Renowned Israeli playwright compares Ameer Makhoul to Soviet “Prisoners of Zion”
The story of the arrest and detention Ameer Makhoul is an eerie glimpse into the willingness of Israel’s security establishment to go to incredible and undemocratic lengths as it attempts to fight perceived internal “enemies.” Makhoul, an Israeli citizen, was finally permitted to meet with his lawyers after 11 days, but only after his defense team threatened to boycott his detention extension hearing.
Shaken, Israeli playwright Yehoshua (Joshua) Sobol decided to break a taboo and equate Makhoul’s handling by the Shabak to the Soviet treatment of the “Prisoners of Zion.”
Op-ed, Yehoshua Sobol, Israel Hayom, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the tale of the arrest of Zion Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky, who was taken in the middle of the night by the KGB. The story made waves through the international media, yet in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to mention the event in national media outlets. As in all dark dictatorships, the intellectuals who wanted to know where they lived, developed a network for sharing alternative information: Mouth to Ear, a network that functions at the speed of one’s voice and passes through the thick walls and fences that surround the basement interrogation centers of the KGB.
And thus, thanks to the Mouth to Ear network, every person with some critical opinion regarding the Soviet Empire knows exactly and how and why something happened to Grisha Ameerovitch-Makholsky. At 3:00am 16 brutes from a special unit of the KGB surrounded Grisha’s house, which is located in a suburb in the distant northern port city of Danyaprokhifovsik. Five thugs from the special unit broke into the apartment, separated Grisha from his wife and daughters – Dina and Yehudit, refused to identify themselves when asked, and proceeded to search the entire apartment without demonstrating a search warrant. They took the personal journals of Grisha and his daughters, as well as the girls’ math workbooks. When they wanted to take Grisha as well, Mrs. Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky stubbornly demanded that the brutes present an arrest warrant. So they extracted an arrest warrant dated two weeks prior to that night.
In retrospect, the Nobel Prize winner Professor Eliushkin-Sacharov, one of the directors of Man-is-Man, raised these points for consideration: if the security threat was urgent such that the Soviet security forces could wait almost two weeks from the day the warrant was signed until it was implemented, why did the search and arrest have to take place at 3:00am, violently, and in front of the children? Furthermore, Professor Sacharov asked why the detainee was not permitted to consult with his lawyer, as his wife claims.
But this was not the end of the story. It turns out that despite the zealous Soviet censorship and the fearful long and strong hand of the KGB, the Mouth to Ear network managed to broadcast news of the grave violation of human rights that occurred. However, though in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to inform citizens of misdeeds committed by the secret security services, it was permissible to vilify Israel without restraint – the Mouth to Ear network broadcasted the story as if it took place in Israel instead of in Soviet Russia. And not to a Jewish detainee named Zion but rather with an Arab detainee. Even the name of the city Danyaprokhifovsik was replaced by the name of a northern Israeli port city, and the name of Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was changed to an Arab name. Further, the name of the organization of Zionist NGOs that Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky led was altered in the rumors to the name of an organization of Arab NGOs. In this way, the story of the arrest of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was broadcasted to all corners of Soviet Russia.
It is difficult to believe that only 50 years have passed since the dark days in which the story of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky took place, which seems – today – as if it took place before the days of Noah’s Great Flood. How wonderful that such a dark and shameful event could never take place in a democratic and free country like the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.