The arrest of the campaigner Jonathan Pollak has highlighted how a far-right group is seeking to silence Israelis who speak out against the oppression inflicted on Palestinians.
Pollak is being targeted by the organization Ad Kan, which alleges that he has taken part in violent protests against Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank.
Ad Kan has filed a private criminal complaint against him and two other activists seeking their conviction for assaulting Israeli soldiers.
While private criminal complaints are rarely used in Israel’s courts, this case has led to Pollak’s recent arrest.
The Ad Kan complaint, filed in December 2018, does not mention any specific incidents or victims of the alleged assaults.
A warrant for his arrest had been issued under pressure from Ad Kan after he had boycotted the court hearings in the case, claiming they were illegitimate.
He has continued to reject the legitimacy of the Israeli courts since his arrest. He has remained in detention, after refusing to post bail of approximately $150.
In an opinion piece for Haaretz last year, Pollak wrote: “I will not go [to court hearings] because half the people under Israeli control are second-class citizens, in the case of the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, or subjects lacking any basic democratic rights, in the case of the Palestinians living in the occupied territory. Despite the complex bureaucratic mechanisms designed to disguise that fact, there is one regime between the river and the sea, and if part of it is a military dictatorship, we must treat all of it that way.”
Sharona Weiss, a friend of Pollak, said he was boycotting the court hearings to protest at an “unequal Israeli system in which Palestinians are not afforded due process and are tried in military courts” – which have a more than 99 percent conviction rate.
Weiss, also a representative of the human rights group Yesh Din, said that Pollak’s case exemplified how Israel’s judicial system is “giving in to the right.”
“We have seen full cooperation between the police and the judiciary,” Weiss told The Electronic Intifada. “This [Ad Kan] is a right-wing organization. It should be viewed as biased from the start. The entire procedure launched against these activists should be put into question because it’s clearly political.”
Pollak is a founder of the group Anarchists Against the Wall. He has been involved in direct action against the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank for almost 20 years.
Two other activists, Kobi Snitz and Ilan Shalif, have been named in Ad Kan’s complaint.
Snitz admitted to being “really shocked” by how the group is targeting the activists. “I’m not surprised that they would use any means against us,” Snitz said. “But this legal move is quite unusual.”
Ad Kan is using material that it has previously supplied to Israeli television. The group had filmed Israeli activists who have demonstrated solidarity with Palestinians, then edited the footage “in a very misleading way,” according to Snitz.
Gaby Lasky, the lawyer representing two of the activists, applied to Israel’s attorney general for a stay on proceedings about five months ago but has not yet been informed if any decision has been taken.
“I requested that the attorney general throw out the indictment because the precedent it’s setting is a dangerous one,” Lasky told The Electronic Intifada.
“If they continue with this case it will allow right wing organizations to use the court as an abusive process to attack political activists against the occupation,” she said. “We’re dealing with a political organization that is interested in politically persecuting activists, which could result in their detention or incarceration.”
“The goal is to silence critics of the occupation,” said Jessica Montell, director of the human rights organization Hamoked. “Any group or individual organizing for Palestinian rights or against the occupation will be targeted by the group [Ad Kan], which looks for any way to harm their sources of funding or otherwise disrupt their work.”
Ad Kan has attacked Hamoked’s activities in the recent past, objecting to how the human rights group defends Palestinians affected by Israel’s policy of punitive demolitions.
Under that policy, Israel destroys the family homes of Palestinians who have carried out attacks on Israelis. Entire families are often left without shelter as a result of the policy.
Some of Ad Kan’s conduct has proven intimidating. In 2018, it posted mock demolition orders outside the homes of Hamoked staff.
Ad Kan is headed by Gilad Ach, who has long been hostile to left-leaning activists in Israel. He has reportedly received funding in the past from the Shomron Regional Council, an administrative body for a grouping of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Shomron Regional Council is partly financed by the Israeli state.
Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer who is also a friend of Pollak, has argued that Ad Kan and similar groups rely on “right-wing political patrons being in positions of power.”
In a recent article for Haaretz, Sfard wrote: “Ad Kan is one of the mutant civil society organizations that have taken root here recently, which act on behalf of the government and largely in coordination with it, to make the strong stronger and to weaken and silence the weak and the minority.”
Jaclynn Ashly is a freelance journalist covering politics and human rights issues in occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.