[Marxism] NY Times acknowledges Israeli repression of Jonathan Pollak

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 28 15:25:42 MST 2010


December 28, 2010, 12:41 pm
Israeli Activist Jailed for Bike Protest

Updated | 2:07 p.m. An Israeli activist was sentenced to three months in
jail on Monday for his part in a 2008 protest by Tel Aviv cyclists opposed
to the blockade of Gaza.

The activist, Jonathan Pollak, is a 28-year-old leader of Anarchists
Against the Wall, an Israeli group that joins Palestinian protesters in
weekly demonstrations against the security barrier Israel is building on
West Bank land it has occupied since 1967. He also works to draw media
attention to the West Bank protests through another group, the Popular
Struggle Coordination Committee.

Joseph Dana, an Israeli blogger and activist who works with Mr. Pollak,
explained in a post on the blog +972 that his colleague was arrested in
January 2008, as he took part in a “Critical Mass bicycle ride through the
streets of Tel Aviv against the siege on Gaza. During the protest, Pollak
was arrested by plain-clothes police who recognized him from previous
protests and because, as claimed in court, they assumed he was the
organizer and figurehead of the event.”

Mr. Pollak’s conviction for illegal assembly at the bike protest activated
an older three-month suspended sentence imposed on him for protesting the
construction of the security barrier. The activist refused to apologize
for his role in the protest or ask for leniency in a statement to the

“I have no doubt that what we did was right and, if anything, not
sufficient considering what is being done in our name,” Mr. Pollak said
later in a telephone interview with Ana Carbajosa of The Guardian. “If I
have to go to prison to resist the occupation, I will do it gladly.”

Israel’s Ynet News reported that Dan Yakir, the chief legal counsel for
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, criticized the sentence,

The fact that Pollak was the only one arrested, even though he behaved
just like the rest of the protesters, and the fact that bicycle
demonstrations are usually held without police involvement raises a strong
suspicion regarding personal persecution and a severe blow for freedom of
expression, just because of his opinions. A prison sentence in the wake of
a protest is an extreme and exaggerated punishment.

In an interview with Russia Today, a Kremlin-financed broadcaster, Joseph
Dana claimed that the jailing of Mr. Pollak was “a clear attempt to
silence dissent on the Israeli left and part of a broader attack on
non-violence” as a means of protesting Israeli policies.

Critical Mass protests, in which activists take to the streets on
bicycles, began in San Francisco in the 1990s but are now said to take
place in some 300 cities around the world, including New York. One regular
rider told Ben McGrath of The New Yorker that the events were “a
‘happening,’ a temporary reorganization of public space.”

As my colleague James Barron has reported, the New York Police Department
has had regular run-ins with the cyclists. In 2008, a police officer was
filmed shoving a cyclist to the ground as Critical Mass riders left Times
Square. Two months ago, New York City agreed to pay nearly $1 million to
settle a lawsuit filed by 83 participants in Critical Mass rides who
claimed that they were wrongly detained and arrested at protests between
2004 and 2006.

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