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Tel Aviv University
Part Two: TAU Anat Matar in an audio interview on Israel's political prisoners. Rebuttal of her comments incorporated

Last week IAM published part one, now we publish part two.

Part One:

Tel Aviv University


[TAU Philosophy] Anat Matar in an audio interview on Israel's political prisoners. Rebuttal of her comments incorporated

Tel Aviv University senior lecturer Anat Matar on Israel's political prisoners 
On July 21, 2011, CHUO 89.1 FM Ottawa The Train's Denis Rancourt interviewed senior lecturer of philosophy and political activist Anat Matar by phone from Israel. 
We explored "Who Profits" from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Israel's grotesque system of political prisoners and their judicial treatments, and the origins of the societal pathology of Israel's Zionism.


Part Two


Part Two


Before starting Part Two, we note that a recent article (August 29) provides additional relevant figures and information on the water issue and the debate over it, which we discussed in Part One. The article is available at http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=235772




Part Two


Matar accepts the suggestion of the interviewer that Katamish might have been detained again to take him out of circulation, so to speak, because he is connected to the Palestinians, meaning he is popular. She adds: “This is surely one of the reasons they don't dream of releasing Marwan Barghouti," whose case she describes as follows: He was protected in a show trial and “got his life sentence, I think several life sentences, because he was found responsible indirectly for some Israelis.  No one claimed he was involved directly in these cases of murder.” She quotes what she says were his final words at the trial: “I don't recognize this court. I don't; think you can really sentence me. I'm a political activist. I'm a political leader. This is all part of our political refusal. This is all part of political refusal to succumb to you.”

In fact, Barghouti was a senior commander at the Al Aqsa Brigades which conducted numerous attacks on Israeli citizens. He was convicted for planning attacks that led to the murder of five Israeli citizens.  No criminal justice system in a democracy would deem him innocent just because he did not carry out personally, or because he was a political leader.

 Questioned by the interviewer as to “what was the strongest connection they would have found? "  Matar responds: “giving orders, giving orders. "They're quite vague orders you know, go and  execute some terror attack or something like that.”

“Quite vague orders… go and execute some terror attack or something like that.” This reply gives “vague” a whole new meaning. Need we wonder how would she  react to a case where an IDF commander instructs his subordinates to “go out and indiscriminately shoot Palestinians in Ramallah.” Would she deem the order “vague” and not worthy of a criminal indictment?  Would it be different if Israel’s prime minister, minister of defense or other political leaders issued such a "vague order" to their generals? The hypocrisy and double standard of her comments are manifest, but nor surprising since the Israeli Left, while harsh on the IDF, has tended to sugarcoat Palestinian terror.  .

The interviewer takes a music break, and Matar returns to the issue of defining Palestinian prisoners as security prisoners. She  and her cohorts view “the issue as a political issue. And this is how we look at things. So they are political leaders, but they are also people who just protest and people who hand out leaflets and people who throw stones and people who organize demonstrations. .. It is the political reason that brought them [to jail].” She says her book deals with the question of whether the prisoners can be considered POWs: “Perhaps they could.” The conditions in which they are held are not bad; the question is, she asserts, the incarceration in general.

Either Matar is confused or tries to confuse the issue. To whom is she referring when she speaks of the political leaders who are also people who just protest, hand out leaflets, and organize demonstrations?  It is true that many Palestinians engage in civil protest like handing out leaflets; it is equally true that more than a thousand Israeli citizens have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the last decade.  The Israeli courts did not sentence Barghouti to life because he had handed out leaflets. Clearly, terrorists are not political prisoners.

As for her assertion that the Palestinians in Israeli jails are “perhaps” entitled to POW status, there is no room for doubt under international law. The Third Geneva Convention, which deals with treatment of POWs, is clear on this point. In the case of members of organized resistance movements, they are entitled to POW status only if they meet the following:

1.      are commanded by a person responsible to his subordinates

2.      have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (a uniform, for example)

3.      carry their arms openly

4.      conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war

Even Matar should know that members of Palestinian terror groups violate these conditions, most egregiously when they target civilians, something that no laws and customs of war condone.  



The interviewer is keen on Barghouti and returns to his case, asking Matar whether the proceedings make any sense in terms of justice.  She responds that his case makes some sense from a strictly legal perspective, especially as the Israelis consider it to be a matter of security. But, in her view, this is precisely the problem: the defendants “are not considered as political activists.” She supports Barghouti’s contention that he needed to discuss his matter with [political] leaders, not judges. She is speaking for both of them when she asserts: “I'm not interested in the legal discourse.  But these judges, all they know is the legal discourses from their own point of view. He committed offenses, I mean, according to Israeli law.”

The interviewer latches onto this point.  He comments that murder committed in civil society is treated much more harshly than when the generals kill somebody in wartime. They don't get executed. They don't get put in jail for a long time. There are all kinds of arrangements that are made.   It’s considered a political negotiation.

Matar does not reject this specious statement though she should.  A large body of international law stipules that countries are allowed to wage wars provided they adhere to laws and customs of war.  Under these rules, combatants (whether they are generals or privates) who meet a list of conditions are not  subject to criminal penalty regardless of the number of killed either directly or through the chain of command.  Asymmetrical warfare, in which terror groups take cover among civilian population, has tested the rules of war and there are currently efforts to adjust international convention to the new reality.  But under no circumstances can Barghouti be considered a lawful combatant; his goal of targeting civilians is abhorrent by any legal standards. 

Matar's desire to rationalize killing of  civilians is not acceptable.  She must answer a simple question: is it proper to justify such killings and absolve the perpetrators of such attacks? Judging from her interview, she cannot or would not answer this question with an unequivocal NO.  This attitude exposes her legal and moral foundation which nourishes her philosophy and animates her political activism.



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