By Tali Shapiro at Feb 21, 2009
Yesterday I received the most disturbing news about the head of Hadash, parliament member Mohammad Barakeh. Israeli Attorney General has notified Barakeh that he will be prosecuted on three counts of assault and insulting a public servant. Ha’aretz listed the following counts (Hebrew) (limited by my translation, link added by me):
“... at a rally at Kfar Bil’in, on 28/04/05, parliament member Barakeh attacked a ‘Mezada’ fighter [Israel Prison Service SWAT Team], as he [said fighter] was leading a detainee to the police vehicle.”
“… at a demonstration near the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, in August 2006, in which parliament member Barakeh sounded curses and threats at a police officer, and slaped his finger against his face a number of times.”
“In a demonstration at Rabin Square [Tel Aviv], in July 2006, parliament member Barakeh attacked a passer by that made a comment to Uri Avneri, that took part in the demonstration.”
I’d like to begin with what popped in my head even before I read the article: Why now? Is this a legal prosecution or a political one? After reading the article, same question comes to mind: Why now? These offenses were allegedly perpetrated in 2005 and 2006- what took my government 3-5 years to prosecute?
Second point: I’ve been to demonstrations, I’ve heard stories from others who’ve been to demonstrations. The police physically handle civilians, arrest for false charges and try dispersing a rally before it even rallied. If Barakeh got physical, I’d like to know what prompted it. I’d like to know who started it. I’d like to know what the word “attack” is being used for in this instance.
In correlation to point two, ‘Mezada’ unite has to say this about its fighters (Hebrew) (limited by my translation):
“‘Mezada’ unite was formed at the end of 2003. It is a national operational unit that is assembled of quality fighters of the Israel Prison Service. ‘Mezada’ fighters have a rich combatant experience of anti-terror warfare, personal security and other such missions, from their prior service as combat soldiers and officers in elite unites, commando units in the IDF and the Special Police Unit. These are professional and experienced soldiers, they all command knowledge of guerilla tactics, hand-to-hand combat, the use of varied weaponry and sniper fire.”
No offense to parliament member Barakeh, but in his shape, I just wouldn’t go around attacking one of these guys.
Loosing Touch with Ethics
I don’t know if Mohammad Barakeh committed the above allegations or not. Of course, being a Hadash voter, that entrusted Barakeh with my most precious democratic possession- my voice, I’d like to believe he’s innocent. That, however, will be for the courts to decide, and let us hope they decide justly. If the man is innocent, clear him of all allegations. If the man is guilty I will be the first to want to see him in jail (I’ll leave my disdain for “correctional” facilities out of this, for now).
Israel has long lost a healthy desire for honest politicians and as such suffered a long line of criminals in government. From an allegedly rapist president to an embezzling Minister of Treasury to a brown-envelope-taking prime minister- we’ve seen it all.
Despite all this, the common Israeli voice may subscribe to a logic that was so horrifyingly described in the following opinion piece at Ha’aretz:
“Make no mistake, we will rue the day we ran Ehud Olmert out of office.
We can comfort ourselves until we're blue in the face and say it was the right thing to do, the moral thing. After all, how can we keep looking away when allegation after allegation surfaces of Olmert's wrongdoing, some of which leaves you wondering how shameless the man could be for racking up frequent flyer miles at the expense of Yad Vashem and Friends of the IDF.
Still, we will curse ourselves for jettisoning this man, who for all his warts and criminal tendencies is still the best hope for the peace camp, perhaps the last hope for the peace camp. That is why we must pray that he be exonerated for all of the petty crimes which he is suspected of committing.”
I recommend reading the full piece, as Olmert is just the opening shot to a race of the most corrupt (and greatest peace-fakers) in world history. Many Israelis do believe that if the man is good for the state (questionable, but I’ll leave it for now), this exonerates him from criminal prosecution. It is my personal belief that many Israelis have lost touch with basic ethics.