Thursday, September 11, 2014, 23:00 In a sharply worded verdict Judge Nava Bechor ruled that Attorney General Shai Nitzan had for years selectively enforced the law against right-wingers. Judge Bechor referred to his conduct as “scandalous” and severely criticized the fact that Nitzan closed almost automatically – her definition – cases of complaints filed against left-wingers and Arabs.
The case began over three and a half years ago. Uri Baram was detained in January of 2011 after publicizing video clips extremely critical of Shai Nitzan, currently Attorney General and at the time Deputy Attorney General. On September 20, 2011 Honenu attorney Adi Kedar, who represented Baram, presented preliminary arguments for a plea of abuse of process and discrimination. Currently the court accepted Kedar’s plea and ruled that Nitzan selectively enforced the law by almost automatically closing cases of complaint filed against left-wingers and Arabs who were accused of incitement to harm Jews, settlers and IDF soldiers.
Although Judge Nava Bechor did convict Baram of the crimes of incitement to racism and violence, destroying evidence and disrupting judicial proceedings, due to the call in the video to kill Nitzan and calls to harm Arabs, she fully accepted the pleas by Honenu attorney Adi Kedar who pleaded abuse of power. Judge Bechor brought as evidence the selective enforcement of the law by then Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan and classified his conduct as “scandalous”.
“The evidence gathered by the defense concerning the period of time between October 2008 and August 2010 reflects difficult to understand treatment by the relevant law enforcement authority concerning exhibitions of extreme, dangerous and incendiary violence which incites to violence, terror or racism towards soldiers, Jews and even a minister in the Israeli government,” wrote Judge Bechor in her ruling. “It is clear that the evidence presented by the defense indicates general treatment almost contaminated by an automatic response which negated the existence of a genuine possibility that the crime of incitement [had been committed]. How is it that that mobs calling out ‘Death to the Jews’, ‘Castrate the settlers’, and ‘Kill soldiers’, are not able to bring [individuals] to acts of violence against each of the publics mentioned above?!” wondered Judge Bechor. She added, “Are not each of them harmed by the results of acts of violence or terror on almost a daily basis?”
Among the evidence Kedar presented to the court were complaints filed against left-wing individuals who called for “castrating settlers”, against an Arab woman who called out at a protest, “Death to Jews”, and against an exhibition at a museum which incited against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. All of the cases mentioned by Kedar were closed without a conviction, some of them without a criminal investigation, by then Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan.
The most prominent case is of a complaint filed following a show at a fund-raiser for anarchistic activities in Israel during which a soloist of the band which performed at the event called for killing IDF soldiers. The complaint was filed with Nitzan, who decided not to file an indictment against the soloist because he apologized.
“It is not clear why Shai Nitzan was satisfied with the soloist’s apology and not with the immediate apology of the defendant [Baram] to his interrogators,” wrote Judge Bechor. “Why was only a warning letter sent to the protester who called out ‘Death to Jews’?”
Worthy of note is that Baram pleaded during interrogation that the purpose of the provocative short film he publicized was to show the public the discrimination with which Shai Nitzan handled investigations of complaints of incitement.
In her verdict Judge Bechor severely criticized the lack of treatment of complaints of remarks by left-wingers and Arabs and ruled that the lack caused a feeling of discrimination among right-wingers. Judge Bechor ruled that the lack of treatment of the complaints, “is what creates a slippery slope of intensifying and increasing incitement which does not stop or decrease during investigation or when a criminal stands trial, and additionally the feeling of unacceptable discrimination against those who hold an opposing opinion increases, and that is the result of the scandalous behavior of the [prosecuting] authority, which damages the principles of justice and fairness.”
Additionally Judge Bechor criticized Shai Nitzan for taking an unreasonable length of time to give a response to complaints of incitement by left-wingers. “It is impossible to ignore the fact that the reply and response given by Shai Nitzan to the individuals who filed the complaints was given in most cases after several months and usually with a general ruling that there was not a ‘significant possibility’ of violence, and no more, and at times absolutely no criminal investigation at all was opened.
“In the end I am of the opinion that sufficient evidence was presented concerning the selective enforcement of the law against defendants. While I am not able to rule whether an ulterior motive or an unacceptable goal is associated [with Nitzan’s conduct], however at the very least it appears arbitrary and harmful to equality.”
Honenu attorney Adi Kedar, who is representing Baram, responded: “At the end of the day the court accepted our pleas in full and even went beyond as [Judge Bechor] leveled unprecedented criticism at the prosecuting authorities and at Shai Nitzan. We hope that the ruling will be internalized by the Attorney General’s office and that they will immediately cease harassing Uri Baram.”
Honenu also responded: “The court’s ruling reinforces the claims we have made for years. The severity of [Shai Nitzan’s] conduct necessitates ‘cleaning out the stables’ at the office of the Attorney General. Usually the motivations behind the conduct of the Attorney General’s office are concealed from us. We do not know why, but consistently and obviously the system has been operating against itself and against the soldiers and civilians under the system.”
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 Five days after Judge Bechor ruled on the case, confirming that Attorney General Shai Nitzan discriminated against right-wingers during the time he served as Deputy Attorney General, Honenu director Shmuel Meidad sent a letter to Knesset Members in a call to action following the court ruling:
“After an exhausting trial the court decided and ruled explicitly: Shai Nitzan and the Attorney General’s office discriminate against [the right-wing] Jewish population,” wrote Shmuel (Zangi) Meidad, the director of Honenu, in a letter which was sent to many Knesset Members. “Honenu attorney Adi Kedar, who received important material from Chani Luz, the director of Tadmit, a media watchdog group and from The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, already proved it, and the court has already seen and ruled. So what more is needed?”
“From here begins your obligation as public servants,” wrote Meidad. “In the name of the many individuals who have been harmed who received and are receiving our counsel, we demand that you wait no longer. Bring about a major change in the State of Israel, which should first of all cancel the suit against Uri Baram and start investing the States’ resources, our collective resources, in the war against genuine enemies and not against itself. Why is everyone silent about this?” concluded Meidad in his letter.