Frank Romano, part-time resident of Greenwich Village, peace activist and professor of law in France, was arrested and deported from Israel recently. He is on a team of lawyers preparing a complaint for the ICC (International Criminal Court) accusing Netanyahu and Lieberman of criminal violation of the rights of Bedouins whose village will be demolished by the Israeli Government. Many international leaders, such as Dries van Agt, former Dutch PM recently called Netanyahu a ‘war criminal’ who should be tried in The Hague.
In September Romano was arrested standing in front of a bulldozer in the village of Khan al Ahmar then beaten by Israeli police and by Israeli criminals in jail when they learned he had been working with Palestinians. The military tried to illegally deport him before his trial but an Israeli judge interfered and released him. He continued working in Ramallah on the ICC brief staying past his visa date at great personal risk since he was the only lawyer on the team with criminal law experience. His contribution was invaluable. He managed to stay in Palestine for five months, avoiding Israeli authorities. Finally through deception, the Israeli government nabbed him. Someone posing as the well-known French journalist, Olivier Pironet from the influential journal, “Le Monde diplomatique”, contacted him and asked for an interview. Romano, eager to publicize the struggle for survival of Khan al Ahmar, agreed to a meeting. Lured out of the village across the highway next to an illegal settlement, he met the fake journalist in his car; a few seconds later he was surrounded by police cars and arrested.
Held overnight at the harsh Ma’ale Adumin detention center, he was flown back to France, with none of his personal possessions or papers. This happened on the anniversary of the mass shooting in the Ibrahami Mosque in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein in 1991, a follower of Mayer Kahane, labeled terrorists by both Israel and the US. Ironically nearby this mosque in Hebron is Beit Romano, land purchased by a Turkish Jew in 1870 (who may be Romano’s ancestor) to build a home for the elderly but is now an illegal settlement housing an Ultra-Orthodox school and a military camp for Israeli Occupation Forces. His arrest and deportation coincided with the merger of the far-right wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party with Netanyahu, which supports violence against Palestinians, expulsion of Arabs from Israel and a ban on relationships between Jews and Arabs. This move is greatly criticized by Jews in the diaspora since this party has ties to Kahane and right-wing extremists. In his sermon this week the ultra-Zionist Rabbi Benny Lau in Jerusalem likened Kahanism to Nazism.
Netanyahu, now under indictment for corruption, is desperately courting the far right in Israel for survival. Israel’s election committee had voted to permit Kahanist Michael Ben Ari, head of Otzma Yehudit, to run for Knesset. The Supreme Court recently overturned this, citing his racism and incitement to violence. However his party has not been banned.
Americans such as Frank Romano, along with Israelis who oppose Israel’s harsh occupation policies, are demonized, abused and jailed. Unfortunately Zouheir Bahloul, Palestinian member of Knesset now just resigned after the controversial nation-state law was passed, which moves the Jewish state further from the democracy it claims to be, giving Jews privileges above non-Jews. All this serves to enable extremists rather than those who seek non-violence to remedy injustices.