Were that this story did not need to be told — because it is ugly. But it does — precisely because it is ugly. We are dealing here with issues of how the State of Israel conducts herself in internal matters and how Israeli citizens are treated.
There is a man living in the community of Yitzhar in Samaria, whose name is Boaz Albert. He and his wife Irit have six young children and do grape farming.
Credit: Yitzhar spokesman
Recently Boaz was put under administrative order to leave his home for six months. And here, immediately, I must pause to explain:
There is on the books from the time of the British Mandate a law that permits a person to be detained or expelled from an area without explanation if there is a security risk. This applies today only in Judea and Samaria, and requires no court order, no due process. It is an order that proceeds from the Shin Bet (internal security). It proceeds without hearing, i.e., the Shin Bet does not have to go into a court and present a case and secure permission to levy the procedure. In this instance, IDF Central Region Commander Gen. Nitzan Alon gave the order.
I hasten to say here that where genuine security risks to the country are involved, I have no problem with this regulation. It is not my intention to speak out against it across the board. Not at all. If the Shin Bet has evidence, for example, that an Arab is planning a terrorist attack, and decides to detain him without due process and without having to reveal in court what is known, this is not necessarily a negative at all. Most often the Shin Bet will not reveal what it knows because this jeopardizes informants. We are, after all, at war, whether everyone is willing to admit this or not.
But when there is considerable suspicion that this regulation is being utilized for political purposes against a citizen of Israel — a citizen who is not disloyal to Israel — that is an entirely different matter. And this seems to be what we are dealing with here.
The line is a very fine one, and the process, as it has been applied here, is most disturbing. Is a citizen to be silenced via this process for speaking out against current policy? Is it legitimate to treat as subversive the mere fact of giving voice to such criticism? Conveniently, “subversive.”
Is such a citizen to be banished from his family and from his livelihood in an effort to control or punish him?
Can a democracy with concern for civil and human rights work this way?
For the record, there is, theoretically, one recourse for a resident of Judea and Samaria — whether Jewish or Arab — who is under executive order: to appeal to the High Court. I have been advised that Albert decided with great cynicism not to go that route because residents of the area have found little sympathy in the Court.
Just as I knew even before the fact that the Court would not find for the families of terror victims, but would say that it was the government’s right to decide to release terrorist prisoners, so too was Albert certain that the Court would declare that if the Shin Bet/IDF said so…well….
What Albert wanted was to be charged with something specific and have the right to contest it in court.
It should be noted that the Alberts and the citizens of Yitzhar generally are highly nationalistic and staunchly right wing. A thorn in the side of the government, which is advancing a certain policy, I have no doubt. But this does not mean that Albert has done anything illegal. I have it from someone close to the situation that the Alberts speculate — only speculate — that he is being silenced for posting on the Internet criticism of the failure of the IDF to sufficiently protect residents of places such as Yitzhar from neighboring Arabs.
Yet this should be a right of a citizen in a democracy: to speak out and be accorded free speech.
In all the checking I have done, I have not found evidence that Boaz Albert has acted in a manner that was subversive or violent or that he advocated violence or disloyalty to the State.
As he knew he was not going to be charged in a court, he made a decision to disobey the order. He knew he would be arrested for disobeying. That’s the decision he made.
What he didn’t know — didn’t begin to imagine — is how the arrest would unfold:
As it happened, he had a cadre of supporters who were spending time with him in his home, and were filming statements in his behalf. This was fortuitous. Lieutenant-Colonel (res) Itzik Shadmi, head of the Binyamin Residents’ Council, was with him at the time of the arrest, and my information is that he ended up doing filming of what transpired.
What transpired, first, is that the police sent in a YASSAM unit, which is an anti-terrorist “attack” unit.
What an over-reaction: Boaz Albert is not a terrorist!
They wanted to arrest him. He had no weapons, and he didn’t resist with violence. He laid down on the floor. All the police had to do was lift him at his head and his feet and carry him out.
But they brought with them — outrageously — a taser unit. A taser gun is an electroshock unit that causes pain and temporarily stuns its victim; it is used to subdue a dangerous or fleeing individual. It can be used by discharging electrical impulses near the body, which then enters the body. Or it can be used with prongs that actually enter the body.
Boaz’s brother was outside the house when the YASSAM arrived; they made the mistake of mis-identifying him as Boaz and attacked him with the taser with prongs. This man required hospitalization.
Then they entered the house and used the taser on Boaz, who was lying on the floor. They did this in front of his totally distraught children, who undoubtedly have been traumatized.
Boaz Albert was then carried out, and on Friday morning he was brought into court because he had resisted arrest. He was released from court but is still under the expulsion order. I do not know where he is right now.
Here is a fairly unbearable Youtube of Boaz Albert being hit with the taser, yelling in pain, with his child crying “Ima, Ima” in the background. I believe it is his wife who is yelling, in Hebrew, “He’s not doing anything!!” While Boaz himself asks “Why? Why? I’m not resisting.”
The only good to come from this is that the police commissioner has now cancelled all use of the taser gun, at least until there is an investigation.
But it is not sufficient that the inappropriate use of the taser gun should be exposed.
There remain serious questions, raised above, about civil liberties in Israel and how an Israeli citizen who lives in Judea and Samaria has been treated, without due process. There remain issues such as freedom of speech and the right to be charged with a crime.
I am not writing this to bring Israel low. I, in fact, despise having to write this.
I write because I am a dedicated Zionist and Israeli citizen, deeply devoted to my country, who wants Israel to be all that she can be and must be.
Now please, if you agree with my perspective, help me once again.
The authorities here in Israel know that they are being watched, and have to be held accountable. It’s important to ask the hard questions regarding treatment of a citizen in a democracy, where issues of human rights and civil rights are supposed to matter.
Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon
Email: [email protected]
Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch
Email: [email protected]
Tell them that the world is watching and that there must be answers with regard to how Boaz Albert has been treated.
Ask if there has been due process for this citizen in a manner that befits a democracy: Has he been charged with something specific and been given a chance to defend himself?
Say that this transcends the technicalities of a law that goes back to British Mandate times and was designed for coping with terrorism. That there are civil rights issues such as freedom of speech involved.
Ask them if there has been appropriate attention to human rights — if there is adequate reason to deprive this man of contact with his family and his right to earn his livelihood.
Explain that you have concerns about Israeli democracy and how Israel appears internationally. It is essential that Israeli leaders ensure that all processes are sensitive to issues of democracy. They must help Israel be all that she is meant to be, and a beacon to the Western world.
My friends, this is important, as so much I ask of you is. Please take the time to write. You can write one message to the three ministers listed above.
Do not lecture or provide lengthy messages. Keep it courteous and on target.
And please, share this with others and encourage them to write as well. It makes a difference.
I will note here that the only minister to come forward solidly on this issue has been Minister Naftali Bennett. You might feel inclined to drop him a note praising him for this stance:
Email: [email protected]
At the end of this posting, I will provide names of a few others you might want to write to in order to encourage them to be involved on this and speak out.
What I ask first is something very different. This is the height of the season for harvesting grapes.
If there is any one reading this who can and is willing to come to Yitzhar to help with the harvesting of the grapevines of Boaz Albert, please, write to me immediately.
There will be experts in the fields directing the harvesting. The hope is to prevent Boaz from loosing a full year’s income. Helping here is a mitzvah.
As I understand it, if you are here in Israel, there is also an opportunity to purchase wine from the Albert vineyards: 052-311-5941.
And I wish to note as well, that an over-riding issue here is the application of civil law to Judea and Samaria. Israeli civil law would not permit what is permitted by the administration under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense.
I will be re-visiting this in a variety of contexts, including my push for acceptance of the Levy Report.
Others in the Knesset who should be encouraged to speak out:
MK Ze’ev Elkin – [email protected]
MK Danny Danon – [email protected]
MK Yair Levin – [email protected]
MK Moshe Feiglin – [email protected]
MK Uzi Landau – [email protected]
MK Uri Ariel – [email protected]
MK Orit Struk – [email protected]
MK Tzipi Hotovely – [email protected]