The False Arrest of Khalida Jarrar: Israeli 'Justice' Put to Shame

The charge sheet against the Palestinian legislator - in jail now for two months - ought to be studied in every law school: This is how you slap together false accusations and fabricate an indictment.

Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar during a court session at Israel's Ofer Military Court.
Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar during a court session at Israel's Ofer Military Court, May 21, 2015. AP

Here’s a case after which nobody will seriously be able to make any of the following five claims anymore: one, that Israel is a state of law; two, that the regime in its occupied territories isn’t a military dictatorship; three, that Israel has no political prisoners; four, that the military court system in the territories has any kind of connection, however weak, to law and justice; and five, in light of all of the above – that Israel is a democracy.

Does that sound overblown? Sometimes, one case suffices to prove a point.

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian parliament, has been under arrest for two months already, yet virtually no one has uttered a peep. At first, Israel said it would deport her to Jericho for six months, but Jarrar refused to recognize the legitimacy of the one deporting her. The Israel Defense Forces folded.

Then she was put under administrative detention, as punishment for her refusal to be deported. But the IDF was frightened by the wave of international protests over its detention without trial of a legislator. So it decided to put her on trial.

The indictment, comprised of no fewer than 12 counts, ought to be studied in every law school: This is how you slap together false accusations and fabricate an indictment. This is how the system that dares to call itself a “legal system,” with “judges” and “prosecutors,” “verdicts” and “hearings,” actually behaves. Everyone plays along with this ridiculous costume party and takes their senseless roles seriously. And this is the result.

Jarrar, a veteran political activist who has no criminal history even according to the occupation authorities, who was elected in democratic elections and who fights for the rights of women and the release of prisoners, is accused of a plethora of crimes for which the words “grotesque,” “parody” or “farce” would be far too kind. Of what is she not accused? The fact that she opposed the occupation, visited a released prisoner and called for the release of the leader of her movement (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine); that she participated in a book fair and even “asked about the welfare of the activists and the success of the books at the fair”; that she gave interviews, speeches and lectures; that she participated in marches; and that maybe – it’s doubtful even according to the indictment – she once incited to the kidnapping of soldiers in order to bring about the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Twelve counts of shame for the authors of this indictment – one of the most ridiculous legal documents ever written here, even by the military legal system. A system where the judge salutes the prosecutor, who outranks him militarily, and both are skullcap-wearing Orthodox Jews, perhaps even settlers – purely by chance, of course; it would never influence their worldview, never affect their conduct. A legal system that doesn’t even bother to translate the judge’s words for the defendant, and in which the judge delays his decision to free her for 72 hours, which somehow turns into another week (!) of detention. But who’s counting?

So Jarrar passed this weekend, too, in prison. After even the military judge recognized the hollowness of this indictment and ordered her released on bail, the prosecutor appealed. The appellate court accepted his appeal and ordered her kept in prison until the end of the trial. The court knows why it overturned the decision of the trial judge, Maj. Haim Balilty: The IDF had announced that if the court ordered her freed, she would be put under administrative detention. The rule of law.

A feminist parliamentarian, a brave, determined and patriotic lawmaker, is being kept under false arrest – and it’s as if nothing had happened. A handful of Knesset members from the true left took the trouble to visit her and speak out on her behalf, but aside from that, there has been complete silence and apathy. The Knesset speaker didn’t raise an outcry; the Supreme Court president didn’t utter a word; the head of the Israel Bar Association kept mum. So did women’s organizations and most of the media.

One day, they will (perhaps) be asked: Where were you when Jarrar was rotting in jail? What did you do then? Did you understand that by your shameful silence, you contributed to turning Israel into a state of political prisoners – today Jarrar, and tomorrow yourselves?