Back in February, a group of six protesters was arrested for disrupting a confirmation hearing in Washington for the U.S ambassador to Israel. The protestors urged lawmakers not to confirm David Friedman- a hardline Zionist who has supported the controversial building of settlements in the West Bank, disregarded two -state solutions, and has “compared liberal Jewish organizations to Jews who aided the Nazis during the Holocaust”.
While the arrest of the protesters comes as no surprise- the outcomes of how each was prosecuted are. Of the group of six, the only two of Muslim and Arab descent face misdemeanor charges, while their Jewish counterparts paid fines of $35- $50 dollars for their actions and resolved matters in traffic court for behaving “nearly identically”. Currently, the two Muslims facing charges- Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny are rejecting a plea deal in order to fight their discriminatory treatment.
As reported in the Huffington Post:
Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny, the two Muslim men, were charged with misdemeanor unlawful conduct in Congress and now face a maximum penalty of $500 and up to six months in jail.
Herzallah and El-Hosseiny’s lawyer, Ann Wilcox, plans to file a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is based on racial, religious and ethnic bias, she said after a court hearing Thursday.
“For similar conduct, they should have been treated the same [as the other protesters],” said Wilcox, a member of the National Lawyers Guild.
Herzallah, El-Hosseiny, and the four other demonstrators were arrested on Feb. 16 after they interrupted David Friedman’s confirmation hearing and urged lawmakers not to confirm the nominee.
The six protesters behaved nearly identically. Each of them stood and spoke for about 30 seconds before security escorted them out of the room. Herzallah and El-Hosseiny, who are affiliated with the group American Muslims for Palestine, held up Palestinian flags as they spoke. Isaac Flegel-Mishlove, of the Jewish anti-occupation group IfNotNow, blew a shofar, a musical instrument used in Jewish religious ceremonies. His colleagues sang “We will build this world with love” as they were escorted out of the room. Tali Ruskin, of the anti-war group CodePink, wore a smock with “Stop settlements” written across the front.
But the protesters received widely disparate punishments for their actions. Two paid a $50 fine the same day they were arrested. Another paid $35. Capitol police told Herzallah, El-Hosseiny, and Thomas Corcoran of IfNotNow that they were required to appear in court. A week later, Corcoran’s case was moved to traffic court. But Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were charged with misdemeanors.
Herzallah and El-Hosseiny first appeared in court on March 1. They considered accepting a plea deal that would have banned them from Capitol grounds for four months and obligated them to do 32 hours of community service. However, they decided to reject the plea deal to fight what they believe is discriminatory treatment.
Upon hearing how the other four were treated- with a simple slap on the wrist, the idea of a plea seemed unfair, unreasonable and very evidently discriminatory.
The article continues:
The six protesters kept in touch after their arrests and tried to figure out why they received different punishments for committing the same acts in the same place on the same day. They rewatched video footage from the confirmation hearing, looking for signs that any of them had been especially disruptive compared to the others. They say they don’t see a reason why Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were singled out for harsher treatment.
At first, the group wasn’t sure if the discrepancy in their punishments was the result of incompetence or prejudice. It took the officers nearly six hours to process the protesters after they were arrested. Over the course of the day, the officers appeared to change their minds several times about whether to fine the protesters or send them to court. One officer even asked El-Hosseiny if he had cash to pay a fine, he told The Huffington Post.
“They were arguing among themselves about what should happen with us,” Herzallah said. “It seemed like the officers were either untrained or it was their first time dealing with this.”
Capitol police did not respond to a request for comment.
It was when the only other person meant to face charges in court- Thomas Corcoran’s case was also moved to traffic court that Herzallah and El-Hosseiny’s realized that their “religion or ethnicity had factored into their punishment.” “That to me is the most blatant example of racism and Islamophobic practices,” said Lila Weintraub, who was arrested after demonstrating with IfNotNow and was fined $50 for her actions. “I can’t really see any other reason why they wouldn’t have all gotten the same charge.””
This is clear case of discriminatory prosecution due to Herzallah and El-Hosseiny’s background. There is no other explanation as to why the others who acted near identically have not been made to face the same consequences. It is no coincidence that the two Arabs protesting a delegate to Israel would be treated as Arabs, and especially Palestineans doing the same in Isreal would be treated. This, however, is America and we should not stand for such perversions of justice.
What do you think about the different outcomes the six protestors are facing? Is there any legitimate reason as to why the two Muslim-Arabs would be facing the harshest of consequences? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
(Article by Tasha Sharifa)