Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jonathan Pollak’s Speech Before the Israeli Court That Sentenced Him to Jail for Unlawful Assembly

Jonathan Pollak was convicted and sentenced to three months in jail yesterday – for riding a bicycle in a demonstration that he did not organize, nor was anybody else arrested. Why Pollak, then? Because he is a leading Israeli Jewish activist in the fight against the Separation Barrier; because he preaches non-violence; because he comes from a high-profile family; because Israel is trying to stamp out the non-violent protest movement before it gets even more international press and support.

The law violated by Polak is another antiquated relic of the British mandate. One of the first things I learned in Ulpan thirty years ago is that Israel does not recognize the right to public assembly, that any gathering beyond several people needs a police permit. The law is the law, though in this case, as in others, it was applied selectively for one purpose only – to get Pollak.

Here is Jonathan's speech, which I have shamelessly lifter from the +972 website in order to give it greater circulation.

Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offense. However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. As the indictment states, I indeed rode my bicycle, alongside others, through the streets of Tel Aviv, to protest the siege on Gaza. And indeed, while riding our bicycles, which are legal vehicles belonging on the road, we may have slightly slowed down traffic. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest bicycle ride, something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.

As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day's events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza's inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel's control over the Palestinians.

His Honor has stated during the court case, and will most likely state again in the future, that a trial is not a matter of politics, but of law. To this I reply that there is hardly anything to this trial except political disagreement. This Court may have impeded the mounting of an appropriate defense when it refused to hear arguments regarding political selectiveness in the Police's conduct, but even from the testimonies which were admitted, it became clear such a selectiveness exists.

The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.

In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society's privileged sons.

I am not surprised by the Court's decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person's right to protest.

Indeed, as the Prosecution pointed out, a suspended prison sentence hung over my head at the time of the bicycle protest, having been convicted before under an identical article of law. And, although I still maintain I did not commit any offense whatsoever, I was aware of the possibility that under Israeli justice, my suspended sentence would be imposed.

I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that will need 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.


Anonymous said...


pollak was given a suspended sentence from a prior illegal assembly...his participation in this protest caused him to violate his probation.

you dont like the law? get it changed.

and why am i not surprised that an anarchist is one of your heroes.

Jerry Haber said...

"you dont like the law? get it changed"

Why am I not surprised that you don't back the civil disobedience of Gazan settlers, or, le-havdil, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Steven Biko (whose t-shirt Pollak wore at his trial)?

Sure, Pollak broke the law and should be prepared to pay the consequences. Which is what he is doing. But the law is immoral, and the selective application of the law is immoral. His being the only person arrested doesn't get him off the hook. But it shows that the motivation of his arrest was political. I haven't seen a single settler being arrested for violating the terms of his probation of being in an illegal, peaceful assembly.

Pollak is not a hero because he is an "anarchist," whatever that means. I admire him because he stays and fights the illegal and immoral oppression of millions of Palestinians -- and goes to jail because of it.

Tamar Orvell said...


Why do you troll this site? You offer no solutions. Your stance is carping. What are your aims? What do you care about? What are you willing to die for? Your persistent petty and hypercritical comments are so tedious.

Anonymous said...


like all faux progressives, you only care to hear and read one side to every position...im here to give the other side

and sorry jerry...but "unarmed" protest is not civil disobedience...it is violence and terrorism

but if you can show me when mlk spoke about the rights of protesters to throw rocks...i will join your side

never mind that the arab/israeli conflict has nothing to do with civil rights, and your pal pollack doesnt believe in any rule of law..being the anarchist that he is

if the law is immoral (i dont believe that it is...as there are laws regarding unlawful assembly here in the states) get it changed.

you wont, because you and your comrades would prefer to bitch and moan.

personally, i think tossing the idiot in jail is stupid...just turns him into a martyr.

i wouldve given him community service...to work with those wounded by the same terrorists he so loves

let him look them in the eye and spew his garbage

as for your assertion that you havent seen a single israeli (wont use the term settler, as according to your arab pals...all of israel is occupied by settlers) being arrested and convicted for engaging in unlawful assembly...you arent looking hard enough


not hard to use the google....but your side only wins when it fudges the truth

shmuel said...

Unfortunately Israel denies the right of free assembly to all sides of the political spectrum, and its police use excessive violence against the right and left equally.
The brave Pollak would ironically find bed-fellows amongst the anti-disengagement from Gaza demonstrators of 2005 who were arrested for similar disruptions to the traffic.
Ironically, the only group who seem to be allowed to demonstrate with impunity and immunity are the Haredim who get away with stone throwing and trash burning.

Jerry Haber said...

Bacci40, you are welcome to leave comments on the site. But *please* improve your reading comprehension. The link you gave me was entirely irrelevant to my statement. So the settlers were arrested. Big deal. Do you have many Palestinians are arrested at demonstrations. Was I writing about arresting demonstrators? Geesh

Show me the settlers who have been arrested, CONVICTED, and sentenced to three months in jail for illegal assembly. Oh, and while you are it -- make sure that the settlers are arrested during a peaceful demonstration, where none of the other settlers were arrested.

The example you gave me was an arrest for illegally entering Area A and illegal assembly -- and is completely different from the case here.

It is really difficult to engage in a debate with somebody who is so intellectually challenged.

I agree with Shmuel that the "illegal assembly" law is an unjust law not only for the left but for the right and for the center. I also agree that the police uses excessive violence against protesters, left, right, and center.

I do not agree that the excessive violence is equal, and I am truly surprised that Shmuel can say that it is. How many rightwing nonviolent protesters have died or have been maimed, Shmuel? In Amona, when the police used excessive force against violent and non-violent demonstrators, the Knesset went nuts, investigations followed, and one policeman has been convicted (as I recall).

Also recall that the police, trained to handle demonstrators, only are called in for Israeli demonstrations -- not for Palestinian.

shmuel said...

I agree with you that there is (unfortunately) more violence used against Palestinians as opposed to Jewish demonstrators.
But amongst left or right (Jewish) demonstrators the level of violence is similar.
With the notable exception of the 2000 Wadi Ara incident, this is probably due to the police exercising relatively more restraint (in Israel proper) than Mishmar Hagvul or regular army forces (in the territories) when quelling demonstrations.