Ahed Tamimi's Only Protection Is an Open Trial

The court rejected the request to hold the Palestinian teen's trial in open court. In this case, secrecy serves those with something to hide

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi enters a military courtroom escorted by Israeli security personnel at Ofer Prison, near Ramallah, January 15, 2018.
Amnar Awad/Reuters

Evidently, military court judge Netanel Benishu knows better than Ahed Tamimi what’s good for her. At least that’s the implication of his decision to reject her request that her trial be held in open court “for Tamimi’s own good.”

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Benishu also knows better than her parents what’s right for their daughter, and he knows better than Tamimi’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, how to defend her juvenile client, who was arrested on December 19 after slapping a soldier and has been held without bail ever since.

On Monday, the Military Court of Appeals said it rejected the request to hold Tamimi’s trial in open court because in-camera hearings are more likely to assure a minor a fair trial. But it’s hard to accept this argument. Tamimi’s bail hearings were all held in open court.

The entire world knows this girl – her name, her family, the video that led to her arrest – and has been following her case and the ensuing international protests ever since. Tamimi has become a new symbol of the Palestinian struggle. What exactly are the courtroom’s closed doors supposed to protect her from?

Moreover, comparing Tamimi – a Palestinian living under Israeli occupation and being tried in the military justice system – to minors tried in civilian courts inside Israel is an insult to the intelligence.

Israel’s treatment of Israeli minors and the rights they are accorded are incomparably better than its treatment of Palestinian minors, whose rights are trampled in the territories.

These differences are evident, for example, in decisions to keep defendants in jail instead of allowing alternatives to detention, in the length of detentions (an Israeli minor wouldn’t have been held for three months in a similar case), in the degree of violence used against suspects and in the severity of the sentences.

Concern for Tamimi didn’t prevent the military court from ruling that she should remain in jail until the end of proceedings, meaning until the end of the trial and sentencing.

The court decided to hold her trial in darkness while riding roughshod over her interests and rights. Under these circumstances, the only protection she really has is an open trial.

Secrecy in this case serves those who have something to hide, those who are interested in silencing the voices of protest and resistance to the Israeli occupation, which Tamimi represents.

Tamimi’s father Bassem said: “My wife and daughter didn’t do anything wrong, and they are in jail because of their battle for freedom and justice. We came here to say that Israel is the one that ought to be on trial, not them.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that those closed courtroom doors are meant to protect Israel. From the standpoint of a world that opposes the occupation, Israel, not Tamimi, is the real defendant.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.