Friday, September 21, 2007

How not to spend an evening; Nadia did nothing wrong

Nadia did nothing wrong-from an eye witness who participated in the demonstration Wed. Sept. 19, 2007

This evening I went to a demonstration to protest Olmert and Rice's meeting and the pressure being put on Israel for more and more concessions - not that our Prime Minister is himself not ready to yield. The rally was called for 7:00 PM at French Square which is opposite the Kings Hotel at the corner of Ramban and King George, Jerusalem. People had come from all over the country at a moment's notice in order to participate. It was a varied group of religious, secular, including passersby who were anxious to join and asked for signs to hold. Most, like I, were not members of the Women in Green (WIG).

Nadia Matar of WIG -the organizers - spoke as did former MK Elyakim Haetzni, an attorney, and Shifra Hoffman, organizer of Victims of Terror. Peace Now also had a small demonstration closer to Olmert's house . We finished our rally and wanted to sing "Hatikva" and "Shir HaMa'lot" in front of the Prime Minister's residence before dispersing. As the group - in orderly fashion - crossed the small street behind the square, helmeted policed refused to let us proceed and we returned to the center of the square without a fuss. We later heard that one of the charges was 'stepping off the sidewalk'! At that point, the police decided to take Nadia into custody.

A heavyset policeman was standing next to me and seemed to be running the show. I asked him why he had ordered the action and he said that it was because she 'had a history'. There were about 20 people standing around and we all were shocked. Nadia had done nothing wrong; we were all witness to this. If they thought that she had why did they wait until everything was quiet and the main part of the crowd had left (there were probably 200-300 people there at the height of the rally and signs were distributed that said "Israel is not Olmert's Real Estate"/ "Condoleezza Rice Go Home",and the like. It was obvious that the police knew that had more people been present there would have been stiff opposition to their even approaching Nadia who was just sitting and not doing anything.

There were about a dozen police there and suddenly the heavyset one charged into the group and directed others to take Nadia. She was dragged by 4 of them -one holding each of her legs and arms - and another woman who tried to protect her was also taken into custody. Both were practically thrown into a van with others following and trying to prevent this - to no avail. There was no effort to protect their modesty; Nadia's cap also fell off. While trying to take hold of her, the police had pushed other people around without a care. Another woman had been knocked down I was told.

I had never seen this kind of police violence - although it provided me with a visual of what I had heard about. A man in the group had a van and a bunch of us piled into it and went to the police station in Talpiot. We had all been witness to this and wanted to be sure that Nadia and friend were ok. The police did not let us see them and we finally went to a waiting room. Originally, we had been told that they would be kept only for an hour - to be investigated - but it was much longer. The police tried to force us to leave but we remained, quietly, as a group. Finally, Nadia's lawyer, Ephraim Katsir, arrived, and we had a chance to speak with him, too. He talked to some of the police and kept us apprised of what was happening.

A bit later, Ephraim told us that the women were going to be held overnight. While we were waiting a letter had been composed - complaining about the police violence. Several people signed but the police refused to accept the letter, saying that it had to go to another location. We were also told that stepping off the sidewalk was a reason for the arrest. We left after Ephraim told us that there would be a court hearing tomorrow - Thursday. Someone undertook to let us know if it will take place for sure. Meanwhile, a short distance from our rally, Ehud Olmert and Condoleezza Rice were meeting; Peace Now was permitted to stand just outside the barriers of the PM's home - no doubt Rice could see those who support Olmert. Interesting to me is the fact that Hezbollah can have open rallies in the US and make all kinds of threats - but freedom of speech is curtailed in Israel.

Justice, justice shall you pursue. Nonsense!! This arrest was nothing less than a political obscenity.

Chana in beloved Jerusalem

Followup: Thurs. I was unable to attend the court appearance because of a prior appointment but was called by one of the women who had been with us throughout the evening and I was informed that Nadia and friend had been freed. I was told that charges had been dropped but that Nadia had to leave DNA , and both had fingerprints, and mug shots. I also heard that there was an effort to restrict their appearances in demonstrations near official premises for the next several months - a demand that they refused

While I can only rely on what I had seen myself other facts were told me by people whom I trust. This episode made me realize more and more that not only must the government be completely changed there is another layer that requires repair - the way the police relate to citizens on the issue of civil rights. Politically we are so concerned with the individual rights of an enemy that threatens to destroy us yet less with our own. We who have detailed laws of morality and behavior to our fellow man/woman need also to revise the educational system in this country, teach our young how to relate to each other - V'ahavta l'rayacha kamocha- and to love this country as it deserves to be loved. For two thousand years others prevented us from living in our Homeland and now that we have a country our own government is dismantling it - piece by piece. Were our young people to have been given the proper education we would not need demonstrations like this! Tikkun Olam ( betterment of the world) should start here and now.

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