Saturday, January 6, 2018

Interview with Ahed Tamimi's lawyer, Gaby Lasky: Her case is making people see the occupation again

Dear friends,
please find below an interview with Ahed Tamimi's lawyer, Gaby Lasky.

In solidarity, Kim

Ahed Tamimi's Lawyer: Her case is making people see the occupation again

Gaby Lasky, the human rights attorney representing Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman, talks to +972 about what it means for a Palestinian to be put on trial in the occupier’s military courts, and some of the dangerous precedents being set.
By Joshua Leifer 

Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky (C-L) speaks with her client sixteen-years-old Ahed Tamimi (2R) before she stands for a hearing in the military court at Ofer military prison near the West Bank of Ramallah, January 1, 2018. (Activestills)

The video of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi confronting two Israeli soldiers outside of her home in the village of Nabi Saleh has become ubiquitous, broadcast across every media platform for weeks. So have the pictures of Ahed, handcuffed and surrounded by guards in court. Posters of Ahed have even appeared on bus stops in London. What those images often fail to properly convey is that Ahed is being detained in a military prison and being tried in a military court, and how that differs from the way a minor would be treated in an Israeli civilian court.

Attorney Gaby Lasky represents Ahed Tamimi and her mother, Nariman. Lasky, a former secretary general of Peace Now and a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council for the left-wing Meretz party, has spent much of the last decade defending Palestinians, many of them involved in the popular struggle against the occupation.

I spoke with Lasky on Thursday about the challenges of working in Israeli military court, where 99.7 percent of Palestinian suspects are convicted; about the cases against Ahed Tamimi and her mother, Nariman; and about the structural injustices built into the Israeli legal system in the occupied territories.

The difficulty of Ahed’s case goes beyond the legal challenges Palestinians living under occupation face when arrested by the Israeli army, Lasky told me. “The video shows the essence of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” she stressed. Depending on where you stand, and perhaps who you are, watching the 16-year-old girl face down two heavily armed Israeli soldiers can reinforce either the Palestinian and Israeli narrative.

The following has been edited for length. 

What does it mean that the judge is wearing the same uniform as the prosecution?

The military court is not a court of justice in the regular sense; it’s an organ of the occupation. It perpetuates the occupation. Both the judge and the prosecution are wearing the same uniform, and are part of the same system, and the defense is not.

What are some of the obstacles in a case like Ahed’s that would be different if she were being tried in a civilian court?

First, it would be much, much easier to get her released from detention. I brought to court a lot of examples of adults who were released in cases where their offenses were greater than hers. [Civilian] courts in Israel do tend to release [suspects on bail]. Her being a minor would have made things even easier in an Israeli court. Cases in military court are more difficult from the get-go much because the laws are stricter, the charges are heavier, and rights are only partially protected.

But the difficulty with Ahed’s case is not only that we’re facing a military court; it’s the fact that the video shows the essence of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Someone can see the narrative of the Palestinians in that video, and on the other side, Israelis can see the narrative of Israel in that video.

When you talk about an offense in a regular court, you can always talk about the circumstances of the incident. In this case, the circumstances are a 16-year-old girl who was born into occupation. The military court doesn’t take those things into consideration. It’s not an issue that is brought to the table. It’s a given. But if you want to see the whole picture, you have to talk about these things.

What is the case against Ahed?

The most serious charges against her are the ones regarding the video incident. She has 12 different charges in her indictment regarding five different incidents. Regarding the video, she’s charged with assault of a soldier, disrupting the work of a soldier, and incitement.

She has other charges regarding stone-throwing but they are old — one of them is almost two years old. Nobody thought to report it or arrest her or question her at the time. The evidence against her regarding all of the other incidents was produced only after she was arrested and they found old pictures of Ahed [on her mother’s Facebook].

But it was only after her arrest that soldiers were asked to come and give testimony regarding what they saw two years ago. They were presented with these pictures after she was in every newspaper or television program, and then asked if they could identify her in a photo line-up. That’s how they obtained all of the evidence against her.

What is the case against Nariman, Ahed’s mother, who was arrested hours after her daughter? Would a civilian court ever consider live-streaming on Facebook as a form of incitement?

It’s really dangerous that the prosecution is implying that live-streaming is the worst form of incitement. It would mean that a reporter doing a live report at a demonstration where someone says, “come join us in the demonstration,” would constitute incitement in the eyes of the prosecution. What the prosecution is trying to do is very dangerous for freedom of the press.

Ahed’s case has been all over the news, getting a lot attention for a case in Israeli military court. But what aren’t we hearing about? What’s not getting out to the public?

Most people don’t know that the occupier has courts that put on trial people living under occupation just because they don’t follow the rules of the occupier. The Israeli public doesn’t want to hear about the occupation, and it’s the same for the court of the occupation.

It is amazing that a 16-year-old youngster has forced everyone to have an opinion about the occupation, to have to deal with the fact that people are born into occupation, that their rights are infringed upon, and that they’re taken to prison when they’re 16 years old for offenses that don’t merit detention in Israel.

Some in the Israeli public think the soldiers behaved as they should, others say they were humiliated. It was this humiliation that brought about Ahed’s arrest. But even so, everyone now has to deal with the occupation and what it does to the soldiers and to the people who live under occupation. Even without wanting to, Ahed’s case opened a door that has been closed for a long time for most of the public in Israel.

Bassem Tamimi speaks to Gabi Lasky during the court of his daughter Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, in military court at the Israeli-run Ofer prison in the West Bank near the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 20, 2017. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)Bassem Tamimi speaks to Gabi Lasky during the trial of his daughter Ahed Tamimi, in military court at the Israeli-run Ofer prison in the West Bank, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 20, 2017. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

APARTHEID ISRAEL: What Happened When A Jewish Settler Slapped an Israeli Soldier

Dear friends,
in the last few days, numerous Palestinian solidarity activists have been pointing out the treatment of Palestinian teenager, Ahed Tamimi is at complete odds with the way in which Israeli settlers have been treated when they have similarly "slapped" an Israeli occupation soldier. Yesterday, Haaretz published an article also drawing attention to this fact.  The arrested of Ahed and Nour Tamimi is the latest incident to expose Israel's apartheid regime to the world.

Please find the text of the Haaretz article below.

In solidarity, Kim

What happened when a Jewish settler slapped an Israeli soldier

Both Ahed Tamimi and Yifat Alkobi were questioned for slapping a soldier in the West Bank, but little else about their cases are similar — simply because one is Jewish, the other Palestinian

Noa Osterreicher Jan 04, 2018/Haaretz

This slap didn’t lead the nightly news. This slap, which landed on the cheek of a Nahal soldier in Hebron, did not lead to an indictment. The assailant, who slapped a soldier who was trying to stop her from throwing stones, was taken in for questioning but released on bail the same day and allowed to return home.

Prior to this incident, she had been convicted five times — for throwing rocks, for assaulting a police officer and for disorderly conduct, but was not jailed even once.

In one instance, she was sentenced to probation, and in the rest to a month of community service and practically a token fine, as compensation to the injured parties. The accused systematically failed to heed summonses for questioning or for legal proceedings, but soldiers did not come to drag her out of bed in the middle of the night, nor were any of her relatives arrested. Aside from a brief report by Chaim Levinson about the incident, on July 2, 2010, there were hardly any repercussions to the slap and scratches inflicted by Yifat Alkobi on the face of a soldier who caught her hurling rocks a Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit said at the time that the army “takes a grave view of any incidence of violence toward security forces,” and yet the assailant goes on living peacefully at home. The education minister didn’t demand that she sit in prison, social media have not exploded with calls for her to be raped or murdered, and columnist Ben Caspit didn’t recommend that she punished to the full extent of the law “in a dark place, without cameras.”

Like Ahed Tamimi, Alkobi has been known for years to the military and police forces that surround her place of residence, and both are considered a nuisance and even a danger. The main difference between them is that Tamimi assaulted a soldier who was sent by a hostile government that does not recognize her existence, steals her land and kills and wounds her relatives, while Alkobi, a serial criminal, assaulted a soldier from her own people and her religion, who was sent by her nation to protect her, a nation in which she is a citizen with special privileges.

Jewish violence against soldiers in the territories has been a matter of routine for years. But even when it seems like there’s no point asking that soldiers in the territories protect Palestinians from physical harassment and vandalism of their property by settlers, it’s hard to understand why the authorities continue to turn a blind eye, to cover up and close cases or not even open them, when the violators are Jews. There is plenty of evidence, some of it recorded on camera. And yet the offenders still sleep at home in their beds, emboldened by divine command and amply funded by organizations that receive state support.

In the winter it’s nice to get warm and cozy under these double standards, but there’s one question that every Israeli should be asking himself: Tamimi and Alkobi committed the same offense. The punishment (or lack thereof) should be the same. If the choice is between freeing Tamimi or jailing Alkobi, which would you choose?

Tamimi is to remain in custody for the duration of the proceedings — trial in a hostile military court — and is expected to receive a prison sentence. Alkobi, who was not prosecuted for this offense, and was tried in a civilian court for much more serious offenses, lived at home for the duration of the proceedings. She was represented by a lawyer who did not have to wait at a checkpoint in order to serve his client and her only punishment was community service.

The Likud and Habayit Hayehudi cabinet ministers have no reason to rush to pass a law that would apply Israeli law in the territories. Even without it, the only thing that matters is if you were born Jewish. Everything else is irrelevant.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Bassem Tamimi: Ahed is only 16 yrs old, and there's no father more proud of his daughter than I am

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, 16 year old Ahed Tamimi was arrested by the Israeli military last week because she had the temerity to stand up to an Israeli occupation soldier attempting to enter her house. Ahed, along with her cousin Nour confronted the soldiers and physically stopped them from illegally entering Ahed's family home, just 30 minutes after Ahed and Nour's cousin had been shot in the face by another Israeli occupation soldier.

On  20 December, the Israeli military court has extend Ahed's detention by 5 days (read here) and on December 28 it once again extended both Ahed and her mother Nariman's detention again for 5 days (read here).  Nour was suppose to be released, but her release has also been delayed 48 hours. In addition, they have arrested Ahed's aunt, Manal Tamimi during the protest outside of Ofer court in support of Ahed, Nariman and Nour (read here).

Despite the arrest, the Tamimi family and the village of Nabi Saleh remain defiant. On Friday, Ahed's father issued a very moving and powerful statement about his daughter's activism and courage, which was published in Haaretz. 

Please share widely with your networks and on social media.

In solidarity, Kim


Opinion My Daughter, These Are Tears of Struggle

Ahed Tamimi's father: I'm proud of my daughter. She is a freedom fighter who, in the coming years, will lead the resistance to Israeli rule

 Ahed Tamimi appears at a military court at the Israeli-run Ofer Prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on December 28, 2017. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Bassem Tamimi, Dec 29, 2017  Haaretz

This night too, like all the nights since dozens of soldiers raided our home in the middle of the night, my wife Nariman, my 16-year-old daughter Ahed and Ahed’s cousin Nur will spend behind bars. Although it is Ahed’s first arrest, she is no stranger to your prisons. My daughter has spent her whole life under the heavy shadow of the Israeli prison — from my lengthy incarcerations throughout her childhood, to the repeated arrests of her mother, brother and friends, to the covert-overt threat implied by your soldiers’ ongoing presence in our lives. So her own arrest was just a matter of time. An inevitable tragedy waiting to happen.

Several months ago, on a trip to South Africa, we screened for an audience a video documenting the struggle of our village, Nabi Saleh, against Israel’s forced rule. When the lights came back on, Ahed stood up to thank the people for their support. When she noticed that some of the audience members had tears in their eyes, she said to them: “We may be victims of the Israeli regime, but we are just as proud of our choice to fight for our cause, despite the known cost. We knew where this path would lead us, but our identity, as a people and as individuals, is planted in the struggle, and draws its inspiration from there. Beyond the suffering and daily oppression of the prisoners, the wounded and the killed, we also know the tremendous power that comes from belonging to a resistance movement; the dedication, the love, the small sublime moments that come from the choice to shatter the invisible walls of passivity.

“I don’t want to be perceived as a victim, and I won’t give their actions the power to define who I am and what I’ll be. I choose to decide for myself how you will see me. We don’t want you to support us because of some photogenic tears, but because we chose the struggle and our struggle is just. This is the only way that we’ll be able to stop crying one day.”

Months after that event in South Africa, when she challenged the soldiers, who were armed from head to toe, it wasn’t sudden anger at the grave wounding of 15-year-old Mohammed Tamimi not long before that, just meters away, that motivated her. Nor was it the provocation of those soldiers entering our home. No. These soldiers, or others who are identical in their action and their role, have been unwanted and uninvited guests in our home ever since Ahed was born. No. She stood there before them because this is our way, because freedom isn’t given as charity, and because despite the heavy price, we are ready to pay it.

My daughter is just 16 years old. In another world, in your world, her life would look completely different. In our world, Ahed is a representative of a new generation of our people, of young freedom fighters. This generation has to wage its struggle on two fronts. On the one hand, they have the duty, of course, to keep on challenging and fighting the Israeli colonialism into which they were born, until the day it collapses. On the other hand, they have to boldly face the political stagnation and degeneration that has spread among us. They have to become the living artery that will revive our revolution and bring it back from the death entailed in a growing culture of passivity that has arisen from decades of political inactivity.

Ahed is one of many young women who in the coming years will lead the resistance to Israeli rule. She is not interested in the spotlight currently being aimed at her due to her arrest, but in genuine change. She is not the product of one of the old parties or movements, and in her actions she is sending a message: In order to survive, we must candidly face our weaknesses and vanquish our fears.

In this situation, the greatest duty of me and my generation is to support her and to make way; to restrain ourselves and not to try to corrupt and imprison this young generation in the old culture and ideologies in which we grew up.

Ahed, no parent in the world yearns to see his daughter spending her days in a detention cell. However, Ahed, no one could be prouder than I am of you. You and your generation are courageous enough, at last, to win. Your actions and courage fill me with awe and bring tears to my eyes. But in accordance with your request, these are not tears of sadness or regret, but rather tears of struggle.

Bassem Tamimi is a Palestinian activist.