MKs Slam Espionage Charges for Protest Organizers
Nationalist MKs lined up to criticize state prosecutors for charging residents in Judea and Samaria who revealed IDF troop movements pertaining to demolition orders of Jewish homes with espionage.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told a Constitution Committee hearing on law enforcement in Judea and Samaria that the charges were an "immoral abuse" of power.
"The police and the prosecution put a black mark on Yitzhar by accusing people of spying," Ariel said. "Who is the enemy here? The settlers?"
"The criminal justice system that is actively working to destroy the homes of civil servants and army officers has now turned us into 'spies,' Ariel told the committee.
Turning to representatives from the state prosecutor's office, Ariel said, "You embarrass the legal profession."
Ariel also challenged the prosecutors to charge him with espionage. "I spy! I told about IDF movements in the evacuation of settlements. I am ready to stand trial."
"This is an immoral abuse and criminal," he added. "This persecution must be stopped".
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) also railed against the decision to charge activists engaged in civil disobedience with espionage at the hearing, "You you are cheapening the term 'espionage.' Have you completely lost your minds?
"What's next?" she asked rhetorically. "Will you be accusing them of genocide? Charging them with genocide is utterly shameful."
Hotevely added, "Your behavior reminds us of dark regimes. Would you do it in Tel Aviv? Would you simply banish people? Distancing people from their homes, their wives, their children - are we in Soviet Russia?"
MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) told the committee, "I suggest the law enforcement system to take stock of its soul. It has taken a hostile line and allied themselves with enemies of the State of Israel. To accuse these people of espionage is an outrage".
"The police are arresting people without cause," Ze'ev added. "This is unacceptable. There is persecution and hatred toward the residents [of Judea and Samaria]."
National Union party chairman MK Yaakov Katz told the committee, "I call on every Jew in Israel who sees a military vehicle headed to destroy Jewish homes to inform all their friends so we can go and protest.
"We all received SMS messages about demolitions - are we all spies?" Katz asked. "When will you begin to execute people? The distance between accusations of espionage and shooting them is a short one."
Israeli governments "already killed in the Altalena incident citing the Rule of Law. Indeed, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called for hilltop youth to be shot. And now you make up dirty stories about us and accuse us of espionage?" Katz asked.
"This blood libel will backfire on you," Katz added. "Your hatred may be the prevailing opinion of the prosecution, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police. But when you make up dirty stories today, what will happen to you in the future? You won't be able to complain if the same is done to you."
Shas faction chairman MK Avraham Michaeli said, "We are against administrative detention and distancing orders. Prosecute and the court will rule. There is selective enforcement against residents of Judea and Samaria. We live in a state of law and the law must apply equally to everyone.”
Rights observers noted that Anat Kam – who passed reams of classified documents to a Ha'aretz reporter – was charged with illegal possession of classified documents rather than espionage even though the materials she leaked contained sensitive information that could have compromised Israel’s national security and future war fighting plans.