Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Show Trial of Marwan Barghouti

Who doesn’t remember the picture: a Jew is put on trial in Moscow as a Zionist spy. Family members and friends come to observe the trial but are turned away. No place left, they are told, all the seats have already been taken. And indeed, KGB agents have filled the hall early, and with the entrance of the accused start to shout: “Traitor!” “Spy!” “Kill him!”

The day before yesterday I witnessed something frighteningly similar in Tel-Aviv.

The prosecution’s request to keep Marwan Barghouti in prison till the end of his trial was due to be heard in the District Court. Barghouti, a prominent political personality, has been known for years as the leader of Arafat’s Fatah movement on the West Bank. After Oslo, he participated in many peace demonstrations. He was kidnapped by the IDF and put on trial as a terrorist. Gush Shalom activists and others decided to attend and observe the proceedings.

I arrived two hours early, but was not allowed into the courtroom, in spite of my press card. All the members of the public had been evicted, because inside a briefing of security personnel was taken place. I had a peek at dozens of security people and others inside the room. They obviously were planning what was about to happen.

In the meantime, a crowd had assembled in front of the door. The security people ordered everyone to descend one floor and erected a barrier at the foot of the steps. Behind it, security people and officials of the Prime Minister’s office took up positions. They had lists in their hands. “Only people who appear on the lists will be allowed in!” they announced.

Who did enter? A number of journalists and TV teams, according to a list prepared by the Government Press Office (a branch of the Prime Minister’s office). A few diplomats and a Knesset member. Apart from those, only people appearing on the list provided by the “Organization of Terror Victims”.

This is an innocent name for a well-known group: a radical right-wing body, well organized and trained, that specializes in extremely vociferous Arab-bashing demonstrations. Often, the “victims” appear side by side with the rowdies of Kach – an outlawed Jewish terrorist group. The “victim’s organization” represents, of course, only a tiny part of the tens of thousands of families hurt by the violence, who belong to all segments of society. Suicide bombers do not differentiate between leftists and rightists, Jewish and Arab citizens.

Apart from the members of this organization, no one – not one single person!!! – was allowed into the courtroom. I am a journalist. For some fifty years and have held a press card issued by the Government Press Office. I am also a former Knesset member. No matter, for two and a half hours I stood in front of the barrier, crowed in on all sides, unable to move, hardly breathing in the stifling heat, while the members of the “Victim’s Organization” passed by me, holding folded posters and large photos. Around me there were lawyers, peace activists, foreign journalists and ordinary spectators.

In Israel and around the world people saw what happened in the courtroom: When Barghouti was brought in, the public inside started a riot, waving placards and pictures and shouting “Murderer!” “Terrorist!” “Kill him!” It looked like the circus in ancient Rome or a lynch mob. People seeing this on TV had no way of knowing that this was a show planned and organized well in advance by the Sharon government.

The aim was clear. One of the participants, a man called Swiri, confessed to it candidly when interviewed on TV: “I wanted the world to see the victims of this murderer, Barghouti!” Meaning: the participants in the riot had not come to see and listen. They have convicted the accused even before the start of the trial. The principle, that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a proper trial, is not recognized by them. It certainly does not apply to Palestinians.

The very decision to stuff the hall with “terror victims”, to the exclusion of everybody else, amounts to a conviction in advance. The victims versus the perpetrator. This means that the whole “trial” is nothing but a propaganda exhibition, a show-trial of the sort that used to be associated with Fascist and Communist regimes.

The pre-planned riot took place in a court. The Court Guard, which includes many Security Service agents, took part in the organization of the show, which was orchestrated by the Prime Minister’s office. It is hard to believe that all this happened without the knowledge – and, indeed, the cooperation – of the court.

This puts the whole justice system, once the pride of Israel, to shame. But probably this debasement was inevitable. After the decisions of the Supreme Court approving torture (“moderate physical pressure”), exiling and demolishing the homes of relatives of suicide bombers, holding kidnapped people as “bargaining chips” (Sheikh Obeid and Dirani), this is another inevitable stage. It adds to the price of the occupation and the intifada: in this field, too, we are descending into the Third World.

Israeli TV channels gave much prominence to the riot in the courtroom, without reporting how it was planned and orchestrated. And no wonder: what is happening now to the courts has already happened to TV. Since Ariel Sharon recently took direct control over the electronic media, everybody can see the result with his or her own eyes. Like the late Stalin, Sharon now appears on TV almost every day, speaking at length to the nation. Each such “event” is meticulously planned and directed by his spin doctors. He appears among soldiers, against a background of tanks, in the company of children, at meetings of bereaved parents, at memorial ceremonies. Never with the jobless in Yerucham or the hungry families in Dimona, who pay the price of the intifada.

Every day one minister is invited, in his turn, to a long TV interview, explaining the government’s and his own immense achievements. For the sake of balance, a right-wing politician is often confronted with an extreme-right-wing colleague. Sometimes, but on fewer and fewer occasions, a “leftist” is called in for alibi purposes, and is allowed to utter a few sentences about peace, before he is interrupted by angry shouts. What a show!

This is how the “only democracy in the Middle East” looks now. Once this was called a “people’s democracy”.

URI AVNERY has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation. Avnery is featured in the new book, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.

 

More articles by:

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail