On Wednesday the 14th of January in BeerSheva we stood with placards: "Arabs and Jews won't live under missiles", "Jews and Arabs of the south say – talk not violence", "violence has its price – who is willing to pay?" We stood quietly with our placards but, unfortunately got our share of contempt and shouts from the public. The police approached us and asked us to disperse – although we had legal permission to be there (less that 50 people is legal) and didn't need an official permit. The police insisted and eventually forced us to leave and even detained 6 of us for interrogation at the police station.
The next day we received an indictment claiming that by protesting against the army operation in Gaza and in favor of getting out of Gaza, especially at this time we….."in this way violate the peace in the area".
Indeed the placard my colleague from the Bereaved Families Forum and myself displayed stated: "Partners in pain. Partners in hope" – does this violate peace?
The frightening campaign against us started with the ugly protests we heard around us, continued with our arrest and went on to our detention as if we were serious "serial criminals"!
Indeed, one of us, the "frequent criminal", who had been detained the previous week for the same reason, was willingly handcuffed – to show that instead of protesting peacefully for a cease-fire and an end to the war , they were being treated as common criminals!
And from that point on our "education" began – which included harassment and threats through fear of being detained overnight. There was no attempt, on behalf of the police, to even try and deny this. They wanted to "educate" us and teach us that one does not protest peacefully during a war. The wheels of justice continued and we were taken for a short investigation confronted by new accusations. The sign on the door where we were questioned reads: "Severe Crimes Investigation". It is sad to think that for many Israelis we had committed a severe crime by speaking out for peace. On the final day of our arrest the police decided to release us under restrictive conditions. – a 5 day house arrest and exclusion for 15 days from BeerSheva.
There was no reason at all to pass such a ridiculous sentence – as if we were a risk to society! The police needed out signature which we refused to give. We were told if we didn't sign we would have to stay overnight in prison. I signed under protest, which infuriated the police.
The worst was the arrest of Ran, a pleasant student who is known
by the public. It was taken for granted that his release would send him straight back to protest. The police objected strongly to this and demanded he be imprisoned till the end of the trial. This only goes to prove that a student, with no criminal record, can be imprisoned till the end of a trial, even though he has no criminal record at all.
Wherein does our security lie? In the Israeli Court system, of course, where values of reason and democracy are upheld above all. The Israeli courts regard themselves as the last and sometimes only guardians of our fragile values of democracy. It was with this feeling of confidence that I entered the court room – where quick enough I realized that this feeling was short lived and I was proven wrong. The honorable judge failed to reverse our sentence even before the legal procedure had begun.
What has happened to our system of justice? Is fear the motive behind the unjust decisions that were made? The same fear that pushes the wheels of hatred and sabotages all efforts of reconciliation. The fear that refuses to acknowledge the harm and injustice caused to so many innocent people. If justice is based on truth then surely it should have no problem in accepting and hearing what we, the Parents Circle, have to say rather than a harsh and unfair sentence of a house arrest and an indictment. We know "it will not stop until we talk" and at the end of this violent war we will be forced to sit around the same table for negotiations with the "enemy" in order to reach a mutual sustainable agreement.
We see the "other " - the "enemy" as human beings, as mothers , as fathers and as children - this is a view we hope will be adopted by all.
Nir Oren - January 2009