This is what democracy looks like?

Posted on 30 January 2011

Ameer Makhoul has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment. Israel accused him of spying for Hizbollah. When Israel accuses a Palestinian of anything, they are invariably treated as guilty until proven guilty. (Unless, of course, they are being held under administrative detention — a throwback to British mandate days — where there is absolutely no due legal process followed whatsoever.)

Ameer is the director of Ittijah (direction, in Arabic), a Haifa-based membership organisation that promotes the rights of the Palestinian and Bedouin minority within Israel. He has been a community activist and defender of human rights for decades and over the years has made the establishment very uncomfortable.

I recall that when he was organising local protests in support of Palestinians under assault in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the Shabak took him in for questioning. Following the interrogation he was warned: next time you’ll disappear for a long time. They’ve got their way today.

Ameer is not guilty of any of the charges against him. Palestinians in Israeli courts are always convicted. Defendants and their legal teams rarely have access to any of the alleged evidence against them or have anything remotely recognisable as a fair trial.

Opponents argue that Ameer agreed a plea bargain, therefore he must be guilty; after all, he is admitting to the crime. But the truth is the charge is irrelevant. Being Palestinian is the crime. Asking for equality is the crime. Opposing injustice and racism is the crime. Ameer faced a long prison term, possibly life. He and his legal team knew that, no matter their arguments and evidence, the state would win. So a plea bargain is the only option — the sentence will be reduced.

So tonight Ameer goes back to yet another night incarcerated by a hostile regime, despite the fact he is a citizen of that regime. Israeli democracy only exists for Jews. If there were any justice, on trial would be the agents of the Shabak who use systematic torture and brutality, the MKs who vote through racist legislation, the foreign minister who incites racial hatred and the illegal settlers who use violence on a daily basis against Palestinians on their own land.

Today is no different for Ameer and all other Palestinian political prisoners. But today, the Israel that still insists it is a democracy slipped further towards a form of fascism that characterises its very existence.

I worked for Ittijah during 2001. I have no doubt whatsoever in Ameer’s innocence.
Read Janan Abdu’s article in The Guardian.
Read Amnesty’s statement about the case.

Send Ameer your message of soldiarity and support. Postcards to:
Ameer Makhoul, Room 4, Department 1, Gilbou Jail, 10900 Israel

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