MK: State is hounding nationalist protesters

Five youths who protested against planned razing of synagogue face up to 20 years in jail.

Hezki Baruch,

Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich
Miriam Alster/Flash90

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) fired off a letter Sunday to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, after five youths were slapped with severe criminal charges for demonstrating against the planned demolition of the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue in Giv'at Ze'ev.

The five – two of whom are minors – blocked a road as part of their protest. They have been charged with endangering human life in a thoroughfare, a severe offense that is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

The State Attorney's Office also requested the court to keep the defendants in custody for the duration of the criminal proceedings against them.

Smotrich said that charging the youths with "this draconian clause" and "the immediate request for the incarceration of normative youths for the duration of the proceedings are reminiscent of a dark period in the annals of the law enforcement system, which unfortunately tool place here about ten years ago. In those days, the system willingly enlisted – in contravention of all acceptable norms – in then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's machine of destruction, as part of the effort to stamp out the civil disobedience against expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and northern Samaria."

"The use of draconian clauses in the law and the wholesale, unprecedented extension of remand, turned the nationalist protesters into enemies or dangerous criminals – a fact that is as far from the truth as east is from west. It demonizes those protesters, and along with them – an entire sector of the public."

"I do not recall such strictness vis-à-vis students, new immigrants, or other protesters in Israeli society who blocked roads," the rookie MK argued. "Even if there was such an attitude, it was wrong. This is doubly true when the policy is only directed at nationalist protesters.

"We will not assent to such biased, outrageous maltreatment, on our watch and yours," he vowed. "With all due respect to the independence of the Prosecution, you – as the elected officials entrusted with the law enforcement agencies, are required to dictate the Prosecution's policies, and when it goes morally bankrupt and lost, you must put it back on the path of sanity, and mainly of justice."

The full contents of the Ayelet Hashahar synagogue were moved to the new site on Wednesday, as part of a deal reached by congregants and the Israeli government after the synagogue was slated for demolition. 

Last Sunday, representatives of the government - headed by Ministers Moshe Ya'alon, Naftali Bennett and Aryeh Deri - the Givat Ze'ev Regional Council head, the synagogue's rabbi, and a representative of the synagogue's congregants reached a compromise over the demolition, in which a new building was promised to the synagogue within three months and a temporary structure provided.