Six pages of Shai Nitzan’s biography were laid on the cabinet’s table this morning. The extent that his personal convictions influenced his decision-making during his tenure as deputy attorney-general continues to stir controversy. “I was responsible for coordinating the efforts of the law-enforcement system before and during the disengagement.” Indeed, it is this particular period and Nitzan’s actions during this time that are being called into question.
A reminder: while the movement against the disengagement was massive, it was largely nonviolent. Retired High Court Justice Eliahu Matza found that “on the edge of the abyss, the residents of Gush Katif behaved responsibly and with restraint in order to prevent a civil war.” Despite this, the law enforcement authorities under Nitzan’s tutelage regarded the protest movement as a threat to democracy — or even an attempt at revolution. Documents, meeting records and eye-witness accounts presented to the High Court of Justice reflect that the law enforcement authorities were pinpointedly ordered to act swiftly against proponents of the anti-disengagement movement.
It has become clear that representatives of the State Attorney’s Office struggled to convince the Knesset’s Legislative Committee to pass the law and maintain discretion while doing so. The discrimination was so stark that members of the Public Defender’s Office strongly condemned it. At times, arrested protesters disappeared from their homes, and buses full of protesters were pulled off the road. Charges were brought against such trivial matters as brandishing orange banners or shirts. Many young protesters who were charged later turned into recruiters for their movement.
Inbal Rosenstein, from the Public Defender’s Office, wrote a document slamming the policy to arrest minors. She described a reality in which the law enforcement authorities operated “with a light hand on the wheel” and created “new laws to support the disengagement… using those convicted in order to repel others… selectively circumventing the law according to political leanings.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel described a “demonization of the protest movement and its members… whoever wore a kippah was immediately considered a threat and whoever opposed the disengagement was inherently dangerous.”
The disengagement did not discriminate between minors and adults. The deputy public defender complained that “indictments seem largely the same and only the name of the suspect changes.” Professor Boaz Sangero, a leading authority on criminal law, believes the discrimination was intentional: “Law enforcement authorities erred by treating the largely non-violent anti-disengagement movement as a violent revolt.” The High Court, for its part, rejected a motion to strike down the pardoning of anti-disengagement movement, calling it “imbalanced.”
Looking back — and also from today’s perspective — the anti-disengagement protesters salvaged what little was left of the nation’s honor. They protested against a terrible, immoral policy, which was both anti-Zionist and dangerous for Israel’s security. They salvaged what little was left of Israel’s democracy, which was destroyed during that time by a draconian system, whose strings were being pulled by Nitzan. It is doubtful that he is the right man to take charge of the system now.