Free Expression on Trial in Israel
by Stephen Lendman
Israel mocks democratic values. It has no borders. It's to steal Palestinian land.
It has no constitution. Basic laws substitute. They fall woefully short. Ones in place are ignored.
Universally recognized rights are compromised. They include life, liberty and security. They assure privacy. They prohibit cruel and unusual punishments.
They assure everyone equal protection under the law. No distinction can be made based on race, nationality, ethnicity, gender or religious preference.
They guarantee free expression, free assembly, free movement, and free thought. They assure adequate food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education and other vital services.
They guarantee government of, by and for everyone equitably and fairly.
Israel is no democracy. It never was. For sure it's not now. It wants critics silenced. Legislation, policies and judicial rulings violate free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.
Military censors have final say on published content. They can prohibit material called harmful to national security. True or false doesn't matter.
Israel's Supreme Court limits content suppression to "tangible (or) near certain" instances of public endangerment. Interpretations are crucial.
Israeli authorities are hardline. Rulings are twisted advantageously. Others are ignored. Fundamental rights are systematically violated. Police state justice prevails.
Anat Kamm is Israel's Bradley (Chelsea) Manning. In October 2011, she was prosecuted for whistleblowing.
She exposed Israeli crimes against humanity. They involved targeted Palestinian assassinations. Ordering them violates international law. Nothing justifies murder.
Kamm was initially charged with espionage. Plea bargaining reduced charges. Prior to conviction, she spent two years under house arrest.
Tel Aviv's District Court gave her 54 months imprisonment. It added another 18 months suspended sentence.
It did so on charges of collecting, holding and passing on classified material without authorization. She justifiably exposed wrongdoing. It didn't matter.
She was imprisoned. On December 31, 2012, Israel's High Court shortened her sentence to three and a half years. Her 18 month suspended sentence remained.
On January 15, Israel's Prison Service parole board approved her early release. It did so for good behavior.
On January 26, she was freed. It's after serving two years. Her conviction violated press freedoms.
Journalists are supposed to report government wrongdoing. It's their job to hold culpable officials responsible.
Not in America. Not in Israel. Potential prison time awaits those who try. Others are vulnerable for demonstrating publicly.
Daphni Leef is a video artist, editor and social activist. Neoliberal harshness is official Israeli policy. Social inequality is extreme.
Recent data show nearly 40% of Israeli families can't cover monthly expenses. Poverty affects growing numbers. Children and seniors are most vulnerable. Activist Israelis want change.
In summer 2011 and 2012, they rallied across Israel. Leef was a Tel Aviv tent camp organizer.
Israelis want long denied social justice. America, Britain and Israel are the most unjust developed societies. Neoliberal harshness writ large is policy.
Wealth, power and privilege matter more than human need. For two consecutive summers, Israelis said no more.
Grievances they demanded addressing still fester. Things are worse now than then. Issues include:
• unaffordable housing;
• high food and energy prices;
• low wages and eroding social benefits;
• onerous taxes;
• education and healthcare increasingly dependent on the ability to pay;
• weak labor rights;
• construction funding disproportionately allocated for settlement development; and
• the high cost of raising children.
Instead of addressing vital issues responsibly, Israeli officials ignore them. Privilege alone matters. Most Israelis increasingly are on their own, sink or swim.
Israeli police violence resembles America's. Peaceful protesters are viciously targeted. They're brutalized. They're arrested. They're treated like criminals.
Daphni Leef is Exhibit A. On June 22, 2012, Israeli police targeted her. They beat her. They acted on government orders to do so.
They dragged her out of a group of peaceful demonstrators. They did it violently. They threw her to the ground.
She tried protecting herself from repeated blows. She sustained multiple injuries doing so. They included a broken arm.
Police claimed peacefully protesting was illegal. They said authorization was needed to do so.
They lied claiming Leef and other demonstrators "disturbed the peace in a way that could intimidate" public order.
They wrongfully accused her of leading "angry demonstrators and encourag(ing) their acts against inspectors and policemen."
She and 11 others were arrested. They joined hundreds of other protestors. They rallied under the banner "Emergency protest! Returning power to the people."
They headed for Rothschild Blvd. In summer 2011, rallies, marches and tent cities were prominent there for weeks.
Leef and others planned more tent city activism. They were brutally targeted to prevent it. Police states operate this way. Israel is one of the worst.
Arab citizens are treated like fifth column threats. Dissenting Jews are treated like criminals.
Leef was forcefully dragged to a police van. She was thrown inside. Witnesses won't forget what happened. Police violence leaves lasting memories.
Last June, Leef refused plea bargain terms. They required false self-incrimination. In return, she'd perform 60 hours of community service. She declined to settle for anything less than all charges dropped.
They wrongfully accuse her of participating in a riot, using force and threats, resisting arrest, and obstructing police.
In January 2013, she was formally charged. Days passed before she knew. Summoning to a Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court hearing alerted her.
She requested a postponement. She needed time to study charges. The court acquiesced. She rejects all charges.
"I've been fighting to make (Israel) a better place for a year and a half now," she said. "There's something crazy about receiving an indictment that has no basis in reality."
She protested peacefully. She acted responsibly. Cops responded like thugs. They belong in the dock, not her.
Attorney Gabi Lasky represents her. Days after the incident, police admitted "arrest(ing) (her) was a mistake," she said.
"We'll prove that this indictment is an even greater mistake," she added.
On February 3, Haaretz editors headlined "Leave Daphni Leef alone," saying:
Police conduct "should be seen as a scare tactic aimed at deterring future demonstrators."
The evidentiary phase of Leef's trial began days earlier. They reflect Kafkaesque proceedings. They mock legitimacy.
"…Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino (began) to comprehend the injustice and the damage entailed in (Leef's) show trial," said Haaretz editors.
They'll reexamine criminal proceedings, they said. Evidence so far is woefully lacking.
It shows "video footage in which Leef does not even appear and testimony from a police special forces officer who said he saw Leef shove another officer, the identity of whom he could not remember."
Magistrate Court Judge Shamai Becker wasn't pleased. He criticized poor quality evidence presented. Other video clips showed police using brutal force against Leef.
It proves their culpability. Leef was brutally victimized. "It raises questions about the officers’ credibility and the motivation of the police in this affair," said Haaretz editors.
TheMarker is an Israeli publication. It interviewed Leef. "On the one hand I sit in court and know what a gap there is between what really happened and what the witnesses said, and on the other hand I understand how much this is a matter of the system," she said.
Weinstein and Danino "must put an end to the Leef affair," said Haaretz editors. They must "compel the police to retreat from the criminal proceedings against her."
They violate "fundamental democratic principles." Doing so is longstanding Israeli policy. Haaretz editors didn't explain.
Leef is one of many victims. Many face false charges. Some react their own way.
In July 2012, Moshe Silman died for justice. He self-immolated.
He left a letter saying:
"The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless."
"Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke."
Disabled and disheartened, he couldn't survive on his monthly 2 allowance. "I can't even live month to month," he said. "I won't be homeless, and so I am protesting."
He blamed "the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for the humiliation that the weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich."
During a 2012 July 14 street protest, he poured gasoline on his body, self-immolated and died days later. He was too far gone to save.
Israel betrayed him like many others. Rights are systematically denied. Imagine dying for social justice. Rallies supported Silman after his death.
They did so under the slogan: "We're all Moshe Silman - The Blood is on the Government's Hands."
Targeting Leef represents Inquisition justice. She deserves widespread support. Doing the right thing demands it.
Israel is one of the most socially unjust developed countries. Conditions go from bad to worse. Leef and likeminded activists demand change. It's more than ever needed.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.