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Meet the Israeli History Teacher Arrested & Jailed for Facebook Posts Opposing Killing of Palestinians

Written by on 22/11/2023


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to look at how the Israeli government is cracking down on Israeli citizens who criticize their government’s bombardment of Gaza. We’re joined now by Meir Baruchin, a history and civics teacher from Jerusalem who was recently jailed for four days in solitary confinement after he posted a message on Facebook about his opposition to the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians, especially women and children.

On November 9th, Israeli police ransacked his house and arrested him. They also seized his phone and two laptops. Police interrogated him on suspicion of committing an act of treason and intending to disrupt public order. He was then jailed for four days and labeled a high-risk detainee. Baruchin has since been freed, but he has lost his job as a teacher and is still facing charges. Despite this, Meir Baruchin has refused to stay silent and is joining us now from Jerusalem.

Meir, welcome to Democracy Now! It was hard for us to get in touch with you over the last few days because your electronic devices, like your phone, were taken. Can you talk about exactly what happened to you? What did you post? And then, how did the Israeli police come to ransack your house?

MEIR BARUCHIN: First of all, thanks for having me.

When I got to the first interrogation, the interrogators presented 14 posts, most of them before October 7th. There were posts from four years ago, from two years ago. Only one or two posts were after October 7th.

What I’m trying to do in my Facebook posts is this. For most Israelis, Palestinians are really vague images. They have no names, no faces, no family, no hope, no plans. And I’m trying to give them names and faces, introduce them to Israelis, so more Israelis would be able to see Palestinians as human beings. So, that’s what I do in my Facebook. The police didn’t like it, so they arrested me.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you were arrested, what was the substance of the interrogation against you during that time? And how were you treated?

MEIR BARUCHIN: On November 9th, I got a call from the police to come over for interrogation on sedition. I called my lawyer, and he said that in order to interrogate an Israeli citizen for sedition, they need an approval from the general attorney. The police did ask for approval but was rejected, so they decided to interrogate me for intention to commit an act of treason and disrupt public order.

The minute I walked into the police station, they shackled my hands and legs, and they showed me a warrant to search my house. Five detectives took me to my house and ransacked the place. Then I was taken back to the police station for the first interrogation, that lasted four hours. After that, I was taken to the jailhouse. Like you said, I was categorized high-risk detainee, separated from everyone. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything with me, a book or something. I spent there four days. In order not to go crazy, I exercised every hour and a half, two hours.

On Sunday evening, November 12th, they took me for a second interrogation. And their technique was — it wasn’t really asking questions. It was more of a rhetoric. When you install the answer inside the question, you don’t really let the other person choose his own answer. For example, they said something like, “As someone who justifies and legitimizes the rapes by Hamas people on October 7th, don’t you think that…” — you know, that was their technique. Also in my second interrogation, at a certain moment they said that my Facebook posts are just like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Now, I’m history teacher, so I asked them, “Did you ever read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?” There was no comment.

I was taken back to the jailhouse. And on November 13th, I was released by the judge, and still they kept me in the jailhouse for another three-and-a-half hours.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what has been the response of fellow teachers in Israel and of the press to your arrest and detention?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Most of mainstream media embrace the statement of the police spokesman who accused me as justifying and legitimizing the rapes committed by Hamas people on October 7th.

As for my colleague teachers, hundreds of them are telling me, “Meir, I am fully behind you, but I have children to support,” “Meir, I’m with you, but I’m paying a mortgage,” “Meir, I’m with you, but my daughter is getting married,” “Meir, I’m with you, but we just started to redecorate the house.” They are afraid to speak up. They are afraid to lose their jobs. They see very clearly that these days Israeli citizens who are showing some — the slightest sentiment for the people of Gaza, opposing killing of innocent civilians, they are being politically persecuted, they go through public shaming, they lose their jobs, they are being put in jail. So they are afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published an editorial headlined “Arresting Arabs and Left-wingers: How Israel Intends to Crack Down on Domestic Dissent Over Gaza War.” In it, Haaretz wrote about your case, saying, quote, “Make no mistake: Baruchin was used as a political tool to send a political message. The motive for his arrest was deterrence — silencing any criticism or any hint of protest against Israeli policy. Baruchin paid a personal price.” So, Meir, if you can talk about the fact that you were fired from your job? You have four children, right? And also, how unusual is your arrest and being put in solitary confinement, both for Israeli Jews and for Palestinians?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Well, first, I must admit that the fact that I’m Jewish played a key role in my arrest. Had I been Palestinian, it was completely different. There would have been much more violence from the police officers and also in the jailhouse by the wardens.

I think it’s a clear message for not only to the teachers, but to all Israeli citizens. One of the newspaper men from Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini, he called me a “soldier in the service of terrorist propaganda,” in those specific words. Other newspaper — other journalists also embraced the police statement without getting my response or without even trying to challenge the police statement.

AMY GOODMAN: They took your phone and also your computer?

MEIR BARUCHIN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten it back?

MEIR BARUCHIN: They took my phone. They took two laptops. No, no, not yet. My lawyer is working on it. But the case is still not closed. I’m still facing charges. Also, the Ministry of Education suspended my license, so I cannot go back and teach anywhere in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you tell your kids? We just have 30 seconds, Meir.

MEIR BARUCHIN: My kids are proud of me, and that’s the most important thing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us. Meir Baruchin is an Israeli history and civics high school teacher who was jailed for four days, held in solitary confinement, after criticizing the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. His case is still open. He could still go to trial. He’s speaking to us from Jerusalem.



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