by Daphna Whitmore
So, Lorde has been invited to a meeting with the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand after announcing she would cancel her concert in Tel Aviv. Mr Yitzhak Gerberg wants to tell Lorde that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and to discuss the the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Sure, Israel is a democracy of sorts for Jewish Israelis. There are anomolies, such as religious intermarriage being outlawed. This does contravene the notion of basic freedoms and resembles the old segregation seen in the Southern States of the US and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. There are also no civil divorce rights in Israel – only religious bodies can rule on divorce – and there are numerous other democratic shortcomings, but for Jews many of the features of a democracy do exist.
For the 1.4 million Palestinian and other Arab populations in Israel, however, the democracy is very second rate. They face discrimination that is among the worst by Western standards. But all the limitations of democratic rights in Israel pale in comparison to the brutal military occupation carried out by the Israeli state for the past 50 years over the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
Will Ambassador Gerberg explain what sort of democracy it is that imprisons children? There are currently 400 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. This week the case of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi highlighted the situation when she was seized in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers after video footage showed her slapping two Israeli solidiers who were on her family property, just hours after a 15-year-old cousin of Ahed had been shot in the head by soldiers.
Each year around 500 to 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 are detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military courts. The most common charge is stone throwing, but the arrests are a tool of intimidation.
The children are often seized in the night; their parents are not allowed to accompany them, they are usually held in prisons inside Israel which prevents their parents being able to visit them from the West Bank. They are interrogated and denied legal representation while being pressured to sign documents in Hebrew which most Palestinians do not understand. Their first access to lawyers is usually a few moments when they are first presented in court. This is the case of Ahed Tamimi who has been detained since December 19 and yesterday was presented in a military court and had her detention extended. Her lawyer was able to lean over a barrier and ask her if she was ok. That was the extent of her legal representation.
Mr Gerberg, Lorde does not need to meet you to see your democracy is a rotten one and you represent a truly rotten regime.
There is an online petition calling for the release of Ahed and all Palestinian children in Israeli prisons here: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/free_ahed/?twi
Ahed remains in detention. At a court appearance the Israeli Judge asks Ahed, how did you hit that Israeli solider.
Ahed: “Take off these handcuffs and you will see how”.
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