An unprecedented controversy has begun with Warsaw over a Polish humanitarian
worker whom the Shin Bet denied reentry to Israel and the Palestinian areas, in
a ban the Supreme Court upheld on Wednesday.
According to Polish Embassy
spokesman Jacek Olejnik, it is the first time that a Polish humanitarian worker
has been banned from entering the country.
Olejnik said that his
government sent a letter to Israel last week protesting the treatment of its
citizen, Kamil Qandil, when the controversy started, but had yet to receive a
The Polish delegation was still trying to understand the
situation and to decide how to react and whether there were broader issues
involved, Olejnik said.
At the same time that this case has been playing
out, Israel and the EU have been meeting to discuss the EU’s expected
According to Kamil Qandil’s sister, Alicja Qandil, a
Polish journalist, Kamil has a valid work visa, issued in July 2013 by the
Interior Ministry at the request of the Polish Humanitarian Action
Olejnik confirmed that Kamil was here on behalf of the PHA, a
well-known Polish organization.
Alicja Qandil added that Kamil was here
to work on rehabilitating water cisterns to supply access to water relating to
four ancient cisterns in the South Hebron Hills.
Parliament president and Polish prime minister Jerzy Buzek tried to intervene on
Kamil’s behalf and had spoken to a high-ranking EU representative currently in
Israel, she said.
She and Kamil’s lawyer, Yadin Elam, said Kamil went to
Poland for a few days for a wedding, and upon his return the Shin Bet detained
him at Ben- Gurion Airport.
Elam said that Kamil tried to enter the
country by filing a petition with the Lod District Court, sitting in its
administrative court capacity, but was rejected on the grounds that he presented
a security issue.
Kamil’s lawyer added that at that initial hearing last
week, none of the secret evidence against Kamil was presented or summarized for
him, and that made him powerless to defend himself.
Next, Kamil’s lawyer
appealed to the Supreme Court, where Kamil for the first time received a summary
of the evidence against him, which merely said that he had connections with
terrorist elements, without specifying whom.
According to Elam, although
Kamil told the court that he had no idea why Israel was preventing him from
entering the country, Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis said the situation
was more complicated than that.
Asked if she understood why Kamil was
being prevented from entering the country, his sister said that she could not
imagine what evidence the Shin Bet had against him.
She said that their
father is Palestinian and that both of them had been harshly interrogated when
entering the country in the past.
In one instance, Alicja said she was
questioned in Arabic even though she does not speak the language.
said she continued to tell her interrogator that she did not understand him and
that he yelled at her in Arabic and was about to body search her when they
released her, realizing that she was a member of the media.
Elam said he
also had few clues, though he noted that the water project that Kamil was
working on had caused controversy in the past.
The village where Kamil
worked on the water project is right next to the West Bank security barrier, and
some villagers have been leaving the area claiming difficult conditions have
been imposed on them.
Elam asked why the Shin Bet had not arrested Kamil
in the West Bank if he was truly dangerous and why it waited until he left the
The Shin Bet responded that Kamil had been prevented from
entering the country due to “security considerations” that the Lod District
Court had found “reasonable.”
It added that Kamil had not been arrested,
only prevented from entering the country, and that he had been and was free to
return to Poland at anytime.
The Shin Bet denied that considerations
other than “security information” were responsible for Kamil’s detention or that
there was any intention to generally harm humanitarian efforts aimed at
assisting the Palestinians.
Israel’s domestic security organization often
takes action against individuals for security reasons, while not revealing the
basis of its claims, to avoiding exposing its intelligence assets that obtained
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.