Saturday, November 26, 2011

innocent? plea bargain regardless

UPDATE: Nearly 100% of all military court cases in West Bank end in conviction.
B'Tselem has released a publication called No Minor Matter concerning the injustice of military law as applied to Palestinian teens in the West Bank.

Setting aside the basic injustice that Palestinians are considered adults by the IDF when they reach 12 years of age though Israeli children must become 18 before they may be tried as adults under Israel's civil law, I want you to know of the application of plea bargaining this reports brings to light.

Normally, a plea bargain is the path that a defendant might take if the penalty for a crime is less onerous than the process required to go through a trial that might end up producing a guilty verdict anyway. If the plea bargain is used frequently, it makes it appear that the authorities and the court system are efficiently doing their jobs of going after criminals when, in fact, the rights of those accused are being abused. I recommend the excellent book Courtroom 302 for anyone interested in how this works in the overloaded judicial system of Cook County, Illinois.

In Chicago and in the West Bank the goal is the same - to pass through as many accused as possible just as one would create sausages in a factory - while letting the matter of innocence or guilt in the alleged crime fall by the way.

Because they can far more easily convict people, military courts have become the choice of those wishing to quickly put away those they assume to be guilty, for example everyone at Guantanamo.

If you want people to plea bargain, the best way to do it is to make the trial process a long drawn out affair and allow no bail so that the accused must sit in jail for the entire time. Add to that the very good chance of conviction that comes with any trial under military law and it will be very unlikely for anyone, innocent or not, to pass up the chance to plead guilty, pay a fine and be gone.

As Americans should know, we are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial by our Constitution (though it rarely works out in practice). But military courts do not operate under the civil law. According to B'Tselem, in Israel's military courts each step in the trial process requires a separate hearing. To indict someone is a hearing, then calling witnesses is another. Anyone who has followed the Rachel Corrie case brought by her parents against Israel will know the frustrating delays that are involved; the hearings can be months apart. When an accused is in custody the whole time, it means the accused is serving time even before guilt is established.

Here is the strange logic of the process as explained by Israeli military court appellate judge Col. Eli Wilf:
...a period of five months from the time of arrest to the filing of the indictment and setting of a time for hearing the matter cannot be deemed such a long period as to justify release from detention. This length of time is acceptable; it is neither unusual nor unreasonable. To hold that this period of time justifies a detention alternative would lead to the conclusion that, in almost all cases, we would have to consider release, which is an unacceptable result.
One can tell from this statement the regard with which any rights of a defendant are held! The military court system must operate efficiently before any rights for the accused are considered, if ever.

Of the 642 cases involving minors that B'Tselem reviewed, only 5 involved a trial. In 13 the defendant pleaded guilty without a plea bargain and the remaining 97% of the cases were plea bargains. And remember, all these cases involve teens that Israel has decided to label adults.

Read the full report for an account of all the other travesties of justice that occur to Palestinian minors netted by the IDF.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

protesting together for almost 40 years

For the third time in nearly four decades, Ghada Karmi (at left) and Ellen Siegel have stood outside an Israel embassy—in London in 1973 and 1992, and in Washington, DC on Oct. 25, 2011—holding identical signs telling the world of their respective dispossession and privilege. The longtime friends and activists were prohibited from having this year’s photograph taken in front of Israel’s Washington embassy, as they had in London, so went to the back of the building instead. Other than that, their situations have not changed—as Karmi’s “still” notes. Photo credit: FRANCIS KHOO (London photos) and JEAN-PASCAL DEILLON

Thanks to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs for this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How can a Jew oppose Zionism?

Sylvia Schwartz, a member of IJAN, who is Jewish with a Palestinian husband says:

The right of Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel is denied by Israel through a series of laws in the Israeli legal system. As I talk about these laws, try to imagine analogous ones in the Unites States, privileging one ethnic group over another

1950 The Law of Return - Any Jew, anywhere in the world has the right to come to Israel

1952 The Citizenship Law - Gives any Jew anywhere in the world the right to citizenship in Israel

The charter of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (a quasi-government institution) says that it holds land in perpetuity for Jews only. It owns outright 13% of Israel and administers another 80% through the Israel Land Authority.

This means that I, as an American Jew, any time I want I can go to Jerusalem become a citizen and purchase or rent the property that my father-in-law was expelled from. But my husband who was born there and who left there involuntarily, can never go back.

And there is so much more. How can any American support this? Watch and listen to Sylvia Schwartz speak.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

CBS poll on Israel and Iran

I wish there were historical data to put the results of this poll on US foreign policy into perspective. My hope is that the number of Americans who buy Israel's rosy view of itself is declining.

Excerpts - italics mine - full info is here
Forty-one percent of Americans call Israel an ally, including 58 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Democrats. Thirty-four percent describe the nation as friendly but not an ally. Seven percent describe it as unfriendly, and five percent call it an enemy.

While thirty-eight percent say America gives the right amount of support to Israel, nearly one in three says the U.S. supports Israel too much. Seventeen percent - including 26 percent of Republicans - say the U.S. supports Israel too little.

Forty-two percent of Americans support the establishment of a Palestinian state that is recognized by the United Nations, while 34 percent are opposed to it; 22 percent aren't sure.

A majority of Americans - 55 percent - say the threat posed by Iran, which has been developing a nuclear capability, can be contained by diplomacy. Fifteen percent say the situation requires the United States to take military action now; 17 percent say Iran is not a threat. Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say Iran is a threat that requires military action.

Monday, November 7, 2011

settler tot says "go away you dog"

From all I've seen, read and heard, the settlement in Hebron is the showcase for the worst that settlers can do. A tiny colony of Israelis is maintained within a Palestinian city. A full and detailed account of the situation is provided by the Israeli NGO, B'Tselem.

This video, not from B'Tselem, but episode 64 of the series Sleepless in Gaza and Jerusalem, provides an intimate view. Reporter Ashira Ramadan, accompanied by a Palestinian resident of Hebron, comes across settler children playing in the street. In response to her attempt to be friendly, these 5 somethings insult her and one even wields a stick. The final cry of one of the children is "get out, you dog". Go to 11:45 to see the interaction with the children.

You also should meet Alfred Ginsberg, a settler, apparently from Brooklyn, who denounces "Hussein Obama" as a racist among other insults he doesn't hesitate to voice. Go to 20:10 for Mr. Ginsberg.

The entire video is worth watching.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

act to offset the UNESCO cut

As you may know, the US is set to stop contributing to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in a fit of anger at the absolutely harmless admission of Palestine to the group. This is yet another counterproductive act in the service of Israel. As an American, I'm going to do my small part to make up for this by donating to UNESCO myself. You can too.