Ofer - Plea Bargain, Students
Translation: Marganit W.
Morning and Afternoon
Judge: Etty Adar
Four defendants are in the dock. The charge: using false documents. Behind this sanitized phrase lurks a reality full of desperation, fraud, exploitation, dispossession and deception.
Every Palestinian working in Israel needs a work permit. Only an Israeli employer can apply for such permit. For this privilege of employing workers from the Occupied Territories the state exacts from the employer between 1200 and 1500 shekels a month for each employee. In my experience, it is the workers themselves that pay this sum. On one hand, we have a huge reservoir of young people willing to do any work under any condition in order to subsist; on the other hand, the employers are well aware of this situation and they need workers. The state of Israel oversees all this and profits from this state of affairs: the monthly payments remitted by tens of thousands of Palestinians for the privilege of being exploited generate a huge income. In addition to having to pay, the workers sleep in the fields in summer and in parking lots and warehouses in winter, they wait interminably at checkpoints and every six months they have to renew the permit. This leads to manipulation, extortion and attempts to recruit collaborators, as well as abusing and intimidating the frightened persons who don’t even know what’s written in the permits since they are all written in Hebrew. Now back to the four defendants at Ofer.
This is what I heard from the father of two of the defendants:
-There are people who come and get the workers. They say, ‘Come work for us, we’ll get you permits and you’ll pay for them’.
-Jews or Arabs?
-Arabs from Beersheva. They took them to work in agriculture. They work for 1-2 months. For each permit they paid 1500 shekels. Then they said, ‘The work is over, we’ll take you somewhere else to work’. They took them in their car, but those permits were for 6 months. Then they said the price was 1800 shekels a month. The workers did not know if the permits were fake or not. They worked in Jerusalem, then Tel Aviv with someone from Abu Ghosh. He took them to work and left. They were stopped at the Kastel. They showed their permits and were told the permits were forgeries. They said they did not know: they had paid for those permits. Two months ago they were taken to Atarot and from there to detention at Ofer.
In court the boys were protesting loudly. They argued with Atty. Daoud Azi and denied the allegations.
One of the detainees, Tarek Muhammad Salem Ad’is (Case No. 3838/11, ID 850168543) serves as spokesman for the group.
His insistence prevented a plea bargain so an evidentiary trial was set for Sunday 25.9.11 before Justice Dalya Kaufman. This did not work. The attorney reached an agreement with the prosecution: they will serve a penalty of 4-6 months starting with the day of arrest. Thus, having been deceived, abused and bamboozled they are now sent to jail. Israel will never again grant them permits to be exploited for its benefit.
On Sunday, 25.9.11 we spoke to a father of one of the detainees They will serve time between 2-4 months and pay a cumulative fine of 11.000 shekels.
On television a commentator on Arab Affairs (who probably spends most of his time in Ramallah) reported that the West Bank is experiencing an “economic boom”. The eight detainees I saw in court today – charged with using forged papers and “leaving the area without permit” – never heard of this economic boom and would have certainly wondered why they were not part of it.
Take for instance Saed Tawfik Zir (Case No. 4001/11, ID 901183772) stopped at Hizma Checkpoint with a fake permit using a fake name. Did he know the permit was a forgery?
At A-ram Checkpoint “certain people” offer to arrange permits for passers-by. Saed gave one of them 1000 shekels and a photo and in return got an entrance permit into Israel. At Hizma Checkpoint he was caught and detained and later confessed. An agreement between Atty. Nubani and the prosecution was approved by Justice Major Amir Dahan who handed down the sentence: 91 days of time served, 2000 shekels fine or two more months, plus suspended sentence for one month. When I left the court, the defendant’s parents followed me and asked for help. They are both sick and helpless. They don’t have 2000 shekels, what can they do? The son is the only provider in the family.
Leaving aside the pain, the shame and the guilt, why doesn’t the state of Israel, with its sophisticated information technologies, arrest those thieving dealers? Everyone knows where they operate and what they do. The state arrests and punishes the victims while the crooks continue their business unimpeded. This is the aim of the legal system of the occupation: to keep the wheels turning; let economic distress push the unemployed and the hungry into the clutches of crooks who would not have been able to mass produce fake permits and unwilling collaborators without the collusion of the Israeli authorities. The system will continue to churn fines for coffers of the state.
Judge: Major Amir Dahan
Defense: Atty. Haled Araj
Defendant: Zuheib Jamal Joda Hushia (Case No. 3512/11,ID 852558873)
Charge: Membership and activity.
The defendant is now a student of history and social sciences. There is no proof of his continued membership in an unauthorized organization - a Koran study group – from 2008 until his arrest.
For studying the Koran he is sentenced to 7 months in jail, 2 month suspended sentence and 2000 shekels fine.
The hearing in the case of Bassem Tamimi took place in the afternoon before Justice Etty Adar. Present in court were Bassem’s wife, another relative, members of Anarchists Against the Fence who support the Nabi Salah detainees, a reporter from Der Spiegel accompanied by two soldiers from the Army Spokesman’s Office (one was Yair Netanyahu [ the PM’s son] accompanied by two guards), and two officials from the German Consulate in Ramallah.
The entire session dealt with future hearing dates: 25.9.11, 16.10.11, 24.10.11, 26.10.11, 2.11.11, 16.11.11.