What is the Occupation (cont'd): Israeli Military Justice System in the West Bank – UPDATED

This is a rough cut of a film, entitled The Law in These Parts, apparently made by Israeli director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz [correcting our earlier report identifying Ohad Nave as the filmmaker, with this new information posted by Joseph Dana on Monday].

This film is expected to be released later in the year, according to a Tweet on Sunday from @ibnezra (Joseph Dana).

UPDATE: In his later report posted on +972 Magazine, here Dana quoted from what he said was a press release for the film, which states: “Since Israel conquered the territories in the 1967 War, the Israeli Defense Forces legal corps have created and implemented thousands of military orders and laws, established military courts, sentenced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This complex system which is invisible to most Israelis is very present in Palestinian daily life and is unique in the entire world”.

What’s shown here is video footage of one of the Israeli military judges, working in Nablus in 1989 (during the first Palestinian Intifada), and today — interviewed (as are several other judges shown here, separately) about whether he knew how the information was obtained in the confessions he was given to convict Palestinians (by their own testimony, under pressure if not full torture, without legal assistance).

It is very difficult to watch — though there is no graphic physical violence shown in this footage — and it is painfully, exquisitely revealing of human emotions:

It was first posted on Vimeo [in a version over 23 minutes long], then removed on Monday.

UPDATE on 25 January 2012: Now that the film is being screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Colorado, and elsewhere, it has now been removed from public view on Youtube as well — and is low listed as “Private”, with permission needed for access…

A shortened version [just over 12 minutes long] is now posted on Youtube, here:

UPDATE: It’s strange that this video has been removed from the Vimeo site, which identified Ohad Nave as filmmaker, and in its place is only a message reading: “Sorry, “The Law In These Parts” was deleted at 11:13:43 Mon Jul 18, 2011. We have no more information about it on our mainframe or elsewhere”.

This is a version of the text that was produced automatically by the Vimeo site: The Law In These Parts, a rough cut of a film from Ohad Nave posted on Vimeo.

The Israeli military justice system continues to operate in the West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory Those accused (only Palestinians) have far fewer rights than in Israeli courts inside “Israel proper”. Some 1 million Palestinians are estimated to have passed through the Israeli military justice system in the West Bank. Between 6-7,000 are in Israeli jails detention centers now, including 220 in “Administrative Detention” — in which security services present their evidence in secret, and even those accused do not know what this evidence is, so they have no way to refute it. Israeli military judges almost always accept these secret dossiers, and hand down the security-requested detention orders, which are renewable (generally, according to Al-Haq, from six months to six years). There are also between 2-300 children in Israeli jails or detention centers.

Many of those Palestinians convicted under the Israeli military justice system are transferred to jails or detention centers inside “Israel proper” (meaning outside the West Bank or Gaza) — though this is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, the Israeli Supreme Court has approved the practice. Moving the prisoners or detainees into Israel makes it difficult if not impossible for family visits.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently gone public (at the end of June) with a complaint, which we wrote about here, that families from Gaza have been prohibited from entering Israel to visit their detained relatives and loved ones since mid-June 2007 (following the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security Services).

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak sentenced to two concurrent three-month prison terms for protesting Gaza sanctions + Palestinian occupation

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack was sentenced today in a Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to serve two, concurrent, three-month prison terms for protesting the Israeli military-administered sanctions against Gaza and the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Pollak’s jail term is to start on 11 January.

An earlier three-month prison sentence was imposed on Pollak for protesting the construction of The Wall (or “separation barrier”) in the West Bank, was suspended.

Pollak second conviction was for his part in riding a bicycle in a “Critical Mass” protest in Tel Aviv on 31 January 2008 — just two days after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that it would allow a series of tightening Israeli military-administered sanctions against Gaza, imposed after the Israeli Government issued a declaration on 19 September 2007 [three months after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security in the Gaza Strip] that Gaza was “hostile territory” or an “enemy entity”. A coalition of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups led by GISHA petitioned the Supreme Court against the imposition of the tightening sanctions. But, the Supreme Court ruled on 28 January 2008 that the military could go ahead with its plan, as long as it did not allow a “humanitarian crisis” to develop. [The concept of “humanitarian crisis” was not defined…]

Today, the Tel Aviv judge imposed a second three-month term and activated the first one, but ruled that Pollak would serve them simultaneously.

Pollak was the only one of thirty activists riding bicycles in the protest that day who was arrested — though his conviction was apparently on the grounds of “illegal assembly”.

A report sent by email said that “During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak’s arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions. The arrest and consequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak’s behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more sever obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment”.

The email also reported that Attorney Gaby Lasky, Pollak’s lawyer, noted: “The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”

In a statement made to the court just prior to sentencing passed, Pollak said:

    “Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offence. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legally vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.

    As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day’s events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza’s inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel’s control over the Palestinians.

    His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police’s conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists.

    The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.

    In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31st, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society’s privileged sons.

    I am not surprised by the Court’s decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person’s right to protest.

    Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.

    I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation”.

    Pollak, who has been active with Anarchists Against the Wall, is also a member of the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee. Information about the sentencing, and Pollak’s statement, was sent via email by fellow activist Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra).

Third Israeli demolition of Israeli Beduin village in less than three weeks – Israeli activists document and protest

Ibn Ezra (Joseph Dana), an Israeli photographer, film maker and writer who is also a political activist, has done a great job in recording the third Israeli military destruction of the small Bedouin village (encampment might be a better word) of Al-Araqiib in Israel’s northern Negev desert this morning.

It was the third destruction of this community in less than three weeks.

This “unrecognized” Israeli village is reportedly being destroyed in preparation for making a Jewish National Fund forest in its place.

Ibn Ezra posted news about the impending demolition on Twitter just before 10 pm Monday evening, saying he was on his way to the site.

There is something extremely chilling about using military bulldozers to tear down tents — it increases the awfulness of destroying the homes of people who are already living precariously.

It is difficult even to imagine the terror and disorientation of seeing one’s own home destroyed by military force before one’s own eyes…

Writing tonight on the Electronic Intifida website (which usually can’t turn material around this fast), after nearly 24 hours of non-stop reporting — and travelling to and from the site — Ibn Ezra said that when he arrived on the scene last night, before the third demolition carried out this morning, “Simple tent structures consisting of four wood shafts and a black tarp was the only remains of this village. We, Israeli and international activists, were invited to sit in these tents through the night and sip coffee in the cool desert night with the villagers. They told us about their livelihood now that the village is constantly facing demolition. Some talked about their military service in the Israeli army and their disbelief that the country they served could behave in such a way as to destroy their entire village … [As] the light began to change, the first sounds of the demolition crew could be heard far off in the distance. Before we had time to blink, 200 fully clad police officers were on microphones telling us to leave and that any violence would be met with harsher violence. As soon as the voices on the microphones stopped, the bulldozers began to work. The place we had been sitting and having coffee through the night was leveled before our groggy, disbelieving eyes. The demolition crew worked efficiently and without pause. Every structure that served some form of life in the village was leveled and all the building materials from it were trucked away. As we were pushed further from the village, a couple of activists tried to sit inside or in front of the tents. This was met with violence by the police as people were thrown to the ground like rag dolls. At one point in the chaos, a professor of medieval history at Tel Aviv University was grabbed by a police officer, who quickly wrenched his hand behind his back. The professor was held like this for a number of minutes and then arrested. It is still unclear under what terms. Finally, the police confined us to a hilltop and had us look over the village as it was destroyed. The water canisters, which are needed because Israel refuses to give the villagers water pipes, were broken and then placed on flat bed trucks to be carted away. The image of massive bulldozers flanked by heavily armed riot police destroying makeshift Bedouin living structures is something that no one would be able to forget. As soon as the forces left, the villagers began rebuilding what little they have left.  Every week, their resources shrink and yet they rebuild. They have no choice”. This report can be read in full here.

There is more from Joseph Dana on Facebook, and this is from his Ibn Ezra account on Twitter”

They are destroying el arakib again. I am leaving jerusalem soon and will be live tweeting through the night from there
9:52 PM Aug 9th

Middle of the night 10 km away from the village

Sun is just beginning to peak in the desert

Army just arrived in the village

Massive police force now

Ibn Ezra on Twitter

Destroying the village now and beating us

I have never seen anything like this in my life

The police are very violent now. This is very bad

They are destroying the entire village again

They have penned us in and are destroying the entire village before our eyes

Joseph Dana on Facebook

I have no words. This is just violence

I have never seen anything like. Beyond words only pain

The villages has been destroyed and now the army is taking all the materials away so it can’t be rebuilt

When that is done they are going to spray the area with the shunk so the area is toxic for a week

There are about 400 heavily armed soldiers in the village which has about twenty residents. There are 30 activists roughly

They started at 6 in the morning. There are 3 injuries among the activists from major army violence

Just so it is clear. It is difficult to take photos on a blackberry while you are being hit with a club. That is why there are no vio shots

Army is gone and we are rebuilding the village now

More Joseph Dana from Facebook

Joseph Dana via Ibn Ezra on Twitter

And, more photos are also available here.

[Al-Araqib was destroyed, then partially rebuilt, on 27 July, 6 August, 10 August — while several other nearby villages were destroyed on 3 August. Bedouin communities have also been destroyed in the West Bank, including in the Jordan Valley.]

via Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal, who was also apparently at Al-Araqib overnight and today, has chilling reports on his blog here and here that Israeli youth volunteers were organized to participate in the first demolition of Al-Araqib on 26-27 July.