Israel upped its genocidal policies with cruel attacks against Palestinians, killing young and old, men and women, boys and girls. Israeli news, Israeli society the world at large however, continue to deal with trivia. One example is the trial where I was charged with participating in “disturbances.”
The courtroom in Jerusalem was small with whitewashed walls and a few simple, uncomfortable wooden benches. The air conditioner was either too cold or not cool enough. The atmosphere was causal, no one announced or stood when the judge entered, the prosecution and the defense council were too busy with their papers and the defendants, me among them were caught by surprise as the door to his chambers opened and the judge came in and sat in his chair.
Two other defendants and I were charged with participating in disturbances during the weekly Friday protest in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank in 2012(!). Considering that during the month of October 2015 armed Israeli vigilantes and soldiers killed and injured dozens of young Palestinians in a manner that is vicious even for Israel, our trial seemed beyond petty, it was stupid.
The main witness for the prosecution was officer Yousef Nasser El-Din, a Palestinian Druze collaborator who serves as an officer in the Israeli Border Guards, or “Magav.” He is tall and fit-looking, with handsome features. He came wearing the distinctive olive-green uniform of the Border Guards and he was carrying a loaded pistol on his belt. Officer Nasser El-Din told the judge about the “Tsambar” hill where we were gathered. I had never heard this term prior to the trial, it is a Hebrew acronym that stands for “burning tires.” According to him, we stood on that hill, which, as the name suggests, is used to roll burning tires down onto the main road, and onto advancing soldiers. The mob was calling out slogans in Arabic that were meant to incite for violence, “I understand and speak the Arabic language” he reminded the court.
The exchange between him and Ms. Laski was too fast for the court typist who couldn’t keep up. Every few sentences the judge asked them to stop, then he summarized what was said so that the typist could transcribe. When I read the court transcripts I realized that they were more of a paraphrasing and a summary than an actual transcript.
By the time it was my turn to testify it was so cold in the room that my attorney Ms. Gabi Laski looked like she was suffering from hypothermia. Someone finally asked to lower the air conditioner and the judge apologized, pointed the remote toward the air-conditioner and turned it off.
“What do you say to these accusations, that the previous witnessed described” Ms. Laski challenged me.
Unfortunately the officer was no longer in the room. “I am afraid the time allotted for this hearing will not allow me to recount all the lies told by officer Nasser El-Din,” I began. When I was done answering, the judge, Ohad Gordon, looked at me closely. I was standing behind the rickety lectern that served as a witness stand, just a few feet from him. He leaned over, his face almost too young for his salt-and-pepper hair.
Video of the actual event and the arrests. The tall guy arresting us is the Collaborator Officer Nasser El-Din. My arrest shows up around minute 4:10
“I want to make something very clear. The officer described an unruly riot. You are describing people marching peacefully, a completely peaceful environment, almost pastoral. You both claim that army used riot dispersing methods, (that means tear gas MP). Is this the picture you are describing to us?”
I looked back at the judge, who seemed to me to be sincere.
“Your honor described it exactly as it is.” I began. “People marching peacefully and then the army, for no apparent reason shooting Not only the place and the time we are discussing, but at every place and at every time, every Friday in the various villages in the West Bank. The attempt to paint the Palestinian popular-resistance as a violent mob is deceitful, it is dishonest, it is a lie. People from around the world come to these villages to participate because the popular resistance is committed to non-violence just as it is committed to resistance and freedom. Palestinian villages have become the international “Meccas” for non-violent activists. Again I say, your honor could not have described it better.”
The officer-collaborator Nasser El-Din also described the goals of the popular resistance in terms that are congruent with general Israeli beliefs. “The villagers are protesting because of a dispute surrounding who owns the rights to the spring at the foot of the village.” The Israeli town of Halamish, where some of the most vicious fanatic Israelis live, has taken much of Nabi Saleh land, including the small spring. But Officer Nasser El-Din is a fool if he thinks that Palestinians in Nabi Saleh, or any other village are putting their lives on the line for a spring, or a well or even a settlement here or there. The purpose of the Palestinian resistance is to free Palestine and to give Palestinians the rights they deserve. And it will not end until this is achieved.
It is the same folly that leads Israeli security officials to think that more soldiers, more police, more checkpoints and walls will keep Israelis safe from the consequences of the occupation. If every inch of every street of every city and town were lined with soldiers, Israelis still would still not be safe. It is also the same folly that leads Israeli lawmakers to think they can legislate against the resistance. Legislating against BDS, legislating against stone throwing, legislating to loosen the shoot-to-kill guidelines, legislating to keep Palestine supporters out of the country.
No government can legislate an end resistance to oppression, any more than they can legislate to legalize their own crimes. Killing Palestinians in cold blood is a crime even if it is legal in Israel and the Palestinian resistance is legal and moral even if Israel calls it illegal. But if there is one thing unique about Israel it is that it’s stupid. Israeli governments always deal with small irrelevant issues that are devoid of context and conveniently avoid the painful truth. Much like my trial, where they try to place my co-defendants and I in the midst of an angry mob by showing a video where two young boys throw rocks at an advancing infantry platoon. Where in fact we were in the midst of a peaceful protest until the army came and all hell broke lose. But that is neither important nor relevant.
What is relevant and important is to end the siege on Gaza, to release all Palestinian prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and to dismantle the military apparatus that maintains the apartheid regime in Palestine.
Back at my court hearing, the young prosecutor, his black hair cropped short, seemed at a loss. He kept scratching his head and finally he looked at me and asked:
“Why would the army attack, just like that with no reason?”
“That’s an excellent question, I suggest you ask the army.”
He had no more answers after that. A guilty verdict will likely mean a fine or community service or maybe a donation to a charity. A non-guilty verdict will mean the court realizes the utter stupidity of the case.
A final hearing and verdicts will take place in a few more months.