Plainclothes police arrested prominent Israeli anti-occupation activist Jonathan Pollak at his workplace Monday morning, January 6, after he repeatedly refused to appear in court for a lawsuit filed against him by a far-right organization.
Three officers arrived at the Haaretz newspaper building in south Tel Aviv, where Pollak works as a graphic designer, and took him into custody. Pollak later stated that around 15 officers were present during his interrogation at the police station where he was brought after being arrested.
In December 2018, the far-right group Ad Kan (“Enough is Enough”) launched a civil lawsuit against three Israeli peace activists, Pollak being one of them, for participating in protests against the occupied West Bank separation barrier. Ad Kan’s lawsuit, the first of its kind against anti-occupation activists, accused the defendants of “attacking Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers.” However Pollak has repeatedly refused to appear in court, saying he doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of a system that maintains a “military dictatorship over subjects that lack all basic democratic rights” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Despite two bench warrants issued against him at the request of Ad Kan in July and September, as well as an arrest warrant issued in December, Pollak continued to attend demonstrations in the West Bank and Jerusalem on a regular basis. “It is unbelievable that the police act as the private militia of an extreme-right organization that filed a baseless lawsuit without any authority to do so,” said Atty. Gaby Lasky, who is representing the two other defendants being sued. “It is sad that the court is lending a hand to such a severe violation of civil liberties.”
Pollak was transferred from the police station to the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday afternoon, January 6. However, the court appeared unsure how to handle his case, and both the judge and the police seemed to struggle with Pollak’s refusal to participate in the proceedings.
In July of last year, Pollak was assaulted by two right-wing hooligans as he left work. The attackers reportedly yelled “leftist asshole” as they beat him before one of them pulled out a knife and slightly lacerated him in the face and arms. Neither of the assailants has been abducted.
In December 2010, Pollak was sentenced to three months in prison by a Tel Aviv court for taking part in a 2008 demonstration by bicyclists against the blockade of Gaza. In January 2008, along with 30 others participants, Pollak took part in a “critical mass bicycle ride” through Tel Aviv. During that demonstration, police arrested Pollak. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) criticized the sentence. “Placing Pollak behind bars because of his participation in the critical mass bike ride is extreme punishment and an unusually harsh measure,” said Dan Yakir, ACRI’s chief legal adviser, at the time. “The entire affair raises suspicion that Pollak was personally targeted because of his views in an attempt to silence him and prevent him from participating in various acts of protest.”