The first is Yonatan Pollak’s speech at court yesterday. As one would expect of Yonatan, he said exactly what should be said—from beginning to end, beginning by stating that he would not (as is customary) either apologize or request leniency. The remainder in essence defends civil disobedience, but not merely as a just act but as an act in the circumstances of the attack on Gaza, and stressing that his act was decidedly a political act. But why should I put words in his mouth when he speaks so well himself.
The 2nd item is about the Seattle bus ads that to date have not been on the buses, but whether or not they will be, the point has been made and distributed widely.
The 3rd item is about Israel’s denial of family reunification—one of many sad stories on the subject. Imagine how many families were dispersed and never again allowed to see one another. That this happened to Jews during WWII, everyone knows. That it happened and is still happening to Palestinians is hardly ever mentioned.
Jonathan Pollak’s Speech Before the Israeli Court That Sentenced Him to Jail for Unlawful Assembly Posted: 28 Dec 2010 01:56 AM PST Jonathan Pollak was convicted and sentenced to three months in jail yesterday – for riding a bicycle in a demonstration that he did not organize, nor was anybody else arrested. Why Pollak, then? Because he is a leading Israeli Jewish activist in the fight against the Separation Barrier; because he preaches non-violence; because he comes from a high-profile family; because Israel is trying to stamp out the non-violent protest movement before it gets even more international press and support. The law violated by Pollak is another antiquated relic of the British mandate.
One of the first things I learned in Ulpan thirty years ago is that Israel does not recognize the right to public assembly, that any gathering beyond several people needs a police permit. The law is the law, though in this case, as in others, it was applied selectively for one purpose only – to get Pollak. Here is Jonathan’s speech, which I have shamelessly lifted from the +972 website in order to give it greater circulation.
Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offense. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza.
And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legal vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.
As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day’s events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza’s inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel’s control over the Palestinians.
His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police’s conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists. The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political.
This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation. In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel.
However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society’s privileged sons. I am not surprised by the Court’s decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person’s right to protest. Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law.
And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed. I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that will need to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.
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[The ads at issue in the report below will apparently not appear on the 12 Seattle buses as planned, meaning that the Israel-right-or-wrong supporters won this round of the battle. But as the 3rd letter (following the report) points out, in the long run those who proposed to publish the ads won. The ruckus caused by the opponents of the ads brought much media attention to the issue and therefore exposed more people to the truth that their tax dollars pay for Israel’s violation of human rights than had the ad been on the 12 buses as originally planned. Dorothy]
These ads from the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign are scheduled to appear on the sides of 12 Metro buses on Seattle routes beginning Monday. The group, seeking tax-exempt nonprofit status, paid $2,760 for a one-month run.
COURTNEY BLETHEN RIFFKIN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Ed Mast, of Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign
King County reviews bus ads after war crime outcry
An advertisement alleging “Israeli war crimes” won’t appear on the sides of some Metro Transit buses for another week, but it’s already ignited a political firestorm.
The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, which bought the ad, says it’s intended to break through what it calls the silence over Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.
Others have organized a campaign to block the ad, which they say will inflame bigotry against Jews and Jewish organizations.
King County Executive Dow Constantine was advised by county lawyers that the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits Metro from rejecting the ad if the transit agency continues to accept ads from other advertisers, spokesman Frank Abe said Monday.
While declining to discuss his feelings about the ad, Constantine said in a statement that interest groups sometimes leverage a small ad buy into news coverage “worth many times their investment … .”
“These provocative ads bring in a negligible amount of revenue, but cost hundreds of hours staff time to address the intended controversy — time that is better spent providing bus service.”
Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke said the transit agency received 600 e-mails protesting the ad between Friday, when KING-TV broke the news, and noon Monday. A large number of phone calls about the ad were interfering with Metro’s ability to answer phone inquiries about bus schedules, she said.
The large ad is scheduled to appear on the sides of 12 buses serving Seattle routes starting Monday. The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, which is seeking tax-exempt nonprofit status, paid $2,760 for the ad to run for one month.
A photo purportedly showing children looking at a collapsed building during Israel’s three-week air-and-ground offensive on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, appears next to these words:
“Stop30billion” is a reference to $30 billion in military aid that the ad sponsor says the United States has pledged to Israel over the next decade.
The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign said the bus ad was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of Israel’s assault on Gaza after rocket attacks that Israel blamed on Hamas militants.
“The ads are to raise awareness that our tax dollars are being spent in one-sided support of the state of Israel and particularly of those policies of Israel that violate human rights and maintain the bad situation, which is that one people has power over another,” said Ed Mast, spokesman for the group sponsoring the ad. “We’re all committed to the simplest of solutions, which is equal rights.”
Mast is a Seattle playwright and longtime activist against U.S. military involvement in Israel and Iraq.
Richard Fruchter, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, said Metro shouldn’t have accepted the ad.
“We certainly as an organization support the First Amendment right to free speech, but we feel that this violates Metro’s own policy that running ads shouldn’t insult specific groups” to the point that public safety could be threatened, he said.
“I think that this is an ad that’s designed to insult Israelis and the 50,000 members of the Jewish community, many of whom support Israel,” Fruchter said.
Metro policy bars advertising “so insulting, degrading or offensive as to be reasonably forseeable that it will incite or produce imminent lawless action … .” Metro was advised by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that the ad doesn’t violate that guideline, Thielke said.
Fruchter said the Jewish Federation was “particularly sensitized” by Naveed Haq’s fatal shooting of one woman and wounding of five others at the organization’s building in Seattle in 2006. “Sadly, we have had to put money toward security at all our Jewish community institutions,” Fruchter said. “It means that we’re always on guard.”
Metropolitan King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, in a letter before Constantine’s statement Monday, urged the executive to re-evaluate Metro’s decision to accept the ad, saying “dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society.”
Von Reichbauer wrote that the ad appears to violate Metro’s prohibition against advertising that would incite ” ‘a breach of public safety, peace and order.’ … I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense.”
Pamela Scharaga, a Port Townsend jewelry designer, wrote to members of the King County and Seattle councils that if the ad runs on buses, “I for one will give up excursions to Seattle.”
Asked about claims that the ad could incite violence, Mast said, “My experience is that those who want to defend Israel right or wrong want also to stop dialogue, stop discussion, stop education, stop public awareness, and will use a wide range of tactics, and this is one.”
The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign’s website says the group opposes racism “against Jews, Arabs and any other people. Criticism of Israel is not criticism of the Jewish people.”
Metro asks that citizens who wish to express their views on the ad send e-mail to [email protected].
Metro’s acceptance of ‘Israeli war crimes’ bus ad draws complaints
An advertisement alleging “Israeli war crimes” won’t appear on the sides of some Metro Transit buses for another week, but it’s already ignited a political firestorm.
Posted by Letters editor
These ads from the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign were scheduled to appear on the sides of 12 Metro buses on Seattle routes. The group, seeking tax-exempt nonprofit status, paid $2,760 for a one-month run, but Metro Transit said Thursday it would no longer allow the ads due to concern over possible service disruption.
Rejection of ads serves to muffle a truth the powerful, wealthy don’t want to hear
Editor, The Times:
The rejection of the Israeli war crimes ads by Metro Transit administrators, vetted by King County Executive Dow Constantine, has at its core the same despicable motive as that of the U.S. leadership’s persecution of WikiLeaks — to keep the general public in a state of malleable ignorance and compliant fear [“‘Israeli war crimes’ ad won’t run on buses,” page one, Dec. 24].
It is part and parcel of a frightening trend we have seen over the last several decades, the use of secrecy, censorship, propaganda and outright lying by governments, corporations and well-heeled special-interest groups to distort public perceptions, with the ultimate goal of controlling public debate and subverting the democratic process.
This tactic is used predominantly by the powerful and wealthy, artfully dressed up as “protecting public order,” “preserving civil society,” “defending national security,” “getting our message out” etc., ad nauseam. In reality, it is a crude power grab, shoving a shaped reality down the public’s throat, demanding that the outcome of any debate has only one conclusion, that which preserves the interests of the dominant class.
It is really not contestable that the truth often threatens the privileged, any more than the fact that Israel is the overwhelming abusive power in its conflict with the Palestinians.
— Guy Hoyle-Dodson, Lacey
Ads would have oversimplified issue
Metro’s decision to ban the anti-Israeli ads was a wise one. In fairness it also has banned the pro-Israeli ads. Metro has not abridged the right of freedom of speech of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign. In fact, the organization has numerous other venues for its message, including this newspaper. In addition it has been seen and heard in front of the King County Administration Building.
As to the statement that the ads posed no safety threat, Metro has stated that it are concerned about “the possibility of vandalism or protests that disrupt service.” Several Jewish organizations, with good reason, have stated that they fear the possibility of “anti-Semitic violence.”
In addition, it is important to note that the anti-Israeli ads that the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign wants to put on Metro buses are incorrect. Unfortunately, some people believe without question what they read. The $30 billion mentioned in the ads is over 10 years, which means $3 billion a year; not the $30 billion a year implied. The money is not for war crimes; it is for “vital security assistance to Israel.” While it is true that Israel did attack Gaza, it is also true that Hamas regularly fired rockets from Gaza into Israel and continues to do so. Israel acted in its own defense after much restraint.
— Ted Coskey, Seattle
Campaign’s goal achieved through media attention
The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign achieved its goal without having to spend any money for Metro bus ad space. Placing an ad on 25 buses in Seattle makes a small ripple in increasing public awareness, but creating a controversy that splatters the issue over the media — newspaper, TV and Internet — that is the way to reach the masses. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that this was Ed Mast’s intention all along.
The media would serve the public better with in-depth stories about the Middle East instead of throwing around catchphrases created by public-relations campaigns. Accusing Israel of war crimes is a travesty. The term is inflammatory and does not describe the complex situation in this volatile area.
— Etta Short, Mercer Island
Israel’s denial of family reunification increases Palestinians’ suffering:
GAZA, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) — Having been separated for 17 years from her twin sister, Hayam Shamalakh who was only 19 when she settled in Gaza after the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993 has been appealing to the Israeli government for family unification permits.
Hayam managed to study physiotherapy in Gaza and always hoped to visit her twin sister Amany who had moved from Egypt to Denmark. Her family, living in Diaspora since 1967, came to Gaza in 1993 and decided to illegally stay here without having Palestinian ID cards.
Israel now still caps the number of ID cards the Palestinian authority can issue. Without an ID card, Shamalakh cannot apply to Israel for a permit to visit relatives in Israel or to leave the Gaza Strip though Rafah. Under Israel’s control, no ID card means no travel permit.
Shamalakh said that Israel imposed a ban on issuing Palestinian citizenships and family reunification mounted the suffering of the Palestinians.
“I can not believe that I have not seen Amany for more than 10 years,” Hayam said desperately. “I feel like being trapped in Gaza and I see no hope to get a Palestinian ID because of the ongoing Israeli restrictions over this issue.”
Israel has approved reunification for about 10,000 families in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since 2007, but it suspended the process after the three-week Israeli military offensive on the enclave in late December 2008.
Even after Israel partially eased the blockade imposed on the coastal territory in June, and after Egypt permanently reopened Rafah border crossing, the Palestinians are still banned access to travel without ID cards.
“Things have grown more complicated now, mainly after the direct peace talks with Israel reached a standstill,” Shamalakh said.
The 50-year-old Um Mohammed, Shamalakh’s mother who is an Egyptian by origin, said with her eyes full of tears “my heart is torn apart with half of my daughters in Gaza and the rest abroad.” “I miss taking my daughters in my arms, I only talk to them on the phone or via the internet.”
“I send them gifts with travelers and they are the first thing I think about when I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning,” she said.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials said that the PNA has made intensive efforts in order to end the sufferings of thousands of Palestinian families who were not destined to obtain family reunifications from the Israeli authorities.
Hussein Asheikh, the PNA’s minister of civil affairs, said that this issue is one of their top priorities. “We saved no effort to discuss the matter with the Israelis whenever we had an opportunity, we are doing our part but the whole issue is in Israel’s hands.”
Arwa Mahmoud, a Jordanian in her early thirties and moved to live in the Gaza Strip after she got married to her cousin, has not seen any of her family members since 2000.
“I knocked all the doors to find a way out of Gaza to attend my brother’s wedding party in Amman, but all my efforts went in vain. I missed this opportunity but I am still of hope to see my family and my brother’s new born baby,” Arwa said.
Arwa participated every demonstration against Israel’s ban on issuing the remaining 5,000 family reunifications for Gazans. She said that she “has been following all news related to the issuing of Palestinian citizenships since after the war, but nothing has appeared in the horizon yet.”
Arwa said she hoped the PNA would put more efforts in this issue through human rights institutions and the international media outlets.