Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Effects of the Israeli 'Judicial' System

Nasser was arrested for resisting the illegal Israeli occupation. Nasser was arrested for asserting his right to build a house on his own land.

The Israeli judicial system demanded 25,000 NIS for Nasser's release. This was not bail, it won't be paid back. It was a fine, a ransom for his release.

My colleagues and I, with CPT, had over 3 hours of footage from the day of the arrest. There were more than 40 witnesses who were present throughout the duration of the incident. Nothing incriminates Nasser; the opposite is true, every piece and footage and every witness would completely absolve Nasser of any charge.

Tellingly, no one from At-Tuwani was asked to take the stand or instructed to produce evidence. On the contrary, Nasser inexplicably sat in jail for 35 days while court dates were postponed. Finally 15,000NIS was agreed upon.

A friend of Nasser's organized the fundraising effort knowing money was the only way to get out of the situation. One must pay off the unjust system, to provide financial support to a racist legal system. In order to free Nasser, one man sold all of his livestock and gave nearly all of his savings (set aside to expand his house for his expanding family). Other friends and acquaintances of Nasser were asked to give what they could in hope that Nasser would be released.

15,000NIS was taken to the court, only to find that 15,000 was never agreed upon by the court. The actual amount was 20,000NIS. The man who had sold his goats and given his savings had to ask more people for more money. After the additional 5,000NIS was raised, the money was taken to the court, all 20,000NIS. The court said they could only accept money on Sundays. So Nasser sat in jail, waiting for Sunday to come.

It's a heartbreaking story, and I haven't even mentioned the 4 boys and the loving wife who grieved for the return of their father. But the heartbreak extends to what this judicial system does to Palestinian nonviolent resistance. The story of Nasser is not unique, in fact many similar stories are coming out of Bil'in right now. Resisters are arrested, held in prison for unreasonable lengths of time, and huge sums of money are demanded to ensure their release.

Those engaging in nonviolent resistance (or in many cases those attempting to access their private lands for plowing, planting, of grazing) have to seriously weigh the consequences of their actions. Isolated communities without connections to organizations with deep pockets for legal fees, cannot afford to resist the illegal occupation of their land and denial of their rights. Fear of financial burdens causes people to think twice before going to the action, or taking their sheep within sight of the settlement (even if you own the land).

The Israel judicial system is not coincidentally made to function the way it does. The Israeli judicial system processes and punishes Palestinians in a very calculated manner. Placing huge fines on Palestinian NV resisters cripples the resistance and also has a ripple-effect across communities. The money demanded for Nasser had an immediate economic effect on the community, as an unexpected expense came into their midst. Additionally, people are forced to resist the occupation with calculation. Asserting one's right to self-determination to have sovereignty over your life and your land, must be asserted in certain times and places, or else you run the risk of the community being faced with a 20,000NIS fine.

See recent articles about Nasser by my colleague.