A few months ago, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, arrived to Israeli for a brief visit. The President, who receives embarrassing support from Israel’s minister of foreign affair, Avigdor Liberman and almost magical admiration from Knesset member Anastasia Michaeli, also received a warm warm hug from the Israeli government’s leaders, and first and foremost, Benyamin Netanyahu. Actually, there’s no place for doubt that there is a strong link between the two states. However, another embarrassing affair that Putin had to face recently may show that Putin is the one admiring Israel, and not vice versa.
Israel is known for times where its legal system falls victim to political constraints from left to right, and just in not the higher courts, but the magistrate courts as well. Sometimes, indictments are colored more politically than usual, and are attached with circumstances that cannot allow acquittal. The stories of Jonathan Pollack, who was convicted for riding his bicycle slowly in a demonstration against the Cast Lead Operation and was sentenced for three months in prison, and of Rahamim Nasimi who blocked a road during anti-disengagement protests and received the same penalty show that there’s a problem in the method. The problem is that not once demonstrations are meant to disrupt the public order, offend, hurt and show the government that there is criticism and it’s not nice: but these have to be the rules of the game. Protesters are allowed to be rude, disgusting and violate the public order : The police, on the other hand, cannot be brutal and it has to respect the political expression, since if it will not do so, we will live in the “Ok State”.
And that’s the case of Pussy Riot; a Russian feminist band that decided sometime in February to organize and demonstrate in a spontaneous way to protest against Putin. During the last weekend, three members were sentenced to two years in prison after being charged with harming the public order with religious circumstances; of course, that there was not relation to the content of the expression, but to the deed itself: the members of Pussy Riot organized in a public place, offended the public, and tried to protest against the current situation. If they had protested where they are allowed to, in their homes, then no one will have heard about Pussy Riot.
It is quite doubtful that this could be perceived as a just trial, even though the Russian public supports it; but that is the case: when the political hooligans are indicted, the content of the speech is not mentioned, and therefore not discussed in court. They say “he was a hooligan, and we don’t care if it’s left or right, if it was a toothpaste advertisement or a protest against a mayor. What offends us is the breaking of the public order”. In this case, you cannot put up a defense that says “look at the content and not the form”, because the content is indisputable. So, the architecture of the trial prevents justice.
In this is how Israel is so close to Putin’s dictatorship: even here there is hard work to limit the protest; and of course it’s not political at all: a simple policy of requiring a license for every activity of public expression is perceived by the court as a way to preserve public order (AA 6095-07-12 Hatzav v. Tel-Aviv). It’s not just a saying: the Tel-Aviv municipality issued an administrative order stating that “festivities and any other activity to express an idea, opinion, value, demonstration, meeting, ceremony, solidarity, fund raising, belief or world view – which is not made in cooperation with the municipality”
has to obtain its consent. Meaning that if I sat down with a friend in Rotschild boulevard to discuss my opinion about the country’s financial status or the street’s garbage, I have to approach the municipality’s CEO, fill out the proper forms and obtain a permit.
These procedures are not only unlawful, but they make Putin ovulate from joy. the resemblance, the inspiration, maybe he should receive royalties for it.
And in the meantime? Israel does not have a local Pussy Riot. And maybe its for the better; their music is not so soothing. But until we have one, we all have to admire King Bibi.