Ofer - Plea Bargain, Palestinians staying illegally in Israel

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Avital Toch, Ofra Ben Arzi (reporting)


Translation: Marganit W.


“We are impoverished, bereft of everything

We have lost our image, daughter, dignity,

With these gray, denuded faces

We go on trial, upon this land…”

("Nathan Alterman, “On Stony Land” from “The Joy of the Poor”)


The main actor on the court’s stage today was the abject destitution of the Palestinians. We saw an embodiment of the Talmudic phrase: “A poor man is like a dead man”. Poverty was written large on the faces of six brothers – all caught staying illegally in Israel – who sat huddled together on the bench. We also heard the voice – proud and cynical – of Jamal Amira, the father of Salam from Ni’ilin, the girl who photographed the shooting of Ashraf Abu Rahme as he lay bound on the floor. [Ashraf is the brother of the late Jawaher and Bassam from Bil’in]. Jamal described two and a half years of hardship and misery with no income. Is this how the system retaliates against the photographer who taken those pictures?

(see article re Jamal Amira)


Judge: Lieu.-Col. Shmuel Kedar

Prosecutor: Lieutenant Ashhar Erez

Defense: Atty. Mahmud Jabarin


Defendants: 6 Ganimat brothers, aged 20-35: Munzer, Mudar, Mustafa, Muaman, Muhammad, Maan. Cases: 5400/10 - 5405/10


The six brothers come from the village of Surif. They have been in detention for three weeks for “leaving the area without a permit”. No family member was present in court. The six sat dejected and silent and did not exchange a word. The defense presented a letter from the mayor of Surif describing the economic woes of the Ganimat family, exacerbated  by the death of the father a year and a half ago. There are 13 siblings in the family, some are married with kids, others are high school and college students. Since the father’s death, the six defendants have supported the family by working in construction in Israel.

The brothers worked in Bet Shemesh and lived on the construction site. Every other weekend they would go home. Three weeks ago, they were captured by the police as they crossed the border circumventing Al-Jaba Checkpoint (near Hussan). The prosecution demanded a harsh, deterrent punishment for the prolonged violation. The defense stressed the harsh economic situation, adding that sixty other violators were captured with the six brothers, yet only they were detained. Beside, the police made no attempt to arrest the employer who collaborated in the offense. Most of all, it turns out that the whole world – including the judge - knows about the mass illegal border crossings by Palestinians, on a route dubbed “Workers Road”. The police and the army turn a blind eye, as the judge himself pointed out in the sentence, based on the personal experience of “someone who knows the terrain.” All this speaks to a selective, arbitrary attitude by the police.


Thus, this time the judge did not accede to the prosecutor’s harsh and exorbitant demand when the latter argued: “economic problems do not justify breaking the law”. It seemed to me that the judge, too, could not face the sorry sight of the six brothers, or perhaps he was guided by the legal principal of “Necessity Defense” [Section 34/11 of the Penal Code]. Citing “no intention to carry out a terrorist act”, the judge sentenced them to a uniform punishment of 30 days in jail, 3 months suspended sentence for a year, and NO FINE. Beaming kindly at the expressionless defendants, the judge explained that the sentence is light and the prosecution “might appeal”. He asked them to refrain from breaking the law in the future. The prosecutor, in a knee-jerk reaction, leapt from his seat and vowed to appeal.


Judge: Lieut. Col. Shmuel Kedar

Prosecutor: Lieut. Ashhar Erez

Defense: Gaby Lasky


Defendant: Jamal Amira – Case No. 3767/08

The defendant is released on 7500-shekel bail after a month’s detention that occurred two and a half years ago. He is charged with “attacking and disturbing a soldier”. We met him before the hearing. He is a grown man, looking respectable and well spoken. 130 dunams were confiscated from his land in order to construct the “separation wall,” thus depriving him of livelihood as a farmer, which is his primary occupation. The second assault was when his permit to enter Israel was taken away from him after his daughter took the sensational photo. As an aluminum and glass merchant, his income depends on being able to enter Israel. The result was that for 28 months he was unable to earn an income (supporting 11 persons).

Poverty finally got the better of Jamal. Having fought for his innocence for two and a half years, he finally capitulated and accepted the charges in a plea bargain. According to the agreement, he was sentenced to jail time coinciding with his detention; instead of suspended sentence he got a suspended fine, plus a 4500-shekel fine. In addition, the judge recommended to the “appropriate authorities” to rescind the police injunction against granting him a permit to enter Israel.

Let’s hope this is carried out.

Jamal is someone who can look his family and friends straight in the eye. Can the system that humiliates and abuses him do the same? What will future generations of Israelis say about their fathers’ conduct?


Judge: Lieut.–Col. Eran Laufman

Prosecutor: Captain Michael Avitan

Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky


Defendant:Salah Hawaja, a medic from Ni’ilin  -Case No.  4590/08

The defendant is released on bail. His trial has been going on for two years with no end in sight, since the hearing is postponed due to Justice Dahan’s involvement with another case. Prosecution Witness No. 5 was “apprehended that night”, according to the prosecutor, and because of the postponement he will be released under restricting conditions (see earlier report).


Upon coming in, we met two defendants who were released on bail and had come from home. They told us about the circumstances of their arrest and of their trial, but they adamantly forbade us to publish their case for fear that they and their families might suffer as a result. It is important to note – without giving any details – that they looked genuinely fearful of retaliation by the authorities.