Alerts and Reports 

Friday webinar with the Human Rights activists designated as "terrorists"

The Middle East Institute (MEI), Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Century International, and the International Crisis Group (ICG) invite you to a special webinar on Friday, October 29, 2021 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM ET (5:30-7:00 PM Jerusalem time) featuring representatives from the following organizations:

Shawan Jabarin, General Director, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man

Sahar Francis, Director, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Khaled Quzmar, General Director, Defense for Children-International

Ubai al-Aboudi, Executive Director, Bisan Center for Research and Development

Fuad Abu Saif, General Director, Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)

Tahreer Jaber, Executive Director of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC)

Moderated by:

Khaled Elgindy (MEI) and Lara Friedman (FMEP).

Last Friday’s decision by Israel’s Ministry of Defense to designate six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist organizations” has sent shockwaves across Palestinian civil society and raised alarm bells throughout the international donor community.

An Israeli delegation is scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday, October 28, 2021, to brief the Biden administration on the alleged secret evidence behind these designations. As of now, however, the administration has not indicated whether it also intends to hear directly from the six targeted groups, all of which are recipients of international donor funds.

Given the grave implications of this decision for the affected organizations as well as for Palestinian civil society more generally, including the possibility of increased repression at the hands of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it is critical that American decision-makers and the broader policy community in Washington have an opportunity to hear directly from the organizations themselves.

This event is sponsored by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Carter Center.

Zoom Registration:

They targeted us because we’re succeeding in changing the paradigm’

After being outlawed as 'terrorist organizations' overnight, Palestinian human rights groups talk to +972 about why Israel's allegations are not just unfounded, but amount to an act of political persecution.

By Yuval Abraham, +972 Magazine, October 25, 2021

When Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an executive order last week declaring six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations,” the government did not even bother with putting on a facade of due process. With the swift stroke of a pen, the NGOs — Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union for Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — were instantly outlawed with neither a trial nor the opportunity to respond to the accusations against them.

Yet rather than question the dubious nature of this move, the vast majority of Israeli media outlets simply cribbed the Defense Ministry’s official statement on the matter, which accused the six organizations of serving as “arms” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a secular, Marxist-Leninist party and movement deemed a terrorist group by Israel.

The government claimed that the NGOs whitewashed funds intended for humanitarian reasons and transferred them for military purposes instead, further accusing the organizations’ employees of belonging, either in the past or present, to the PFLP. Right-wing Israeli groups, too, have for years tried to draw connections between these organizations and the PFLP in an effort to cut off their funding abroad.

The Defense Ministry’s decision was based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, which it has not revealed to the public. But according to sources with knowledge of the legal case, the agency’s evidence is reportedly based on the testimony of a sole employee who was terminated from one of the organizations for corruption.

Evidence that contradicts the Shin Bet’s account, however, exists in spades. Over the past five years, under pressure from the Israeli government and pro-Israel NGOs, multiple European governments and private foundations that provide funding to Palestinian civil society have conducted extensive audits of each of the six organizations. None found any evidence of foul play.

Employees at Addameer seen following a raid by Israeli forces on their office, Ramallah, West Bank, December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90) Employees at Addameer seen following a raid by Israeli forces on their office, Ramallah, West Bank, December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90) Moreover, the targeted organizations themselves paint an entirely different picture from the allegations meted out by the Shin Bet — with much evidence to back them up.

I spoke to the heads or senior members of five of the NGOs, all of whom are prominent activists, lawyers, and thinkers who harshly criticize both the Israeli regime and the Palestinian Authority [the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees declined to speak to Local Call, +972’s Hebrew sister site, where a version of this article was first published]. Vehemently rejecting Israel’s accusations, they describe these latest attacks as part of Israel’s years-long political persecution of Palestinian civil society in order to silence their work.

‘We have nothing to hide’

“We are the only human rights group that focuses on children in Palestine,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the ​​Accountability Program Director at Defense for Children International-Palestine, which was founded in 1991.

“Our job is twofold,” he explained. “The first is legal: we represent around 200 children a year in Israeli and Palestinian courts. The second is policy-based: since 2000, we have documented the killing of over 2,200 Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli military forces, particularly in Gaza.”

The Defense Ministry briefing that was distributed to journalists following Gantz’s announcement did not specify the specific reason for labeling DCI-Palestine, a highly-respected organization that is active in the UN committees and on Capitol Hill, as a “terrorist organization.”

“We have been attacked in the past, but it has happened through right-wing groups such as the NGO Monitor,” Abu Eqtaish added, referring to the organization that tracks the activities of Palestinian and left-wing civil society organizations that criticize Israeli policy in order to drain them of financial resources. NGO Monitor claims that DCI-Palestine “leads the campaign exploiting children to promote demonization of Israel, and is linked to the PFLP terror group. Many of its allegations are false and part of attempts to smear Israel with allegations of ‘war crimes’ and promote BDS.”

CCTV footage of Israeli soldiers confiscating computer equipment and client files during a raid on the offices of Defense for Children International – Palestine, Al-Bireh, West Bank, July 29, 2021. (DCI-P) Abu Eqtaish calls the accusations against DCI-Palestine “absurd,” emphasizing there is no proof his group funds the PFLP. “Israel and right-wing organizations have approached all the governments and foundations that fund us to challenge our legitimacy as an organization. Instead of worrying about exposing the violations of the occupation against children, we’ve had to defend ourselves.”

According to Abu Eqtaish, all the bodies that fund DCI-Palestine — including the governments of Italy and Denmark, as well as the European Union — have conducted independent investigations regarding Israeli claims in the past. “They asked us for proof that the allegations were baseless, and we provided it to them. We have nothing to hide. All our financial reports are public.”

A British court also found the allegations to be false. In 2020, the court ordered UK Lawyers for Israel, an organization that operates in a similar manner to NGO Monitor, to retract its claim that DCI-Palestine supported the PFLP or transferred funds to it. The court also required UK Lawyers for Israel to publicly declare that DCI-Palestine does not have “close current links, or provides any financial or material support to any terrorist organisation.”

“They were unable to reach their goals using this strategy, which is why they moved on to another one,” Abu Eqtaish said. “In July, army forces raided our organization’s offices in Ramallah and confiscated computers and legal files pertaining to children. We turned to the military court to demand the files be returned. The court refused.”

He concluded: “Right now, we in the organization are trying to understand what next steps we should take. We know these allegations have no basis. The attack on the organization is mainly an attack on its purpose: exposing the crimes of the occupation against children, and calling on the international community to punish Israel for them.”

‘Everyone knows where every single shekel goes’ Established in 1979, Al-Haq is the oldest and largest Palestinian human rights and advocacy NGO in the occupied territories. According to Hisham Sharbati, a field worker for Al-Haq who has worked with the organization for 12 years, the reason for Israel’s recent designation is entirely political.

“Al-Haq has a large role in providing information against Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” he explained. “Due to our activities, many in the world are clearly calling Israel an ‘apartheid state.’ This is why we are being persecuted.”

Sharbati mentioned that Gantz had met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah earlier this month and that they spoke about “building trust.” “What kind of trust-building is there when [Gantz] attacks civil society organizations in this way? This move seeks to deprive the Palestinian people of one of the most important organizations they have to defend their rights against the occupation and against the Palestinian Authority.”

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s statement, and even the slightly more detailed document that was later sent to reporters, made no reference to Al-Haq despite it being the largest of the six organizations. It is still not at all clear on what basis Al-Haq has been outlawed.

The allegations against Al-Haq may have derived from another source. In 2015, as international pressure against Israel mounted, the government allocated tens of millions of shekels to the now-defunct Ministry of Strategic Affairs to lead a “campaign against the effects of delegitimization and boycotts against Israel,” with Gilad Erdan, who is now Israel’s U.S. ambassador, appointed as the head of the body.

Minister of Interior Security Gilad Erdan speaks during an international press conference, Bnei Brak, February 3, 2019. (Flash90) Minister of Interior Security Gilad Erdan speaks during an international press conference, Bnei Brak, February 3, 2019. (Flash90) One of the ministry’s central activities was to label Palestinian civil society groups as affiliated with terrorists in order to pressure European governments to cut their funding. According to official reports published by the ministry, the six organizations blacklisted last week were a major target.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry published reports with titles such as “Terrorists in Suits,” “Blood Money,” and “Network of Hate,” echoing the messaging of various right-wing groups. NGO Monitor in particular has accused Al-Haq’s general director, Shawan Jabarin, of being active in the PFLP. And yet, the ministry still failed to provide any evidence to prove the NGO’s ties to violence.

“I’ve been with the organization for 12 years, and not a single person from Al-Haq has been arrested during this period,” Sharbati said. “Our work is entirely legal and transparent. Our funders receive detailed reports. We are under tight oversight, and everyone knows where every single shekel goes.”

Regarding the allegations that some of the organization’s operatives were members of the PFLP, Sharbati said: “If someone was active with the PFLP, sat in prison, and was released a few months later — then what? Does this mean they should not work anywhere? If someone has done something illegal, arrest them. But there is no evidence of wrongdoing.”

‘Absolutely manipulative’ The Bisan Center is a small, left-leaning Palestinian research center. It is staffed by eight academics and is headed by Ubai Aboudi, who writes about economics and sociology.

“We were founded in 1986 by a group of scholars and scientists,” explained Aboudi. “We support the rights of marginalized communities, apply pressure against global warming, promote gender equality, and oppose Israel’s occupation policies.”

Aboudi has been detained twice in the last two years: once by Israel, and again by the Palestinian Authority. During his first arrest in late 2019, Israel’s military court accused him of membership in the PFLP. “They had no proof, and the judge determined that there were evidentiary issues,” he remarked.

However, Aboudi eventually agreed to a plea bargain and was locked up for four months (Israel’s military courts, which operate as an integral arm of Israel’s control over Palestinians under occupation, has between a 95 to 99 percent conviction rate, according to various human rights groups).

“I have no ties to the PFLP, but I’m a father, and I wanted to return to my three children as soon as possible — so I took the deal,” he explained. At the time, Aboudi’s administrative detention sparked an international campaign, and about a thousand scientists and scholars signed a petition for his release.

This year, Aboudi was arrested twice by the PA, after protesting the killing of Nizar Banat, an activist and government critic, who was beaten to death in June under the custody of Palestinian security forces.

Palestinians take part in a protest over the killing of activist Nizar Banat, in the West Bank city of Hebron, July 2, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90) Palestinians take part in a protest over the killing of activist Nizar Banat, in the West Bank city of Hebron, July 2, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90) A month later, the Israeli army raided Bisan Center’s offices in Ramallah and confiscated their computers. According to the Defense Ministry’s press release, Bisan was declared a “terrorist organization” because PFLP members held meetings in its offices. Furthermore, the statement claimed, the center’s previous director, I’tiraf Rimawi, was a member of the armed wing of the PFLP. Rimawi was convicted to three and a half years in prison for membership in the student extension of the PFLP — when he wasn’t an employee of Bisan Center.

“This [Israeli] perspective is absolutely manipulative,” said Aboudi. “How can an entire organization be responsible for the actions that one person allegedly committed outside of work? If a person works for a bank in the United States, and breaks the law, do you then shut down the bank?”

Regarding the use of Bisan’s offices for PFLP meetings, Aboudi said: “Our office does not serve any purpose that isn’t related to our research. It was never used by armed forces, and the center has no connection to any violent actions. Read our research, our worldview is based on equality and social justice.”

Like the other organizations, Aboudi said that Israel’s claim that the groups acted as a “lifeline” and as fundraisers for the PFLP was a complete fabrication, and that “the center’s budget is open and transparent for all.”

In May, Aboudi noted, Israel invited representatives from foreign embassies and demanded that they stop their funding to Palestinian human rights groups. As a result, the Belgian government conducted an audit of the funding it provides to Bisan, and it determined that there is no basis for the government’s accusations. “All our funding, about NIS 800,000 a year, goes toward research and salary payments,” he said.

As with the other organizations, Bisan’s employees are now worried that, following Israel’s declaration, funders around the world will hesitate to support the center, and that it will collapse financially. “This was always [Prime Minister] Naftali Bennett’s and [Interior Minister] Ayelet Shaked’s main struggle: to persecute Palestinian human rights organizations,” Argued Aboudi. “Their relations with far-right settler groups, such as NGO Monitor and Regavim, are deep. They have been thinking for years to outlaw Palestinian human rights organizations. Now they were presented with the opportunity to do so, and they took it.”

‘The occupation is the source of the violence’ The Union of Agricultural Work Committees was established in 1986. Among other areas of work, it assists Palestinian farmers in cultivating their land in Area C — the two-thirds of the West Bank which is under full Israeli control, where Israeli settlements are built and expanded, and where Israel systematically prevents Palestinian development. This work, according to UAWC’s director Fuad Abu Seif, is the reason they were outlawed.

“Israel wants to annex Area C,” he said. “Our work strengthens Palestinian presence there, in an area it’s not wanted. This is why they’ve been going after us for years.”

Abu Seif continued: “Regavim [a right-wing Israeli organization] has been inciting against us daily, because we help Palestinian farmers cultivate about 3,000 dunams of land a year, and open agricultural paths that connect between Areas A, B, and C. All our work is done on private land, to help the farmers. Israel prevents them from developing their land for political reasons, to expel them.”

Israel accused two former UAWC employees of involvement in the murder of Rina Shenrab, a 17-year-old Israeli, in the West Bank in August 2019. The Defense Ministry cited the teen’s murder as the reason for the union’s designation as a “terrorist organization.”

Israeli border police officers stand guard as Palestinian farmers use tractors to work the land in the village of Kusra in the West Bank, Nov. 19, 2013. (Nati Shohat/Flash90) Israeli border police officers stand guard as Palestinian farmers use tractors to work the land in the village of Kusra in the West Bank, Nov. 19, 2013. (Nati Shohat/Flash90) “They were two individuals out of an organization of 120 employees, an organization that thousands have worked in over the years,” said Abu Saif regarding the allegations. “It’s not that the organization decided to act this way. As an organization, we reject violence, and say that the occupation is the source of the violence.”

For years, according to Abu Saif, Israel has been looking for security reasons to use as an excuse for shutting down various Palestinian organizations that operate in Area C.

In late 2020, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee met to discuss the government’s struggle against these organizations. At the meeting, MK Zvi Hauser noted that the discussion was “a national interest of the first degree,” because “it is what will determine the state’s future borders.”

“It is not just a struggle over land and enforcement, but also a diplomatic struggle,” Ghassan Alyan, the former head of the Civil Administration — the arm of Israel’s military government that rules the occupied territories — said at the committee meeting. Alyan added that when Bennett was Defense Minister in 2020, he met with ambassadors and attachés from European countries and demanded that they halt their funding to Palestinian organizations that operate in Area C.

“We warned everyone: we will not tolerate any international project without Israeli approval… and we managed to decrease the number of projects over the last two years,” Alyan said at the meeting. “There were about 12 projects in 2019, when in 2015 there were approximately 75 conducted projects.”

“Israel is attempting to distort these organizations’ reputation with our funders,” said Abu Saif. “If the Europeans end their funding, all these groups will disappear. And it’s working.

“They are focusing on two types of organizations: ones that act at the international level, like Al-Haq, and those that operate in Area C, like us,” Abu Saif added. “This didn’t start two days ago — it has been going on for years.”

In the early morning of July 7, Israeli forces broke into UAWC’s offices and shut them down. Abu Saif arrived that morning to find that the computers were confiscated and the doors were sealed. A closure order was also attached to the doors, issued by the Israeli military governor.

“You have to understand, our organization only deals with agriculture. Most of us are engineers. I, too, am an engineer. Will Israel now arrest us all? This organization has existed for 35 years,” said Abu Seif.

Still, the declaration of six veteran organizations as “terrorists” is unprecedented, said Abu Saif. “It has been made possible only because of the new government,” he argued. “As bad as Netanyahu was, he did not go for such a drastic move. In my assessment, he was more cautious. The settler lobby and Regavim can apply pressure more easily on the current government, which is much more extreme.”

‘The roots of this attack’ Sahar Francis heads Addameer, which provides legal support to Palestinian prisoners and detainees locked up in Israeli and PA prisons. “Most of the work our organization does is with Israeli authorities,” said Francis. “I’m waiting to see what they will tell our lawyers in the military courts.”

Francis continued: “This is a political decision, which stems from the incessant persecution against us. How can one publish such a statement in the press without hearing what these organizations have to say? Without a trial or the right to a hearing?”

According to Francis, the government’s decision is part of a broad, long-term move against Palestinian civil society. “It started with attacks from right-wing organizations such as NGO Monitor, who were in direct communication with the Israeli government,” she explained. “Later, in 2015, Gilad Erdan’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs was launched, and they tried to dry up our funding without end.”

According to the Defense Ministry’s press release, Addameer was designated as a “terrorist organization” because it was formed by senior members of the PFLP to deal with political prisoners and their families. Yet Addamer was established in 1991, which, if the allegation was even true, would make Israel’s recent designation 30 years late.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth during a protest against Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Hebron, West Bank, December 7, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90) Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth during a protest against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Hebron, West Bank, December 7, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90) The ministry’s statement also claimed that meetings with senior PFLP members were conducted at Addameer’s offices, and that the organization delivers messages to prisoners on behalf of the PFLP. However, no further explanation was provided.

“These allegations are simply false,” Francis said in response. “The organization does not belong to the PFLP. We only deal with legal representation, and lobby on the local and international level. We have been targeted for years, for one reason: we’re succeeding in changing the paradigm around the world by speaking of apartheid, and not only occupation, and we are providing materials to The Hague.

“We must go back to the roots of this attack,” she emphasized. “Since the start of the occupation, Israel has been acting against civil society organizations. It announced labor and student unions as illegal. During the Second Intifada, there was a massive attack on charities under the claim that they’re associated with Hamas. I think we made a mistake then, for not taking it seriously enough. The Palestinian Authority was happy at the time, because it promoted its interests — hurting those who oppose it.

“Our message, along with the other organizations, is that we will not stop working. We will not stop providing services to those who need us. We refuse to fall silent on the occupation’s apartheid rule.”

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Palestinian civil society PFLP Addameer Benny Gantz Ministry of Strategic Affairs Local Call NGO Monitor Yuval Abraham is a photography and linguistics student.

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In Memeoriam Beate Keller Zilversmidt, 1942-2021

From Adam Keller: a personal message on very deep mourning - and on overcoming pain.

As you may have noticed, during July and early August there were no new messages posted on this website. There was a complete cessation of the stream of messages that I usually post about Israel, the Palestinians and the various crises breaking out in this extremely volatile part of the world.

There was a very weighty reason why for about a month you got virtually nothing from me. The reason was that my wife, Beate Keller Zilversmidt, with whom I spent thirty-five years of the happiest marriage imaginable and with whom I was at least as much in love as on our first day, was hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where she died on the morning of Friday, August 6. Beate had waged a very long struggle against cancer, won quite a few battles over the past two decades, but it was cancer that had the final victory.

I must admit that in those weeks of hospitalization and of my wife's final struggle, and in the weeks of mourning that followed, I could simply feel no interest in political events, struggles and demonstrations. For some weeks, deep personal pain completely overwhelmed and dominated my life, to the exclusion of everything else.

This is a difficult moment, possibly the most difficult in my life. But Beate and I always knew that this moment would come sooner or later – very, very much later, we hoped. Beate struggled with all her might against cancer, especially because she did not want to leave me alone. She told me many times that had she been single, without someone who deeply loved her sharing her life, she would not have fought cancer so long and so persistently.

At least it is a bit of comfort that Beate had a peaceful, painless death. Cancer destroyed her lungs and therefore the oxygen level in her blood dropped to the point where life could not continue. As I now know from my eyewitness observation, when cancer kills you this way, you don't suffer any pain - you just go to sleep and never wake up again.

I was there, I heard her say "Good Night" in a perfectly ordinary way and saw her put her head on the pillow and fall asleep immediately - not knowing that I would never hear her voice again.

There are many varieties of cancer and very many ways in which cancer can kill. Many cancer patients die in prolonged nasty pain. At least Beate was spared that.

I will never ever forget her. To my own last day I will again and again hear her voice speaking inside my head, warm words of love and good advice from a wise woman. I had gotten to know her so well during 35 years of marriage that I can know quite accurately what she would have said in various situations. I could have sat down for a whole day and written about Beate and still it would have been no more than a fragment of what can be told of her. And indeed, I intend to write more about her, things which might be of interest also to those who did not personally know her.

Beate and I always knew that when you have great happiness, you will have to pay for it with great pain when that happiness comes to its end. In our last two weeks together, when a hospital room became our home - a home in every way - we spoke very much of her approaching death and the pain I would feel afterwards. We discussed it again and again and again, and we always came to the same conclusion - that the coming pain was a price worth paying. Very much so.

A few days after Beate's death, her family members in Holland, along with her friends in Israel and with some people from other places (Palestinians, Americans, Germans...) held an online memorial via Zoom. Esther, Beate's highly capable granddaughter, took care to record it and place it on Youtube. You can access it here:

Beate's children and grandchildren in Holland have made it very clear that I will always be part of the family, and have invited to come and stay with them - which I certainly intend to do, as soon as the Corona Virus restrictions are lifted.

In the past weeks I have been making a great effort to rebuild my life, with the generous help of very many friends and family members. I received an enormous outpouring of condolences and warm support. Without this help, I am not sure I would have been able to overcome my great pain, even partially.

I will go on mourning Beate for a very long time, probably for as long as I live, but I must go on living. I must go on doing the things which Beate and I did and which gave meaning to our lives. This of course includes the struggle against the occupation and for peace, in which she was my full partner and which I intend to continue with all my strength - on her behalf as well - and to commemorate her.

Beate, Me and the Cancer

I saw Beate for the first time at an evening hour on February 14, 1986, at a conference hall in the Dutch town of Amersfoort. On the morning of August 6, 2021 I said goodbye forever, knowing I will never ever see her again, at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. In between these two dates there were thirty five years of a wonderful togetherness, the most happy marriage imaginable. (To be precise, these were thirty five years - and a half. I would not have given up this last half a year, not for any price. This half a year included some of our most wonderful moments.)

Beate was a cancer patient for 21 years out of our 35 years of marriage. The last fifteen were stage 4 cancer which is the highest. Not many stage 4 cancer cases survive for 15 years, she was a bit of a medical miracle. Even more remarkable, for 14 of these 15 years, she was mostly unaffected by the cancer and could live a normal active life. Indeed, there were whole weeks where I hardly thought of my wife's cancer. I remember one evening when we were sitting in our favorite vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv and eating a very good meal and feeling happy and relaxed, and she took out of her bag a box with two small pink pills and took them with a glass of water, and I thought: "Could anyone looking at her right now guess that they just saw a stage 4 cancer patient taking chemotherapy?"

Oncologists at Ichilov were actually competing with each other to get Beate as a patient. She was a very interesting case medically, and I think it also gave them a good feeling to have a patient who was doing so well for such a long time. They have so many cases which are much worse and so often meet people who suffer horribly and for whom not much could be done.

Beate's long survival was partly due to the cancer in her body being a relatively "lazy" one, spreading only slowly. She used to joke about her "roommate" and say "He knows that if he kills me he will die himself, so he is not in a hurry". But it was not only the relative luck of having a "lazy" cancer. Beate helped that luck by being very critical of the oncologists, not taking anything for granted, refusing treatments which she thought unreasonable, stopping treatment for a time when she felt the side effects increasing and then resuming it when the cancer increased. She called this "The Zig Zag Method". She always said that many cancer patients die of the treatment rather than the cancer itself.A good friend of ours who died ten years ago was one very clear such case. In Beate's opinion, dying of chemotherapy was more painful and messy than dying of the cancer itself.

I was present when Beate told an oncologist "No, I will not do this. I think it will do me more harm than good". And the oncologist said "All right, I rely on your judgement". I think very few cancer patients - or any kind of patient - get to hear such words from a doctor.

And Beate also made a very big effort to live a healthy life and eat healthy food and take long walks in the night with me. She used all kinds of alternative and complementary methods but was very critical of them too. She used to enter all kinds of websites advertising supposed miracle cures for cancer, look very carefully at what they had to offer and why they said it would work, and she would order only one of a hundred such Miracle Pills on offer on the net - and then try to take a careful look to see if they really had an effect, otherwise they would go to the garbage. Beate made such extensive study of the subject that I think she knew about cancer more than anyone who is not a trained oncologist. She was for years actively participating in an international online network of breast cancer patients, offering useful advice and words of support to others less fortunate than herself. I estimate that at least five of her fifteen years of surviving as a stage 4 cancer patient were due to her own tireless efforts and struggle.

But we always knew that even medical miracles don't last forever and that even a lazy cancer would eventually get to a vital organ, and that is what happened this year.The cancer got to her lungs.The right lung collapsed completely within a few months and also the left one was affected. Walking any kind of distance became a great effort for Beate. Even so, we continued to have our vegan restaurant evenings. There was the evening when we found the restaurant where we wanted to eat unexpectedly closed, and she suggested that we go to another one, three city blocks away. In her condition that was an enormous distance. I was surprised and asked "Do you think you can make it?" She said "Sure I can". And she did. Determined, she walked on and on without stopping, refusing to rest on a bench, and eating with great appetite when we got to the other restaurant. For a Stage 4 cancer patient with ruined lungs, that was running the Marathon.

In these final months she was inspired by her very musical daughters and granddaughters and took up playing the piano after a 45 years break. We got a simple electric piano which could be easily ordered and delivered to the house. She could master only a few simple tunes, but did them beautifully every evening. Afterwards we would sit eating watermelon and listening to classical music concerts and recitals on youtube. This continued until our last evening at home.

We live (I must sadly now say "we lived") on the fourth floor of an old house without an elevator. Every day, she was still able to climb these four stairs. Very slowly, with big effort, but she did. On the day when it was necessary to call an ambulance and get her to the hospital, she still walked the stairs on her own feet. A medic walked behind her, holding an oxygen tube connected to her nose, and she walked slowly down the stairs.

In these last weeks we effectively moved our residence to room 8 of the "Internal Diseases A" section of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. I stayed with her all the time, only twice taking a taxi home to get a few things and immediately back to Ichilov. Actually, I felt that "home" was not an empty apartment. Home was where Beate was.

Every night I spread a camping mattress beside her bed, put some blankets on it and slept very contentedly at her side. One night I did a very daring and utterly forbidden thing. In the middle of the night we spread the curtains around her bed and I lay in the bed which was big enough for two, for three wonderful hours. We did no more than tenderly holding hands and a bit of caressing, but it felt like a second honeymoon.I crept out long before first light. We reluctantly decided not to risk it again. Being caught in such a flagrant violation of hospital rules might have led to my being altogether expelled from Ichilov.

The oxygen level in Beate's lungs was dropping to very dangerous levels. With a healthy person, it should be 95%. A level in the 80s is bad but still tolerable. With Beate, even when she was perpetually linked to oxygen, it was sometimes dropping to 72 or 73. Beate devised some breathing exercises which would raise it. They worked. She would lie down quietly and calmly, with the oximeter on her finger, and I saw the figures jump up from 75 to 85 and 90. But it did not last long, and it was a constant effort.

A radiologist came and told Beate there was still one thing the hospital could try. Five radiation treatments on her neck, on five consecutive days, might have stopped a tumor which was pressing down on a major blood vessel - though it would not have helped her ruined lung.

I urged her to try it, it was the only chance left. We spent a whole sleepless night debating it. She was adamant: "No, I will not do it. If I go lying flat on my back in the narrow inhumane tunnel of that radiation machine, unable to do any breathing exercises, I will not come out alive". In the end she convinced me. In the morning she told the doctors she was rejecting the radiation treatment. Later on, the friendly radiologist came back and admitted that she was right. The proposed treatment had been best. Ichilov had suggested it simply because they had nothing better to offer.

Beate's grandson Sam, who is a fourth year medical student in Holland, read one of our updates from the hospital, and he wrote to Beate "As a medical student and a grandchild, I am very proud of you."

Every day she was weaker. She could no longer take even one step outside her bed, her legs would not hold her.Beate did not fear death. She very stoically accepted that it was near and inevitable and tried to prepare me for it, having long calm practical conversations and giving concrete advice - very good advice - about what I should do after her death. There was one afternoon when I burst out crying and crying and crying. Her arms were still strong enough to hold me and her hands were caressing my head. I said while still crying "It is easier to start mourning you when you are still here to consolate me". She said "Exactly so".

What she did fear was the loss of cognitive ability, loss of who she was. A very real danger when you have low oxygen in your blood. Two days before her death there was a very frightening incident. She was suddenly babbling gibberish and saying nonsense, like asking if the nurse was har grandmother. Then I could see her making a conscious effort to get hold of herself. She declared "I am Beate Keller" and then named, one by one, her children and grandchildren. I helped her by asking questions "Where do we live?" "What were the names of your parents?" "What is the best restaurant on Ibn Gvirol Street?" to which she answered promptly and correctly. Within minutes, she was completely herself again. But there was no guarantee she could do it again if a second such lapse occured. On the following morning - which was to be the last of her life - she told me she wanted to die before that happened.

On the afternoon of that day she had very happy hours with Elja, her son, and Jedida, one of her daughters, who had come especially from Holland after a titanic struggle with the Israeli Kovid bureaucracy. I gave Beate a cup of tea and moved aside to give her children their time with her, and they sat for hours chatting in Dutch.

At about 10.00 that evening Beate asked me to give her a cup of her favorite vegan vanille pudding. She ate it all, smacked her lips, and said "When I have a dry mouth, I prefer pudding to water. Good night!". These were her last words.

She put her head on the pillow and was asleep within minutes. At some time during the night sleep deepened into unconcosciusness. By the morning she could not be woken, and she had strictly forbidden the doctors to use any kind of resuscitation on her.

I was sitting at her side all the time, but I did not notice the moment when her breathing stopped. At about 9.00 on Friday, August 6 2021, a woman doctor came, examined her and told me she was dead. Then several other doctors came and very warmly expressed their condolences and told me how highly impressed they had been with her.

I was strangely calm and dry-eyed. I had indeed shed my tears when she was still there to consolate me.

The doctors gave me an hour with her, before the hospital staff arrived to deal with the body. I caressed her wonderful hair for the last time, and I told her for the last time that she is the most wonderful woman in the world - though I knew she could no longer hear me. I did not need the whole hour. Beate never liked long goodbyes. In less than half an hour I told the hospital staff they could come deal with the body, as far as I was concerned.

I knew that that body was no longer Beate. If the Monotheristic religions are right, Beate is now somewhere up in Heaven. If they are wrong, Beate is nowhere - except in my head and my heart, where she will stay until the moment of my own death.

Snapshots from THirty Five years

The following is based on words said in the Zoom online memorial to Beate.

How do I sum up in a few minutes thirty five very happy years of a life shared with the most wonderful woman in the world? Let me give some snapshots, in more or less chronological order.

  • An international activist conference in the Dutch city of Amersfoort. A Dutch woman gets up to speak. I listen carefully but, I must say, I was not yet in love with her.
  • I am in a car, the Dutch woman has offered me a ride. She asks what I will do in Amsterdam and I say I will look for a cheap hotel. She says "No need, you can stay with me".
  • I am in the same car with the same woman six months later, going over the French countryside towards the German border. It is in effect our honeymoon though we are not yet officially married.
  • We go into an empty apartment in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. There is nothing but an old table and two broken chairs. Beate says: "Here we can build a life".
  • Twenty years later, the same apartment is overcrowded with our furniture and bookshelves and the walls covered with our posters and pictures and newspaper clippings.
  • Beate takes a wrong step while helping Palestinian villagers near Jerusalem, and her leg is broken. I go with her in the ambulance to Mukasad Hospital in East Jerusalem.
  • Beate says "My leg is healed. I don't need doctors to get rid of this damn hot plaster. Give me the hammer, I am going to do it myself!". Afterwards she luxuriates in her first bath for two months.
  • We go into an apartment in Jerusalem to meet a three and half years old boy. At first he is very shy, but soon he lets me join him and his toy train on the floor. Beate whispers "Remember, don't yet tell that you are his father. Leave that to the second meeting". Half an hour later, Uri tells his mother Rama: "Adam is my friend!"
  • We are on the way to Gaza to deliver food. Extreme Right-Wingers block our way, shouting "Leftist traitors!" and one of them tries to grab my bag of supplies. Beate jumps on his back, wildly beating his shoulders and shouting "Leave him alone! Leave him alone!".
  • In a small German town a stall offers nice blue caps with various first names on them. I find one with the name "Beate" and pay the young German woman. She says "Ah, Beate?". Clearly she is curious about my wife or girlfriend with the German name.
  • The time of the Oslo Agreements. In central Tel Aviv opponents of the Rabin government push into a peace demonstration and there is wild confusion. Beate starts shouting "Rabin, Ha'am Itcha" (Rabin, the people are behind you!). Many others join her, and we realize there are many more of us than of them.
  • Beate is being operated on, to remove the breast in which cancer was found. The doctor calls me and asks "Are you the husband?" I cry out "Doctor, what went wrong?". He says "Calm down, I just wanted to tell you it is a complete success."
  • Beate and I take part in a march in central Jerusalem. Activists shout "End the occupation! Make peace!". Suddenly we hear a far off explosion. An organizer gets an call on his mobile phone and then announces: "A suicide bombing just happened a kilometer from here!'. Confused demonstrators ask "So what do we do now?" and the organizer says "We go on marching, this just shows all the more why we need peace". Beate says to the others "He is completely right, let's go on".
  • Uri had refused to join the army and we visit him in the military prison. Beate embraces Uri and he tells her "Don't worry, I am getting along well with both the prisoners and the guards."
  • A tense nighr at Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. I phone the Israeli media: "If Sharon thinks of sending commandos in here, he should know there are dozens of Israeli citizens right in front of Arafat's office". Beate is chatting with very young Palestinian militiamen who speak basic English. A few hours later, the two of us watch the first light over the roofs of Ramallah. The commandos did not come
  • We sit at our favorite vegan restaurant, contently eating a good meal. Beate takes two small pink pills with a glass of water. I think "Who could have guessed that this is a cancer patient with metastasis in various parts of her body, taking chemotherapy?"
  • Gush Shalom had sent warning letters to IDF officers who had committed acts contrary to international law. I, as the Gush Shalom spokesperson, find myself the target of very hostile media coverage. The phone rings ceaselessly: “God Damn you, leftist traitor!” “Leftist, we are coming for you!” Beate says: "They can know where we live! The phone company just gives our address to anyone who asks! They may be waiting for you downstairs. For the coming week you're under house arrest, you don’t get out of the front door. We just don’t take chances!" I say:"It is lucky that our cats were moved to my sister’s home in the Galilee. If we still had cats going out every night, I would go crazy with worry.” Beate says: "Cats know how to take care of themselves!"
  • Like on many mornings, I wake up at six and listen to Aryeh Golan's morning news bulletin.I use earphones on my transistor radio in order not to disturb Beate's sleep. While listening to the news I hang the wet laundry for which I did not have time on the night before. When I get back to bed, Beate half wakes and asks "Was there anything on the news?" I answer "Nothing special, just the usual nastiness." I stroke her hair and she falls asleep, and I also go back to sleep for a few more hours.
  • Beate says "I'm not sure I'll get to see my children again." I say "But the Corona Virus limitations will be dropped within a year, and then Dutch people would be able to visit Israel again." Beate says "I'm not sure I will still be alive by then." I rush over and hold her tightly. We both say the same thing in the same moment: "However much time we have left, we will make the most of it, we will enjoy it - every day, every single moment!"
  • Our restaurant is unexpectedly closed, and Beate suggests another one, three city blocks away. I am astounded and say "But you now get tired so quickly, can you walk that far?". She says "Yes I can!" and she did, walking determined and not stopping to rest - though at the end she was totally exhausted.
  • The Occupation Anniversary. Beate says: "I am quite tired. I don't know if I can stay until the end". We arrive anyway at the rally in the square. Beate takes up a sign "Jerusalem - Capital of Two States" and stands together with our friend Rayna. After half an hour she is exhausted and we take a taxi. That was the last demonstration in which Beate took part.
  • We install the electronic piano which we ordered. Beate says "I think I can play quite well, considering that I did not touch a piano for 45 years' '. A