Gaza Peace Protester Is Prisoner in Own Home

Lawyers Denounce Israeli Police Crackdown

Nine months after he helped to organise protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza, Samih Jabareen is a prisoner in his home in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, an electronic bracelet around his ankle to alert the police should he step outside his front door.

The 40-year-old actor and theatre director is one of dozens of Arab political activists in Israel who have faced long-term detention during and since Israel’s winter assault on Gaza in what human rights groups are calling political intimidation and repression of free speech by the Israeli police and courts.

A report published last week by Adalah, an Arab legal rights group in Israel, said 830 Israeli demonstrators, the overwhelming majority of them Arab citizens, were arrested for participating in mostly peaceful demonstrations during the 23 days of the Gaza operation.

According to the report, the police broke up protests using physical violence; most protesters were refused bail during legal proceedings, despite the minor charges; the courts treated children no differently from adults, in violation of international law; and Arab leaders were interrogated and threatened by the secret police in a bid to end their political activity.

This month’s report by the UN inquiry into Gaza, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, dedicated a chapter to events inside Israel, concluding similarly that there was wide-scale repression of political activists, non-governmental organisations and journalists in Israel.

The goal, the committee said, was “to minimise public scrutiny of [Israel’s] conduct both during its military operations in Gaza and the consequences that these operations have had for the residents of Gaza”.

Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah, said the police and legal system had resorted to mass arrests and a declared policy of “zero tolerance” as the most effective way to suppress peaceful protests.

According to Adalah’s statistics, a third of all those arrested were people under the age of 18, and, in a break with normal legal procedure, 80 per cent were refused bail for the entire period of legal proceedings. Detention is usually reserved for people considered a danger to the public. Most charges related to participation in a prohibited gathering, disturbing the peace or assaulting a police officer. Some children were charged with stone-throwing.

Ms Baker said it was telling that all the detainees in northern Israel, where most of Israel’s 1.3 million Arab citizens live, were kept in detention throughout proceedings, while in Tel Aviv, where joint Arab-Jewish protests were held, all those arrested were quickly released.

She said: “The police used the power of arrest not to punish criminal behaviour, but as a weapon to deter the Arab population from staging entirely lawful demonstrations. This is a tactic we have seen used before in Israel, particularly in the first and second intifadas.”

She noted that there were echoes of events in October 2000, at the start of the second intifada, when Arab citizens held demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories. Thirteen unarmed Arab demonstrators were shot dead and hundreds were beaten and arrested.

A later state inquiry castigated the police for treating the Arab minority, a fifth of Israel’s population, as an “enemy”. Unlike in 2000, however, police commanders on this occasion did not resort to rubber bullets or live ammunition.

Mr Jabareen, a prominent political figure in Jaffa, said that during the Gaza assault he had been put under a three-day house arrest and faced a series of interrogations where he was warned he would be jailed.

Three weeks after the Gaza assault ended, at a small demonstration in northern Israel, he said the police set a “trap” for him. “When I arrived, the police commander clearly knew who I was. He immediately had seven officers surround me. I was soon on the ground and they were beating, hitting and kicking me.”

Mr Jabareen was jailed for three weeks and has been under house arrest ever since.

Ms Baker said of his case: “The police commander accused him of assaulting him and yet they have produced no video footage, even though they filmed the entire demonstration, and no medical evidence that the commander was ever harmed.”

Mr Jabareen said his treatment contrasted with that of the ultra-Orthodox in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of Jerusalem who have been clashing with police for months to prevent the opening of a car park on the Sabbath.

“They are shown on TV throwing punches at the police and hurling stones at them. A few arrests have been made, but despite the high levels of violence, they are almost always released the same or next day. How can I still be under house arrest for eight months? It is clear that different legal standards are being applied.”

Ms Baker said the police had created new offences during the Gaza operation, such as “protests detrimental to public morale.”

Adalah found that a new directive was issued to police commanders about how to handle the protests, though the police have refused to divulge its contents. Ms Baker said she would petition the attorney general for the information.

The Goldstone Committee noted widespread intimidation and humiliation of community leaders. Saleh Bakri, a public figure who participated in a silent candle-light vigil on January 1 in Haifa, was arrested and forced to stand motionless facing the Israeli flag for half an hour as police officers filmed him.

The committee also recorded that at least 20 Arab leaders were forced to attend illegal interrogations by the Shin Bet where they were asked about their political activities. Student activists were asked to collaborate with the authorities and threatened with arrest or harm to their studies if they refused.

Police demanded Amir Makhoul, the head of the Ittijah co-ordinating body for Arab organisations in Israel, attend an interrogation following a speech he gave on December 29 in Haifa. After he refused, he was forcibly escorted to a police station where he was interviewed for four hours.

“They told me I would be thrown in jail if I continued my political work and that they could arrange for me to be dumped in Gaza. Their main concern seemed to be that I was urging the younger generation to be more politically active,” he said.

The Arab minority is staging a general strike on Thursday to protest the increasingly harsh climate and to mark the failure to prosecute any of the policemen responsible for the 13 deaths in 2000.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Annie Ladysmith said on September 30th, 2009 at 1:01am #

    The way things are going, and at such speed, surely we’ll all have one of those fancy electronic braclets on our ankles to compliment the bar-codes tattooed on our asses. Freedom or death! Tnx.

  2. BUTseriously said on October 1st, 2009 at 1:58am #

    This writer is hardly original when describing Pretend Palestinians as THEIR OWN HOME’ in Palestine – these are genicidal statements from those who belong in Al Qaida’s party. Jews have never stolen anyone’s land in all their 4000 year history. The entire Palestine, including Jordan, was allocated to the Jews in the Balfour Mandate – it was illegally and immorally corupted when Jordan was formed, and this was supposed to be the *2-STATE COMPROMISE*:

    ‘It will be an historic compromise to grant two states in palestine – one for the Jews and one for the Arabs’ – CHURCHILL.

    Yet the liers still demand another *2-STATE* and accuses Israel of occupying 12% of their ancestral homeland? Jerusalem is a Hebrew name and city – it is being robbed and a mosque was dumped here – purpsefully – as was the case in Bharat.

    TO COVER ONE LIE – A 1000 TRUTHS MUST BE COVERED.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 2nd, 2009 at 2:56pm #

    Thanks BUTT-it is good to be reminded that the Judaic ultras, the Zionist ‘true believers’, claim the land of Eretz Yisrael, ‘from the Nile to the Euphrates’, on the basis of nothing more than the faery-stories, disproved by archeaology and scholarship, and with the two-legged animals, the Arab, Palestinian, Islamic untermenschen all removed. Ironic, is it not, how closely this ideology follows German Nazism. A Judaic Reich, seeking its divinely ordained lebensraum in the East, with the Chosen Herrenvolk expelling the untermenschen to make way for the glorious destiny of those touched by a divine providence. Undoubtedly the greatest danger, with its several hundred thermo-nuclear weapons, and its perverted state religion where killing civilians is openly declared, by eminent religious authorities, to be a ‘mitzvah’ or good deed, in the world today. Thermo-nuclear weapons plus insane ideology plus inchoate rage at all who get in their way-very bad medicine indeed.

  4. B99 said on October 2nd, 2009 at 8:11pm #

    But – Some student of history you. The Heebs (may I call them Heebs, since you can’t admit to Palestinians?) do not have a 4000 year connection to Palestine. The Heebs in charge have less than a century of connection to the region.

    The Balfour Note is NOT recognized by Palestinians, the native natural inhabitants of Palestine – so it is null and void. Besides, it was pre-dated by the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence which guarantees freedom for Palestine and the whole of Arab SW Asia.

    Jerusalem is NOT a Heeb name. It is a Canaanite name – and city – that long precedes the arrival of Heebs on the scene. So stop lying.

  5. balkas b b said on October 3rd, 2009 at 7:50am #

    According to jewstory j’lem is not a mystory. It was never conquered by king david in 10th bc. It had actually been buld in his time on a treeless hilltop.
    tnx

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 3rd, 2009 at 4:20pm #

    Yes, B99, Jerusalem’s been around a lot longer than the Israelites. I believe the current opinion is that the Israelites emerged from amongst the tribes of Canaan in the second millenium BCE, by which time Jerusalem was already thousands of years old. This reminds me of the fantastic arrogance, effrontery and stupidity of Olmert, when, as Mayor of Jerusalem, he announced its ’3000th Birthday’ for Jerusalem to be held in 1996. According to the Judaic mythology, long refuted by archeology which reveals Jerusalem’s much greater antiquity, Jerusalem was ‘founded in 996BCE’. So, in the world of mathematics, at which the Jews usually excel, 3000 years later is 2004, but, when there are shekels to be made, or spurious assertions of absolute ownership to the detriment of all other peoples, even up to the stage of ongoing ethnic cleansing, why wait eight years?

  7. B99 said on October 3rd, 2009 at 5:27pm #

    Indeed Mulga, the Hebrews likely emerged out of a number of Canaanite tribes long after the latter arrived in the region – the Canaanite arrival likely as part of a long-term trend of Semitic-speaking peoples migrating out of a drying Arabian peninsula. So it is no wonder that Hebrew is a Canaanite language. If the Hebrews originated in Ur or Kurdistan their language would likely have been significantly different than that of Canaanite populations. Of course, the relationship of Ashkenazis to this Hebrew population is another question altogether.