Charges against Gazan engineer show strip is still occupied

Dirar Abu Sisi was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Ukraine. He is charged with developing rockets, missiles and mortar shells for Hamas

Israel has kidnapped, apparently with the Ukrainian authorities turning a blind eye, a Gazan engineer named Dirar Abu Sisi. He was detained for several weeks under the usual schtick of a double gag order: one gag order preventing making public the fact that he is held, another denying the public the right to know there is a gag order. This buys the GSS (Internal Security Service) precious torture time, and allows him to present the prisoner to the press after he has confessed, which is as it likes it. Yesterday, the veil of secrecy was lifted as Abu Sisi was indicted, confessions and all. His lawyers say they have been tortured out of him, which is a reasonable claim.

The GSS claims Abu Sisi provided Hamas with weapons technology and developed rockets, missiles and mortar shells for it. Which is where it all turns to farce. Abu Sisi, who is not an Israeli citizen, is charged with violations of Israeli law, which has no standing either in the Gaza Strip or in Ukraine, where he was kidnapped. Specifically (Hebrew), the charges are: Membership in a terror organization (residing outside the borders of Israel), contact with a foreign agent (again, this law is invalid in Gaza), conspiracy to commit crimes (likewise), an attempted murder (likewise), and manufacturing of arms.

The last charge is particularly twisted. As far as the Israeli authorities are concerned, the manufacture of any weapon – including the anti-tank rockets Abu Sisi allegedly developed – is a felony. In the hugely asymmetrical armed struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a Palestinian who produces weapons is ipso facto a criminal.

Once again, Israel plays at its favorite double game: When it wants to, the struggle with the Palestinians is a war, which allows it to use the laws of war; when the mood fits her, it is crime suppression. Enemy fighters are never considered to be soldiers, when they are caught; they are always criminals. They don’t get the protections enjoyed by soldiers, even if all they did was resist the Israeli army, but are tried as common criminals. So, on the one hand Israel holds the West Bank under “wartime powers”; on the other hand, anyone objecting to this military occupation is a felon = according to Israeli law, which has no validity in the territories.

The injustice in Abu Sisi’s case is particularly striking: Israel, after all, keeps claiming she does not control the Gaza Strip any longer. And yet, it dares to try a Gazan according to Israeli law, something it did not do when it occupied the place (then, Palestinians were subject to military law). Abu Sisi’s kidnapping highlights the fact that the Israeli occupation in the Strip did not end; it was just mutated.

The kidnapping also sheds an unusually ironic light on one of Israel’s regular claims: That courts in other countries are disbarred from extending their jurisdiction to visiting IDF gunmen. Israel itself, of course, thinks it has precisely this right, and that it extends not just to visitors but to people it brought over by force.

These contradictions are simply not seen by most Israelis. They consider Israel to be the eternal victim, and hence as a country to whom normal rules do not apply. Later, they are puzzled – if they stop at that station at all, before arriving at their final destination of whiny victimhood – when the rest of the world considers Israel to be the neighbourhood bully.