The Campaign for One Democratic State Holds a Study Day in Haifa

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(Another version of this report appeared in Mondoweiss)

The first half of 2018 was very busy for the ODS Campaign (ODSC) – the new initiative that took on itself to revive the perspective for a positive solution to the century long suffering and struggle of the Palestinian people under Zionist colonialism. Open and close consultations were held, through which more than a hundred activists and academics participated in the formulation and the adoption of the campaign’s political program.

But then came the local elections in October 2018, followed by the Knesset elections of April 2019. The initiative is, till now, mostly based in the Palestinian population in the areas held by Israel since 1948, and local elections are a major event in local Palestinian society, where people feel they can really influence the daily management of their municipalities. Many of the campaign’s activists and supporters were deeply involved in the elections and some were elected as council members.

Aya opening the day

Aya Mana opening the ODSC study day on June 28, 2019, in Khashabi Theatre, Haifa

The Knesset elections was not only a “distraction” for the campaign, but also posed a profound political dilemma. The Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship are divided to almost equal parts between those who vote in the elections and those who prefer not to participate or actively boycott it. The perspective for One Democratic State is based on the recognition that Israel is not a democratic state and that the Zionist-Jewish majority in the Knesset is the result of ethnic cleansing and holding millions of Palestinians under Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza deprived of the most basic human and political rights. So, the most natural position for the campaign was to join the boycott of the Knesset and to pose a real democratic alternative.

But the politics of the campaign led it in a different direction. It doesn’t regard itself as a new political force that aspires to sideline the current parties and movement, but an initiative to promote a political perspective that is aimed to reach not only the general public but also sections of the current Palestinian political leadership. As the campaign includes supporters of the Palestinian parties in the Knesset, it didn’t want to force them to choose between their support to the campaign and their loyalty to their parties. In a more general way, it chose not to alienate any part of the divided Palestinian public and decided to avoid publishing any position regarding participating or boycott. This decision came with the cost of agreeing to be sidelined at a time of heated political debate.

Reorganizing

After the Knesset elections the ODSC activists were meeting again to resume the campaign. The result of the elections demonstrated, once again, how Israeli politics is trapped in a spiral of racist hatred and militarist war mongering, with not even a ray of hope for peace or a turn toward more democracy and equality. The main Zionist opposition parties attacked the ultra-right government for not being harsh enough against the Palestinians. The Arab parties that tried to build a perspective for “influence through participation” faced the frustration of being rejected again as legitimate partners in Israeli politics. And the growing camp of boycotters was facing the constant question by its supporters and critics alike: “What is the alternative?”

The campaign is intended to unite Palestinians from all locations, overcoming walls, borders and political traditions to form a movement that will bring together people from all over Palestine as well as from the diaspora. It also aims to encourage active participation in the struggle against Zionism from within the Jewish society in Palestine. But, to regain momentum, the first natural move was to re-connect with the established support base within the 1948 Palestinians. For this purpose, we decided to hold a study day in Haifa on June 28.

Full hall at Khashabi Theatre

The Khashabi hall was full

In the past, in 2008 and 2010, two big conferences for the Right of Return and One Democratic State in Palestine were held in Haifa in the Midan Theatre (at the initiative of the Abnaa alBalad movement). Since then the Midan, which used to be the most prominent Palestinian theatre in the area, became a target of government and municipal attack (mostly due to its artistic program) and is not free now to rent its halls to any gathering with political coloring. But Palestinian cultural activist in Haifa created an alternative, opening the “Khashabi Theatre”, with the overt intention of not seeking any support from the establishment and keeping full independence for its artistic repertoire as well as its right to host and encourage free speech. It was the natural choice for hosting the ODSC study day.

Solid program can influence reality

On Friday afternoon, June 28, the small hall of the Khashabi Theatre was full (about 70 people). Activist Aya Mana, which opened the first session, noted that we started at only 10 minutes after the declared time, a significant testimony to the serious attitude of the participants. The attendance was diverse, including veteran of the struggle as well as youth activists, academics, members of different movements, parties and NGOS. Mana welcomed all of them and invited everyone to take part not only by supporting the campaign and its program but also by critical discussion of the program and looking together for the most effective ways to build an influential movement toward the most essential goals of achieving justice, freedom and democracy.

Historian Ilan Pappe, one of the initiators of the campaign, was the first speaker. If I’m not wrong, it was his first public lecture in Arabic, and he passed the test very well, conveying a very clear message about the historical background of the old-renewed perspective for ODS.

Ilan Pappe speaking

Ilan Pappe speaking – probably his first public lecture all in Arabic

Pappe analyzed the origins of the Zionist movement as part of the world-wide phenomenon of European colonialism, and, more specifically, as an example of “settler colonialism”, which aspires not only to occupy and exploit the local population but to replace them by settlers. This scheme of settler colonialism easily leads to the logic of genocide, which was successfully accomplished against the native population in the United States and other colonies. He explained how settler colonialism is building a distorted national myth according to which the settler population is described as “natives” and the original native population is vilified as “threatening aliens”. Another, complementing, myth says that the homeland was “empty” until the settlers came – ignoring and denying the existence of the native population.

In this context it is clear why in Israeli politics there is no real discussion how to reach a real solution that will restore the rights of Arab Palestinians and let them live in freedom and equality. The proposition of “a two-state solution” in its Israeli context is just another variant of the same search for ways to get rid of the native population.

Pappe dedicated an important part of his presentation to the current international context of the struggle. He emphasized the importance of a growing recognition of Palestinian rights in the international civil society, and the readiness of many sectors of the solidarity movement to hear and adopt the only solution based on human rights and democracy – ODS. On the other hand, he explained that the strong support of Israel and its racist policies from reactionary forces, like Trump and many European nationalists, is not an accident. Their very base of support is an attempt to revive the colonialist-era white supremacy and incite against the people of the third world. This change of the international map concerning the Palestinian struggle opens many opportunities and demands a more active and well-targeted approach from us. As there is no more Western consensus around the support to Israel and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is at the center of the political struggle about the future of the world, it is important that Palestinian themselves will return to the basic nature of their liberation movement as a struggle for freedom and human rights for all.

Pappe elaborated about the importance of having a clear political vision and using the correct terminology to describe the current reality. For example, speaking about Israel’s Apartheid regime is different than just complaining about “discrimination”. Speaking about decolonization is different from speaking about “solving the conflict”.

Finally, in response to a question from the public, Pappe corrected a common mis-reading of history. Many speak about a dichotomy between the “Algerian way”, where the settler population was expelled, and the “South African approach” where whites were integrated as full citizens after the dismantling of Apartheid. The historical truth is that the Algerian liberation movement proposed on the French settlers the option to stay as citizens of the newly liberated Algeria, but the vast majority preferred to return to France. And many of the whites in South Africa emigrated after the dismantling of Apartheid there. The program of one democratic state is just the natural alternative to colonialism, it will return Palestine to its local and regional identities. It will abolish the privilege of the settler population and give them the option to integrate on the basis of civil equality.

Growing interest

The second speaker in the first session was Awad Abdelfattah, the main coordinator of the campaign, who previously served for a long period as the general secretary of the National Democratic Alliance party (NDA, AKA Balad). He started his talk with an optimist report about the widening influence and connections of the campaign, especially among Palestinians in other regions. Even though the campaign itself is only at its very first stages, activist from the popular resistance in the West Bank and Gaza are showing interest in the campaign’s message and liberation agenda. Some of them are explaining that they never gave up this dream and want to revive it as a perspective for a revival of the Palestinian movement. There was special interest in Abdelfattah’s report about an evolving discussion with Palestinian activists in the occupation’s prisons, including the general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat. The news about the interest of the prisoners’ movement in studying the ODS program made its way to the headlines of Arab-48 site the next day.

Awad speaking

Awad Abdelfattah: New perspective for the Palestinian liberation movement

Abdelfattah described the crisis of the Palestinian national liberation movement, getting ever more acute as it becomes clear to all that the perspective of two-state solution and the Oslo accord only led to perpetuation of the occupation. Among the most catastrophic results of the Oslo accord is the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, when the West Bank is separated from Gaza, millions of refugees are stuck out of their homeland with no perspective for returning, and Palestinians inside the 48 territories suffer from systematic discrimination but are not even regarded part of the Palestinian national cause. Another consequence was the devastation of the PLO, which has served until Oslo as a revolutionary vehicle, but was sidelined without achieving its goal of liberating the occupied land. In an ironic way you can say, he added, that the Oslo accord united all Palestinians in a sense of helplessness.

Against this background, Abdelfattah stressed the importance of uniting the Palestinians around a new vision that can give new hope to the young generations by retaining the basic tenets of the liberation struggle, while adjusting the perspective and the means of struggle to current reality and to the fast-developing technology, society and world scene. The new initiative is basically a path to a different life, and new and modern political reality, where all Palestinians as well Israeli Jews can struggle together to build a new democratic political entity on the ruins of colonialism, apartheid and racist separation. The future state is based on the principles of justice and full equal citizenship.

‘’While we are conscious to the fact that there is a long struggle ahead of us, we can start today by rebuilding our understanding of the reality and reorganizing along new lines.” He expressed his hope that “the campaign will gradually develop into a mass movement of popular resistance against the occupation.”

Abdelfattah mentioned several challenges that are facing the ODS campaign, relating to questions which are often raised by people from different political backgrounds. He explained that some issues may better be left to the dynamics of life, as the people involved in the struggle will have to cope with challenges in an innovative way.

Among the questions he was keen to relate to is the claim that the idea is utopian, given the current political reality, as the balance of forces is in favor of the colonizer which is supported by the most powerful state in the world, the USA. Another side of this claim is that no major force among the Palestinians has embraced the one state solution, and no major or small Israeli party is willing to give up the principle of “a Jewish state”.

He summed up the response to this claim by saying: First we should emphasis that we base our approach on the principle of restoring justice for all Palestinians, for those who were expelled and dispossessed and those who survived the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the the Zionist movement and its embodiment Israel. Second, the two-state solution has been dead for a long time and the two populations have become inextricably linked, as a result of the continued systematic policy of land theft and settler colonization. As a result, all of Palestine has become one geographic and demographic unit under an overt apartheid and colonial regime. We should dispel the illusion that Israel would accept an independent Palestinian state and to unite all the Palestinian people, the world civil society and anti Zionist Jews around the struggle to defeat this regime. By the way, utopia is not always a fantasy idea. Many ideas that looked as such became a reality through clear vision, wise planning and strong resolve. South Africa is a stark example, which is our inspiration.

Legal and cultural point of view

The second session, facilitated by activist Majd Nasralla, was designed to answer some of the practical questions that confront us when coming to build a movement based on the ODS perspective. One basic issue that we were asked about many times is the position of the ODS perspective in view of the international law. Some people hesitate to openly support ODS under the impression that there is some legal guarantee of Palestinian rights in the framework of the right of self determination in a Palestinian state as part as a two-state solution. They are afraid that adopting ODS, as a solution that has no international recognition, may weaken the legal basis of the Palestinian claims.

Dr. Munir Nusseibeh gave a learned view of the support of ODS from the point of view of the international law. He explained that there is no principle that demands that there will be division to states that is parallel to the division to national identities, and that the right of self determination is basically the right not to be subject to external oppression. He explained the gradual development of the international law toward the concept of the generality of human rights and the need to guarantee them to all people.

Munir speaking

Left to right: Dr. Munir Nusseibeh, Majd Kayal and Majd Nasralla

Much of Nusseibeh’s lecture concentrated around the concept of “transitional justice”, of which he made a thorough research. He criticized Zionist legal experts and some of their western apologists that try to use this concept to dilute the Israeli responsibility to war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against the Palestinian people. He emphasized that at the hear of the concept of “transitional justice” stands the assumption of a real “transition”.

It means that a regime that is based on the denial of basic human rights should be dismantled and substituted by another regime that guarantees and end to the injustice. It also means that the new regime takes full responsibility to the consequences of past injustices and the restitution of the rights of the victims.  Only then comes the part of transitional justice that handles the perpetrators of crimes, including indictment and punishment, that can take into account the conditions and the necessity to rebuild society after a trauma. But, first of all, we should guarantee the full transformation of the legal base of the regime – which is possible only in the framework of ODS.

The last speaker was Majd Kayal, a writer and one of the central activists of the youth movements that played a major role in the Palestinian protests in the 48-territories over the last years. He spoke about the role of culture and tried to draw a view of the types of cultural activity that may help the Palestinian society liberate itself from Zionist hegemony. He said that while raising political slogans is a natural part of life and of culture, it is not the essence of what is required. In some context raising political slogans about Palestinian nationality or even waiving Palestinian flags can contribute to consolidation of the current distorted relationship of power – if it is done within a framework designated by the Zionist establishment. What is required is creating and developing an independent framework for cultural creativity that is outside the influence of the establishment and which handles all the aspects of life – from fearless criticism of the political situation to confronting deep social problems in the society and even handling purely aesthetic and artistic subjects.

Preparing the next steps

After the two full sessions, both of which included interventions and questions from the public, all were requested to divide into two workshops. The first workshop discussed the political program of the campaign, for people that are new to the idea and for those who wanted to suggest improvement to the program. The second workshop handled the required next steps toward building the campaign: political strategy and usage of the media.

After the conclusion of the discussion in the workshops, and as a consequence of the discussion in the second of them, the organizers announced the establishment of two permanent working groups to farther the building of the campaign. One working group will work on expanding the campaign among the general public and reach out to movement and political parties. The other working group will work on publishing new materials and raising the media profile of the campaign. Both working groups are open for new activist to join.

 

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Commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising retaken by Anti-Fascist activists

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Marching in Warsaw under the flags of the international struggle for liberation and equality for all

By: Iris Bar (text, painting and photos)

(Initially published on Facebook, April 20, 2019)

I’m writing it in English so all my friends can manage reading it if they like to…

Yesterday I participated in an alternative commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion, organized by groups of young Polish leftists – mainly anarchists, anti fascists and trade union activists.Iris picture commemorating Ghetto Warsaw

In spite the fact that almost all my family was murdered by the Nazis, it was the first time for decades I participated in such commemoration, as I didn’t want to be part of the exploitation of their death for whitewashing the acts of colonialism and racism that are done, all the time, by Israel against the Palestinian people.

Two different commemoration events were held yesterday (April 19) in Warsaw – official & alternative – and they both started at 12:00 on different sides of the monument of the defenders of the Ghetto. On one side there were no more than 100 participants, most of them of soldiers, Polish & Israeli, and representatives of those 2 extremely right-wing governments. On the other side there were almost 1000 people, many of them young, raising red flags of the Bund and the old Anti-Fascist flags with its 3 arrows aimed at capitalism, racism & reactionary… holding in their hands yellow daffodils, the polish symbol of commemorating Polish Jews who were murdered by the Nazis (I saw that day many ppl in the city wearing yellow paper flowers on their chest). On the front of the Brigade flagparade marched the flag of the Naftali Botwin unit (a Bundist unit) of the Palafox battalion of the international brigade during the Spanish civil war with the slogan “Para vuestra libertad – y para nuestra” – ”For your liberty – and for ours”… a banner of freedom and justice for all the human kind.Warsaw alternative ceremony

The only state flag in this parade was the flag of the Spanish republic… We passed by memorial stones and noticed that people lit memory lamps (with crosses) in front of them… From time to time the parade stopped and a choir read texts and sang worker & socialist songs in Yiddish. At the end one of the organizers made a speech and explained that they are organizing this event, every year (I think already for three years), as part of their Anti Fascist struggle, the struggle against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Xenophobia in general (this days mainly against workers from Ukraine & Belarus), male chauvinism, hate against LGBT people, criminalization of poverty and other forms of racism…

I cried.

I was touched to see all those young activists, determined to remember in purpose to gain more power to struggle for a world in which such crimes could not be done again – a world of liberty, justice and equality for all.

Commemorations stonesyellow flowers and crosses

 

Dareen Tatour’s appeal: Would the poem be acquitted and the poet remain convicted?

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(This report is also available in Hebrew. An edited version of it was published in +972 Magazine)

In ordinary trials, after a defendant has finished serving his or her sentence, one can safely assume that the legal drama is over. There is nothing ordinary, however, about the trial of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour.

Although she was released on September 20 from a five-month prison sentence, on top of two and a half years under house arrest imposed on her as “danger to the public” during the trial, she continues her legal battle against her conviction of incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. On December 25, the Nazareth District Court convened to consider the appeal filed by Tatour’s attorney Gaby Lasky.

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Consultation during a break in the hearing: Gaby Lasky, Einat Weizman and Dareen Tatour

The great human drama of imprisonment has already moved to other places. On the same day that the appeal was heard, Sheikh Sayah a-Turi, the leader of the struggle against the evacuation of the village of Al-Araqeeb in the Naqab (Negev), entered Ramleh Prison. Many of the activists who had accompanied Dareen to the numerous hearings of her trial were there to accompany him.

But Tatour’s trial continues to stir up the cultural circles in Israel and serve as a front line in the war between those who defend freedom of expression and the authorities who try to prevent any artistic expression of resistance to the occupation. At the latest act in this struggle, “Culture” Minister Miri Regev has prevented the display of Tatour’s poem “Resist My People“, that was at the center of the indictment against her, in an exhibition in Jerusalem called Barbarism, which deals with censorship.

Poetry and red lines

The trial’s protocol presents a lengthy monologue by defense attorney Gaby Lasky, who spared no effort to prove that the accusations against Tatour are unfounded and should be rejected, followed by a contradictory monologue by state attorney Avital Sharoni. But the drama that was played in the courtroom rolled out differently. The panel included three judges of the District Court, headed by Judge Ester Hellman. It seems that there was a division of labor between the judges, so that one of them, Judge Yifat Shitrit, studied the file in advance and led the discussion throughout the hearing. Already at the beginning, she clarified that the court intends to stick to the criterion of criminal law according to which “if there is doubt – there is no doubt.” As if to say that if Tatour’s words could be interpreted differently than what the indictment attributed to her, she should be acquitted.

tatour_against_state_of_israel

The court’s schedule: Tatour against the state of Israel

Attorney Lasky tried to concentrate all her arguments on the importance of freedom of political and artistic expression, which are not only the rights of the individual but also the soul of democracy and vital to society as a whole. The judges tried to direct her in a different direction and requested her to define herself when a poem might cross the boundaries of the criminal law. After lengthy negotiations, Lasky declared that, according to her belief, and also according to the defense expert Professor Nissim Calderon, the state should not apply the criminal law to poetry. She admitted that the law itself does not provide such protection for poetry, but it sets definitions of criminal expression that include “direct call to violent action” or, in case of an indirect call, “real possibility” that a violent act might be realized as a result. She made clear that Tatour did not publish any call for violent action and the prosecution did not bring even a shred of evidence that her publications might have inspired any violent act.

Finally, Lasky mentioned that she knew of only one previous case in which a poet was accused in Israel of incitement following a poem he wrote. This was the case against the poet Shafiq Habib from Deir Hanna in the early 1990s, following his poems dedicated to “the stones’ children” from the first intifada. Habib was convicted in the Acre Magistrate’s Court but was later acquitted in the Haifa District Court.

Understanding the intention of the poet

The judges seemed to be trying to examine the meaning of the poem’s words, especially the line “Follow the caravan of martyrs,” which Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein, who convicted Tatour, interpreted as calling for suicide operations. Two of the justices, Helman and Shitrit, first demonstrated the prevailing prejudice among the Jewish public as if the word “shahid” could be interpreted as a “suicide bomber”. But here came the third judge, Sa’eb Dabour, who relied on his personal knowledge of the Arabic language and  explained that the word shahid refers to people who died under various circumstances, including innocent victims of the conflict.

After settling the dispute over the meaning of the word shahid, the judges again discussed the context of the line within the poem. They recognized that all the martyrs mentioned in the poem, such as Hadil Al Hashlamoun and Ali Dawabsheh, were victims of the occupation and were not killed due to violent action on their part.going out with half smiles

At a certain stage, apparently in the middle of the defense arguments, the judges requested to watch the video containing the poem, as submitted to the court as part of the evidence. The state-of-the-art video equipment that was prepared in advance did not work, and everyone took a long break until the technical staff fixed the problem. When we returned from the break and the video was finally played, the judges seemed to have changed their minds again. During the trial, the prosecution argued, and the judge repeated this in the ruling, that the video shows violent activity that casts on the meaning of the poem. The prosecution also emphasized the dramatic music accompanying the video. Now the District Court judges also expressed their opinion that the music increases the effect of the poem and the video.

Attorney Lasky insisted that the video presents a daily reality of a violent clash between the army and the population under the occupation, the same harsh reality that constitutes the background to the poem’s writing. The poet’s statement, Lasky claimed, should be sought in the words of the poem itself. The prosecutor repeated the claim that the video showed “stone throwing and Molotov cocktails” and Laski corrected her that there are no Molotov cocktails, and that the violence in the video is at the low threshold of what we regularly see in the news. At a certain stage, when the prosecutor and the judges repeatedly talked about the violence that the Palestinians were using in the video, Lasky couldn’t hold herself and recalled that while the Palestinian youths were throwing stones, the soldiers fired at them: “What is more violent?” she asked. After a long argument it seemed that the judges are ready to accept the possibility that the video is the background and does not necessarily constitute a statement by the poet.

Consent or decision

The judges hinted to both sides that they should better reach an agreement that the charge against the poem “Resist My People” would be canceled, but the poet’s conviction in the two other statements mentioned in the indictment, which are non-poetic statuses on Facebook, will remain in place. This would ostensibly erase the disgrace that was imposed on the State of Israel and its judicial system as someone who persecuted and imprisoned poets – but the poet herself, who was persecuted and imprisoned, will continue to bear the blame. The judges explained that this is also the poet’s interest – since she wants to continue writing poems. By stipulating that the poem did not exceed the criminal limit, it will remove or at least distance the whip that threatens the freedom of artistic expression.

20181225_dareen and gaby posing out of the court b

Dareen Tatour and Gaby Lasky – Optimist after the appeal hearing

The judges will wait for the parties’ response to the compromise proposal, and if this is not accepted, they would announce a later date for a decision on the appeal.

The unfairness of the proposed compromise is striking: One of the statuses of which Tatour was convicted is the inscription “I am the next Shahid” – published in protest against the murder of the boy Muhammad Abu Khdeir. In this context, her claim that the publication is a protest against the murder of innocent people is even more obvious.

Nevertheless, we went out with the feeling that if the indictment against the poem would be canceled it will constitute a certain victory for freedom of speech and the devoted struggle of Dareen Tatour and the many activists and artists who stood by her in the long struggle against the regime’s persecutions.

Systematic discrimination exposed in Raja Eghbarieh’s trial: Detention until the end of proceedings – for Arabs only!

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(The following report was published in “Mondoweiss”. A Hebrew version is available in “Haifa Ha-Hofshit” and “Local Call”.)

The remand hearing in the trial of Raja Eghbarieh, former secretary-general of Abnaa al-Balad movement, who is accused of “incitement to terrorism” following publications on Facebook, has become a fascinating legal battle that raises fundamental questions about the policy of the Israeli police and prosecution regarding the freedom of expression of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

(Call for international solidarity with Raja Eghbarieh in English and Spanish)

Raja Eghbarieh in Haifa court 7 Oct 2018

Raja Eghbarieh entering the court in the remand hearing on October 7, 2018

Eghbarieh was arrested on September 11 from his home in Umm Al-Fahm and charged with incitement and identification with a terrorist organization in the Haifa Magistrates Court. The indictment relates to 10 publications that appeared on his personal Facebook page between July 2017 and July 2018. On October 2, Judge Maria Pikus Bogdanov held a hearing on the prosecution’s request to keep Eghbarieh in detention until the end of the legal proceedings against him. The defense lawyers objected forcefully and the prosecutor could not answer many of their arguments. Finally, the judge ordered the prosecution to respond in writing and set an additional hearing for Sunday, October 7.

The hearing took place in the large hall on the “minus 2” basement floor, next to the detention cells, where remand hearings routinely takes place every day. The hall was crowded. Since the prosecution’s representatives have already submitted their arguments in writing, we first heard the defense team, headed by Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the founder and director of Adalah, and including also Attorneys Omar Khamaisi from “The Al-Mizan Center for Human Rights” and Rabea Eghbariah and Afnan Khalifa from Adalah, responding to the prosecution’s arguments that we did not hear. The judge, who read them, apparently didn’t find answers to the questions she had asked the prosecutor at the previous hearing. After the defense finished, she once again tried to extract answers from the prosecutor, so that we finally understood what he could not answer.

Systematic discrimination in enforcement policy

The most important and fundamental issue raised by the defense was the discrimination in the prosecution’s policy regarding the filing of applications for detention until the end of proceedings in cases of incitement. In the previous session, the defense presented a large number of cases in which Jewish defendants were accused of incitement to violence against Arabs or calls to harm soldiers (against the background of the evacuation of illegal outposts). In all these cases, the prosecution did not even request the detention of the defendants until the end of the proceedings. Finally, the judge asked the prosecutor whether he could point to even one case in which the prosecution requested the detention of a Jewish defendant in incitement until the end of proceedings.

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“Free Raja Eghbarieh!” protest vigil before the remand hearing, in front of the Haifa court, October 7, 2018

 

In the written answers submitted to the court, the prosecution mentioned one case in which a Jew who was charged with incitement was arrested until the end of proceedings. Adalah’s team, however, examined the facts, and Attorney Jabareen explained to the court that in this case, the charge of incitement was only a small part of what was attributed to the defendant, which included actual rioting and damage to property. The decision to detain him until the end of proceedings was explicitly based on his dangerousness as someone who caused actual damage, and not the theoretical danger stemming from the incitement.

The obvious conclusion from the State’s response, Jabareen stressed, from their failure to present even one case in which the detention of a Jewish defendant for incitement was requested, is that the claim of discrimination is now clearly and positively proved.

Never mind what is really written – it is incitement anyway

In the previous session, the defense presented a series of objections to the translation of the publications as they appear in the indictment in Hebrew. Since both the judge and the prosecution representative do not know Arabic, the judge requested the prosecutor to examine the matter. The prosecution’s response to those objections, which covers most of the seven pages of the document they submitted, can be summed up in four words: “It does not matter.” According to them, if the translation is correct or not, in any case it is incitement. In one specific case, regarding a post about the funerals of three young men from Umm Al-Fahm who killed two Israeli policemen in the Al-Aqsa compound and were later killed, the prosecution said it did not matter if the post said that “the martyr must be respected” or “we have to convey condolence to the families” – it is incitement anyway.

Attorney Jabareen stressed that the wording of the posts is the crux of the indictment, and in the absence of a reliable translation, the entire validity of the indictment is undermined. The judge, for her part, said that despite the defense’s reservations about the translation, some of the publications in the indictment appear to her as severe. But she didn’t accept the prosecution’s claim that “it does not matter” and asked the prosecutor whether the prosecution had examined the defense’s claims regarding the misleading translation. The prosecutor didn’t know what to answer and was requested to find out. After some time he came back with an answer. According to him, the translation was not reexamined following the defense’s arguments, since re-translation is an act of investigation and “you don’t carry out investigation operations after the filing of an indictment.”

Only one of the ten posts mentioned in the indictment can be seen, according to the quotes mentioned in the indictment, as direct support for violence. It is a video from the funeral of the three young men from Umm Al-Fahm, which Eghbarieh shared on the anniversary of their death. According to the prosecution, a song is playing in the background that includes the words “Spread bullets in the doors of Al-Aqsa”. Eghbarieh didn’t photograph and didn’t edit the video but only shared it like many others. He said he had never heard those words mentioned in the background. The judge asked the prosecutor whether there is a full transcription of the background song as part of the evidence. He could not answer. Finally the defense pulled a rabbit out of the hat. The volunteer lawyer Afnan Khalifa, who is working on the case in the Adalah team, found a memo from an Arab policeman who watched the video, describing “a background song whose words are hard to understand.”

Dangerous for the purpose of detention

The reasoning behind the prosecution’s request to extend the detention of Eghbarieh until the end of the proceedings is his claimed “dangerousness”. The danger, according to the prosecution, is that he might publish more “inciting” posts. According to them, the only way to prevent this is to hold him in custody and there is no need to even examine alternatives to full detention. The prosecution is used to the common practice where the very mention of the word “terrorism” in the indictment leads us to the fast track to unlimited detention without the need for lengthy arguments. The defense’s great battle in this case is to block the spread of the practice of automatic detention until the end of proceedings, so that it will not take over also the domain of “offenses” which are mainly about freedom of expression.

Waiting fro remand hearing - Lawyer Afnan with family members

Raja Eghbarieh’s supporters gather in the entrance to the courtroom. On the front: Lawyer Afnan Khalifa updating family members.

The defense attacked the police’s claim of “dangerousness” by using the behavior of the police during the investigation. They stressed the fact that since the investigation began in February 2018, and for months when the posts were public and known to the police, it took no action to remove the alleged “danger”, and postponed the detention of Eghbarieh until September 9. The judge asked for explanations on this matter, but in its written response the prosecution related to this issue by mere four and a half vague lines out of 7 pages. The judge asked the prosecutor again whether he could provide explanations, and he answered that “Madam knows, this is how the system works.”

Finally, the judge ordered the examination of the “alternative to detention” that the defense offers. The defense insisted that in her opinion there was no justification for detention until the end of proceedings, nor for an alternative to detention, but finally offered four members from Eghbarieh’s family who could “supervise” him under house arrest. From their interrogation in court we learned of a new procedure – to require the custodians to deposit their cell phones with the police before they appear for the job… this in addition to the house being cut off from any connection to the network.

On the way, we heard again about the health problems Eghbarieh, who is 66, suffers from. The Israel Prison Service refused to provide him with a blood pressure medication that he regularly took and gave him an inappropriate replacement drug that caused him to be hospitalized for one day.

Prior to the hearing itself, a protest vigil was held in front of the court building with the participation of about fifty Palestinian activists from all the local Arab parties demanding the release of Eghbarieh. They claimed that his arrest was part of a campaign of political persecutions intended to dangerously farther limit the freedom of expression and organization of Palestinian citizens of Israel as a whole.

Finally, after all the “victories” in proving the discrimination in the enforcement policy, exposing the clumsiness and contempt of the prosecution with regard to the translation and lack of explanations about the delays in the interrogation, it seemed that the greatest relief that could be hoped from this court was the extension of detention until the end of the proceedings, that might be substituted with house arrest under severe limitations. In any event, the judge postponed the decision for next Monday and sent Eghbarieh to another week in detention.

Raja Eghbarieh’s trial: Solidarity and legal struggle to avoid detention until the end of proceedings

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(A somewhat shorter version of this article appeared today in “+972”. A Hebrew version appeared in “Local Call” and “Haifa Ha-Hofshit”)

Raja Eghbarieh, former secretary-general of the Abnaa al-Balad movement, was arrested from his home in Umm Al-Fahm on September 11, the second day of the Jewish New Year holiday. On Thursday, September 20, he was indicted in the Haifa magistrates court of “incitement to terror” and “identification with a terrorist organization”, based on 10 different posts on his personal Facebook page. Together with the indictment the prosecution filed a request for an unlimited remand of his detention – “until the end of the legal proceedings”. On Tuesday, October 2, the first day after Sukkot, the remand request was heard.

Raja in Haifa court 2 Oct 2018 - Free Raja English Arabic

Comrade Raja Eghbarieh in the Haifa court, October 2, 2018

In the political “dead” season, when most activists are preoccupied with the local elections, Eghbarieh’s detention and trial was a reminder for the Arab society of the continuing attack on free speech and space for political activity and a series of solidarity actions were organized. On Saturday, September 29, a wide range of political activists from all the Arab parties and movements participated in protest vigils that were called by “The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel” in Umm al-Fahm, Nazareth and Sakhnin. On Monday, October 1, the Arab Palestinian population commemorated the martyrs of the October 2000 intifada by a general strike and a central demonstration in the town of Jatt in the triangle. But just as that demonstration finished, some of the activists rushed to another protest rally in the center of Shfa’amer for the release of Eghbarieh and against political persecution. More solidarity actions were held in the West Bank, Gaza and several European cities. (Call for international solidarity is here.)

On Tuesday, October 2, Judge Maria Pikus Bogdanov heard the request to extend the detention of Eghbarieh until the end of legal proceedings. The outcome of this hearing can be decisive for the entire case, as legal proceedings can take years. When the defendant is in detention during the trial, he is under pressure to agree to a “plea bargain” rather than to conduct a protracted legal battle over his innocence, which might result in detention for longer time than the sentence itself. (Actually the natural response of the court is to sentence the accused at least for the period that he has already spent in prison.) House arrest can also paralyze the life of the defendant and take a high price from those who are certified to be his custodians, who must be confined to him for a long time, and, if the defendant is convicted, the time spent under house arrest is not considered part of the punishment.

vigil in front of Haifa court 2 Oct 2018 b

Vigil in front of the Haifa court before the remand hearing – October 2, 2018

The Follow-Up Committee called for a protest vigil in front of the Haifa court before the remand hearing – and about 100 Palestinian activists responded to the call, including prominent leaders from Balad (three Knesset members) and the Islamic Movement. At the appointed time the slogans were folded and the activists entered the court building – but it turned out that the hearing took place in a rather small room and most of the supporters remained waiting for hours in the corridor. The court’s guards, aided by the dark uniformed policemen of the “anti-riot” unit, were not satisfied with just “maintaining order,” but forbade other supporters to enter the courtroom instead of those who left, and at one point even cleared the corridor of the audience and prevented anyone from approaching the area.

In the courtroom itself, a reinforced team of lawyers stood up to try to prevent the detention from being extended indefinitely. The team was led by Attorney Hassan Jabareen, founder and head of the Adalah Center, accompanied by Attorney Rabea Eghbariah of Adalah, Attorney Omar Khamaisi of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and lawyers Hussein Abu Hussein, Afnan Khalifa and Ahmad Khalefa. Due to the importance of the discussion, they decided to “go the full length,” while taking the risk of exposing the line of defense even before the beginning of the trial, and discussed in detail each of the ten publications that are mentioned in the indictment. They objected to the translation that was supplied by the prosecution and stressed the explanations given by Eghbarieh in his interrogation. Their main claim was that all the publications do not call for violence, but constitute a legitimate expression of political analysis and opinions, and therefore the indictment itself is baseless.

Raja vigin Manara Ramallah 2 Oct 2018

Free Raja Eghbarieh vigil in Ramallah on October 2, 2018

In some cases, the defense attorneys pointed out specific words that were added, under the guise of translation, into the Hebrew version, but did not exist in the Arab source – in order to add “aggressive” tone. In other cases they presented an alternative translation of the same texts – which gives them different meaning. The defense attorneys also noted that the prosecution is bringing the texts in the indictment in Hebrew without specifying who translated them. They complained that the evidence doesn’t include the testimony of an expert on the translation. The prosecutor and the judge do not know Arabic, and finally the judge requested the prosecutor to bring written comments to the claims regarding the misleading translation.

In the context of the explanations of the legitimacy of the publications, it is worth noting the discussion about one publication, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the death of George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and one of the most prominent and influential figures in the history of the Arab left in general. Attorney Jabareen mentioned that the publication focuses on Habash’s activity to establish a research center, rather than any violent activity, and wondered how such a publication could be interpreted as identification with a terrorist organization. He noted that Eghbarieh himself, along with other leaders of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, has appealed in the past to the Israeli “High Court of Justice”, demanding the right to hold a memorial conference for Habash in Nazareth. The request was denied on the grounds of “fear of violence,” but it was not claimed that holding of a memorial service for Habash is by itself illegal.

The first posts that are mentioned in the indictment relate to the attack from July 2017 by three armed Palestinians from Umm Al-Fahm who killed two Israeli policemen near the Al-Aqsa mosques in occupied East Jerusalem, before being killed themselves. The indictment brings long translations of the posts in Hebrew but doesn’t specify what specifically is, in their view, “illegal” in each post. While the posts don’t express support for the armed attack, it seems that the very use of the word martyrs (“shuhada” in Arabic), the analysis of their motives and their expression of grief at their death is regarded as unlawful.

Another post in the indictment is a picture from the commemoration at the first anniversary to the killing of Bassel Al-A’araj, who was shot by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. Al-A’araj was well known as an independent activist and an ideologue of the youth protest movements in the West Bank. The indictment claims he was a member of the PFLP and performed terrorist attacks at the order of Hezbollah.

Another issue that was emphasized by the defense was the fact that the investigation against Eghbarieh was conducted for many months (apparently from February 2018) and that this meant that his publications were available on the Internet and accessible to all for months (some even more than a year), and that the police were aware of them long before they arrested the defendant. Moreover, the police issued an arrest warrant against Eghbarieh on August 7, 2018, but arrested him only more than a month later, on September 11. The police did nothing to warn Eghbarieh or remove the publications, neither following their appearance nor even after his arrest. The prosecution now claims that his release, even under restrictive conditions, constitutes a “danger to the public” because he might publish other publications.

At the end of its arguments, the defense brought a long list of cases in which Jewish defendants were accused of incitement to violence against Arabs and even of incitement to harm IDF soldiers against the background of the evacuation of settlements that the state recognized as illegal. In those cases there were direct and explicit calls for violent action, which did not exist in the publications attributed to Eghbarieh. In some cases the prosecution even showed a direct connection between the incitement and violent acts that followed. Nevertheless, in all the cases brought by the defense, the state did not request detention until the end of legal proceedings.

Public meeting Vigil Gaza 2 Oct 2018 b

Solidarity with Raja Eghbarieh – Gaza – October 2, 2018

At the end of the hearing, the judge seemed to take the defense arguments seriously, and asked the prosecutor harsh questions. The prosecutor did not know Arabic and couldn’t relate to questions about the translation. He also did not know how to explain why the police waited so long between the time they became aware of the publications and until they decided to act against them. With regard to the claim of discrimination in enforcement and the avoidance of the arrest of Jews who are accused of incitement, he tried to argue that this is a completely different clause in the law and that there is no place for comparison – but the judge didn’t seem to be convinced by his argument. Finally the judge sent him to consult and reply in writing by Thursday. Another hearing on the remand request was scheduled for Sunday, October 7, at 14:00.

Before the meeting ended, Attorney Jabareen managed to complain that since the arrest of Eghbarieh three weeks ago, the Israel Prison Service has prevented his family from entering clothes for him to change. The judge wrote down a decision instructing the Israel Prison Service to allow it. There is a stinking smell in the Israeli “justice” system, and apparently it is not just the prisoners’ clothes.

For more information on solidarity activities, see the Facebook page “Free Raja Eghbarieh“.

Llamada a la solidaridad internacional: ¡Libertad a Raja Eghbarieh!

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(This call is also available in English)

El 11 de septiembre de 2018,  Raja Eghbarieh fue arrestado desde su casa en Umm Al-Fahm, en 1948 Palestina. Su detención fue dos veces renovada y la fiscalía israelí anunció que lo imputarían el jueves 20 de septiembre. Según las audiencias durante la prisión preventiva, todos los “delitos” del camarada Eghbarieh son sus mensajes en su página de Facebook, que según la acusación israelí contienen “incitación a la violencia”. El camarada Eghbarieh explicó en el tribunal que todos sus mensajes son una expresión de una resistencia política legítima a la ocupación israelí y a los crímenes de guerra. La fiscalía declaró que solicitarán su detención por un período ilimitado hasta el final del juicio.

El camarada Eghbarieh es un miembro veterano del movimiento palestino de izquierda, Abnaa Al-Balad (“Hijos de la  tierra”). Fue el primer secretario general del movimiento y sigue siendo uno de sus principales líderes.

El arresto y la condena de Raja Eghbarieh es parte de un modalidad  de agresión  continua del estado sionista contra la libertad de expresión y la organización de los árabes palestinos, también aquellos que formalmente tienen la ciudadanía israelí. Mientras que los activistas son interrogados y arrestados regularmente, en los últimos años vemos un intento orquestado de erradicar el marco de las organizaciones políticas y los movimientos sociales árabes. Comenzó con el Movimiento Islámico, declarado fuera de la ley en noviembre de 2015. Muchos de sus miembros  fueron arrestados y sentenciados a prisión por delitos tales como organizar oraciones en la mezquita Al-Aqsa. Esta modalidad continúa con el ataque a la Alianza Democrática Nacional (Balad), ya que muchos de sus activistas fueron interrogados y hay una demanda constante entre los partidos sionistas para evitar que participe en las elecciones de la Knesset (parlamento israelí).

El movimiento Abnaa Al-Balad, que representa una línea más de izquierda y radical , boicoteó las elecciones a la Knesset, siendo perseguido muchas veces, y sus líderes y activistas fueron víctimas de arrestos y detención administrativa. Ahora la detención del camarada Eghbarieh apuntaría al derecho de expresar posiciones nacionales palestinas en Internet.

La solidaridad internacional es urgente y es la forma más importante de defensa del escaso margen de actividad política para los palestinos en Palestina de 1948, que se suponía que disfrutarían de “la única democracia en el Medio Oriente”. Los políticos israelíes y la opinión pública están abandonando cualquier apariencia de democracia, ya que todos los partidos sionistas compiten para promover el concepto colonialista de un estado “solo judío”. La opinión pública árabe es vista con desprecio por las autoridades israelíes.

El hecho de que Israel puede realizar todos éstos crímenes, se debe al apoyo constante de las potencias occidentales, que le suministran armas, dinero, acceso preferencial a los mercados e impunidad legal. Todos estos privilegios se otorgan en base a la mentira de que Israel es una democracia.

Para las organizaciones de izquierda y los demócratas sinceros, hay una razón especial para defender y apoyar a Abnaa Al-Balad. Este movimiento nunca se retiró del llamado palestino original para el establecimiento de un estado democrático secular en toda Palestina, para todos sus habitantes y como un marco para permitir el regreso de todos los refugiados palestinos. El ataque a Abnaa Al-Balad demuestra que el estado sionista, con todo su poderío militar, siente temor ante la sola idea de una solución democrática en Palestina.

¡Libertad a Raja Eghbarieh!

¡Fuera las manos de Abnaa Al-Balad!

¡Libertad para el pueblo palestino!

Raja Eghbarieh poster - Spanish & Arabic

Call for international solidarity: Free Raja Eghbarieh!

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(This call was also published in Spanish)

On September 11, 2018, Raja Eghbarieh was arrested from his home in Umm Al-Fahm, in 1948 Palestine. His detention was remanded twice and the Israeli prosecution announced that they will file indictment against him on Thursday, September 20. According to the remand hearings, all of comrade Eghbarieh “offences” are his posts on his Facebook page, which the Israeli prosecution claims contain “incitement”. Comrade Eghbarieh explained in court that all his posts are an expression of a legitimate political resistance to Israeli occupation and war crimes. The prosecution declared that they will request his detention for an unlimited period until the end of the trial.

Comrade Eghbarieh is a veteran member of the left Palestinian movement, Abnaa Al-Balad (“Sons of the Country”). He was the movement’s first general secretary and is still one of its main leaders.

The arrest and sentencing of Raja Eghbarieh is part of a pattern of a continuing onslaught by the Zionist state against the freedom of expression and organization of the Arab Palestinians, also those that formally carry Israeli citizenship. While activists are interrogated and arrested on regular basis, we witness in the last years an orchestrated attempt to root out the framework of political organizations and social movements. It started with the Islamic Movement, which was outlawed in November 2015. Many of its members were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for such offences like organizing prayers in Al-Aqsa mosque. It continues with the Attack on the National Democratic Alliance (Balad), many of its activists were interrogated and there is a constant demand between Zionist parties to prevent it from participating in the Knesset elections. Abnaa Al-Balad, representing the line of the radical left and boycotting the Knesset, was persecuted many times before, and its leaders and activists were victims to arrests and administrative detention. Now the detention of comrade Eghbarieh seems to target the very right to express Palestinian national positions on the internet.

Demo in front of Hadera Court - Free Raje - Sunday 16 Sept 2018

Part of the vigil in front of the Hadera court at the time of the remand hearing, September 16

International solidarity is urgently required and is the most important form of defense of what little that was left of the thin margin for political activity for the Palestinians in 1948 Palestine, that were supposed to enjoy “the only democracy in the middle east”. Israeli politicians and public opinion are abandoning any semblance of democracy as all Zionist parties compete in promoting the colonialist concept of a “Jewish only” state. Arab public opinion is viewed with contempt by the Israeli authorities. But it is still the fact that Israel is able to perform all its crimes due to its consistent support from the western powers, which supply it with weapons, money, preferential access to markets and legal impunity. All these privileges are given based on the lie that Israel is a democracy.

For leftist organizations and sincere democrats there is a special reason to defend and support Abnaa Al-Balad. This movement never retreated from the original Palestinian call for the establishment of a secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine, for all its inhabitants and as a framework to enable the return of all Palestinian refugees. The attack on Abnaa Al-Bald proves that the Zionist state, with all its military might, is still afraid of the very idea of a democratic solution in Palestine.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

Hands off Abnaa Al-Balad!

Freedom to the Palestinian People!

For more information on the case, comrade Eghbarieh and Abnaa Al-Balad – read here.

For solidarity news, visit the “Free Raja Eghbarieh” Facebook page.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

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Update – September 16, 2018

The Israeli court in Hadera remanded the detention of comrade Raja Eghbarieh until Thursday, September 20, based on the declaration of the prosecution that by this date they are going to present an indictment against him.

Dozens of members of Abnaa Al-Balad and supporters from the Arab Palestinian public demonstrated in front of the Hadera court at the time of the remand hearing – condemning the detention of Eghbarieh as political persecution. They promised that all the oppressive measures by the Israeli regime will not silence the legitimate Palestinian resistance against Israeli Apartheid.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

On Tuesday morning, September 11, while Israel was celebrating the Jewish New Year, the Israeli police raided the home of Raja Eghbarieh, one of the leaders of the Abnaa Al-Balad movement, in Umm Al-Fahm. They searched the house, confiscated documents, smartphones and computers, and carried Eghbarieh with them. On the next day he was brought before a remand judge in the Israeli court in Hadera. The police representatives clarified that they were interrogating him for his posts on Facebook. They said they have already waged a “covert investigation” for a long time and now want to carry on while he is under detention. They claimed that some of his posts consisted “incitement to violence” and “support for a terrorist organization”.

Raja Eghbarieh in Hadera court

Raja Eghbarieh in Hadera court

The defense lawyers claimed that all of Eghbarieh’s posts were, naturally, public. They said that he was already interrogated for seven hours and admitted publishing all the posts on his Facebook page. He explained during his interrogation that all his publications are legitimate expression of political opposition to Israel’s occupation and repression against the Palestinian people. They said that there is no reason to remand his detention, even if the state wants to indict him on the charges against his pronunciations.

The judge refused to accept documented evidence that the 67 years old detainee was suffering from several serious medical conditions or to consider any terms of release on bail. In the end she remanded his detention until Monday, September 17.

The Limits of Israeli Democracy

On Thursday, September 13, Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, filed an appeal in the District Court in Haifa. Some twenty supporters and relatives of Eghbarieh, accompanied by four lawyers, gathered in the small hall of Judge Mazen Daoud.

Hassan Jabareen after Raja court appeal in Haifa

Adalah Lawyer Hassan Jabareen after his appearance in the appeal in Haifa

Attorney Hassan Jabareen, founder and general director of Adalah, presented the defense arguments. Hearing him you could easily be carried away and believe that we all live in a democracy, that the right for free speech is a sacred right, and nobody is arrested just for publishing his criticism against government policy on Facebook. The decision of the judge from Hadera was surely a mistake that contradicts both the law and the practice in the courts.

On the other side, representing the police was a uniformed officer named Barakat. To Jabareen’s claim that (almost) nobody is arrested just for posting on Facebook he answered with a long list of names and file numbers of people that were arrested for long periods before and after indictment for just that. For one of the names of his list he emphasized that the accused was a young man with no precedents, unlike Eghbarieh who is an influential political leader. Hearing the list of those arrested just for posting on Facebook, Jabareen could not stop himself but interrupted the officer: “They are all Arabs! Are there no Jews posting sharp words on Facebook?”

The Presumption of Dangerousness

The Israeli “law enforcement” apparatus maintains, in practice, a different legal system for Jews and Arabs. But most laws are formally worded in a general way – not conditional on the religion or nationality of the accused. One crucial way to sort things out is called in the legal system “the presumption of dangerousness”.

The decision whether to hold a suspect or an accused in detention can rely on any of several justifications. One of the most common of them is how “dangerous” the accused is. In the general case this supposed dangerousness should be tested on individual basis. In some cases even murderers were released on bail pending trial. But for offences “against state security” there is a blanket all-embracing “presumption of dangerousness” that allows the state to keep the accused for infinite time in prison until the end of the trial even if the supposed offence itself is very light. The long detention periods constitute a major pressure on the accused to agree to a plea bargain that in many cases will take them out of prison earlier than the trial itself could last.

One main argument of Jabareen in the appeal was that this “presumption of dangerousness” doesn’t apply for offences that are based on political expression. The judge rejected this claim.

The hearing was set for 15:00. After an hour or so of arguments, the judge said he will give his decision later on the same day. He received a CD from the police with “materials” – supposedly posts from Eghbarieh’s Facebook – to look at. It was almost 20:00 when he finally announced his decision. He rejected the main claims of the appeal, but accepted two minor claims. First, he agreed with the police that some of the interrogation steps require that the accused will be in detention – but not much of it. He agreed with the appeal that the remand judge in Hadera had to consider alternative measures to full detention, like house arrest. Based on these he shortened the detention period by one day, and it is now set till Sunday, September 16.

On Sunday the police may agree to release Eghbarieh or ask for another remand.

Who are Abnaa Al-Balad?

Abnaa Al-Balad (“Sons of the Country”) is a left political movement that is active between Palestinians in the territories that were occupied by Israel in 1948. To understand the roots of this movement one should understand the special history of those Palestinians that were left under Israeli rule after the 1948 Nakba in which most Palestinians were expelled and hundreds of towns and villages destroyed. It was a society under trauma, and for the first 18 years they lived under direct military rule.

In the initial period after the Nakba the only political party that was active within this section of the Palestinian population was the Israeli Communist Party. This communist party supported the basic claims of Zionism for a “Jewish state” but wasn’t Zionist itself and took an active role in defending the daily rights of the Arab Palestinian population. The first attempt to build an Arab Nationalist party, Al-Ard movement, was crushed by Israeli oppression. Abnaa Al-Balad movement, which started in the late sixties and gradually organized from local groups into a political movement, was the first movement that succeeded to resume systematic Palestinian political struggle after the Nakba.

In the eighties Abnaa Al-Balad went through deep divisions, much of them around the issue of participation in the Israeli Knesset. Finally the movement adopted a Marxist ideology and took the position of boycott of the Knesset. In spite of constant government persecutions and internal divisions Abnaa Al-Balad succeeded to keep its position as one of the recognized political movements in the Palestinian political map within the 48 areas. It is the smallest of just four movements that have grassroots organization and participate in leading Palestinian struggles, cooperating and competing with the Islamic Movement, the Communist Party and Balad. It was never registered under the Israeli law but was not outlawed either.

Abnaa Al-Balad defines itself as a Palestinian movement, promoting national identity, relating to Palestinian and wider Arab politics and rejecting integration in Israeli politics. It can claim major success in restoring the Palestinian identity of the Arab population after the Nakba and in setting the political agenda on several issues like creating wide consensus around the right of return. In addition to boycott of the Knesset it is mostly characterized by its consistent support for the establishment of one secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine.

Who is Raja Eghbarieh?

Raja Eghbarieh is the most significant leader in the history of Abnaa Al-Balad. The movement actually started in Umm Al-Fahm in 1969 as a local club that took part in municipal elections. In the eighties, as leader of the movement’s youth, he led the opposition to the traditional leadership that wanted to take part in Israeli elections and had an important role in adopting the leftist orientation. In the beginning of the first intifada, in December 1987, after a stormy general strike within 1948 Palestine, Eghbarieh, with some 10 other leaders of the movement, was put under administrative detention for six months.  After the first national conference of the movement, in 1990, he was elected to be its first general secretary.

After the Oslo Agreement, Abnaa Al-Balad wanted to build a wider front of Oslo opponents and skeptics. Eghbarieh led the discussions and negotiations that culminated in the establishment of the “Balad” party, the election of Azmi Bishara to head it and the participation of Balad in a common list with “the democratic front” in the 1996 Knesset elections.

In 1998 Abnaa Al-Balad abandoned her partnership in Balad and struggled to rebuild its independent public presence. But it soon split into a “pragmatic” faction led by Eghbarieh and a more “hardline” faction led by Muhammad Kana’aneh. After a long process of rapprochement the movement was officially reunited in 2012 with no single major leader.

For all this period Eghbarieh was not only a political leader within his movement but also represented it in different bodies that united the 1948 Palestinians in struggle against Israeli racism and oppression, mostly the “higher follow up committee”. In this role he had made important contributions as part of the united leadership of the Palestinian masses in many crucial struggles.

Silencing Palestinian Voices

Throughout the discussion of the appeal in the Haifa court, one precedent was repeatedly mentioned. It was the trials, past and present, of the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, who also happened to be from Umm Al-Fahm. The police representative didn’t shy of stressing the political aspects of the trials – in both cases, he claimed, the accused are political leaders whose words carry influence with the public. He didn’t mention any post by Eghbarieh that is calling for violence, but he stressed his positions that “oppose the state of Israel” and the fact that “he writes many posts and receive many likes and shares”.

Sheikh Raed Salah in court

Sheikh Ra’ed Salah in court – endless persecution

Not only the Islamic Movement and Abnaa Al-Balad are persecuted. In the last few years Balad is also constant target to interrogations, detentions and trials. Many speakers for Israel’s government and Zionist parties express their intention to prevent Balad from entering the Knesset again.

After the recent ratification of the Nationality Law, which officially declares Israel as an exclusive Jewish state, there was a wide call in Palestinian circles to reconsider the usefulness of Arab participation in the Knesset.

Just as the Israeli state is using its heavy hands to silence any form of Palestinian political expression, the very same repression proves to the population at large and to the world the basic claims of those very same voices: that Israel is not a democracy but a colonialist system based on Apartheid and ethnic cleaning.

 

The Political Program of the Campaign for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine

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PREAMBLE

(This program is also available in Arabic & Hebrew)

In recent years, the idea of a one democratic state in all of historic Palestine as the best solution to the conflict has re-emerged. It started gaining increased support in the public domain. It is not a new idea. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the catastrophe of 1948 (the Nakba) and after it, had adopted this vision, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The PLO abandoned this idea in the framework of the diplomatic negotiations at the late eighties that led to the Oslo agreement of 1993. The Palestinian leadership hoped that this agreement would enable the building of an independent Palestinian state on the territories that Israel occupied in 1967. But on the ground Israel has strengthened its colonial control, fragmenting the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza into isolated cantons, separated from one another by settlements, checkpoints, military bases and fences.

The two-state solution, which is basically an unfair solution, is clearly dead. Israel buried it deep under its colonial settlement policies in the territories that were supposed to become the independent Palestinian state. Israel has imposed a single repressive regime that extends over all the Palestinians who live in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship.

In view of these dangerous developments, and, more important, based on the values of justice, freedom and democracy, we contend that the only way to achieve justice and permanent peace is dismantling the colonial apartheid regime in historic Palestine and the establishment of a new political system based on full civil equality, and on full implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return, and the building of the required mechanisms to correct the historical grievances of the Palestinian people as a result of the Zionist colonialist project.

On this background, many activists and groups, Palestinians and Israelis, have recently initiated the revival of the one-state idea, proposing differing models of such a state, such as a bi-national state, a liberal democratic state and a socialist state. They are all united, however, in their commitment to the establishment of a single democratic state in all of historic Palestine, as an alternative to the colonial apartheid regime that Israel has imposed over the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. A similar regime was toppled by the joint struggle of black and white South Africans under the leadership of the ANC in 1994.

The goal of this political program, as formulated by the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), is to widen the support for this solution among the local populations, Palestinian and Israeli alike, as well as among the international public. We call on all those in the world who struggle for freedom and justice to join and support our struggle against this apartheid regime and for the establishment of a democratic state free of occupation and colonialism, based on justice and equality, which guarantees a better future for the next generations and real peace in all of historic Palestine.

 The Political Program

  1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. OneDemocratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as a state belonging to all its citizens, including the Palestinian refugees. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the will of the people. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, nominate candidates for any post and take part in the country’s governance.
  2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, those who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from which they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property and/or compensate them.
  3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices shall discriminate among its citizens on the basis of ethnic identity, national or cultural belonging, or on the basis of color, gender, language, religion, political opinion, property or sexual orientation. The state will grant all its citizens the right to freedom of movement and the right to reside anywhere in the country. The state will guarantee to all the citizens equal rights in all levels and institutions and will guarantee free thought and freedom of opinion. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and cultures can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group or collectivity have any control or domination over others. The Constitution will deny the Parliament the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community, be it ethnic, national, religious, cultural or class.
  5. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those willing to immigrate to the country.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The Stateshall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the country. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than in any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The Stateshall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in the Middle East, so that the rights of the region’s peoples and citizens will be guaranteed and its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies shall be respected. That should include respect for the peoples’ right to struggle for equality and freedom of thought. Achieving justice in Palestine will contribute measurably toward these goals and the aspirations of the region’s peoples.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as a part of the democratic and progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that shall be pluralistic and sustainable, more just, egalitarian and humanistic and free of exploitation, racism, intolerance, oppression, wars, colonialism and imperialism. This new world order will be based on human dignity and respect for the people’s rights to freedom and just distribution of resources and will provide a healthy and sustainable environment.

 

The Campaign for One Democratic State – political and organizational perspectives

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(The following report appeared first on Mondoweiss. Earlier versions of this report were published in Arabic and Hebrew).

[Photo credits: Pictures are courtesy of Ashraf Abdelfattah]

A New Guy on the ODS Block

Over the last year a new One Democratic State (ODS) initiative, striving to restore Palestinian rights and bring a just solution to the more than a century long bloody conflict, held a series of meetings and consultations. The initiating group is diverse, bringing together academics and activists, veterans of the struggle and members of the new youth movements, Arabs and Jews. For technical reasons the initiative is currently concentrated “within the green line” – those parts of Palestine that Israel took control of already in 1948. For the time being, the organizers distinguish the new initiative under the acronyms ODSC – standing for ODS Campaign.

The new initiative hasn’t yet even publish its initial political program, which is subject to prolonged process of consultations in an attempt to form a broad church of supporters of the ODS idea, with different political backgrounds and different views about the detailed structure of the future state. It might be a signal for the growing interest in ODS that it has already ignited some interest and lively discussion.Shefa3amer meeting 23 June 2018 1 hall

In late June the group’s steering committee held its second official meeting in Shafa’amer near Haifa, and decided to open it to the media even as basic issues were still under discussion. The fledgling movement’s 50 organizers, Arabs and Jews, adopted a political program ahead of the official launch coming this Fall. The program was adopted in Arabic but its publication was delayed until parallel Hebrew and English versions will be ready.

In the meantime, the following report about the meeting’s contents gives an initial opportunity to look in detail at the political perspectives of some of those behind this campaign, based on my notes taken during the meeting and coverage by Omar Dalasha, which first appeared on the website “Arab 48.”

The meeting dealt with a number of theoretical and political issues, as well as practical steps to place the idea of a democratic solution in the center of political discourse, and to create an alternative consciousness against the reality of partition, colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

An old new idea

Awad Abdelfattah, one of the founders of the new initiative and who previously served as general secretary of “The National Democratic Alliance” (a Palestinian party active in 1948 Palestine, AKA as “Balad”), opened the discussion. He started with the historical background and current efforts toward the proposed solution:

“This idea we present today is not new. Our initiative to revive the program is neither the first nor the only one. We are building on the intellectual heritage of the previous initiatives and on the values ​​of freedom and ethics that this solution represents. But we also begin with a critical reading of previous attempts, which failed to take off and become an influential public movement.”

Abdelfattah added, “the illusion of a two-state solution proved to be completely unrealistic, in view of the dominance of the colonial apartheid regime against our people, and with it the ideas of division and separation based on injustice were discredited. Against this background, and relying on the principles of justice, we are working to renew the discussion of the one-state solution and bring it back to the fore.”

He explained that the founders do not believe that the current moment is revolutionary, the relationship of forces are not favorable and there is no easy way to change this. On the contrary, the Palestinian people are now going through one of the most difficult periods in the history of their struggle. He said,

“We are living in a period of confusion and uncertainty, not only because of the inability to change the situation due to the skewed balance of power, but also in the absence of a vision and a lack of a clear definition of the goals of the struggle around which the Palestinian people can unite. Against this backdrop, there is a growing tendency to adopt an alternative based on the desire for freedom and a humanistic approach that can re-emphasize the components of the strength of the Palestinian struggle, based on moral dimensions, the struggle for the rights of a people suffering under a racist colonial regime, not a struggle over defining borders.”

Abdelfattah emphasized the presence of Jews who oppose the colonial apartheid regime in Palestine and believe in one state. They are a key element in the initiative’s leadership. He said that their participation enhance its credibility.

Part of the initiative’s mission is to formulate a new pattern of cooperation between Arabs and Jews in the struggle – instead of co-existence, co-resistance is needed.

What have we done so far?

Abdelfattah reviewed the activities that took place since the first preparatory meeting on April 21, 2018 (a report about this meeting is here). At that time a number of working groups were established according to topics: media, a committee for organizational affairs and youth, and a committee to promote the discussion on issues of principle.

“We held many meetings with potential Arab and Jewish activists and supporters,” he said, adding, ”By reaching out we have witnessed that many people are undergoing a process of change in their approach to the solution. We must redouble our efforts, be creative and invest more thought.”

He explained that choosing the name “campaign” instead of “movement”—although the goal is to become a movement later—stems from the need and desire to include other Palestinian and Palestinian-Jewish groups, as well as activists who support this solution,

“We maintain flexibility, openness, and acceptance of different opinions, on the condition that everyone agrees with the idea of ​​a single democratic state. We believe that the insistence on issues that need not be decided now and the attempt to create ideological consensus on both large and small issues are among the reasons that some previous movements failed to grow. We do not want to remain a small movement, without influence and torn by internal disagreements or paralyzed by stagnation and narrow mindedness.”

“This is a patriotic democratic liberation project that requires years of hard work, in which generations unite, in a determined and continuing struggle to reach a free homeland and free people who believe in justice and equality,” Abdelfattah concluded, “A more conscious, freer young generation will emerge from the joint action, with a deeper understanding of the ideas of democracy and liberation.”

A Palestinian initiative that Jews are joining

Historian Ilan Pappe, a member of the founding committee, spoke about the prospects for promoting the idea in Israeli society. At the beginning of his speech, Pappe told how he was invited on May 15 to present at the United Nations the perspective of the solution of one democratic state. The representatives of Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia boycotted the meeting, and the Palestinian ambassador, who attended it, not only did not support the proposed solution but also attacked it, out of loyalty to the two-state solution.

This event represents the problems we encounter when the official representatives of the Palestinian people – in both the international community and the Knesset – oppose the proposed solution.

Shefa3amer meeting 23 June 2018 2 speakers

Some of the speakers in the meeting, right to left: Ilan Pappe, Awad Abdelfattah, Mahmoud Miari, Muhammad Younis

“On this background,” Pappe continued, “there are special importance and influence to the fact that this is a Palestinian initiative to which Jews are joining. The fact that Palestinians adopt the plan of one democratic state based on equality will influence opinions on the Israeli street. Being a Palestinian initiative gives it a moral and ideological weight,” he said, continuing,

“We speak a lot about the balance of material forces, but we confront this skewed balance with the moral balance of power between the original inhabitants of the country and the settlers’ society. Creating an artificial parallelism between the two sides, as if there are peace camps on both sides, meeting in the middle of the road, doesn’t help this process. When the program of one state will appear as a new stage of the Palestinian liberation movement, it will also produce new opportunities to mobilize supporters within Jewish society.”

Pappe also discussed the difficulties in enlisting from Israeli society,

“We are talking about abolishing the preferential regime and the privileges that the Israelis enjoy at the expense of the original residents, and the settlers will not easily or voluntarily give up these privileges. For this it is necessary to change the balance of power from within, through a popular movement, as well as through external pressure, such as that applied by the boycott movement, the BDS. The success of the boycott movement is an important experience to build upon. In its beginnings many people argued that calling for a boycott would prevent dialogue and harm the opponents of the occupation in Israeli society. The experience proved the reverse – the boycott is also a form of dialogue in which Israelis are told that they must change. Even discussing the boycott, like discussing one-state, opens up many opportunities.”

Pappe also mentioned the alternative culture that develops among the younger generation – a culture that is much more open to anything that moves away from the institutional consensus and is willing to explore other possibilities,

“We started the initiative about a year ago, during which we met and talked to various people in Israeli society and witnessed a growing willingness to hear and accept the idea, even now that there is still no significant political movement working to advance this solution. In the wake of every additional publication about the movement, more people – Palestinians and Jews – are calling to join. If we succeed in forming an organized framework that will adopt the idea, that will work to abolish the regime of racial segregation, to waive the privileges and to live together on the basis of the principles of justice, the supporting circles will expand. The idea now exists and develops as an ideological stream rather than as a movement or an organized force. It is necessary to build an organized, strong and influential public movement, which can provide a framework for utilizing the potential support for the idea. This potential will expand further due to the lack of a political solution in the horizon, especially as it will become evident that the political deadlock might lead to disasters and exact new price in blood.”

The youth protest movements and the one-state

Muhammad Younis, an activist in Herak Haifa and a member of the founding committee, spoke about the political context in which current youth movements in Palestine develop and operate. He relied on the experience, among other examples, of the movements that organized the recent demonstrations in Haifa in support of the March of the Return in the Gaza Strip,

“The vast majority of young people tend to support the idea of ​​a single state rather than a two-state solution, but most have no organizational connection to this idea,” he said. “The various parties in historic Palestine failed to create a broad consensus around a unifying Palestinian national project. Palestinian youth today were born in a period dominated by the Oslo Accords and grew in the shadow of the division between Palestinian people in the two sides of the Green Line and between those in Palestine and the refugees out of the country. In addition, it is becoming ever clearer that the so called ‘peace process’ leads nowhere and that the ‘two-state solution’ failed. We grew up as a youth when everyone was talking about a two-state solution and we were educated on this idea. In view of the failure of this solution and the absence of an alternative, or the lack of proper presentation of an alternative, we are witnessing a general state of frustration from political activity.”

In these conditions different youth movements developed. Those movements were also influenced by the Arab revolutions, where the youth had a central role in their awakening and at the beginning of their path, before the regimes and external forces turned them into destructive civil wars. Those movements went through several important stages. One of their peaks was the movement against the Prawer plan to uproot the Palestinian residents of the Naqab. The youth movements also played an important role in organizing support for the hunger strikes of the Palestinian freedom prisoners. Recently we witnessed the march of return in the Gaza Strip, and how a supportive movement developed in Haifa and Ramallah. This last experience succeeded to forge unity in struggle, goals and slogans among various parts of the Palestinian people and raised it to a new level.”

Significant support for the right of return among the Jewish public

The last speaker was Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, founder of Zochrot and currently active in the “De Colonizer” organization. Both movements work among the Jewish public to promote awareness of the destroyed Palestinian villages and recognition of the rights of the refugees. He presented the results of public opinion surveys on the attitude toward the right of return initiated by “De Colonizer” and conducted by a professional survey institute. These results appeared in a book he published recently, together with Eleonor Merza-Bronstein, named “Nakba in Hebrew: a political journey.”

The first survey was conducted in March 2015. The main result surprised the survey’s initiators: More than 20 percent of the respondents, all Jewish residents of Israel, expressed support for the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Bronstein explained that the result of 20 percent support consists of summing the number of those who chose one of two possible answers, unconditional support or support provided it doesn’t harm the current residents. The poll’s initiators wanted to ensure that the results were real and repeated it in March 2017. This time the result was even more positive – 27 percent supported the right of return, conditionally or unconditionally. Support was higher among young people and among secular Jews.

In order to be more certain that the respondents indeed understood the meaning of the right of return, De Colonizer repeated the survey once again in April 2017. This time the pollsters were required to explicitly explain to the respondents that the right of return meant that more than 7 million Palestinians could choose to exercise this right. In this poll, support for the right fell to 16.2 percent.

Bronstein noted that support for the right of return among Jews in Israel can be considered surprisingly high, since no Israeli party supports this right and in light of the official propaganda that always tries to frighten the public from the right of return and say that its implementation means the liquidation of the Jews or at least their expulsion from the country.

Bronstein concluded that the Israelis’ position toward the right of return can be changed, and for this purpose we need a will and determination to build a democratic alternative.

Open discussion

After the presentation, an open discussion took place lasting over an hour and a half.

The discussion dealt again with the 10-point political plan of the initiative, which has already been discussed and amended through several previous meetings, and this time was brought for approval. It was clarified that the program was not intended to answer all the questions, but rather to create a broad basis within which activists and organizations coming from different political traditions and from different ideologies could work together. The common denominator is the commitment to fight against all forms of oppression, overcome past residues through the return of the refugees, abolish all oppressive mechanisms, and create an open democratic society in which everyone will enjoy full rights where there is systematic action to close social gaps and create a just society.

Much of the discussion was devoted to the right form of building the movement with regard to the existing gaps—wide gaps in power and consciousness—between Palestinian Arab society and Jewish society in Israel. Many varied opinions were expressed. For most of us, just thinking about building a joint movement is a new political experience that requires redefining concepts and dealing with questions that are easy to ignore in routine political work. Finally, it was decided that these issues, like many others, required an in-depth and systematic discussion that would accompany us over the coming months and years.

Decisions and practical measures

Despite the need for further discussions, the proposed political plan was adopted for the current period as the basis to act upon and expand the movement.

We have set ourselves the goal of working toward a broad conference in the autumn, after more people and groups will join the campaign. This conference will also be an opportunity to re-discuss the political program and update it based on the contributions of new participants and accumulated experience.

The participants also decided to continue the construction of the subcommittees, to include new members and to continue organizing meetings of activists, informational lectures and community discussions.