Israeli activist Gideon Spiro, 76, arrested for “incitement”

Communist Party of Israel – 7 June 2011 (by email)

A veteran Israeli leftist activist arrested for “incitement”

A Jerusalem Police investigator arrested on Monday Gideon Spiro, a veteran leftist activist aged 76, for suspected “incitement” relating to an article he had written and published in the radical Hebrew website “Hagada Hasmalit”. Spiro was discharged two hours later, after his attorneys – from the office of Michael Sfard – intervened on his behalf.

Gideon Spiro and Hadash chairman MK Muhammad Barakeh

Gideon Spiro (center) and Hadash chairman MK Muhammad Barakeh (right) in a demonstration against the Lebanon war (Photo: Gideon Spiro)

Despite a long career on the radical left, Spiro said that this is his first arrest. The cause is peculiar: an article he wrote ten months ago. In the article, Spiro wrote that when settlers carry weapons, they ought to be considered as militiamen and therefore legitimate targets. He claimed that Israelis ought not to dictate to Palestinians their methods of struggle against the occupation, but strongly emphasized that he supports a non-violent struggle.

Israeli law (144d2b) prohibits “publishing incitement to an act of violence or terrorism, or praise of, support of, or encouragement of an act of violence or terrorism,” but it limits this to cases in which the publication creates a “viable possibility of causing violence or an act of terrorism.” The law is rarely applied; Spiro says this is likely the first arrest made due to an article since the 1950s when the Hebrew daily newspaper of the Communist Party of Israel, “Kol Ha’am”, was closed.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has criticized the arrest, calling it a violation of Spiro’s rights. Spiro said he is considering suing the police and bringing a personal civil suit against the interrogator who ordered the arrest.

The arrest is particularly glaring, since the police do little, if anything, when actual calls for violence and racism (prohibited by the same law) are published. The rabbis who supported the notorious “Torat Ha’Melech” ( which called for the murder of non-Jews children “if one has reason to suppose they will grow to be as evil as their parents,” were not arrested, and the rabbis who wrote the books were not indicted.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu of Safed, who recently bragged that he managed to make his town a Palestinian-free zone by prohibiting renting apartments to them, was not arrested, much less indicted. This, despite the fact that the attorney general decided not to prosecute him five years ago, for the same charges, on condition of good behavior.

Perhaps those most guilty of incitement are the editors of Ha’Kol Hayehudi (“The Jewish Voice”), a website which praises and promotes pogroms (AKA “price tag” activities) against Palestinians. They are the students of the same rabbis who wrote “Torat Hamelech.” Needless to say, they were neither arrested nor indicted. And these are just samples from the last few months. Cynically, Spiro said that if he were a rabbi, he could just ignore the summons from the police.

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