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Israel Arrests Geography Professor from the University of Akron

The Detention of Ghazi Walid Falah

by DAVID NALLY

On the 9 July, 2006 Professor Ghazi Walid Falah–a professional geographer who holds dual Arab-Israeli and Canadian citizenship and is a University Lecturer at the University of Akron in Ohio–was arrested by the Israeli authorities near Haifa in northern Israel.

Some time before his arrest Professor Falah had travelled to Israel to visit his mother before she underwent critical brain surgery. On July 9th Professor Falah packed his camera and headed for a popular tourist resort near Nahariya, close to the border with Lebanon.

While taking photographs he was approached by members of the Israeli police force. He was subsequently detained and escorted back to his brother’s house in a nearby town where he had been staying. There he was ordered to collect all of his personal belongings and was ushered away by the police. To date no charges have been publicly brought against Professor Falah and his attorney is under a restraining order not to discuss the case with the media or public.

A recent website organised by Dr. Colin Flint of Penn State University aiming to publicise Falah’s situation, relates the following:

On the 15th July Falah was brought before an Israeli judge, who ruled that he was to remain in police custody. His attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, was not permitted to enter the courtroom, to speak with Professor Falah, or to learn the charges against him. On Saturday July 22nd Professor Falah again appeared before a judge who extended his confinement for four additional days.

Throughout this ordeal a gag order has been imposed on Falah’s attorney, and his family, who live in Wadsworth, Ohio, have been denied communication and access rights.

Although no charges have been publicly brought against Professor Falah, the insinuation seems to be that his photographs were being taken for espionage. Here a few points are worth bearing in mind. First, like very many social scientists, Professor Falah is an avid photographer: he often took pictures for use in his classes at the University of Akron, Ohio, and for his publications on the Middle East. Indeed, many of his photographs end up on the cover of the Arab World Geographer, of which he is the Chief Editor.

Professor Falah holds impeccable academic credentials. He has published widely in Political Geography, the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and Third World Quarterly. However, he has also written very critically on Israeli geopolitics, and has worked with noted Israeli peace researchers such as David Newman. As one Irish geographer expressed it: ‘Although not substantiated, there is genuine fear that Ghazi’s research may play against him in his continued detainment.’

Thirdly, the fact that no charges have been publicly brought against Professor Falah means that his case is closed to legal dispute. The fact that his family and lawyer have been refused access is a denial of very basic human rights.

According to those involved in publicising these events, there has been a ‘swelling chorus of international support for Professor Falah,’ including concerned activists ‘in Israel as well as others in the USA, Canada and Europe, and representations have been made to the Canadian and Israeli authorities by professional organizations and individuals.’ Those appalled by these developments have been urging authorities to meet basic standards of due-process and to respect Professor Falah’s human rights.

To learn more about Professor Falah and what you can do to help please visit: http://www.muehlenhaus.com/ghazi


DAVID NALLY completed his Ph.D in Geography at the University of British Columbia. He was recently appointed as a University Lecturer in Human Geography at Cambridge.