Translation: Marganit W.
Judge: Etty Adar
Prosecutor: Lieut. (ret.) Sagi Greenfeld
There were 23 names in the docket.
19 were charged with manufacturing or throwing objects.
The judge remarked that the court was under heavy caseload because it was the court’s job to detain, investigate, sentence and penalize as many Palestinians as possible. The attorneys’ strike is a faint protest against the enormous machine the state of Israel operates to squash any attempt at fighting the occupation.
It was not a day of painful scenes, sensational evidentiary trials or heroic attorneys fighting for their clients. It was just a day that reflected the sad and hollow reality of a military court.
Groups of 4-5 detainees were brought in in succession. They wore brown prison uniforms, sat down, waved to their relatives, rose to their feet and recited their names. This was the extent of their participation in the legal proceeding that the state staged for them. The attorneys, diligent officials that they are, rifled through their documents, asked for a postponement or an extension and tried to reach an agreement with the prosecution. The judge, too, played her part dutifully and set new dates for hearings. In Courtroom 1 the windmills of justice produced nothing. Many cases were rescheduled for two months from now.
The prosecutor heard us talk in the back and told us that postponements are always initiated by the defense, “Come to Tel Aviv and you will see that in Israel trials take twice as long.” This is true, of course. The military court would have liked to sentence Palestinians without bothering to hear arguments and counter-arguments, indictments and plea bargains. But they have to keep appearances. On the other hand, in a Tel Aviv court, the accused has a chance to get acquitted.
We thought also about the Palestinian’s time: how long does a detainee wait for the trial to begin and then to finish. How long will he sit in jail? What part of the punishment will be suspended sentence? And for how long? How long until he returns to jail, charged with throwing rocks or with crossing into Israel illegally.
As for the members of the families, they sat in court for five minutes, for as long as the hearing of their son or brother or husband took. These people must have left home early in the morning, waited at checkpoints, paid for cabs, lost work – all for five minutes, to exchange a smile before being ordered by the guard to get out.
In the yard we encountered a group of Jewish tourists from England, member of Yahad (together) organization. One of them explained that their organization is similar to J-Street in the US. They came to see for themselves. We tried to see the familiar sights through their eyes: the turnstiles, the fences, the screening machine, the search cells, the overcrowded waiting area, filled mostly with elderly people, and the seven RVs serving as courtrooms.
We did not wait to see if they actually got into one of the courtrooms to see justice in action.