In Israel, Non-Violent Solidarity Activist Goes to Prison, Anti-Gay Terrorist Gets Community Service

Jonathan Pollak, bearing a Steve Biko t-shirt, awaits his sentence in a Tel Aviv court

Jonathan Pollak, bearing a Steve Biko t-shirt, awaits his sentence in a Tel Aviv court

On December 27, Anarchists Against the Wall co-founder Jonathan Pollak was slapped with a three month prison sentence for illegal assembly. He was convicted by an Israeli magistrate judge for his participation in a January 2008 Critical Mass bike ride through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest of Israel’s brutal military assault on the Gaza Strip. Though Pollak was offered community service, he accepted prison time because he was convinced that he had done nothing wrong.

The day before Pollak was sentenced, an Israeli judge handed down a sentence of six months of community service to Michael Naky. Naky’s crime? He helped devise and detonate a pipe bomb in order to kill as many homosexuals as possible at the 2007 Jerusalem gay pride parade.

In a single day in Israel’s kangaroo courts, a right-wing terrorist was sentenced to a few months of street cleaning while a non-violent activist dedicated to stopping the occupation was jailed under the most specious charges. And while Pollak’s sentencing was reported with great fanfare in Israel’s major papers, Naky’s passed below the radar (Yedioth devoted just six lines). The contrast in punishments represented just another symptom of a sick society unwilling to face the Molock in the mirror.

The state has made little effort to disguise the political nature of Pollak’s prosecution. He was not a ringleader of the Critical Mass protest, nor did he behave in an unusual manner. He simply rode his bike slowly, disrupting the normal flow of traffic along with dozens of demonstrators. However, the police recognized him as a prominent organizer of unarmed protests against the Israeli military repression in the West Bank, singled him out and arrested him.

I have documented Pollak’s actions at protests across the West Bank, where he spends most of his weekends, and I witnessed the respect he has earned from the residents of besieged Palestinian villages who count on him as their liaison to the outside world — a realm that the state of Israel has largely forbidden them from interacting with. Last summer, Pollak helped me gain entry into Ofer Military Prison to witness the show trials of Palestinian popular committee members who organize the unarmed protests against the Israeli segregation wall. He has done the same for numerous European diplomats, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who declared after a harrowing tour of the Israeli Occupation that Pollak helped arrange: “Popular resistance to the Occupation is the sole remaining possible alternative for the Palestinians to achieve their rights and avoid armed struggle.”

It is clear why the Israeli justice system acted in such a draconian fashion against Pollak: His activism is making an impact against the Occupation.

Association for Civil Rights in Israel chief legal counsel Dan Yakir described the political nature of Pollak’s prosecution succinctly when he said, “The fact that Pollak was the only one arrested, even though he behaved just like the rest of the protesters, and the fact that bicycle demonstrations are usually held without police involvement raises a strong suspicion regarding personal persecution and a severe blow for freedom of expression, just because of his opinions. A prison sentence in the wake of a protest is an extreme and exaggerated punishment.”

Naky’s lenient sentencing appeared to have been influenced by politics as well, especially when viewed in light of the state’s treatment of other right-wing terrorists. Chaim Pearlman, a fanatical settler suspected of stabbing to death three Palestinians in cold blood, was set free after a month in Shin Bet custody. And Jack Teitel, another Jewish settler convicted of randomly murdering several Palestinians and attempting to kill the Israeli left-wing intellectual Zeev Sternhell (Teitel also planned to attack the 2006 Jerusalem gay pride parade), was allowed to plead insanity and ruled unfit to stand trial.

The Israeli justice system has extended no such privileges to Palestinians like Ibrahim Amireh or Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, who rot in Israeli military prisons for resisting their dispossession through unarmed protest. And the state is leveling every legal weapon at its disposal against activists like Pollak, who declared at his sentencing hearing: “I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation.”

7 thoughts on “In Israel, Non-Violent Solidarity Activist Goes to Prison, Anti-Gay Terrorist Gets Community Service

  1. andrew r

    “On December 27, Anarchists Against the Wall co-founder Jonathan Pollak was slapped with a three month prison sentence for illegal assembly. ”

    Could someone confirm that this is a British-era regulation?

  2. walt kovacs

    thanks andrew, for having the balls to say what max refuses to…that all on your side believe the state of israel has no right to exist.

    and while i believe the naky sentence is a miscarriage of justice (even though max mistates what he pled guilty to…as he was not tied to the bombing, he was found with a device) as i live in america, and see such things happening in our courts on a daily basis…it really doesnt shock me…but call me when drug users and dealers start getting less time than murderers.

    as for mr pollack…nice to see max giving props to an anarchist….so goes max the liberal

    and i wish you people would make up your minds….”unarmed” protest is not the same as “peaceful” protest…and if max truly documented pollack’s many protests, he would know the difference

    for some strange reason, the arabs do not see bearing and using stones as equivalent to bearing arms (i suggest someone here try that out with a los angeles cop), but they do know that it is not peaceful

    and pollack broke his probation….its as simple as that

    and for some reason, max forgets that we too here in the states, have such a thing as unlawful assembly….especially if it does things like block traffic

    i recall a significant number of people being arrested for an antiwar protest that blocked off the sf bay bridgee

    so no…neither of these cases purport to show what max insists that they do

    and im still waiting for the posting of that entire debate….especially since new stats have come out showing that the economy of israel continues to grow…and tourism was at an all time high this past year

    good job….bds is an epic fail

  3. Rose

    Congratulations Kovacs, another excellent hasbara comment. I especially love the section where you compare throwing stones to live ammunition. Yes, “bearing and using stones” is the equivalent of bearing arms if you lived in the stone age before organised armies started using bullets against civilians.

    I also love how you justify human right violations: since it happens in the US you shouldn’t criticize Israel. It’s *the* typical talking point of Israeli hasbara (and other dictatorships all over the world). “Why are you criticising us? it happens here, here and there.” they all say.

    Your comment reminds me, also, that you really chose the perfect pseudonym for yourself. Walter Kovacs, the cartoon character whose name you’re using for this blog, was the son of a prostitute who, after years of domestic abuse, was sent to a “home for problem children” where he grew up to hate homosexuals (http://watchmen.wikia.com/wiki/Walter_Kovacs). Your defence of a convicted homophobe says it all.

    Oh, by the way, how many people write under this pseudonym? there is a major discrepancy in style from one blog post to the other which either means that there is more than one of you writing or that your style differs depending on whether you’re drunk or high. Who are the “watchmen”, Walt? and who is funding you?

  4. walt kovacs

    hey rose,

    i would like to cordially invite you to my fair city of los angeles…and during the next protest (pick one…any one) when you come up to a cop…throw a stone at him….lets see if he shares your view that its just propoganda to compare a stone to a gun (after he pops one right in your pointy little head)

    and when did i defend a homophobe? oh, thats right, as most israel haters, your reading comprehension needs some work

    “and while i believe the naky sentence is a miscarriage of justice…” dummy

    in fact, i am probably more perturbed about the actions of naky and his group than are you…as the halacha (that law in hebrew for the mentally challenged ones here) states quite clearly that it is the act of homosexuality that is a sin…not the person….or a silly parade

    and you can criticize israel all you want…but what you and your kind usually do is make israel the great satan…when in fact, israel is like every other democracy in the world

    and will you please stop cutting and pasting from wikipedia regarding my namesake? read the damn book, you elitist snob…you might learn something…and rorshach had a thing against all individuals who engaged in illicit sexual activity…and politicians….and faux libs….kinda like you

  5. poyani

    walt kovacs says:

    “thanks andrew, for having the balls to say what max refuses to…that all on your side believe the state of israel has no right to exist.”

    His “side” eh walt? I guess using your dichotomy, your “side” represents the view of Mier Kahane, that fascist fundamentalist.

    Actually, now that I think of your previous comments, there is a very decent chance you are a Kahanist (which is literally an Israeli synonym for fascist).

    It is also good to put some ethical perspective into your point of view. Those who say Israel has no right to exist are only slightly morally superior to those who say Palestine has no right to exist.

    Walt Kovaks wrote:

    “israel is like every other democracy in the world”

    Not every country. It has some similarities to Iran. It has some similarities to South Africa under Apartheid. The countries it most closely resembles are the US, Canada, and Australia during their ethnic cleansing of their natives.

    Israel is like every country was 150 years ago. Racist and antagonistic to the notion of universal human rights!!!

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