Israeli Leftist Jailed Three Months for Protesting Gaza Blockade

Jonathan Pollak's lawyers argued he is being singled out for his political activism; Pollak claims he did nothing wrong.

Leftist activist Jonathan Pollak was sentenced to a three month jail term on Monday and ordered to pay NIS 1,500 for taking part in a mass protest against the blockade of the Gaza Strip, involving cyclists in Tel Aviv, in January 2008.

Pollak, 28 refused the offer of Tel Aviv Magistrate's Judge Itzhak Yitzhak of a sentence of community service, arguing that he does not accept the claim that he did anything wrong and therefore he refuses to cooperate by doing civil service.

Gaza flotilla protest

During deliberations on Pollak's sentence, the state argued that even though freedom of expression is a basic right, the right should be used in line with the law. Defense attorney Gabi Lasky retorted that in a country where rabbis are not called in for questioning when they are suspected of incitement against Arabs, on the basis of freedom of expression, it is inappropriate for the state to demand that Pollak be jailed for participating in a demonstration.

Lasky said that when motorcyclists blocked the Ayalon Freeway to protest the rise in insurance costs, or firemen blocked Route 1 to protest their low wages, no one arrested them and no charges were brought against them. Lasky argued Pollack was singled out because of his political activism.

Pollak refused to express regret for his actions except to say that he was sorry he did not play a bigger role in the protest against the Gaza blockade.

"Your honor said during the trial that a trial is not a political affair but matter of the law," Pollak told Yitzhak. "I have to say that in this trial there is nothing but politics."

Yitzhak noted in his sentencing that Pollak's political views did not play a role, but said Pollak had committed similar violations in the past and therefore sentenced him to three months imprisonment.

A 15-day hold on the sentence was put in place, following the defense attorney's request, to enable Pollak to consider appealing to the district court.