We return from the demonstration in Ramiya against Apartheid in the Galilee and talk about the struggle against the Prawer Plan for dispossessing the Arabs of the Naqab (Negev). Confusion reigns … Did we win or not? Was the Prawer Plan really stopped or does the government still intend to raise it again? In any case it is clear that the fight is not over. Discrimination, destruction and dispossession are the characteristics of “the system” all across the country, from the river to the sea. With increasing self-confidence of the young activists the struggle will go on and escalate.
Are we ready for the struggle ahead? Did we learn the lessons from previous struggles and recent events?
One essential issue in every struggle is the defense of the detainees. On the last “Day of Rage” (30/11/2013) against the Prawer Plan, in the demonstrations in Hora and in Haifa, it seemed that it was mostly the police that unleashed unbridled rage at the demonstrators. Demonstrators who were arrested were brutally beaten systematically after their arrest and beating continued even in the police stations. Contempt for the law by the police is reaching new heights when a prisoner begs to stop hitting him and the cop advises him to “complain to Mahash” and continues to beat him. (“Mahash” is the department responsible for investigations of complaints against policemen, and is famous for closing cases without any investigation.) We still have a lot to do even just to make the police try to pretend to respect the law.
In any case we can learn a lot from the experience of the recent detentions…
Why was Eldad Zion Arrested?
One of the detainees in the Hora demonstration was a teacher from Tel Aviv named Eldad Zion. Even according to the police Eldad was not involved in any violent activity during the demonstration. He was detained because he tried to talk to the police and convince them not to beat other detainees.
The primary offense that was attributed to Eldad by the police in the Be’er Sheva court occurred at the police station called “The Townships Station”, to which he was taken with other detainees from the demonstration. Eldad’s description of the event is presented by Or Kashti in “Haaretz” in the following words: “I entered the detainees’ room, whose walls are adorned with handwritten ‘Kahane was right’ and ‘Moses commanded to kill all the Arabs’, with the symbols of the Border’s Guard police unit. I saw a policeman slapping a detainee, so I raised my voice. In response 2-3 policemen attacked me from behind, took me out of the room, kicked me and broke the glasses… I did my civic duty while confronted by police violence. The police must be supervised by civilians. We must remain vigilant.”
On the other hand, the police accusations against Eldad, designed to justify the assault, amounted to claiming that “he grabbed a policeman’s shirt and pushed another officer.” On this flimsy base the prosecution tried consistently to build an image of Eldad as a dangerous person, as Kashti reported from the court: “This is a dangerous man,” said prosecution attorney Guy Zehavi yesterday, “the first rule of release on bail is confidence. Here is someone that has no fear of the law and goes against the law – assaults and disrupts.” Mr. Zehavi objected to the claim that Zion is not dangerous because the Prawer Plan was canceled. “First, the program is not canceled, and secondly – it’s like one who killed his wife and now claims not to be dangerous any longer because his wife already died.”
Eldad was kept in detention due to these accusations for two and a half weeks. The police even sought remand until the end of proceedings. Finally, the court decided to release him to house arrest under “24 hours guard” by his friends who volunteered to guarantee his release. Just yesterday (24.12) Eldad was finally released from house arrest under severe restrictive conditions.
Eldad himself, being such a good soul, after being beaten by the police, declared that he forgives them for all that they did. He reiterated this position even after his release and expanded his forgiveness to include the prosecution that insisted on remand and the judges which extended his detention for no reason again and again.
We’re talking about Eldad and try to understand his position – is it naivety or greatness? Is it possible that this position has led to further harassment against him? Here are some historical precedents.
Memories from the Intifada
Muhannad tells us about a friend from the days of the Stones’ Intifada (1987-1995), who was active in “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” and participated in many clashes against the occupation soldiers. He was arrested many times, interrogated and tortured. He was sentenced and spent a period in Israeli prisons.
After he served his sentence and the Intifada ended, our friend finished his undergraduate studies and earned a scholarship to graduate school in the United States. He applied for permission to study through the Palestinian “Liaison Committees”, but all his appeals were rejected.
In his repeated appeals to the Palestinian liaison officer our friend begged him:
- “Tell them, the Israelis, that I’m not vindictive. I forgive them for everything they did to me.”
- “You see,” replied the liaison officer, “precisely because of this attitude you will never get a travel permit. Because you see yourself in a position where you can forgive the Israelis! They will never forgive you for that…”
Dangerous Historical Precedent
Finally Iris summarizes the discussion.
Eldad was lucky to be released to house arrest. He got off cheaply. The person that preceded him and thought he could forgive everybody finished on the cross.
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This post was also published in Hebrew.