A reminder that Israelis and Palestinians who commit the same crime face radically different consequences.
Minutes before an Israeli military judge signed off on Ahed Tamimi’s plea deal last week, something unexpected happened inside Israel’s Ofer Military Court. A Jewish Israeli activist rose from the back benches, approached the military prosecutor, slapped him across the face, and yelled, “who are you to judge her?”
If ever there were an apt example of the glaring disparities between the way Israel’s justice system treats its own citizens versus its Palestinian subjects, it was on full display for the world to see in Ofer Military Court that evening.
Ahed, the 17-year-old Palestinian girl from Nabi Saleh whom Israel arrested for slapping one of its soldiers across the face late last year, had spent the previous three months in prison — repeatedly denied bail by military judges who deemed her a danger to public security. An Israeli Jew would have been released within days, and an Israeli minor within hours, activists argued.
Now we can say with no uncertainty that they are correct.
It was at the end of the sentencing hearing for Nariman Tamimi, Ahed’s mother who was arrested alongside her, that Israeli activist Yifat Doron stood up and slapped the uniformed military prosecutor — a soldier. Just like Ahed did.
She was was quickly arrested.
The next day, police brought Doron before a civilian judge in a civilian court and asked that she be remanded to custody for another five days, arguing that they needed more time to finish the investigation.
Doron, who insisted on representing herself, told the judge that she was not opposed to remaining in jail and that she actually agrees with the police. “Anyone who does not toe the line with your apartheid regime or dares to think in an independent manner does indeed constitute a threat to the police,” she told the court.
The judge disagreed. He ordered Doron released.
The police asked for time to appeal the decision to release her, and Doron spent another night in jail. The following day, Doron was brought to the Jerusalem District Court, where she reiterated that she would not oppose the police’s request to keep her in jail.
“Beyond that,” she added, “I am not willing to play along with your game of democracy for Jews only. You may do as you please.”
Once again, despite the police recommendation — and despite Doron’s willingness to pay the price for her deed — the judge ordered her released.
For Doron, the decision to slap the military prosecutor was primarily an act of solidarity. “Nariman is one of my best friends,” she told +972 Magazine by phone a few days after her release. “She is one of the bravest people I know. For me, she symbolizes the suffering and injustice that people face under this regime. I did this to show that I support her.”
But Doron also wanted to prove a point — that Israelis and Palestinians who commit the same crime face radically different consequences.
“It’s crazy that I can do something like that and be released after two days,” she said. “There are so many people in Nabi Saleh who are in prison, all because they decided to act.”
Adding to the absurdity exposed by Doron’s slap is that it took place inside the West Bank, where Israeli military law reigns supreme. If a Palestinian had simultaneously slapped the prosecutor’s other cheek at the exact same moment as Doron, he or she would have been arrested by the military and brought to military court, where bail is a rarity and pre-trail detention the norm.
But Doron is a Jewish Israeli citizen of Israel, and thus despite the fact that she slapped a soldier in an area ruled by military law — inside a military court, no less — she was brought to an Israeli civilian court and released.