27 December, 2010
TEL AVIV: Prominent Israeli activist Jonathon Pollak may go to jail for riding a bicycle in a protest march against the siege of Gaza. The verdict in Pollak’s trial will be handed down at the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court on Monday. If convicted, Pollak could be imprisoned for up to six months for his participation in a 2008 “Critical Mass” bicycle ride that took place in Tel Aviv, according to a statement by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
In April 2009, Pollak was indicted on a charge of illegal assembly for his participation in the Critical Mass ride. A conviction in this case will activate an older three-month suspended sentence, imposed on Pollak in a previous trial for protesting the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank.
Tel Aviv Magistrates Court Judge Yitzhak Yitzhak could add an additional prison term in addition to the suspended sentence.
On Jan. 31, 2008, some 30 protesters participated in the Critical Mass bicycle ride through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest at the Gaza siege. During the protest, Pollak was arrested by plainclothes police, who recognized him from previous protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the organizer and figurehead of the event.
The protest was allowed to continue undisturbed after Pollak’s arrest and ended with no further incidents or detentions, the statement added.
The arrest and consequent indictment appears to be the result of police vindictiveness, rather than of Pollak’s behavior at the time of the event. Pollak was but one in a group of protesters who behaved exactly like him, yet he was the one singled out, the statement pointed out.
Moreover, environmental Critical Mass events take place in Tel Aviv regularly, but have never been met with such a response. Other protests, which have caused far more severe obstruction of traffic — the motorcade protest of thousands of motorcycles, for example — did not result in arrests, and did not lead to the filing of criminal charges and imprisonment.
Pollak’s lawyer Gaby Lasky said: “The police not only singled out Pollak from a crowd of people who all did exactly as he did, but also singled out the entire protest for no reason other than its political alignment. Similar events regularly take place in Tel Aviv without police intervention, let alone arrests and indictments.”
In an interview with the EI, from April of 2005, Jonathan Pollak stated, “I’m sure that the amount of violence that the Israeli army is illegally using is deterring some people from protesting. I don’t think it will deter me in the future, but we have to remember that I am under much less risk as I am an Israeli and this is an apartheid state. When I get shot in the head, and I get wounded relatively lightly – I have no permanent damage – this gets coverage in the papers and the electronic media. When a Palestinian just a few days ago, a youth from the village of Saffa, near Bil’in where I was shot, was shot was shot with a rubber bullet in his eye causing him to lose his eye, there was no coverage at all.”
“So yes, I think the violence is deterring people, but it will not deter people forever. I think people are becoming angrier and more aware of the situation, and I think that Israel better understand that if it will break the popular and essentially nonviolent resistance, it will only encourage a more violent and brutal resistance, because you cannot expect people to just quietly accept their lives being taken away from them.”
Jonathan Pollak is an Israeli activist who grew up in Tel Aviv and lives in Jaffa. He has been involved in nonviolent direct action in the West Bank for the last two-and-a-half years, participating in more than 200 protests with Palestinians in the West Bank with the Israeli nonviolent direct action group Anarchists Against the Wall and with the International Solidarity Movement. On April 3, 2005 an Israeli soldier shot Jonathan in the head with a teargas canister from an M-16 from a distance of approximately thirty meters at a peaceful protest against the Wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Bil’in is one of tens of West Bank Palestinian villages losing land because of Israel’s wall construction.
- 27 December 2010
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