Recipe for social disintegration

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In his appearance Sunday before the Knesset's new anti-corruption investigative committee, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced that he will be publishing his report on the government's implementation of the withdrawal and expulsion plan from Gaza and northern Samaria in January.

 

Lindenstrauss's report is set to review the insufficient protection of the communities around the abandoned Gaza Strip; the impaired functioning of the government ministries and the government's Disengagement Authority in implementing the withdrawal and expulsion plan; and the negligent manner in which the expelled Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria have been treated since they were ejected from their homes and communities.

 

It is good news that Lindenstrauss is aware of the need to explore in a timely manner the way in which the withdrawal and expulsion plan was implemented. As he put it, "It cannot be that a subject so important would have to wait [to be dealt with in] a report published two years from now."

 

There can be no doubt that on all three issues the government acted with gross negligence on almost every level, and a fair accounting of its failures is important both to punish the officials responsible and force the relevant authorities to improve their organizations.

 

At the same time, it is disturbing that Lindenstrauss is apparently not planning to review one of the most alarming aspects of the implementation of the withdrawal and expulsion plan this past summer: the rampant abuse of the civil rights of opponents of the plan by the criminal justice system.

 

AS AVITAL MOLER of the Public Defender's Office pointed out in October in her report on the criminal justice system's mistreatment of minors arrested while participating in demonstrations against the expulsion plan, the system's treatment of the protesters was characterized by "selective enforcement of the law based on political affiliation." Moler found that "new law" was invented by authorities for the purpose of punishing arrested protesters who had yet to stand trial.

 

A few weeks after Dr. Moler's findings were made public, the chief public defender, Inbal Rubinstein, apologized publicly for the contents of the report after several judges pushed for Rubinstein's firing and Boaz Okun, head of the court's administration demanded she publicly apologize. Yet in testimony before the Knesset's Law and Constitution Committee on November 14, Rubinstein stated that today she would have written an even more severe report and had only distanced herself from Moler's findings because she had been coerced into doing so after being summoned for a meeting with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

 

Aside from perusing Moler's report, if Lindenstrauss wished to investigate the abuse of the civil rights of opponents of the withdrawal and expulsion plan, a good place to begin would be the report published by the Israel Policy Center and Honenu Legal Defense Association on the issue.

That report, authored by Dr. Yitzhak Klein, Attorney Yitzhak Bam and Shmuel Meidad, details 24 specific cases of gross prosecutorial, police and judicial abuse of anti-withdrawal protesters throughout Israel in the months that preceded the implementation of the withdrawal and expulsion plan.

 

The authors substantively prove that the abuses suffered by protesters at the hands of the judicial and law enforcement arms of the state were systemic, widespread and enabled, if not requested, at the highest levels of government.

 

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, according to the report, made it absolutely clear to state prosecutors in public remarks that they were to treat non-violent protesters as if they were involved in a rebellion against state authorities whose purpose was to destroy the state and its institutions.

 

On the judicial level, Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia paved the way for lower courts to detain arrestees in jail pending trial for offenses that did not meet the minimum standard for pre-trial detention either in terms of the letter of the 1996 Arrests Law, or in terms of court precedent.

Procaccia, like Mazuz, viewed the protesters' ideological motivations as a reason for their extraordinary treatment by Israeli courts.

 

In their review of hundreds of indictments of both adults and minors arrested for engaging in protests against the withdrawal and expulsion plan, Klein, Bam and Meidad found that in 97 out of 167 cases against minors, and in 68 out of 135 cases against adults "pre-trial detention appeared unwarranted by law."

 

THE NEED for a fair and thorough review of the law enforcement and judicial authorities' suspected systemic abuse of the civil rights of anti-withdrawal opponents is urgent today. This is so because the apparent selective abuse of the civil rights of religious Israelis by law enforcement and judicial authorities does not seem to have ended in the aftermath of the withdrawal and expulsion plan.

 

Case in point is the continued incarceration of Avri Ran. As I noted in a column last month, Ran, who owns and runs the Eternal Hills ranch in northern Samaria, was indicted last March for aggravated assault. Ran was arrested and indicted after punching a trespasser who had entered his cultivated field with a tractor with the intention of destroying his crop last March 20.

 

Although Ran has never been found guilty of any crime and although the action for which he is under indictment was clearly motivated by the context in which it was enacted (that is, Ran's desire to protect his property), the state prosecutors have demanded since the day of Ran's arrest that he be jailed pending trial due to his "ideology."

 

When Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut ordered Ran's incarceration pending the completion of his trial last month, she too noted his "ideological zealotry" as a justification for his remand to custody. Hayut, like the state prosecution, never attempted to clarify what, if any, connection exists between an individual's political beliefs and his desire to protect his property from trespass.

 

Today Ran has been removed from his ranch and separated from his family for eight months on charges for which he has yet to stand trial. His trial was set to begin on October 11. The police prosecutors arrived at Kfar Saba's Magistrate's Court on the appointed date only to announce that they were not yet ready to begin a trial for which they had had seven months to prepare. Without hesitation the judge postponed the trial until December 1 – sending the untried Ran back to jail for another six weeks.

 

According to Ran's brother Nir, Ran has become psychologically depressed as a result of his long incarceration and his depression has led to a loss of appetite. He has lost more than 20 kilos and now weighs some 50 kilos.

 

On November 19, Ran's family and friends held a vigil outside Ayalon prison, where he is being held. His 10 children spoke to their father through a megaphone and told him how much they miss him. As his children spoke, prison guards entered the Torah wing of the prison and took Ran into solitary confinement. The next day he was told that he would be even more severely punished if his family and friends repeated the vigil in the future.

 

Amazingly, the state has apparently not limited its abuse to Ran. His son Daniel was set to be inducted into the IDF on November 14 and begin basic training in the Golani Infantry Brigade. At the beginning of the month Daniel received a letter from the IDF informing him that his military service had been cancelled. All attempts by the family to discover why went unanswered.

 

Finally, he was informed that he had to appear before a military psychiatrist if he wished to be inducted into the army. Daniel has no history of mental illness and no criminal record.

 

Since the withdrawal and expulsion plan was carried out, voices within the religious Zionist community calling for its members to "disengage" from the state have become more and more numerous. The continued abuse of the human rights of members of this sector of Israeli society adds fuel to the fire that is moving us toward social disintegration.

 

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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