It is so wired… wrongly wired

Only in Israel: Personally Delivered SMS – straight from the Shabak

At first glance it looked like a foolish error – or the now so common tech firms’ scam.

Iris received a short SMS from Bezeq, informing that her time of reduced pay for fast internet connection will soon be over, and that, starting October 13, she will pay 120.97 shekel monthly.

sms from bezek - renewal

Misdirected SMS

The first question that came to her mind was, of course, for how long she was already paying for Bezeq “services” without her knowledge, as she never even requested their service to connect to the net? So she immediately called Bezeq and they checked her id number, and checked her telephone number, and checked my id number and my telephone number, and promised that they don’t hold these numbers in their databases and never charged us anything.

Somewhat relieved, Iris reread the short note carefully and noticed that the telephone number of the client that was mentioned there was not her number… But that number seemed familiar; it was the number of a comrade from Tel Aviv.

Iris called the comrade and it came out that she was connected through Bezeq, and that her special agreement was really due to expire sometime soon. She thanked Iris for informing her that she should take care before her monthly pay will be automatically hiked.

Scrolling up in the same SMS application, Iris found that she also received a message from Bezeq in March, concerning the expected visit of a technician. The comrade from Tel Aviv recalled that she really applied for the technician to come and was disappointed with Bezeq that promised to send her a message but their message never arrived…

Simple explanation

Well, you might think that the numbers are somewhat similar and it could be a simple typo, but they are not similar in any way. They differ by almost all digits… And Iris’s number was never registered in Bezeq’s database anyway, so there is no way that Bezeq could have made this mistake.

But Bezeq is only the first station on the SMS’s Via Dolorosa. Before it could land in the comrade’s phone it had to pass by the Shabak’s office and have a short chat with a Tonton Macoute wearing black glasses. After it explains itself and proves its innocence and good intentions, the SMS is kicked out and rolls all the way down to its original destination… or to another comrade, as there are so few Jewish leftists and they all look the same.

Retrospective view

This wired experience reminded us of the eighties and nineties of the previous century…

It was not rare up then to have your phone ringing, or raise the phone’s receiver to make a call, and hear a conversation by some comrades in other towns around the country, who thought they were speaking just between themselves. We would then curse the Shabak for using such old leaky wires in their wiretapping centers.

On a second thought, the new SMS misdirection errors may be just the teething problems of a new Artificial Intelligence start-up that was hired to catch the data balls in the air and throw them on in almost real-time. We really shouldn’t be angry with the novice techies for not yet recognizing all the old comrades by their names and phone numbers.

Message from the Shabak Caricature

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Detention for a Secret Deleted Publication…

Just another day in the Haifa Apartheid District Court… Today it started with tears of stress and humiliation and finished with the tears of joy and relief.

The victim this time is a woman in her twenties from one of the Arab Palestinian sleeping townships around Haifa. She lives with her family and their home was raided by the police at about 01:00 am in the night between Friday and Saturday, July 22. The reason for this midnight police raid was a status that she is accused of publishing on her Facebook page.

Her detention was remanded in the Haifa court on Saturday night, and remanded again for another three days on Monday in Akka (Acre). Later the Adalah Legal Center decided to take up her defense and appealed against her remand in the Haifa district court. The appeal was heard today by Judge Lifshitz.

Some 10 family members, apparently all working class, mostly women, where waiting to see their loved daughter, sister or cousin, together with a few local activists. Lawyer Fady Khoury and Muna Haddad came from Adalah.

We waited for a long time in the courtroom while the judge was going over the papers. It gave me an opportunity to look at the detainee. Since they built the new court house they equipped it with unseen elevators to bring the detainees from the detention cells in the basement and escort them into the courtroom from a special rear entrance to the isolated deck, so you don’t see them on the way.

She was sitting there between two guards, a man and a woman, from the special “Nakhshon” unit that specializes in escorting and abusing prisoners. Our standard saying when we speak about our political prisoners is “her spirits are high”. Hers weren’t. She was clearly exhausted and distressed. The lawyers that visited her talked about her appalling detention conditions.

When the judge gave the sign to start, lawyer Khoury started to complain that he doesn’t even know what is client is accused of publishing. He said that you can’t detain a person for publishing stuff without telling him what he had supposedly published, like you can’t accuse somebody with stealing stuff without telling him what was stolen.

The police was represented by a uniformed officer, and we noticed the name on his tag was “Shanan”, just like one of the police officers that were killed in occupied Jerusalem on Friday. Probably a relative, was the inevitable thought. He told the lawyer that, at this stage of the investigation, he is not allowed to know anything, until the indictment.

The lawyer continued to complain, but not knowing the essence of the accusation made his work almost impossible. He reminded that the right of free expression is important and shouldn’t be easily trumped on. He specifically mentioned that the judge in Akka, in his decision to remand his client’s detention, used as an argument against her the fact that she is linked to a party that is represented in the Knesset… He also said that, as the police already hold all the evidence, the detainee’s release can’t hinder the investigation.

The Judge stopped the Lawyer abruptly and asked the officer why they should keep hold of the detainee. But I didn’t rest my case yet, protested the lawyer. You will be able to continue your argument later, promised the judge.

The officer admitted that the danger that the detainee would obstruct the investigation was decreasing with the passing time. But, he claimed, the main reason for the remand is the “dangerousness” of the detainee. This term “dangerousness” is a code word in the Israeli courts to justify a completely different system of remand against Arab Palestinians that are accused of opposing the Zionist oppression machine. While the courts tend to hastily release criminals, if you are a patriotic Palestinian you are automatically regarded “dangerous”, with no connection to what you are suspected of, and your detention can be easily remanded.

This time the judge didn’t buy it. He pressed the officer to say what specific reasons require that the detainee will stay in prison. The officer said that it is true that they started with investigating one status, but since then they downloaded a long history of statuses by the suspected, so they have a long investigation to carry out. He added that the investigation will not be confined to the current detainee, but that they also plan to investigate some of the people that “liked” her statuses.

At this stage the judge stopped him and set to write a decision. As he didn’t let lawyer Khoury finish his argument, I was pretty sure that it is a release.

From what the judge said we learned that the accusation is related to a status that was published as a response to the clash in Jerusalem on Friday in which two Israeli police officers and three Palestinian youth were killed. We also learned that, according to the investigation, soon after the status was published the detainee erased it herself, much before her house was raided. The judge said that her publication was very severe, and may be punishable, but there is no reason to keep her under detention at this stage.

Finally he listed all the usual bail conditions: deposition of five thousand shekel in the court prior to release, farther financial guarantees by the detainee and a third person, house arrest for five days and a total ban on any connection to the internet, computers and smartphones until August 1st at 10:00am.Good Soldier Schweik in prison big

It all reminded me about the opening chapter in “The Good Soldier Schweik”, which tells how the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, after the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, was arresting all sorts of people for the suspicion that they didn’t fully and wholeheartedly shared the agony of their oppressors. The only difference was that, in those primitive days, secret agents had to rotate from pub to pub to make people talk. Now, with modern technology, they just come and arrest you for your Facebook statuses.

Poetry is poetry, and is immune to prosecution

By Ofra Yeshua-Lyth – Originally appeared in HaOketz in Hebrew on March 21, 2017

Translated by Idan Kramarge Bar-Haim

Professor Nissim Calderon testified in the show trial of poet Dareen Tatour: “In the Israeli tradition there is immunity to a poet who calls for illegal violence”; in Hanukkah we sing “As you shall prepare a massacre / of a barking foe”; in both the Tsarist regime and the mandate police poets who called for violence were not prosecuted, and no one prosecuted Ariel Zilber for supporting the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

Arabic expert Dr. Yoni Mendel: “Tatour’s poem does not call for violence; the police translation is simplistic, not objective, and is meant to prove the poet supports violence”.

On March 19, 2017, the absurd show trial “The state of Israel against poet Dareen Tatour” has reached the defense witnesses stage. Two expert professors made all the way from the center of the country to explain to the prosecutor Alina Hardak and Judge Adi Bambiliya in the Nazareth court why the indictment that took away Tatour’s freedom since October 2015 is essentially baseless.Poetry is not a crime - Dareen Tatour

Literature professor Nissim Calderon wrote in his expert opinion that there is no place to incriminate any poet for a text he or she wrote, even if it was packed with harsh expressions.  Tsarist Russia, as well as the British mandate, and so far even  the state of Israel, left poets alone  also when their poems could be seen as a call or support for violence. Dr. Yonatan Mendel, an expert on the Arabic language with rich experience in translation, who stands at the head of the Van Leer institute for Jewish-Arab relations, determined in the document he presented that the poem an Israeli policeman decided is an “Incitement to violence” is actually an impassioned national poem, by the best tradition of the local language, without any call for taking arms or spilling blood.

The mills of justice grind slowly: The two distinguished academics, together with defense lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati, the accused poet, her family and supporters, had to wait three hours in the ornate halls of the enormous courthouse, in a sort of forced hunger strike. The cafeteria had been closed many months ago, and there is not even a water cooler, not to mention a coffee machine – a winning combination of the fails of the Israeli legal system and the disregard for the “periphery”. The session, scheduled for 11:30 in the morning, started at 2:30 in the afternoon, and continued until 20:30 in the evening. The entire meeting was dedicated to the counter-interrogation of the two professionals about the reasoned expert opinions they supplied, each in his field of academic research. The prosecutor spared no efforts in her attempt to denounce their integrity.

“According to you, is every person who wrote a poem or a collection of poems is a poet who has the right to privileges over other people?” she asked professor Calderon. He replied positively and stated that if a text is written as poetry then “It is entitled to all rights we give to poetry in our culture, and the writer’s responsibility towards the poem is a poet’s responsibility”.

Dareen and Propf Calderon (center) & Tawfiq Tatour

Dareen Tatour and Prof Calderon (center) before the hearing

“According to you, calls for violence within a poem also deserve immunity from prosecution?”

“Not according to me, but according my information”, answered Calderon, “As Hayim Nahman Bialik [1873-1934, considered the top national-Zionist poet- O.Y.L] wrote ‘with vicious wrath your blood we shalt drink, we shalt have no mercy, and as all the nation shall arise to vengeance we shall say vengeance’, then the immunity Bialik enjoys includes sayings such as drinking the gentiles’ blood and a call for vengeance upon them. In Israeli tradition there is immunity to a poet who calls for illegal violence. In Hanukkah we sing the hymn ‘Maoz Tsur Yeshuati’- ‘When you shall make a massacre / from your barking foe…’ We call in Hanukkah to massacre our enemies.”

The prosecutor pointed out that Tatour’s poem was read in Facebook over a video as background, but Calderon made clear that this fact is irrelevant: “I come from a literary and lyrical tradition that is well familiar with poems published in a variety of contexts, printed and filmed. Poetry is poetry. The video tradition is relatively new but the tradition of poetry in context has a long history. Would you question a poem by Uri Tsvi Greenberg [1896-1981, highly acclaimed poet and right-wing activist] in which he specifically mentions the words The Thugs Alliance [“Brit Habiryonim”], while he was explicitly a member of the Thugs Alliance organization which called for illegal actions against the British government in the country?” Uri Tsvi Greenberg, the witness mentioned, was never a target of the British mandate police despite his blunt texts which were the inspiration for underground movements that took violent actions against the mandate regime. Just like the Russian Tsar regime which did not see fit to act against Haim Nahman Bialik despite his call for violent revenge.

“You do not presume to present yourself as an objective witness,” the prosecutor snapped at the professor, who was quick to agree: “There is no objective witness in literature, no court for literary works, their meaning and value.” He confirmed that he expressed his opinion about Tatour’s trial in an event called “Poetry in the shadow of terrorism” which was held by the Author’s Association, and that loud arguments rose during this occasion. “Arguments inside the literary community are natural”, he pointed out. Hardak claimed that Calderon relied solely on classics from the distant past and did not bring into his opinion current examples. “If we embrace you position, then where we are today, any person under the disguise of a poet could publish anything he wishes to, even if it would otherwise be a criminal offense!”, scowled the prosecutor.

“Yes,” said the professor calmly, “Ariel Zilber [contemporary popular song writer] published songs which supported the murder of [Israeli PM] Rabin. No one prosecuted him and he should not be prosecuted. His immunity was supported by all the literary community.”

The prosecutor took great efforts to present the second witness, Dr. Mendel, as “not objective” too. She presented as “incriminating” evidence an article he wrote in the past in which he interpreted the Hamas movement as a political organization, not as a terrorist organization. (In the re-interrogation Mendel made clear that this definition comes not from his “feverish mind” but repeated the statements of the American general Collin Powell and the former head of the Mosad, Efraim Halevi). Mendel also confirmed he wrote an article about the completely false interpretation of Israelis to the word “shahid”, which should be translated to “martyr” or “victim”, while Hebrew speakers automatically identify it with terrorism.

The Palestinians, say Mendel, refer to shahids “More as victims and less as aggressors. A shahid is not only someone who performed an act of terrorism but also a person with cancer who dies at an army checkpoint. Most of those who are called shahid are civilians who did not go to offend Israelis. If in “Protective Edge” or “Cast Lead” [Israeli military operations against Gaza] about 2000 people were killed in the Gaza Strip, for the Palestinians they are all shahids, fighters and civilians alike.”

Waiting for trial Dareen and Mendel

Waiting for the hearing – Dr Mendel first from the left

As for the poem Dareen Tatour wrote, the witness made clear, all victims she speaks of in the poem are civilians. “When I look at the names of the victims she refers to in the poem, the child who was burned is probably Muhammad Abu Khdeir; Ali is Ali Dawabsheh; Also Hadeel was a very extreme case, Haaretz newspaper called it an execution” (Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was shot in Hebron by a soldier who suspected – mistakenly according to all testimonies – that she came to perform a terror attack).

At this point the prosecutor took out videos in which suicide bombers were presented as shahids, while trying to convince the witness that Dareen Tatour also meant to glorify suicide bombers when she mentioned shahids. It took three hours of exhaustion at the witness box and with video after video presented to the witness with no change in the testimony and finally the advocate complained that the prosecutor treats Dr. Mendel as an accused. Hardak indeed kept calling Mendel “”not objective” and he kept to his answer that “When you come to talk about the political reality, there is no person without opinions”. He also added that by his own professional analysis a truly not objective action was taken by whoever decided to prosecute Dareen on the basis of a biased, incriminating translation: “My translation is loyal to the truth, objective, connected to the spirit of the original text and was not written with intent to incriminate. To my mind, in every node in which a certain interpretation could be chosen, a decision was taken to translate her meaning as violent, and that is what lacks objectivity”. Later during the questioning Mendel added: “The police translation is very simplistic, inaccurate, and its intent was to prove that the writer supports violent actions”.

The prosecutor still kept on presenting videos. What does he see in the videos? The witness was asked. “In the video I saw the West Bank, territory outside the Green Line, which has not been annexed to Israel and by my understanding it presents soldiers who confront Palestinians”. At another point he mentioned that in the West Bank “There is a very complex situation in which the soldiers are seen as an occupying force and the demolition of a home is conceived by the Palestinians as an act of violence”.

“Stone throwing or Molotov cocktails are terrorism”, claimed the prosecutor. Mendel replied: “The conflict should be solved without violence. I’m against violence. In a situation where one side shoots and the other throw a stone, there are acts of violence on both sides”. He responded with irony to the definition of stone throwing as a disruption of order: “Someone has to ask oneself: if the stone disrupts the order – then what is the order? The perpetuation of the situation is which Israel occupies the West Bank. Stones’ throwing is a reaction to stormy conditions”.

The Judge decreed that the defense will terminate its case in the next session that she set for March 28. Tatour’s lawyers summoned police officer Yaniv Hami and announced that there might be still another witness for the defense. They requested to present the defense summaries in writing.

Security Affair… in the Kindergarten

The following – completely true – short story is dedicated to all those people that are longing for the “democratic past” of Israel under “Mapai”.

In the middle Seventies, I was active in “The Workers’ League”, a small organization of the radical left that split from the famous “Matzpen”.

Two of our comrades were a couple of new immigrants from France. They came as Zionists but soon were disillusioned and became active in the Anti-Zionist organization. At the time that our story begins, the wife was working in a kindergarten that provided special care for children with Autism.

At the time there were not many institutions caring for these children. The kindergarten, in West Jerusalem, was affiliated to a local hospital. Our comrade was a specialist in her profession and did her best to help the children. She was loved by the management, the children and their parents.

Then, for some bureaucratic reason, the responsibility for the kindergarten was transferred from the ministry of health to the ministry of education.

As every Arab teacher knew very well at the time, in the ministry of education the last word about all appointments was given to the almighty Shin Bet – the Israeli secretive “internal security services”.

It came out that the Shin Bet’s authority didn’t spare Jewish teachers also, even not a kindergarten teacher that cared for autistic children. As soon as the ministry of education took control of the institution they informed the management that the leftist teacher should be immediately fired from her job.Dangerous_teacher

Finding a new qualified teacher for the hard task was not easy or fast, but the security authorities in the ministry refused even a temporary stay of execution until a replacement could be found. The parents faced a real problem also, as they couldn’t send their kids to the kindergarten without a teacher. Many of them had to skip work and stay at home. They organized a protest of their own, but, of course, their selfishness will not deter those responsible for the state’s security from fulfilling their sacred task.

All this was regular “no news” in the “Jewish democracy” under the “leftist” Labor Party. I wouldn’t waste your time with it unless there was a strange twist in the plot.

The teacher’s husband’s father happened to be one of the leaders of the Jewish community in France. When he heard the story he thought it is too foolish to be true. He didn’t support his son’s and daughter in law’s political activity in any way. But he thought that there is no reason that the teacher will be removed from work in a kindergarten where she obviously couldn’t have any subversive influence on the kids…

He remembered that he has a good friend. They went together to the same school and were active together in the Zionist movement. His friend made “Aliya” long time ago. By the time of our story his friend was already a pretty important minister in the Israeli government.

So he called his friend and told him of the extraordinary senseless persecution of his daughter in law. The minister quickly agreed that this doesn’t make sense and promised to speak with the responsible people and solve the problem.

The old French Jewish leader waited for a few days to hear from his minister-friend. There was no news. He tried to call him, but his good friend, untypically, was not answering his calls. He left messages in his office and home – but couldn’t get any response.

It was only a long time later when the two old leaders met by chance… The question of returning the daughter in law to her job was not relevant any more. The Israeli minister came to his old French friend and apologized: “I really tried. I did my best. But, you know, it was a security issue. I couldn’t do anything about it!”

 

Haifa Poetry Night in Solidarity with Dareen Tatour

Many Palestinians are arrested and held for long periods in Israeli prisons just for expressing their views, especially if those views happen to be opposed to the Israeli occupation and racist regime. Israeli police and Shabak (the secret services) supervise all social media and especially Facebook. One girl from Akka published a status supporting the Intifada at about 2:00 am and had the police knocking at her door before 4:00 am the same night.

No wonder that the detention of Dareen Tatour before dawn on October 11, 2015, didn’t get special attention. But Dareen happened to be a poet. At the center of her indictment stands a poem that she is accused of posting in youtube, titled “resist my people, resist them”. (As a result of Dareen’s trial this poem was later translated to English). A Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification for translating or explaining literature, is fully cited in the indictment document itself.

So it was a good opportunity to call for poets and other writers to get involved and expose Israel’s complete disregard to Palestinian human rights and freedom of expression.

Poetry Night in Haifa Al-Ghad

Herak Haifa, a local activist group, is used to organize solidarity with political prisoners. Usually it will call a vigil or a demonstration in the city’s main streets. But this time we thought to emphasize the persecution of Palestinian arts – by calling for an artistic event.Picture_from_Haifa_poetry_night_for_Dareen

The Haifa Al-Ghad club is located in the middle of Wadi Nisnas, the only Arab neighborhood that mostly survived the 1948 ethnic cleansing and later systematic destruction of the Arab city. It was the Ghetto in which all the remaining Arabs in Haifa were concentrated. Now it is the center of the city for the growing again Arab population. The bare stone walls create arches and form a space well adjusted for an event emphasizing Palestinian identity.

On Thursday night, May 5, 2016, some 40 people gathered in the club, including five young Palestinian poets, Dareen’s father and some relatives and friends, local activists and poetry lovers. Dareen was very happy to hear about the even but she couldn’t attend – she is not allowed to leave the small house in a suburb of Tel Aviv where she is under house detention.

The program

The evening was opened by Muhannad Abu Ghosh, welcoming the guests in the name of the Herak. He spoke about the importance of speaking up and defending the voice of the Palestinian struggle for national and social liberation – against the occupation and against internal pressures within the Palestinian society.

The first speaker was Tawfik Tatour, Dareen’s father. He described the harsh experience of the family from the moment that the police and “border guards” raided their house before dawn. He described the prolonged persecution of Dareen in the courts and different Israeli prisons and the harsh conditions imposed on her today. He praised the solidarity campaign and the encouragement it provides Dareen and her family in their daunting experience.

The magic started when the turn came to the poets. There were 5 of them, each with his special style, reading some known poems and some new ones that were never published before. But they all formed one consistent agenda – combining the national, the social and the personal in one quest for freedom and justice, liberty and love. Some poems related to the experiences of Palestinians in the racist Israeli society, others unreservedly exposed weaknesses of the Palestinian society. They proved that the associative expressive force of poetry may go beyond many political lectures and essays. The audience was electrified.

Hazar Yousef started the poetry reading with her poem called “Gaza – the city of love forbidden from broadcasting”. It relates to the suffering of this city’s people under siege and as victims of constant wars. She continued with a more personal song named “your heart”.

Second was Mahmoud Abu-‘Arisha, reading four shorter texts: “I don’t see your hands”, another poem with a title in Hebrew (but words in Arabic) describing his feelings at Israel’s “Independence day”, “God’s laugh” and “Fluffy Feathers”.

Tarek Khatib was third, but I don’t have a list of his poems. Hopefully I will get them later. ‘Alaa mhana came forth, reading section from a new poetry book that he is expected to publish soon.

Last was Ali Mawasi, who volunteered to do double role. First he read several poems from Dareen Tatour’s book “the last invasion”. Later he read two of his own poems, “Haifa” and “Roles”, which he dedicated to “the stones’ kids”.

A video of the whole event is expected to be published soon.

One of the enthusiastic audience finally commented: “We should really appreciate the bravery of these poets. Judging by the experience of Dareen they might fear to speak up. Reading such poetry may put you in prison for years.”

Sometimes the best defense is to show that nothing will deter you and you will go on speaking your mind.

 

Why “The Economist” didn’t report my political detention?

Detention_in_HK_The_Economist

I don’t have many addictions. Reading “The Economist” for the past 40 years makes it my top. One page that I must read every week is “The world this week” – a short summary of events, with 40-60 words for each.

A small paragraph in the January 24, 2015 edition caught my attention… It tells the story of some Hon Kong “pro-democracy” activists that were summoned to the police. Two of them were detained on their arrival, interrogated and later released.

No big news.

What made it significant for me was that during the very same week, exactly the same happened with me. I was summoned to the Haifa police; formally detained and put in chains; interrogated over my participation in a quiet vigil which was held more than half a year ago in solidarity with the Palestinian administrative detainees; held for some more hours and finally released.

How did “The Economist” miss this important peace of news about the detention of a democracy campaigner in Haifa?

Of course, there is no chance at all that “the Economist”, or any other major Western Media apparatus, will report political harassments by Israel as they report the plight of dissidents in China, Venezuela or Cuba.

In fact, this is one good thing about reading “The Economist” – it is the organ of class struggle – just from the other side. As such, it adopts the role of “prisoners’ solidarity committee” for everyone that they consider to serve the interests of Big Capital.

I probably should be proud not to deserve their solidarity.