How Can I Fight Charges When I Committed No Crime?

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Image of activist Jonathan Pollack during a previous detention.
Image of activist Jonathan Pollack during a previous detention. Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon

A year isn’t very long and here I am again behind bars in police lockup. Again, for an unknowable length of time. There’s no cause for surprise. Before I even walked out through the gates of Abu Kabir prison the last time, I was right back where I’d started.

Back then the decision to release me came about together with a decision to launch an investigation into my alleged incitement to violence and terrorism. Even before that, legal proceedings had begun in a different case involving my attendance at a protest in Bethlehem, proceedings with which I also have no intention of cooperating. From the moment I stopped being a wanted man the last time, the countdown to becoming a suspect yet again had begun.

There’s no point in explaining here, again, why I’m not prepared to cooperate with the court. It’s been said before and nothing has changed. Nevertheless, it’s worth dwelling on the details of the indictment and the repression of the Palestinian resistance, so that, unlike the trial itself, the political discussion of the matter will not be held ex parte.

It’s a very simple indictment, almost trivial. The whole thing comprises five paragraphs and is less than a page long. The offense described is that I, and another defendant, Koby Snitz, interfered with border policemen as they were dispersing a protest in Bethlehem against the military regime, on the boundary of the refugee camps Al-Aaza and Aida, which shelter people who were torn from their homes in 1948 and have since been forbidden to return to their lands.

Thus, per the indictment, we blocked the border police from fulfilling their lawful role.

But what is “their lawful role?” The simplest and clearest answer is that this role is nothing but enforcing the military dictatorship under which the people of Bethlehem live.

May I note that the sovereign power in Bethlehem is the military commander. The law there is military law, which is not legislation in the usual sense, but a collection of orders. The Palestinian subjects of the military commander do not have the right to vote, of course, and the law doesn’t even pretend to represent their interests. Military law is designed solely to subordinate them to the authority of the occupation.

I’m not a fan of the state, any state, but in democracies, in general, the legitimacy of violence – which is the foundation of the legal and law enforcement systems – stems from some ethos of justice, and from its ostensibly representing the collective interests of those subject to its authority.

So it must be clearly stated: There’s no such thing as a half-democracy for Jews only. The State of Israel is not a state of all its subjects, not within the Green Line and not beyond it. Forget the ethos. Tested politically, the Israeli legal system cannot be ascribed with even a myth of justice or equality before the law.

The Israeli legal, economic, military and other violence toward the Palestinians is incontrovertible, yet there is an Israeli tendency to patronize the Palestinians with well-intentioned suggestions that they opt for nonviolent struggle. This is rank paternalism, especially when these proposals originate with the ruling society in a colonialist situation. Even if these proposals explicitly condemn Israeli violence, such tendencies normalize and sanction it by allusion.

Israeli violence – its settler, colonialist, military, legal and entrenched violence – is obvious, and as such, it is transparent. After all, no one would call on the State of Israel and its army to adopt a doctrine of nonviolence. Such demands are only made of those who are kneeling under the jackboot of Israeli violence.

Similarly, just as the indictment lacks any description of the transparent and structural violence – that of the Israeli regime – it contains an exaggerated description of the violence during the protest to which the indictment relates.

At the end of the garbled prose amounting to just over 100 words, the indictment reaches its climax: “By their aforementioned actions the accused hindered police who were fulfilling their lawful role.”

How can anybody respond to a charge which involves no guilt? When the Israeli regime between the river and the sea is a regime of racist discrimination within Israel, and a military dictatorship in the territories, what’s left to do other than cross the line and join the Palestinian struggle?

Jonathan Pollak is an activist in the Palestinian popular struggle and chief digital designer at Haaretz.

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