Ofer - Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W
Morning and Afternoon
This is a story about a Palestinian family from South Hebron Mountain, living next to the settlement of Mitzpe Yair. Five years ago the court accepted their claim for ownership of the land, and since then they have been tilling it, with the help of a donkey and a horse.
On 6.1.14 Ismail Adra went out to plough his land. Soon afterwards the Masters of the Land appeared and a bitter fight ensued in which several settlers got hurt. The Palestinians were charged and then released on bail.
Today was the evidentiary hearing of the case.
Judge: Major Meir Visiger
Prosecutor: Lieut. Anaan Sirhan.
Defense: Atty. Nery Ramati
Defendants: Ismail Ibrahim Mahmudat – ID 968415810 Case 1200/14
Saber Ismail Ibrahim Adra– ID 852683713
Witnesses for the Prosecution: Yosef Friedlander, Ariel Mobshovitz, Lieut. Yaad Mizrahi, Avidan Ophir, Yakov Shechter and Moshe Ben-Abu.
The issue was clear, as Atty. Ramati presented it in his cross examination of Witness Yakov Shechter: You claim that most Palestinian lands belong to you, so you go there to prevent them from plowing their fields, so that one day they could be declared state land.
It was a very long debate. Generally speaking, the settlers’ position was that Ophir Avidan saw Ismail plow the land, rode his horse there and immediately called his accomplices to join him.
Atty. Ramati was able to prove (at least in my opinion) that Avidan knew that bringing those people over would lead to violence. About one of them, Moshe Ben Abu, even the witness agreed that “he has a short fuse”. One of the settlers who saw a Palestinian sitting down, asked him where he came from and when he heard that he was from Yatta, he pretended to be a policeman and tried to carry out a citizen’s arrest. Another settler took out his gun. Yakov Shechter tried to free Ismail’s horse from an iron that constricted its leg. He claimed he was from the Humane Society, and besides, he thought the horse belonged to Avidan. As luck would have it, there were two activists from EAPPI [an Ecumenical group] there who filmed the incident. Their film was presented several times during the hearing, with loudspeakers, so we could hear it.
It was a painful experience to watch and listen to those Masters of the Land brazenly and arrogantly lying. It was very clear that they have a special status in the court too. For example, there is a fence at Ofer, separating the Palestinians and ourselves while we wait from a nearby passage used by lawyers and military personnel. That’s where the settlers stayed during the intermission. It is prohibited to use cell phones in the courts – except for attorneys. The settlers had their phones with them in the court, and some of them used them during the hearing.
One of the witnesses, Moshe Ben Abu, is a Kahana follower and he repeated the slogan: “Kahana was right”. His Facebook posts were used as evidence.
Some Ta’ayush activists were present in court. For years these wonderful people have escorted South Hebron Palestinians to work in their fields. There were other Israelis as well. It was a show of true solidarity.
The next hearing was scheduled for 3.5.15.