Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah

January 24, 2006

In 1983 Deli Landau, then 19 years old, left London to live in Israel. A few years later she married Menachem, and for over twenty years the couple has lived in Hebron. Menachem is the principal of the Kiryat Arba Religious Junior High School for boys. Deli, in her words, specializes in mops and diapers. She is also a professional medic who frequently journeys in Hebron's ambulance to Jerusalem, accompanying, among others, women on their way to give birth. She also cares very much for where she lives, for her land and for her people. Not a bashful woman, Deli makes her opinion known, not only with words, but also with actions.

Last week, on her way into Kiryat Arba from Hebron, was stopped at the gate by a police officer, who asked her if she was from Hebron. When she responded positively, he demanded to see her ID card. Her response: "if you only demand IDs of Hebron residents, your motives are political." With that she put her foot on the gas and drove into Kiryat Arba. Moments later a police van pulled up behind her and, speaking through a loud speaker, yelled at her to stop. She suddenly heard the policeman screaming that she had tried to run him down. An officer, peering into her car, demanded that several others hand over their Israeli IDs. When they refused, they were arrested. Deli was ordered to follow the police to the local police headquarters. There she was charged with attacking a police officer, (as opposed to attempting to run him down).

However, the primary charge against Deli Landau revolves around the issuance of expulsion orders to Hebron residents of the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. Two uniformed officers of the Israeli "Civil Administration" arrived in the neighborhood at about 10:00 in the morning, accompanied by dozens of police, the riot squad, soldiers, and journalists. When the expulsion forces met, face to face with Hebron residents and supporters, a volcano erupted.

During the ensuing fracas, Deli, whose apartment borders the homes of the endangered Mitzpe Shalhevet apartments, stood on a porch and poured a pitcher of water onto people standing under her, in the road. Her goal was several police, but her aim was off, and the water splashed a few yeshiva students who got in the way.

As a result of her attempt to waste water on Israeli expulsion forces, Deli was charged with attacking police officers and rioting.

Last week, following her arrest, Deli and her 15 month old son spent the night at the Neve Tirza woman's prison. The next day, during a court hearing, the judge agreed to allow her to spend Shabbat at her parent's home in Jerusalem, under house arrest, until a second hearing. The prosecutor's office was demanding that she be remanded in prison until conclusion of all proceedings against her.

This morning, at the Jerusalem Shalom Court, judge Ilta Ziskind rendered the following decision:
Deli must remain in house arrest at her parent's home in Jerusalem, until conclusion of expulsion from the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood.
Following conclusion of the expulsion, the police will be notified and Deli will be allowed to return to her home in Hebron.
Deli is forbidden from being anywhere else in Judea and Samaria for a year.
She must deposit 5,000 shekels cash and sign a bail bond for another 20,000 shekels, which will be collected should she violate the court decision, or not appear at trial.

During the hearing, the 'honorable judge' lectured Deli: 'As the mother of eleven children, you should be more responsible and refrain from rioting and attacking police. Your children are liable to learn from you actions, and this is one of the reasons you must not be allowed home, to prevent your children from learning from your deeds.'

What can we determine from this court decision?
1. The judge has already decided that there will be an expulsion in Hebron.
(I asked Deli what will happen if, for some reason, the 'expulsion' is delayed or postponed. Her response: "Wow – I'll really be stuck."
2. Judges know better than mothers how to educate their children
3. Israeli courts may punish citizens, despite the fact that they haven't been tried or convicted. (Exile from all of Judea and Samaria for a year!) (I asked Deli if she was allowed to enter Kiryat Arba, to go to the doctor, post office, grocery store, etc. She didn't know).
4. Most importantly: pouring water on a policeman is a horrific crime, to be equated with 'physically attacking police.' (It is not clear which is to be considered more horrendous – throwing an egg on a policeman, or pouring water on him.)

Deli isn't the first person to be so oppressed by Israeli justice. A 15 year old Hebron youth was 'distanced from Hebron (where his family lives) for two months. He is under 'yeshiva arrest,' i.e., he cannot leave the yeshiva where he studies, except for Shabbat, when he is allowed home.

Why? What did he do? The police have a photograph of a male with his face covered by a stocking hat, whose jacket is similar to the Hebron boy's jacket. So, of course, that is proof enough to determine final identification and justify preemptive punishment and exile from his home.

Other examples: A 15 year old girl, with no criminal record, was charged with rioting, disturbing a policeman who was fulfilling his duty, and entering a 'closed military zone' because she attempted to leave Kiryat Arba to Hebron, despite a military order declaring the area a 'closed military zone.' She was not charged with any violent activity, but the prosecution demanded that she be held in prison until conclusion of all proceedings against her. The court ruled that she be held in house arrest until conclusion of the expulsion from Mitzpe Shalhevet. Only then will she be allowed to return to her studies at the Kiryat Arba religious girls High School.

A 15 year old girl, without any past criminal record, was arrested because of 'unbecoming behavior' (chuztpa). She resisted arrest and scratched an army officer. The same officer provided 'an eyewitness account' that he had seen her rioting several days earlier. As a result of this single witness, the judge ordered that the girl be held until conclusion of all proceedings against her. She is incarcerated in the Russian compound in Jerusalem, in very harsh conditions.

A 16 year old boy, from a family of terror victims, was arrested when a policeman argued that he could identify him as having 'pushed police' with his head covered by a stocking hat. As a result of this testimony, the boy has been in jail for over a week and the prosecution is demanding that he be remanded until conclusion of all proceedings against him.

Attorney Naftali Wertzberger noted the following trends presently utilized by the Israeli prosecution and courts:
Demands to imprison until conclusion of proceedings, even when dealing with minors, breast-feeding mothers, and people without any criminal record.
Usage of 'house-arrest' punishment on minors, causing them to miss school 'until conclusion of the expulsion from the 'shuk' in Hebron.'
Very frequent visits by police to 'check' those under house arrest – up to 5 to 6 times a day.
Demands to deposit 5,000 shekels cash to the court.

In addition, it has been learned that the director of special tasks in the prosecutor's office, Attorney Shi Nitzan, is taking a personal interest in the present cases, is following them and has issued instructions forbidding police prosecutors from reaching any kind of agreement or compromise with the 'suspects.' Any such agreement must have his personal stamp of approval.

Tomorrow Deli Landau's attorney will file an appeal with the Jerusalem municipal appeals court. However, no one has any illusions as to the outcome of the case. It is quite clear that prosecutor's office and the courts have joined together, not to seek justice, but rather to seek repression of basic human rights, punishing prior to trial and conviction, while oppressing Israelis attempting to protest a most dastardly crime: eviction and expulsion from Jewish homes, presently in Hebron, and likely also in Amona and other communities throughout Judea and Samaria, following in the footsteps of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron.

We are living a replay of Sodom and Gomorrah, when justice and hospitality were an anathema and evil was the name of the game.

And we all know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.

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