Dear Friends,

At this month's "Wednesday Forum" (previously Wednesday Sessions) we will host the courageous Israeli activist, Yonathan Pollak (29 August 2012). The topic of the event is: "EVEN I, AN ISRAELI SUPPORT THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL - Israeli activist explains why he supports the boycott of Israel, in open defiance of Israel's anti-boycott law."

- Israeli activist explains why he supports the boycott of Israel, in open defiance of Israel's anti-boycott law

DATE: Wednesday, 29 August 2012
TIME: 19h00 for 19h15
SPEAKER: Yonathan Pollak
VENUE: IPPM Post Graduate Resource Center, B-Ring, 5th Floor, Auckland Park Campus ,UJ
CONTACT: 076 838 3038 / 084 467 3777
EVENT HOSTS: BDS South Africa, SA Artists Against Apartheid, Open Shuhada Street and the UJ PSF

About Yonathan Pollak:
Yonathan Pollak is an Israeli human rights campaigner active in a wide array of activism including the organizing of weekly protests against Israel's Apartheid Wall as well as promoting and advancing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign which seeks to pressure the Israeli regime to respect international law and basic human rights.

As a result of his pro-Palestinian activity, Pollak has routinely been targeted, arrested and harassed by Israeli authorities. In one incident, Israeli Defense Force soldiers fired a tear gas canister from an M-16 rifle aimed directly at Pollak's head and within close range, this left him with two internal brain hemorrhages.

Then two years ago Yonathan Pollak was sentenced for participating in a protest against Israel's attack on Gaza in 2009 (below find a shortened version of the statement that Pollak read in court during his sentencing). Pollak also gave evidence to the Goldstone UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza. He is currently in South Africa on a speaking tour from 10-31 August 2012 (click here to find his full schedule).
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Your Honor, I will go to prison with my head held high. It will be the Israeli justice system that will need to lower its eyes
- Yonathan Pollak  
- 27 December 2010

[Shortened statement read by Yonathan Pollak during his sentencing by an Israeli court for having participated in protests against Israel's attack on Gaza in 2009]  

Your Honor, once found guilty, it is then customary for the accused to ask the court for leniency, and express remorse for having committed the offence . However, I find myself unable to do so. From its very beginning, this trial contained practically no disagreements over the facts. The sole and trivial disagreement in this entire case revolves around testimonies heard from [Israeli] police detectives, who claimed I played a leading role throughout the protest...something I, as well as the rest of the Defense witnesses, deny.  

As said earlier, it is customary at this point of the proceedings to sound remorseful, and I would indeed like to voice my regrets regarding one particular aspect of that day's events: if there is remorse in my heart, it is that, just as I argued during the trial, I did not play a prominent role in the protest that day, and thus did not fulfill my duty to do everything within my power to change the unbearable situation of Gaza's inhabitants, and bring to an end Israel's control over the Palestinians.  

The subject of my alleged offense, as well as the motivation behind it were political. This is something that cannot be sidestepped. The State of Israel maintains an illegitimate, inhuman and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip, which still is occupied territory according to international law. This siege, carried out in my name and in yours as well, sir, in fact in all of our names, is a cruel collective punishment inflicted on ordinary citizens, residents of the Gaza strip, subjects-without-rights under Israeli occupation.  

In the face of this reality, and as a stance against it, we chose on January 31st, 2008, to exercise the freedom of speech afforded to Jewish citizens of Israel. However, it appears that here in our one-of-many-faux-democracies in the Middle East, even this freedom is no longer freely granted, even to society's privileged sons.

I am not surprised by the Court's decision to convict me despite having no doubt in my mind that our actions on that day correspond to the most basic, elementary definitions of a person's right to protest. 

I must add that, if His Honor decides to go ahead and impose my suspended prison sentence, I will go to prison wholeheartedly and with my head held high. It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that ought to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza's inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation. (