The farce that has been the settler-inspired persecution of Israeli activists Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia, and Palestinian Nasser Nawaj’ah, continues into its second week. I reported here that even the Shabak finds this case so distasteful that it has refused to become involved in the interrogation. It has left the entire matter to the West Bank police unit which initiated the case at the behest of the official government body, the Shomron Regional Council, and its stalking horse, the NGO Ad Kan.
Today, the Israeli court ordered the Jewish prisoners freed. But unfortunately this will not happen till Sunday. For Nasser, the situation is far more complicated. Because he does not have the protections a Jewish prisoner would have, he can be buffeted like a metal ball in a pinball machine. So twice the Israeli criminal court has ordered him released. It argued that the case against him was null and void because Nasser is not an Israeli citizen, but a West Bank resident.
Despite the fact that the court did not approve his rearrest, that is precisely what the settler police did. They took him directly from the Israeli civil jail to the Ofer military prison. This is the ultimate in forum shopping. When the police failed in the Israeli court they reverted to the far more hospitable venue of military justice. There Nasser would have virtually no rights and could be judged guilty of virtually any crime the prosecution wished.
B’Tselem released this statement earlier today about the case:
Israeli court releases B’Tselem field researcher unconditionally, but Israeli authorities still hold him in custody. Contempt of Court motion filed.
Today, Jerusalem District Court Judge, Moshe Yoed Hacohen, ordered the unconditional immediate release of B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah, who was arrested by the police on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.
However, the Israeli police violated the court order and told his counsel that he had been taken to the military court at Ofer Camp, which remanded him to custody until Sunday. Adv. Gaby Lasky has just filed an urgent motion under the Contempt of Court Ordinance against the Samaria and Judea District Police. We will be posting updates.
After the District Court hearing, Adv. Lasky said: The Court accepted our position that my client’s arrest was a false arrest, since Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the matter. This is the second instance that has ordered his unconditional release. The police are intent on continuing the pressure on human rights activists under arrest.
A veteran Israeli attorney I consulted suggested that Lasky should appeal directly to the Supreme Court, which holds jurisdiction over both military and civil cases. This would trump both the lower Israeli and military courts. She may be concerned about the rightward shift in composition of the Court, with new justices who themselves are settlers.
A few days ago, U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro decried Israel’s two-tiered system of justice which offers Jews superior rights and Palestinians a military justice system with almost no rights. Though he didn’t use the “A” word, it was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and explains why the Israeli political leadership acted as if he’d set off an 8-alarm fire. Bibi called Shapiro’s speech “wrong and unacceptable.” One of Bibi’s former chiefs of staff called Shapiro a “little Jew boy” (or “kike” depending on how you translate the word, Yehudon, he used). This is the ultimate insult the Israeli far-right employs when they seek to smear a Diaspora Jew. The word derives from Russian originally and is an ethnic slur. So in effect, Israeli Jews are exploiting anti-Semitic tropes to express their displeasure with U.S. policy.
But Shapiro’s argument is hardly earth-shattering. The notion of a system of legal apartheid is self-evident. For example, Jewish settlers who engage in acts of terror against Palestinians are not, despite their living in the West Bank, tried in military courts as Palestinians would be. They are tried in Israeli courts under Israeli criminal law. Palestinians may be tried either in Israeli courts or military courts. But the overwhelming majority of security cases are heard in military courts because the venue is so much more favorable for State prosecution. In Nasser’s case, we see a perfect example of this legal double jeopardy at work. If the settler conspirators can’t get a conviction in an Israeli court they play a legal shell game and move him to a military prison.
When this is over, I urge all three men to sue Israel for the stupidity of its settler police force and their reprehensible behavior. They stand to reap a windfall.
For those keeping score at home, now that the gag order has been broken in this case, the Israeli media once again show their true colors in refusing to acknowledge the role of this blog which first broke the gag. Edo Konrad’s 972 Magazine article is but one example. I’m sure you’ll find Haaretz does the same. Kudos to Adri Nieuwhof who wrote a piece for Electronic Intifada, which did things right.