has been told that he is banned from travel abroad until at least August 2nd 2010, at which time the order will be reviewed by Shin Bet and possibly renewed.