Monday, December 19, 2011

We are all 'A' – or at least we should have been by Haggai Matar

For the first time in many years an Israeli activist, from her own free will, is establishing her political ideology that Henry David Thoreau put as: "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison..."

Truth be told: We all should of acted like 'A'. Every Friday, across the West Bank, Israelis and Palestinians demonstrate together. They stand, together, opposite the same soldiers, chant the same slogans, give the same speeches, run away from the same clouds of tear gas and the same sprays from the disgusting 'skunk' machines, and get arrested for the same reasons and for the same false accusations.

However it is at that point that the racist laws are activated. The Israelis are released from the police station with limited conditions or with similar conditions from court as they have to deal with the Israeli detainees within 24 hours. The Palestinians are taken to Ofer Military Prison. From the outset, the military orders that dictate their lives allow the authorities to detain them for eight days before they are even required to give them a judicial review to extend the detention. Even then, in most cases, the court will decide to allow an extension and then another extension and then detention till the procedure regarding an indictment has ended. This process can take a number of months and in the end the arrested Palestinian is released. The arrested Israeli however, his friend, his partner, was out the whole time.

That is how it always is – under apartheid law. As a rule we always made sure that if Palestinians were arrested, Israelis were arrested too so as to show solidarity, to protect our friends inside detention and to document the way they are treated.

Until 'A'. 'A' was arrested last Friday together with another 20 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals at the main demonstration in Nabi Saleh marking a week since the murder of Mustafa Tamimi. Among the arrested was a close family member of the killed, Mohammed Tamimi as well as Mohammed Khatib from the Popular Committee of Bili'in – one of the most moral, creative, funny, determined, brave and moving people I have ever met in my life. When the time came to sign the conditional release form at the police station (a 15 day injunction order from Nabi Saleh) 'A' and her friend refused. They were brought before the judge, they refused again and were sent back to detention. They notified the authorities that they were standing in solidarity with their friends Tamimi and Khatib and they would not agree to be released while the two others were still in detention.

In the end, Khatib was released and 'A''s friend signed the conditional release form, but Tamimi and 'A' stayed in detention. At the Shalom (Peace) Court of Justice in Jerusalem, on Friday, on Saturday, on Sunday and this morning – Monday – she will again have a hearing to extend her detention. The same thing will happen in this hearing that will happen in every one after it, 'A' will communicate an exceptional message of solidarity. She demonstrated, with her action, with her imprisoned body in a disgusting cell at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, the absurdity of the apartheid laws of the occupation, the way it differentiates between partners in the struggle by their origins, by the nationality dictated to them, by the ID card they carry in their pockets.

The distance between home to jail

In all fairness, it should have been standard procedure, for all of us. Just like we are arrested together so we should stay in prison together. We should refuse, all of us, to sign. All the Israeli activists arrested in the same protest together with all the Palestinian activists. The village elders say that once it really was like that, in the first intifada and before. Everyone refused, everyone was jailed together (that way, they explained, they didn't separate between the arrestees at the detention centre, unlike today).

Alas we do not refuse. We sign. We give up on a demonstration for two weeks in one place and go to another, and then again back to the place we were originally banned from and at the end of the day we always go home: to comfortable warmth, to a soft bed, to sleepy cats, to familiar food, to favourite books and to the embracing lover. We go back to routine, to work, to tasks, to meetings, to nights out, to Facebook, to the blogs, the newspapers, the greengrocer, the neighbour who got his bike stuck in an awkward position, to family dinners, to a light that needs fixing in the hall, to our studies and to the streets that turn into a river when it rains for more than five minutes.

Our friends do not. They stay with Shabas (Secret service agency) issued uniform, in a cold tent in Ofer Military Prison, with nothing from home. Remember how Abudallah Abu Rachme described the months in jail with no shoes and no watch? Like that. That is the man jailed under a government that imprisons any unjustly. That is the man Thoreau is referring to. That is the just man that should be imprisoned too. A is doing the most just thing that can be done under the regime that we have here.

There is no end to the reasons for signing a release form, for the reasons to return home. It can be said that practically it will not help since, of course, the Palestinians are not released any earlier because of it. It can be said that it just snatches away more good activists who are very much needed outside. It can be said that a worthy struggle sets before it not only fairness but also the well-being of the strugglers, and there is a need to do as much as possible so as to survive and not become drained. It can be said that it is a more sustainable way as opposed to a situation where we will all be in jail. And its true. Its all true. However, despite everything, there is something very right, more right, in 'A's actions. Something that marks clearer than ever before the ugliness of the system. And like a beacon of light illuminates the right change in this method. Therefore, today, also those of us sitting at home – we are all 'A'.


Update: Monday, 12:20:

The police have had enough of 'A''s stubbornness, and a few moment ago decided to release her without insisting for a signature requiring a 15 day injunction from Nabi Saleh. In fact they just threw her out of the detention centre. 

Translated by Ruth Edmonds

1 comment:

  1. This is a victory for A and for all of us.