Israelis protest show trial of Palestinian

TEL-AVIV – Marwan Barghouti, the leader of El-Fatah – the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) majority party chaired by Yasser Arafat – is being convicted and sentenced to death by a small group of hysterical people. Barghouti, arrested in April by the Israeli occupation regime, faces numerous charges, including murder. He was brought with shackled hands and feet to the district court here, Oct. 3.

The hysteria surrounding Barghouti reflects the mood among a broad section of the Israeli public, brainwashed day-in-day-out by the government-manipulated media. Barghouti is the first case of a defendant charged with alleged terrorist offences to be tried by a civil court of justice. Barghouti, an elected member of a legal parliament – the Palestinian Legislative Council – being forced to stand trial at a civil court in Tel-Aviv, is illegal and outrageous, Barghouti’s defense lawyers said.

Barghouti is well-known in the Israeli peace movement, having attended common Israeli-Palestinian peace meetings or protest actions against the Israeli occupation. In addition to his native Arab tongue, he speaks Hebrew fluently, which he learned while incarcerated during the first Intifada (1987-93).

Many Israeli friends of Barghouti, sympathizers, peace activists and left-wing personalities, arrived in the early morning hours, in order to be the first to secure seats at the courtroom. Well-known public figures, like Uri Avnery, his wife Rachel (both Laureates of the alternative Nobel Peace Price), Adam Keller of the Gush-Shalom peace bloc, and at least two Knesset parliamentarians, as well as Israeli and foreign correspondents, waited to attend the session.

However, following a closed meeting of security officers and at least one secretary representing Sharon, the court’s security guards and police officers forcefully pushed the waiting crowd away from the entrance to the court room, allowing in only a few selected press teams, and an organized group of “terror victims” relatives. Before any others could enter, it was announced, “The courtroom is fully occupied, no more seats left.”

Avnery and others pointed out that the group of relatives selected to enter are known to be close to the radical right-wing, some even close to the outlawed, but very active, fascist KAKH (Kahane-lives) party. Other relatives of terror victims, known to have solidarity relationships with their Palestinian counterparts, were not allowed into the courtroom.

Next, the whole world witnessed over their TV screens tumultuous courtroom scenes staged by the rightwing next-of-kin or those who acted as such. They shouted and terrorized Barghouti with threats. Outside, the courtroom protests against the selection process were hardly seen by the TV viewers.

“If this was a taste of what kind of trial Barghouti will get, good night to Israel’s democracy,” a protestor remarked.

One of the sensational highlights of the day was learning that one of Barghouti’s defense attorneys is Shamai Leibovitz, the Jewish orthodox grandson of the late Professor Yeshaiyahu Leibovitz, editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Judaika. Leibovitz was a fiery protester, even up to his nineties, against the 1967 occupation of Arab territories, the racist persecution of the Palestinian people, as well as a whistle blower against the danger from the Jewish fundamentalist power encroachment in the state. Shamai stated he was treading in the footsteps of his late grandfather by taking part in Bargouti’s defense.

After the session, Barghouti’s defense attorneys, headed by the East Jerusalem Palestinian lawyer Jawad Boulus, told the outdoor crowd that the Israeli civil court has no jurisdiction to handle a case against a citizen and resident of occupied Palestine. This was against international law, as well as the 1949 Geneva Fourth Convention dealing with the protection of the civilian population of a territory occupied by a foreign power. Israel is a co-signatory to that Convention.

Moreover, it contravenes the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO, and the PNA (national authority) respectively, the defense team maintains. Further, the whole charge sheet is a framed-up masterpiece, which has no basis whatsoever in reality. This will be the main defense line when the trial begins, Boulus said.

The court session Oct. 3 was an organized rehearsal of a right-wing spectacle, a taste of what kind of show trial this will be.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org