A 60 year-old Irvine man is on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.
Jim Henry, originally from Saltcoats, was arrested last Sunday at Tel Aviv airport after flying in from Manchester as part of an international initiative aimed at raising awareness of the plight of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
As the3towns revealed last week, the ‘Welcome to Palestine 2012’ initiative saw people from around the world attempt to visit Bethlehem in order to meet with Palestinians currently living under Israeli rule. Israel enforces a blockade of Gaza and the West Bank, which restricts the movement of Palestinians and blocks vital supplies, including medicines, from reaching the areas. In addition, the State of Israel continues to sanction the establishment of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.
Ahead of last Sunday’s flights, Israel controversially issued airlines with a ‘black list’ of names, requiring that those on the list be refused permission to board aircraft bound for Tel Aviv. A number of Scots, including Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, were turned away from a flight scheduled to leave Manchester. However, Jim Henry and four others were not on the Israeli list and were allowed to board.
the3towns understands the five Scots were arrested at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport after telling immigration officials they wished to visit Palestine. No offence had been committed, but Israel's public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch described the arrival of Scots and other pro-Palestinian travellers as “a provocation [that] will not be tolerated”. Mr Aharonovitch added, “As any other country would do, Israel will stop hostile elements from entering its territory.”
Jim Henry’s son, David, confirmed this week that his dad wanted to visit Palestine to help establish a school for blind children.
It is understood Mr Henry was led from Ben Gurion airport with his hands and feet manacled. He was taken to Givon prison in Ramle, where he remains in custody. Male members of the group arrested last Sunday began a hunger strike in protest at the refusal by Israeli authorities to release female colleagues who were also manacled and imprisoned.
A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office confirmed they are aware of Jim Henry’s arrest and imprisonment in Israel. The official also indicated consular services were being provided to Mr Henry and his family.