Tel Aviv Judge Defends Right of Arab Anti-war Protesters

Judge Ido Druyan releaseds protesters on bail, removes restrictions that had been placed on them.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Wednesday quashed a request to restrict the movement of four Arab residents of Haifa who demonstrated against the war in Gaza, with the prosecutor saying their protest "damages national morale." Judge Ido Druyan released the protesters on bail and removed restrictions that had been placed on them.

The four, aged 19 to 26, were indicted on charges of illegal assembly, disturbing the peace and obstructing a police officer in performing his duty. The indictment says the protesters waved Palestine Liberation Organization flags outside the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, assaulted police officers and clashed with counter protesters.

"There's no doubt that freedom of expression is the most precious element of democracy, but only while maintaining the boundaries between the permitted and the prohibited," prosecutor Victoria Ben-Meir said, charging the respondents had cursed and shouted outside the Egyptian Embassy. "Let us not forget that we're talking about a time of war; the entire incident damages the national morale," she said.

But the judge took Ben-Meir to task. "As we know, the real test of the readiness of a society to stand up for the freedoms it cherishes is precisely during times of difficulty and distress," Druyan wrote in his ruling.