What does jailing a Palestinian political leader say about Israeli ‘democracy’?

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was sentenced to 15 months in prison this week by a kangaroo court for membership in an illegal organization and incitement, but was her trial in a military court just? The use of military courts is in contravention of international law and may constitute a war crime. And what does it say about the irrational political, diplomatic, economic and military support successive Canadian governments give the State of Israel under the hoax that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East”? Four articles and photos.

Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, in May 2015 | AP

Khalida Jarrar in the courtroom of the Ofer detention facility, in May 2015 | AP

Hareetz Editorial (December 9) – Khalida Jarrar is a political prisoner. The Ofer Military Court, which on Monday sentenced the Palestinian parliamentarian to 15 months in prison for membership in an illegal organization and incitement, is a political court that punished her for her political activity, and for that alone. Thus Israel, which pretends to be a democracy, has political prisoners, political arrests and political prison sentences, at least in the occupied territories.Jarrar’s trial once again proved the intolerable contradiction between the rule of law and the principles of justice, on one hand, and the military justice system on the other. The latter has no relationship to the former.

Jarrar was arrested at her home in Al-Bireh in April. The defense establishment claimed at the time that the reason for the arrest was her violation of a military order that allowed her to live only in the Jericho area, far from her home. No other crime was mentioned. Later, she was indicted on 12 different counts, some of them ridiculous and even outrageous, like attending a book fair and paying condolence visits. In the end, she was convicted on two counts in a plea bargain.

One military court judge ordered her freed long ago; another ordered her kept in prison until the end of her trial; and the military prosecutor threatened her – and essentially the court as well – by saying that if she were released, she’d be thrown in jail without trial, in other words placed in administrative detention. This is not how the legal system of a properly run state conducts itself.

Even the fact that Jarrar is a legislator, a member of parliament, an elected representative of her people – a post that ought to grant her immunity from political charges – didn’t give her a moment’s protection. Israel treated her brutally, just as it treats every Palestinian it deems suspect.

First it tried to keep her away from her hometown with a draconian military order. Then it tried to put her in administration [administrative] detention, which is no less arbitrary. Finally, and only after public and international pressure for her release had intensified, members of the military justice system were forced to fabricate an indictment against her – most of which, as noted, collapsed. Essentially, this was a Band-Aid, based at least in part on dubious evidence, including vague hearsay evidence and testimony obtained under pressure.

The fact that Jarrar was thrown into prison because of her political activity on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is first and foremost an indictment of the State of Israel, which puts politicians on trial because of their legitimate opposition to the occupation and even sentences them to jail. Jarrar and her attorneys decided to accept the plea bargain in order to shorten her trial, and thereby the length of her detention until the end of proceedings. But the black flag that flies over the shameful imprisonment of a Palestinian member of parliament will continue to fly over the State of Israel, tarnishing her jailers and, above all, those who are responsible for them.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar to spend 15 months in prison

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Khalida Jarrar in May 2015

Khalida Jarrar in May 2015

(December 7) – On 6 December 2015, the charge sheet of Palestinian Legislative Council member was modified from 12 charges to 2 charges: namely, membership in an illegal organization and incitement. Her sentence has been set to 15 months, with a fine of 10,000 NIS and a suspended sentence of 12 months within a 5 year period.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar was arrested on 2 April 2015 and initially placed under an administrative detention order of 6 months, which was subsequently limited to one month and two days. She was then charged with 12 charges, following international outcry at her administrative detention order.

Addameer underlines that the information used against Mrs. Jarrar involved information as old as 2009, and that the fact that she was charged years later in 2015 indicates the arrest is a politically motivated one. The charge sheet was also built on witness testimonies including those from released prisoners, whose presentation of testimonies was delayed by the prosecution’s failure to bring them forth. These such delays in addition to the exhausting transfer process of the detainees in their transfer from prisons to the military court itself leads to the willingness of the accused to consent to plea agreements.

Addameer also underlines that the continued use of these military courts in the trials of Palestinian civilians and Palestinian representative leaders are not in compliance with international law, particularly in contravention with Articles 64 and 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (12 August 1949), and Article 43 of the Hague Conventions (1907).

Addameer calls for a national legal stance for the boycott of these military courts which are in contravention with international law. It also calls for the referral of the continued use of these military courts in the trials of Palestinian civilians and representative leaders to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, as these military court trials fail to provide the minimum standards of fail trial guarantees as codified by the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and these violations against prisoners and detainees may constitute crimes of war.

Jailed Palestinian MP’s trial demonstrates how much the game is fixed

Khalida Jarrar ultimately had no choice but to agree to a plea bargain.

Amira Hass, Hareetz

Khalida Jarrar in May 2015

Khalida Jarrar in May 2015

(December 8) – When she was detained, Khalida Jarrar could have declared that she does not recognize the military court of the occupying country, and enabled the military prosecution and judges to convict her and send her to prison as they wished. Jarrar, like the huge majority of Palestinians since 1967, chose the second option: to participate in the fixed game. It’s a fixed game (in a military or a civil criminal court) because the representatives of the state, which forces its foreign rule on a civilian population, have decided by means of orders and laws that resisting them and their forced rule for almost 50 years is a crime.

When Jarrar decided to play the game she had the two options open to thousands of Palestinians every year. One – to instruct the defense attorneys to accelerate the process and reach a plea bargain; the second – to make things hard for the system by means of a precise questioning of prosecution and defense witnesses. In other words, to grant the military court a façade of professional respectability that the Palestinians, the attorneys and independent legal scholars are convinced it does not have.

Here too Jarrar chose the second option. Had she been released on bail until the conclusion of proceedings, as ruled by military Judge Maj. Haim Balilty, it is very likely that the trial would not have ended this week but would have continued for many more months. Jarrar would have arrived at the court in the morning and returned in the evening to her home 10 kilometers away in El Bireh; the state would have continued to spend a great deal of money on meetings, summoning Palestinian witnesses and sending soldiers to bring them, allocating interpreters and security guards.

The prosecution would have continued to squirm regarding the problems that were exposed during the questioning of the witnesses: for example, that they were interrogated under torture and that the signatures on the confessions taken from them at the police station (after the interrogation by the Shin Bet security service) were not theirs; or that in the photo line-up an investigating policeman presented a detainee who became a witness for the prosecution with seven pictures, from which he had to point to Jarrar’s. Six of the seven pictures were of men. We can reasonably assume that with time additional inbuilt omissions would have cropped up.

Another problem facing the prosecution was its inability to bring its witnesses – young Palestinians for the most part, who were arrested in recent years and most of whom had already been released. Because they did not come of their own volition, a military force had to be sent to arrest them. When they weren’t found at home, the force was sent to search for them. Of those 14 witnesses only four were heard. In light of details that were revealed in their testimony, the defense requested that their interrogators be summoned as witnesses. The testimony of additional Palestinians therefore would also have involved the summoning of additional police and Shin Bet interrogators.

But Lt. Col. Ronen Atzmon of the Military Court of Appeals ordered to leave Jarrar in detention until the conclusion of proceedings. In doing so he demonstrated that he doesn’t care whether his court will be granted the cover of professional respectability; in doing so he also determined in advance that in the end Jarrar would have to agree to a plea bargain, in other words pleading guilty and a compromise, so that her period of detention would not be extended, regardless of the severity of the accusations.

The threat of the chief military advocate in the West Bank, Lt. Col. Morris Hirsch, that if she were released on bail, an administrative detention order would be served against her, also worked: Why make an effort if the result in any case is unlimited detention? A third tool that helps the system to force a plea bargain onJarrar, or on any other Palestinian defendant, is the suffering involved in attending the military court sessions: She left prison at 3:30 A.M. and returned at 1 A.M., was dragged around in handcuffs for hours in a vehicle that transports detainees, waiting in it or in distressing waiting rooms.

Due to its failure to bring its witnesses, the prosecution needed a plea bargain as much as did Jarrar. Jarrar insisted that not she, but attorney Khaled al-A’araj would admit guilt in the two indictments that remained out of the 12 in the original writ of indictment. Hirsch wanted Jarrar herself to admit guilt, but Judge Lt. Col. Zvi Heilbron said that was not necessary. But in the end the system got what it wanted: another neutralization of a political activist from the Palestinian public arena. And Jarrar, in agreeing to the plea bargain, was unable to behave differently from hundreds of thousands of other Palestinian defendants since 1967. Her trial, which received more publicity than others, at least revealed to what extent the game is fixed.

Indigenous Survivance and Solidarity Blanket by Melanie Monique Rose

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

A blanket provides warmth and security. It suggests the comforts of home, family and love. My Grandmother – Olive Rose created an heirloom blanket just before her passing, which included images of her seven children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. This blanket has a spirit. It tells stories. It is nothing short of precious and will serve as marker in time for my family’s collective histories.

Yafa Jarrar, my sister (in law) is on this blanket. On August 20th, 2014 in Yafa’s family home an invading force of 50 occupation Israeli soldiers gave an order to expel her mother, Khalida Jarrar from her Ramallah home and Indigenous Lands.

Jarrar bravely responded with, “You, the occupation, are killing our Palestinian people. You practice mass arrests, demolish homes, kidnap people from their homes and deport them. It is you who must leave our home.” Jarrar refused the order and set up a permanent protest and solidarity tent outside the Palestinian Legislative Council building. The news of this deeply disturbed me – my heart sank into my chest – the grotesque invasiveness and violation of home and sanctuary was deplorable and frightening.

I wanted to do something. I chose to create a blanket in honour and solidarity with Khalida Jarrar. I imagined that I could send the blanket to her – keep her warm in the tent…that had prayers in it… messages of survivance, solidarity and justice… of protection and love.

On September 16th, 2014 and unprecedented victory was had for Jarrar, her family and the Palestinian people. With help from thousands of people at home and internationally the expulsion was lifted.

Once again on April 2nd, 2015 dozens of Israeli occupation forces raided the Jarrar household. With Khalida’s husband locked in another room – she was taken from her home and arrested by Israeli forces. Khalida Jarrar is being held in prison without charge or trial and without providing any reasons to continue to imprison her – as well as denying her bail. Now her daughter’s Yafa and Suha Jarrar speak for her – she will not be silenced and truth will prevail.

That night of Khalida’s arrest I was preparing for a group coming to see an exhibition titled, ‘Moving Forward, Never Forgetting’ my role in this art show was that of a StoryKeeper. I found out about Khalida’s arrest minutes before receiving this group of people – which included Survivors of Indian Residential Schools. It is relevant to note that First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples share very real histories in common with the Palestinian people. Legacies of displacement and expulsion, forced assimilation, imperialism, colonial occupation and denial of the rights of indigenous peoples plague our collective past and present. I knew I had to be strong for my guests. At the end of our tour we shared in a circle around a piece of artwork which gives off the warmth of a campfire. Stories were shared, painful at times, hopeful and empowering. I told my new friends what had just happened. What only can be described as a sort of magic happened in that circle. That night we prayed for everyone – to the broken hearted, the inprisoned, to all of those who need to share their stories to move forward – some that may never be heard. As an act of Indigenous Survivance and Solidarity, I started this blanket. In continuation of this act, others will be invited to share their stories of survivance and solidarity.

From Treaty 4 territory on Turtle Island – from my heart to Khalida and to all political prisoners who fight for truth and justice – for all Indigenous Peoples who fight or their right to live and prosper on their land with their families and loved ones – I dedicate my prayers to you.

KhalidaJarrarSolidarityCampaign-02 150406-Gaza-Jarrar-2 150406-Gaza-Jarrar-1

Gaza, April 6, 2015

Gaza, April 6, 2015

Ramallah, April 7, 2015

Ramallah, April 7, 2015

 Khalida Jartar

Leave a comment

Filed under West Asia (Middle East)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s