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.
The merits of this case can of course be debated.
My understanding is that Nasser Nawaj’ah was released by the Jerusalem court for lack of jurisdiction – as he’s not a resident of Israel, the alleged crime did not occur inside an area that was annexed by Israel, and the alleged victim (the seller of the land) is not Israeli.
HOWEVER – the military administration courts do have jurisdiction – particularly vs. a Muslim resident of area-C (also possible B and A). As the alleged crimes and victim were both there, and the military administration is responsible for all civilian affairs in area-C (including law). [in area-B this would be a bit more murky].
The police placed the Israeli detainees before the Jerusalem court as they have jurisdiction over Israeli citizens. And they tried to place all detainees in one case before one court, though this was a legal error here.
The merits of the case, the silly gag order, and the degree of evilness can be debated, but placing Nassar before the correct court (the military affairs court) as opposed to the court who claimed lack of jurisdiction (of the court! not of the military administration) – is really just a jurisdiction snafu that was straightened out.
[The Israeli police is generally incompetent – it really is not surprising they made this mistake along with many others].
non-citizens resident of the area (west bank) can’t be tried in an Israeli court unless the crime occurred in an area that was annexed to Israel. There is no choice in this regard – this is the legal (all be it perverted) reality on the ground. It is not a question of shopping – but rather jurisdiction. Israeli citizens may be tried for crimes they commit outside of Israel generally, and in the area specifically – a country can extend its laws to its citizens outside of its borders – but not to non-citizens.
Richard Silverstein says
I’m so tickled to read your typically Orwellian dismissal of the pain & suffering of a real human being “just a snafu.” No one has jurisdiction over this matter because no crime was committed, except the crimes committed by the settler conspirators who deserve to be in the docket (& perhaps some day will be).
This is a borderline moronic statement. What do you think an Israeli military court is? It is a court of the Israeli state using laws devised by the Israeli state to govern Palestinian non-citizens. THus Israel certainly is extending “its laws” to “non-citizens” outside its borders.
As for the Israeli police being incompetent, that is certainly true. But the settler police are far worse than your ordinary garden variety Israeli police official.
The small tidbit in your comment that is interesting is that, whether you know it or not, you’ve confirmed that the Israeli police engaged in fraud when they brought Nasser before the Israeli court. They had to have known the Court had no jurisdiction. Therefore they knowingly perverted the course of justice. As Gaby Lasky says, this is a false arrest. I hope, and know, that a lawsuit will reap these victims thousands and thousands of dollars when this is all over (& it will be, hopefully soon).
Deïr Yassin says
” (…..) a Muslim resident of area-C ( …)”
The denier “lepxii” now calls the Palestinians “Muslims” instead of as in an earlier comment ‘just’ putting Palestinians in quotation marks and without capital letter (which is sometimes a genuine mistake), wonder how he’ll manage to speak about Palestinian Christians, but I guess he won’t be around that long.
The point in contention is that the suspect was released in theory but the police were given a delay in order to allow them to appeal. They appealed and lost the appeal, but then during the remaining original time frame of delaying the release given for the appeal they took him to the military court, instead of immediately releasing him. This is what is now being appealed, the illegal few hours he was held by the police with no legal right to do so.
Arie Brand says
“Speaking about divine intervention: last week the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, criticized Israel’s legal system for having different laws for Jews and Arabs. Netanyahu reacted sharply, and lo and behold – by sheer accident, a few days later the Swedish press was full of stories about the corruption of Wallstrom, who did pay less rent for her government apartment than she should have.” Uri Avnery
You noted, Richard, that the US Ambassador, Shapiro, came up with a similar comment and was called “a little Jew boy”. Will things remain at that or will it be discovered next that he blocked the payment of the Embassy’s electricity account?
Deïr Yassin says
Uri Avnery often gets facts wrong, and in this case it’s not a matter of paying less rent. Wallström is accused of corruption because she rents an apartment in the center of Stockholm belonging to the biggest trade union in Sweden Kommunal, she’s supposed to have ‘jumped’ the long waiting list, but it seems the contract is direcly linked to her job as foreign minister.
Anyway, we can count on the Israeli hasbara to use this affair in their work.
Arie Brand says
Frankly I haven’t noticed that he often gets facts wrong. When I get the Shalom Post I click first on Avery’s column. He is always readable and often interesting. I hope that I, at his age, will be able to generate the same lively interest in what is going on and have the same capacity for indignation.
Deïr Yassin says
I appreciate Avnery very much too, and I’ve been reading his weekly column for years too (mostly because it’s posted on a major French pro-Palestinian website that I read daily) , but in many of his articles there are mistakes like the one above, not very important but still. I don’t have any exemple in mind but often when I read him I’ve noticed this kind of inexactitudes, particularly concerning Palestinian matters,
“Today, the Israeli court ordered the Jewish prisoners freed. But unfortunately this will not happen till Sunday.” – what an interesting way to report the court extended the arrest until Sunday.
Reminds me of the joke about completion between an American and Russian where Russian arrive 2nd and American only 1 b4 last.