Mondoweiss / January 31, 2023
The arrest of anti-Zionist activist Jonathan Pollak could indicate a significant escalation in the Netanyahu government’s crackdown on those who resist Israeli colonization.
Today, an Israeli Magistrate Court judge decided to extend the detention of left-wing anti-Zionist activist Jonathan Pollak until February 7, after police decided to file charges yesterday, alleging he assaulted a Border Police officer based on the testimonies of three Border Police officers — testimonies which apparently fail to even match one another and are not accompanied by evidence.
Pollak was arrested on Friday, January 27, at the weekly protest in the Palestinian village of Beita, after being confronted by an Israeli Border Police officer. Israeli Police have requested he remain in detention until the end of legal proceedings, and a decision to grant their request or release him will be made on February 7. Furthermore, despite Pollak’s lawyer demanding from three different judges that he be given adequate food, as of the time of writing, he has been given almost no food that conforms with his dietary needs, as Pollak suffers from diabetes and celiac disease and is also vegan.
Pollak frequently participates in the weekly protests in Beita, which have been held every Friday since May 2021, when Jewish settlers established the outpost of Evyatar on Palestinian lands belonging to residents of Beita. Since the weekly protests began, at least ten Palestinian protesters have been killed and hundreds injured while defending their land as Israeli forces have used extensive amounts of live fire, as well as other crowd dispersal weapons. The new extreme-right Israeli government has announced its intention to take steps towards establishing a Yeshiva at the site of Evyatar, which was evacuated in July 2021 and has since been used by the Israeli military.
Soon after Pollak’s arrest, a Jewish settler opened fire on the protesters at the entrance to Beita, and three were hospitalized.
Pollak has long been a target of both right-wing groups and the Israeli Police for decades due to his outspoken anti-Zionist activism and support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. He was one of the founders of Anarchists Against the Wall in the early 2000’s, a grassroots group that stood weekly alongside Palestinians to protest against Israel’s construction of the apartheid wall on Palestinian lands. Since then, he has remained active in standing with Palestinians in their continued struggle against Israeli colonialism and apartheid.
His activism is to be differentiated from the Israeli “left,” most of whom remain Zionist and see their struggle to make Zionism democratic. Pollak, on the contrary, views Zionism as a form of colonialism and has always emphasized his role only as joining with Palestinians in their own struggle against Israel’s colonial project.
In 2018, Pollak was attacked by two right-wing activists who waited for him outside his workplace and slashed his face with a knife. He has also had numerous complaints filed against him by the right-wing group, Ad Kan.
Pollak’s arrest comes as a new extreme-right government has come into power, explicitly stating their intention to expand Jewish settlements and to take measures, including violent measures, against those who resist their efforts to colonize, particularly Palestinians.
The new Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has made statements directing police to remove the Palestinian flag from public places and has further promoted the revocation of citizenship and residency, and even the administration of the death penalty, for Palestinians deemed ‘terrorists.’ He has also voiced support for potential legislation that would tax foreign funding of NGOs, which would primarily impact human rights and humanitarian organizations, and for measures to be taken against Israelis seen as traitors for standing with Palestinians.
Friends of Pollak and his lawyers highlighted that while the treatment he is receiving is reminiscent of how Palestinians are treated on a regular basis in military courts, it could also indicate a deterioration in how Israelis who stand with Palestinians are treated. If he is convicted based on the conflicting and vague testimonies of Border Police, with no supporting evidence, this would reveal a significant acceleration in the crackdown on all those who choose to resist Israel’s colonization.
“I think in general, there is an escalation towards activists,” Pollak’s lawyer, Adv. Riham Nassra, remarked. “Jonathan’s arrest is part of it.”
Sharona Weiss is an activist and photographer living in Haifa