Monday, December 27, 2010

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak sentenced to 3 months in prison

Dear friends,

Prominent Israeli activist, Yonathan (Jonathan) Pollak has just been sentenced to 3 months prison for participating in a Critical Mass bicycle ride protest against Israel's 2008 all out assault on the people of Gaza.

Yonathan's arrest was politically motivated, as his lawyer Gaby Lasky has outlined.

Yonathan has been a leading activist involved in the the joint Palestinian-Israeli popular struggle against Israeli occupation and apartheid for a number of years. He is one of the founders of the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and active in the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC)

Please find below the media release issued by the PSCC on Yonathan's sentencing. Also included is Yonathan's speech to the court about his arrest and sentencing.

In solidarity,

Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee Press Release
Monday, 27 December 2010

Israeli Activist Jonathan Pollak Sentenced to 3 Months in Prison; Tells Judge "I'll Go to prison With my Head Held High"

Pollak in Court - photo courtesy of Active Stills

Pollak was sentenced to three months imprisonment this morning at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court for his participation in a 2008 bicycle in protest of the siege on Gaza. He will begin serving his sentence on Januray 11th.

Tel Aviv Magistrates court judge Yitzhak Yitzhak convicted Pollak of illegal assembly for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass ride against the siege on Gaza and then sentenced him to three months imprisonment that will begin on January 11th, 2011. Pollak was the only one detained at the said protest, and was accused of doing nothing other than riding his bicycle in the same manner as the rest of the protesters. The conviction activates an older three-month suspended sentence, imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of the Separation Barrier. An additional three months prison term was also imposed for the current conviction, which will be served concurrently.

On his conviction, Pollak argued for his sentence, saying "I find myself unable to express remorse in this case [...]. 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 ought 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." See Pollak's full statement bellow.

For more details: Jonathan Pollak +972-54-632-7736

Pollak outside of court - photo courtesy of Active Stills

On January 31, 2008, some 30 protesters participated in a Critical Mass bicycle ride through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest of the siege on Gaza. During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event. The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak's arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions.

The arrest and consequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak's behavior at the time of the event; Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the only one to be singled out. Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv on a regular basis, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more sever obstruction of traffic (e.g. the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles) did not result in arrests, and surely did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment.

Adv. Gaby Lasky, Pollak's lawyer: "The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”

Pollak at a demonstration in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Pollak's sentencing argument:
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 offence. 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 legally 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 31st, 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 ought 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.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Disband the Palestinian Authority

Dear friends,
a very insightful article by Lamis Andoni on the call for the disbanding of the Palestinian Authority.

The article was first publish on Al Jazeera and reprinted by Maan News Agency.

in solidarity, Kim


Disband the PA - Lamis Andoni
Published Wednesday 08/12/2010 (updated) 08/12/2010 19:15
Maan News Agency

In interviews and statements, as well as in private meetings, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said that he is presiding over an authority without any authority and that the very existence of the Palestinian Authority has made Israel's occupation "the cheapest ever".

Abbas is simply reaching the same conclusion that many Palestinians have long understood: negotiations, under the prevailing conditions, will not lead to the end of the Israeli occupation, let alone the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

In a recent interview with Palestinian state television, Abbas warned that if all efforts to establish a Palestinian state fail he will dissolve the PA and ask Israel to assume responsibility for the occupation. His threats are neither a manoeuvre nor a clearly planned strategy. They are rather an expression of despair and a reflection of the mood of the Palestinian people - who see the PA as merely facilitating the continuation of the Israeli occupation while removing the need for it to pay for its actions.

Disbanding the PA would mean a return to direct Israeli occupation and could be used by Israel as a pretext for escalating its aggression against the Palestinian people. But the Palestinians have reached breaking point. Seventeen years of talks have stopped neither Israeli land theft nor the displacement of Palestinians.

The idea of dissolving the PA has many supporters - both inside the Palestinian territories and among the Palestinian diaspora. But this must not be a leap in the dark: the Palestinians must be prepared for the consequences of such a move and it must be undertaken as part of a clearly defined resistance strategy.

Neither Abbas nor his opponents, however, have indicated that they are developing any such strategy - for just as Abbas was expressing his despair, Hamas was indicating a greater degree of flexibility towards any possible outcome of, the currently stalled, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In a speech last week, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, said his movement was prepared to accept the results of a referendum if negotiations reach an historic compromise that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state on the territories occupied during the 1967 war.

It is not the first time that Hamas has signalled its willingness to accept a two-state solution, but its timing - when the talks are effectively frozen and there is no prospect for progress should they resume - is surprising. Haniyeh's statement suggests that the two leaderships, in Ramallah and Gaza, have no idea how to recapture the initiative required to lead the Palestinian people out of the stagnant situation they are in.

Abbas has raised a couple of prospects. Firstly, he has suggested looking to the UN Security Council for recognition of a Palestinian state. This is mainly intended to affirm the 'occupied' status of the Palestinian territories and to thus block Israel from annexing Jewish settlements. Secondly, he has discussed handing responsibility for the Palestinian territories over to the UN. Both of these options would likely be obstructed by a US veto at the UN Security Council.

But any alternative option the Palestinians choose cannot succeed without first establishing national unity and mobilising popular resistance. A serious battle of wills will ensue, and the Palestinians must be prepared.

An international battle for recognition of a Palestinian state must be based on a clear vision and preparedness to confront Israeli actions. For international support alone will not lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Regardless of whether Palestinians opt for a one- or two-state solution, they cannot avoid a battle to end the occupation under which they currently live.

The options Abbas speaks of would place the PA face-to-face with the Israeli occupation, so the question remains: is the PA ready for this? The answer would appear to be no.

The PA cannot be taken seriously as long as it accommodates Israeli terms and demands. Israel continues to prevent the movement of goods and people, to conduct raids and arrests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to strike at the Gaza Strip. Thus a prerequisite for any significant Palestinian move must be an immediate halt to security coordination between Israel and the PA.

Abbas' justification for such coordination is that if Palestinians "behave" Israel can make no case for postponing ending the occupation. But the only outcome thus far has been the weakening of Palestinian resistance, while Israel has had a free hand to launch military forays into the Palestinian territories, to confiscate more land and to kill more people.

The next step for Hamas and the PA must be genuine unification - without this, disbanding the PA could result in a highly destructive power struggle - based on a joint agreement over an alternative to the now defunct talks. Dissolving the PA should be a significant consideration within this plan, but only once a political and economic strategy has been formulated.

The PA currently pays the salaries of 150,000 people, so disbanding it would have a huge impact on the economy. Before the PA was created, the Palestine Liberation Organization contributed funds to help Palestinians stay steadfast in the face of the economic strains of occupation. A similar plan, involving all Palestinians, must now be devised - assuming that Arab states, as should be expected, will fail to offer the Palestinians financial support.

It is, of course, easy for those Palestinians in exile, with comfortable jobs, to call for an immediate dissolution of the PA - it is also very understandable as Israel will be under no pressure to end its occupation as long as it pays little or no cost for it. But, should the Palestinian leadership formulate a new resistance strategy, all Palestinians must be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for it. The onus is now on the PA to start this process and the only way to do that is to end all coordination and cooperation with Israel.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs. This article originally appeared on Al-Jazeera International and is republished here with permission from the author.