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Email excerpt 18/10/2004 : About picking olives & the anarchists‘ day in court (Adam Keller)


(….T)he sedate Magistrate’s Court in Tel-Aviv got a whiff of the Wild West Bank atmosphere when eleven of the Anarchists Against Walls showed up to answer a variety of charges, ranging from holding an illegal demonstration to obstructing policemen and assaulting policemen and up to "defacing real property" (i.e., writing graffiti). The charges all referred to a single event, lasting less than ten minutes, on the afternoon of Febr uary 25 this year – the day when the International Court at the Hague started deliberating on the construction by the Sharon Government of the Separation Wall which cuts through Palestinian villages and towns.

The Anarchists had planned to mark this day by a joint demonstration with the inhabitants of a village which lost most of its land because of the Wall/Fence. But the army and police got wind of these plans, and the group was intercepted at the West Bank border and forced to turn back – whereupon they drove directly to the Defence Ministry in Tel-Aviv, sat down on the street in front of its gates, and were immediately pounced upon by the police. One of beaten to the point of losing consciousness, another one needed to be hospitalized, and thirteen in all spent the night in detention. On the following morning, the police asked the duty judge to keep them under house arrest "until the Hague Court ends its deliberations" but the Duty Judge rejected this idea and granted them bail. It was then that the p lice and public prosecutor decided to prefer charges against them -leading to today’s rather grotesque affair.  

With a variety of tattoos and unconventional hair styles and accompanied by several sympathizing, well-known artists and actors, the accused young men and women stood in the court house lobby – displaying to the many media representatives their T-shirts with the text "We will not be silenced" and covering their mouths with strips of black sticky tape. That was enough for the court house guards to snap into action, shout "No demonstrating on court premises" and push the offending activists into an empty courtroom, where they were made to take off the offending shirts (of which the TV cameras already got their fill, anyway). It took quite a bit before they finally made it to Judge Muki Landman’s hall and sat down in the overcrowded dock, with the spectator benches equally crowded with their supporters.

Defence Lawyer Gabi Lasky began by asking the court to dismiss the charges out of hand, on the basis of Natural Law (or "estoppel" in lawyers‘ jargon). She began with a long exposition on the Wall and the way it disrupts the daily life of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, quoting extensively from the reports of various human rights organizations which she also presented to the court as evidence. Many judges would have rejected all this as irrelevant – Landman did not. Adv. Laski made special reference to the inhabitants of the so-called "Seam Area", where the accused originally intended to demonstrate on February 25.

"The Seam Area has been declared a closed military zone, where entry is forbidden. Even if you were born there and your parents before you, and even if you lived there all your life, you must apply for a special permit from the army in order to stay in your own home and work your own field . But by the same military order, citizens of Israel are exempt and may enter the Seam Area without n eeding any permit. And not only Israeli citizens, also ‚those who have the right to Israeli citizen ship under the law of r eturn‘, that is – Jews. Yes, a Jew from Brooklyn or from Timbuktu could land at Ben Gurion Airport, go the Seam Area and stay there as long as he wants, without needing any permit – but a Palestinian who was born there needs a permit from the army to live in his own home! It was against this kind of blatant injustice that the accused tried to protest, first in the Seam Area itself, then when this was denied at the Ministry of Defence where this infamous military order originated.

They acted according to the Categorical Imperative of the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, according to which every person must act as if his and her life is setting the moral example for the whole world. They acted according to t he Talmud, which states that a man would not be considered truly righteous, even if he followed all of God’s commandmnents, if he had failed to cry out against an injustice of which he was aware. On the basis of Natural Law, the case against them should be dismissed".  

"I will reserve my response to counsel’s argument until later" responded Judge Landman. "But first I must draw the prosecution’s attention to some obvious concrete defects in the charge sheet. For example, accused no.7 is accused of assaulting policemen, but there is no concrete act attributed to her which would substantiate that charge. The same with accused no. 1 being charged with hindering a policeman in the execution of his duties. Exactly what did she do, Mr. Prosecutor? Sitting on the road for all of three minutes and refusing t o get up when ordered by the policeman, that’s hindering him in the execution of his duties? Hmmm.   And about the rest of them, in what did the assault on the police consist? "Kicking the police while being carried to the patrol car? Well, I suppose if you prove that they did do that, yes, it woul d technically count as assault. Still, I seem to recall that during the evacuation of Yamit and other Sinai settlements [i n 1982] the settlers did quite a bit more than that, and none of them was prosecuted. A good thing, too. There should be toleration built into the prosecution policy, some leeway. We are now entering a period of debate and controversy. We will have many demonstrations by many people and groups who have something very urgent to say, and I don‘t care if they are from the left-w ing or right-wing, protesting the erection of the fence or the dismantling of settlements. From the policy of the prosecution in this case, I suppose we will see all of them marching into this court-room by the dozen. We may have to set up a special court for demonstrators, like there is already a special court for the deportation of migrant workers. If that’s what you want, fine! Anyway, I am giving the prosecution a week to reconsider, do they really want to proceed with this case. If they still do, I will then state my ruling on the defence’s request with regard to Natural Law. Until then, every body is dismissed." ~~~