Magistrate Court - Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W.
Jerusalem Magistrate Court
Case Number 15992-01-13
Representing the respondent: Atty. Itamar Ben-Gvir
Representing the plaintiff: Eitay Mack
Judge: Miriam Lifshitz –Privas
Hearing of a claim brought by Yussef Haresh, a shepherd from A-Rihya, a village near Yatta.
Present in court: ten Palestinian witnesses, Mr. Uri Pinkerfeld (who prepared for Yussef an estimate of the value of the stolen sheep) and the respondent, a settler from the settlement Beit Hagai.
Tort Claim: The settler from Beit Hagai stole 13 of Yussef’s sheep and sold them to another Palestinian.
Another employee of Atty. Ben-Gvir’s law firm was present in court; he was wearing a hoodie with the inscription: “The Heritage of Kahana Hai.”
At the beginning of the hearing it became clear that Justice Lipshitz-Privas had allotted only two hours to the examination of 13 witnesses. Atty. Mack asked the judge why she had allotted such a short time, and why the decision had not been given earlier. The judge countered that she had given the decision earlier, and she presented a document to Atty. Mack. It turned out that the decision referred to another case.
Atty. Ben-Gvir took advantage of this state of affairs and examined only three Palestinian witnesses during the two allotted hours. The judge made no attempt to rush him.
It later transpired that the judge had to attend another hearing, one lasting 15 minutes. Atty. Mack requested that she hear the other witnesses who had been summoned to testify on Yussef’s behalf, but she declined. Atty. Mack told the judge that it took him a whole month to obtain entry permits for the Palestinian witnesses, and that he had been up all night trying to arrange one of the permits.
The judge told Atty. Mack that his comments were unacceptable to her: the doors of the law courts are always open to Palestinians, and any Palestinian who so desires, can have access to the court.
One witness summoned by Atty. Mack – with the judge’s approval – came from Mukassad Hospital in an ambulance. The ambulance driver came into court and told the judge that the elevator was too small to accommodate the stretcher with the witness. The judge replied that she could question him on the floor below where there are detention rooms. But since it was inconvenient, she would summon him to another hearing. Atty. Mack pointed out that the witness has terminal cancer and might not live to attend another hearing, whereupon the judge said, “One does not ration a person’s life.”
Many times during the examination Ben-Gvir interrupted the witnesses; it was feared that the typist would not be able to record their testimony in full. Atty. Mack had to check with the judge that indeed all the testimonies were written in the protocol.
During the hearing, Atty. Ben Gvir addressed the judge with personal comments regarding the Palestinian witnesses’ credibility.
The judge nodded in assent. At one point, Atty. Mack rose to his feet and asked both of them, “Why are you exchanging comments all the time? Why are you talking among yourselves?” The judge retorted that Atty. Ben-Gvir’s comments were not recorded in the protocol.
While examining the Palestinian witnesses, Atty. Ben Gvir often came close to the witnesses, making bossy overbearing gestures. Atty. Mack asked him to keep proper distance from them.
The judge set another date, September 10, 2015, to hear the remaining ten witnesses. Why NINE MONTHS from today? Why not question them now and release them? The judge said, “They came here today, they can come the next time.” Is the judge aware of the Via Dolorosa Palestinians go through to come to Jerusalem? Atty. Mack reiterated that the Palestinian who came in an ambulance was a terminal patient who may not live to attend the next hearing, and Mr. Uri Pinkerfeld, too, is 87 years old and not in the best of health. The judge repeated her maxim that “one does not ration a person’s life,” and Atty. Ben-Gvir added that this might actually be a sign of long life.
During the examination of the three Palestinian witnesses, Atty. Ben-Gvir asked the witnesses to draw a time-line of the event in question. Those drawings took a long time. After the hearing the judge said one of the drawings made during the hearing was lost.
Justice will have to wait nine more months; Palestinians will be harassed again, lose workdays, spend hours waiting nervously at DCL offices in the hope of getting an entry permit.