Palestinian citizens of Israel are facing a judicial war

The criminal cases brought by the Israeli government amount to a strategy of judicial aggression against its Palestinian citizens as collective punishment for their role in the Karamah uprising

Palestinian activist Adham Bashir poses with his family before entering prison to serve a 10-year prison sentence for participation in May 2021 protests on 6 December 2022

Ameer Makhoul reports in Middle East Eye:

Israel’s ruling establishment did not have to wait for the political ascension of the far right and Religious Zionism parties to carry out a campaign of judicial aggression against its Palestinian citizens.

Right-wing forces have already increased their influence and now control every area of governance and of the state due to the infrastructure of the Israeli occupation and a racist judiciary.  The aggressive escalation against Israel’s Palestinian citizens is nothing new; it is taking place at the order of the highest levels of the national security apparatus.

In May 2021, Israel carried out mass arrests of Palestinian citizens who protested its latest assault on Gaza. As part of its “Guardian of the Walls” operation, Israel waged a domestic judicial war against its Palestinian citizens to suppress the people’s involvement in the Karamah “dignity” uprising – which signalled a new revolt within the so-called Green Line and brought the 1948 population into the wider movement for liberation.

Through violent arrests, torture, prolonged detention, interrogation, and isolation, Israel sought to exhaust and defeat the protesters.

Harsh sentencing
Palestinian activist Adham Bashir, an activist from Akka (Acre) was one such protester who was arrested during the 2021 uprising and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In a 28 November statement to Radio Shams, he said: “They sentenced me to 10 years in prison […] and imposed much higher sentences on seven other young men from Akka who are facing the same charges. I confessed in the interrogation at the Shin Bet [headquarters] that I threw a stone, but they charged me with ‘terrorism’ because I threw a stone at the people who attacked us Arabs [first]”.

In the same radio broadcast, Knesset member Ahmad Tibi commented on the harsh sentences: “A new clause relating to the support of ‘terrorism’ has been introduced to the list of charges against Arab protesters, while the Jewish people who incited the Arabs are exonerated.”

Defence attorney Khaled Muhajna, who represented many of the May 2021 defendants, said that the main “anti-terrorism” clause in the Palestinian detainees’ files is serious and sentencing could potentially extend to 20 years in prison.   Discussing the 13 detainees from the village of Zalafa near the city of Umm al-Fahm, he stated that everyone who was released was either confined to house arrest, or had a high bail set, and that “no file has been closed”.

On Tuesday, Bashir, who was held under house arrest for more than a year, was sent to prison. He took a plea bargain and was sentenced by the District Court of Haifa to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay NIS 150,000 (approximately $43,000) in damages.

The public prosecutor sets these prohibitive financial penalties despite knowing the economic hardship that Palestinians in Akka often face due to the racial and religious discrimination they face in Israeli society.

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