Sunday, July 1, 2007

Israel’s “Gitmo Lite”

US Federal courts in recent weeks have finally gotten around to chipping away at President Bush’s most brazen assault on the Constitution: the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, where several hundred “enemy combatants” have remained in legal limbo for five years.

The shame about “Gitmo” is not unique to the US, however, as a recent posting by Yesh Gvul, the Israeli support organization for conscientious objectors, demonstrates.

The organization posts on its Web site a monthly “Page of Shame” devoted to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. June’s page focuses on the Israeli justice system in the territories and its dealings with Palestinians accused of terrorist activities.

Hava Halevi writes of the system:

Very seldom does a genuine trial take place, with witnesses and evidence. Most cases are closed in a plea bargain. A lawyer representing Palestinian prisoners explains: “Of course I can run a trial with evidence, demand that witnesses be brought for counter-examination and so forth; but this will take 2-3 years [during which the defendant remains in prison]. It's better to close a plea bargain. The inmate will sit an extra half-year to a year, and will return home. Even the families press to close a deal as soon as possible.”

In a posting on the Daily Kos Web site regarding the Yesh Gvul report here> , a writer identified as Assaf adds:

“The Occupation ‘justice’ system is interlinked with Israel's ‘legit’ justice system in many ways. For example, the IDF's attorney general during the critical First Intifada years, is currently an Israel Supreme Court justice. Appeals against Occupation policies or military-court decisions can be heard in our Supreme Court. A few liberal decisions, or more often, liberal parts of non-liberal decisions on such appeals, have created the image that our Supreme Court is an excellent check and balance on the Occupation. In fact, the bulk of Supreme Court decisions have upheld the Occupation. Even more disturbingly, when cases against Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians or their property come before Israel's civilian courts, the outcomes are extremely lenient … ”

So much for the principle of “Tzedek tzedek” — do justice justly — at Gitmo and on the West Bank.

David Gradis

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