It’s a question that is easy to ask, but difficult to answer. First of all, there can’t really be a boycott. The military court has been imposed on the Palestinians exactly like the illegal settlements and the surveillance systems that surround them. The fundamental question – why not declare in advance that they do not recognize the legality of these apartheid courts? – can be expressed by only one practical act: refusing to be represented by a lawyer, thereby disrupting the system.
But only when this nonrecognition is done en masse would it have a chance to make a difference. This would be possible only if there were a centralized organization that could impose discipline on all its members who are arrested. At the start of the occupation, everyone thought it was temporary. The fundamental illegality of the Israeli military courts didn’t immediately yield ideas for unified tactics. The Palestinian organizations are less centralized and disciplined than their image suggests, and in the meantime everyone became accustomed to the routine of having legal representation.
Most of the detainees, especially the younger ones, acted in the past and continue to act on their own initiative or through local initiatives. Even if they identify ideologically with a certain stream, organizational discipline and consciousness develop during the period of imprisonment. During the trial one’s family turns out to be more important than any organization. And what a family wants is to reduce to the minimum the number of months their son spends in prison, even if it means paying a higher fine, that will put them in debt.
Everything about the military courts, as with our rule over the Palestinians, is illegal and improper. The possibility of not recognizing the military court contains within it the hidden assumption that one can still get Israelis’ attention, educate them and remind them what law and justice are all about. It’s an illusion the Palestinians no longer harbor.
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