Israeli police arrested left-wing Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak on Monday morning from the offices of Israeli newspaper Haaretz, where Pollak is employed.
Pollak was arrested for his continued refusal to appear before an Israeli court over charges against him of attacking Israeli soldiers, an accusation which Pollak and fellow activists vehemently deny.
The charges were brought against Pollak by right-wing Israeli group Ad Kan, who has been pressuring Israeli authorities for months to arrest the activist.
Ad Kan alleges that Pollak and two other activists attacked Israeli soldiers during protests in the West Bank villages of Nil’in, Nabi Saleh, and Bil’in, where Pollak regularly demonstrates in solidarity with Palestinians protesting against settlement expansion in their towns.
Since filing the criminal complaint — which Pollak and others argue does not meet the requirements of the law — Ad Kan has continued to harass Pollak on social media, calling on its supporters to publish any information about the activist, leading to the posting of his address and place of employment online, Haaretz reported.
The newspaper also highlighted an incident last year in which two unidentified persons attacked Pollak outside the office, punching him, scratching his face with a knife, and berating him for being a “lefty.”
A press release circulated by fellow activists and friends of Pollak called the indictment “an unprecedented escalation in the ongoing ‘shrinking space’ for dissenting voices.”
According to the statement, the charges against Pollak assume that “by merely participating in demonstrations where others (not the activists themselves) attacked soldiers and border police officers, the three could somehow be alleged to have taken part in the assaults.”
“In addition, the charges are exceptionally unspecific, alleging offences took place between 2013 and the present, without naming any of the alleged victims. None of the plaintiffs were assaulted themselves in any of the incidents described in the indictment,” the statement continued.
“Besides the sheer illegality of it, the pursuit of these allegations in the form of a private criminal complaint exposes the political motivations behind the complaint rather than any individual harm to those involved and marks a serious violation of due process.”
Sharona Weiss, Director of International Relations at human rights organization Yesh Din and a friend of Pollak’s, wrote: ‘the legal campaign and incitement against Pollak and the other activists sets a very dangerous precedent that, if successful, is likely to have significant ramifications on freedom of speech and could further politicize the judicial system and jeopardize the activities of anti-occupation activists and human rights defenders who may face increased monitoring and legal actions.”
While Pollak had been refusing to appear before court in solidarity with Palestinians who are imprisoned by Israel without due process, he was put before a Tel Aviv District Court on Monday after his arrest.
According to Weiss, the judge ruled that a previous 500 NIS bail order remains — “which Jonathan refuses to pay.” Another hearing will be held Tuesday at 1pm local time.
When asked, in her capacity as a fellow activist and friend of Pollak’s, what she thought of his arrest, she told Mondoweiss: “As long as Israel continues to squelch all criticism & dissent by those challenging its regime of domination over Palestinians, it will only continue to reveal itself as an apartheid like system of control – far from the “only democracy in the Middle East.”