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The Suppression
of Israel's Dissenters

Herbert Zweibon

On September 4, 1997, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court declared two young Israeli nationalists, Shmuel Sackett and Moshe Feiglin, guilty of "organizing seditious acts." Those "seditious acts" consisted of nothing more than peaceful civil disobedience, sometimes involving the blocking of traffic, to protest the Rabin government's concessions to the PLO. In a truly democratic country, peaceful protests are every citizen's rights, and a minor infraction such as obstructing traffic for a few minutes would result in a modest fine. Yet Judges Amnon Cohen, Zvi Zilbertal, and Shulamit Dotan declared their behavior to be "seditious."

A few days after Sackett and Feiglin were convicted, the Histadrut trade union, that 75 year-old bastion of Labor Zionism, organized the blocking of traffic to dramatize their latest demands for increasing workers' benefits. The leaders of the Histadrut have not been charged with sedition, or anything else for that matter.

Sackett and Feiglin were also convicted of "distributing seditious material." The material in question consisted of leaflets strongly criticizing the policies of the Rabin government. In a truly democratic country, handing out lefalets is every citizen's right. Yet Judges Amnon Cohen, Zvi Zilbertal, and Shulamit Dotan declared it a crime for Sackett and Feiglin to do so. Israeli leftists and Arabs distribute leaflets expressing their views all the time. They are never charged with sedition for doing so.

Charging the rightwingers Sackett and Feiglin with sedition while letting the leftwing Histadrut leaders off without even a charge constitutes a double standard of the worst sort. Labeling the Sackett-Feiglin leaflets "seditious" is nothing less than an attempt to suppress those who have dissented from the Oslo line.

In their decision, the judges in the Sackett-Feiglin case agreed with the principle that at certain times, citizens are allowed, and even obligated, to break the law. But the Rabin years were not one of those times, the judges ruled. It was a legal interpretation rooted in a subjective political point of view. Perhaps that is no surprise, since the Israeli judicial system is notorious for its large number of judges who openly espouse leftwing


The kind of traffic-blocking civil disobedience that Sackett and Feiglin organized is well known to Americans. Black civil rights activists did the same thing during the 1950s. American Jewish activists did it to call attention to the plight of Soviet Jewry. Nobody ever put them on trial for "sedition." Nobody ever accused them of harming democracy.

Indeed, if the Israeli government were serious about combating threats to democracy, it would investigate the circumstances surrounding the ratification of the Oslo accords. Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres forced the other cabinet ministers to vote on the accords without even having read them. The chief of staff of the Israeli Army was given only a brief glance at the text of the agreement, and the other generals on the general staff never saw it at all until after the cabinet had voted.

But instead of investigating the undemocratic --and possibly even illegal-- way in which the Oslo accords were facilitated, Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to uphold Oslo and implement every last letter. And that is a large part of the problem.

For although it was Peres, not Netanyahu, who made the original decision to prosecute Sackett and Feiglin on such severe, and absurd, charges, it was the Netanyahu government that chose to continue prosecuting the case. Why did it do so? After campaigning against Oslo during the election race, Netanyahu did a post-election about-face by endorsing Oslo. Within months, he was surrendering most of Hebron, setting free imprisoned Arab women terrorists, and preparing to let the PLO open

(Continued on p. 8) 


What to Do in Lebanon ...3

Arafat's Favorite Episcopalian ...5

Bilateral Ties & U.S. Pressure ...6

Israel is No Longer in Control ...7

The PLO's Anti-Semitism ...10

October 1997               - 1 -               Outpost


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