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Journalist and activist Gideon Spiro arrested for "incitement"

Gideon Spiro, 76, was arrested and released on Monday for what the police considered, apparently groundlessly, to be incitement.

A Tel Aviv Police investigator arrested Monday Gideon Spiro, a veteran leftist activist aged 76, for suspected incitement relating to an article he had written. Spiro was discharged two hours later, after his attorneys – from the office of Michael Sfard – intervened on his behalf.

Spiro, a dedicated writer of letters to judges whose judgment he considers lacking, is no stranger to controversy. One particularly strongly-worded letter led a magistrate judge in the late 1980s to order him to stop sending letters to judges. Spiro, represented by ACRI, appealed to the District Court against this peculiar prohibition, and won. In the meantime, he published his unsent letters in the Jerusalem weekly Kol Hair.

Gideon Spiro and daughter, Jerusalem, April 2010 (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

A peculiar arrest. Gideon Spiro and daughter, Jerusalem, April 2010 (Photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Despite a long career on the radical left, Spiro said in a phone interview that this is his first arrest. The cause is peculiar, to say the least: an article he wrote ten months ago. In the article, Spiro wrote that when settlers carry weapons, they ought to be considered as militiamen and cannot be considered as civilians. He claimed that Israelis ought not to dictate to Palestinians their methods of struggle against the occupation, but strongly emphasized that he supports a non-violent struggle.

Israeli law (144d2b) prohibits “publishing incitement to an act of violence or terrorism, or praise of, support of, or encouragement of an act of violence or terrorism,” but it limits this to cases in which the publication creates a “viable possibility of causing violence or an act of terrorism.” The law is rarely applied; Spiro says this is likely the first arrest made due to an article since the 1950s. Since Spiro wrote in Hebrew, and since Palestinian gunmen do not, as a rule, peruse Hebrew publications, there seems to be little if any “viable possibility of causing violence” as a result of Spiro’s article.

One wonders how, precisely, the police would defend the arrest, when they would have to haul Spiro before a judge. One also wonders just how dangerous the police considered a 76-year-old man. ACRI has criticized the arrest, calling it a violation of Spiro’s rights. Spiro said he is considering suing the police and bringing a personal civil suit against the interrogator who ordered the arrest.

The arrest is particularly glaring, since the police do little, if anything, when actual calls for violence and racism (prohibited by the same law) are published. The rabbis who supported the notorious “Torat Ha’Melech,” which called for the murder of gentile children “if one has reason to suppose they will grow to be as evil as their parents,” were not arrested, and the rabbis who wrote the books were not indicted.

Shmuel Eliahu of Safed, who recently bragged that he managed to make his town a Palestinian-free zone by prohibiting renting apartments to them, was not arrested, much less indicted. This, despite the fact that the attorney general decided not to prosecute him five years ago, for the same charges, on condition of good behavior.

Perhaps those most guilty of incitement are the editors of Ha’Kol Hayehudi (“The Jewish Voice”), a website which praises and promotes pogroms (AKA “price tag” activities) against Palestinians. They are the students of the same rabbis who wrote “Torat Hamelech.” Needless to say, they were neither arrested nor indicted. And these are just samples from the last few months.

Cynically, Spiro said that if he were a rabbi, he could just ignore the summons from the police. One cannot escape the feeling that Spiro was arrested because the police consider possible incitement against Jews to be essentially more criminal than actual incitement against non-Jews. Spiro himself considers that to be yet another case of the police siding with the settlers.

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    1. aristeides

      Spiro is saying nothing that the Geneva Conventions don’t. And since the IDF hands out weapons to the settlers, it’s hard to deny that militia is exactly what they are – a militia stationed in occupied territory to subdue the local population.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Sylvia

      The Spiro I want to remember is Spiro on the population he loathes most: the rocket-battered children of Sderot at the height of the blitz, in his May 25, 2007 article at the “Hagada Hasmalit”, where he expresses his disgust of the population who dares complain, who dares take its childfen out of harm’s way – as compared of course to the noble attitude of the Islamist agressor.
      And here is an excerpt:
      “שדרות כמשל

      כאשר אני רואה את הנהי, הבכי, היללות, הצריחות והבהלה של תושבי שדרות, כפי שמוצגים בכל תחנות הטלוויזיה הישראליות, את הבריחה מהעיירה, את חוסר הרצון של מפוני גאידמק (“להתרעננות”) לחזור למגוריהם, באחת – את יכולת העמידה העלובה לנוכח טפטוף הקסאמים…
      When I see the whining, the crying, the wailing, the screaming and the panic of the residents of Sderot on Israeli TV stations, their flight from the town, the reluctance of the Gaydamak evacuees (“respite”) to return to their residence, altogether – the abject inability to withstand a light drizzle of Qassams…”
      That’s Spiro. An empty bag of hate.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ex Israeli

      If a person is a ‘bag’ then what sort of content would be found in your bag? What word or words best describe the properties of that stuff?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ex Israeli

      Let me guess: Proud Jew maybe?
      Well, thats one way of looking at it.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      This is the game the radical Left has been playing since the 1920’s in Israel….claiming they are for “peace”, claiming they are against “violence” yet saying they “understand” the violence of the Arabs.
      I asked one of the bloggers here if deep down, the protestors at Sheikh Jarrah and Ras al-Amud and Silwan are hoping to ignite Arab riots, because the Jews are not going to leave those places simply because a bunch of Leftist protestors there every Friday. There was no answer.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      Sylvia, you will be quite surprised to discover that many an ardent nationalist Jew shares Spiro’s exact same thoughts, as you quoted them, about Sderot and its residents. Sure they won’t express sympathy for the Palestinians like Spiro will but they’ll say that the residents should show some spine and stop sniveling because they weaken the morale of the nation that must always be at war.

      Presumably they’re also bags of hatred?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Israel

      Of course, you have to remember all the Rabbis and other Right-wingers who have been called in by the police for “incitmeent” for writing things the Left doesn’t like, too. Please don’t say “well, that’s different, they had it coming”!.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ex Israeli

      Israel’s most famous intellectual, Prof Y. Leibowitz, insisted – and more than once – that Nazi mentality runs through many quarters of Israeli society and sometimes even all the way to the top! He said: this is not “my opinion” – this is a fact. He therefore concluded that Israel started to march on the same path and direction taken by Germany in the 1930’s. This was observed approx 30 years ago. I just wonder in what terms he would characterize the continued journey Israel followed since then. These basic truths were ignored then as they are ignored today.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Philos

      In the bag is a cameraman yelling, “Kahane was right”?

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      “many an ardent nationalist Jew shares Spiro’s exact same thoughts”
      Maybe, and maybe not. A typical projection with no factual basis.
      People who gratuitously say what they think, knowing it’ll hurt are rude; they’re not humanistic. Spiro has a political agenda masqueraded as “human rights”.
      As is demonstrated the world over, extreme left and extreme right glorify “ideals”, not humanity, and reach identical conclusions.
      The cooperation between radical Islam and radical left is a fascinating example, reminiscent of Sartre’s support for Stalinism.

      Reply to Comment
    11. sh

      If a settler is allowed to carry guns AND at the same time get 24/7 protection from the police and the army, the complaint that Palestinians who are forced to put up with such aggression are violent just doesn’t stand up. How are they to protect their homes and families? Via the law courts?

      The police let armed settlers and their supporters through their barriers unchecked while denying entry there to completely unarmed Jews who come to protest the plight of the people upon whom Kahanists (illegal organization if I remember rightly) have been imposed and who are forced to live in what this government blithely calls Israel under laws that do not apply to us. Simple truth.

      And it’s now worthy of arrest for incitement to publish complaints about the demonstrably criminally uneven Israeli legal playing field, even when a questionable order not to send them to the judges to whom they are addressed is complied with.

      There is no cooperation between radical Islam and the radical left and throwing “fascinating” and “Sartre” into the charge lends it neither credence nor elegance. There is no comparison between the people in Sderot, protected by shelters and the most powerful army in the region, and the stateless beings caught between those who run the Gaza that fires those rockets and that army. If rabbis can preach hatred and imams can’t, if settlers using violence is kasher and the response of its targets is treif, it’s a simple matter of skewed justice, one system for the goose, the other for the gander. There are lots of adjectives for such regimes, but “democratic” is not among them.

      Reply to Comment
    12. sh

      PS, the guy at the end of the clip posted by ex-Israeli who assures us several times that Kahane was right, is Rav Ovadia Yosef’s grandson. He lives in Sheikh Jarrah and is the settlers’ spokesman.

      Reply to Comment

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