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A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

A few thoughts on the decision to shut down Israel’s detention facility for African asylum seekers, what the High Court ruling says about the gratuitous and political arrests of Palestinian protesters in Israel, and the assassination that only took place if you read Hebrew.

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)


1. A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

Following the Israeli High Court decision on Monday to shut down Holot and cancel the piece of legislation that permitted the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers (the way the law was written, non-African asylum seekers were never in danger of indefinite detention), Darfuri refugee Mutasim Ali wrote in +972: “I am not celebrating this, because this is normal — what should happen.”

I believe what Ali means is that it would have been absolutely crazy if the High Court of Justice, the body to which one turns when seeking justice in this land, had said: “Actually, it’s okay to lock up black people indefinitely and without charge. No problem.” (Let’s forget for a second the fact that the High Court has upheld administrative on numerous occasions.)

Mutasim Ali’s sentiment reminded me of an interview with Chris Rock, in which the comedian says he refuses to describe the current state of race relations in the United States as “progress.”

“When you say it’s progress you’re acting like what happened before wasn’t crazy … We’ve made a lot of progress and we got rid of segregation … but segregation is crazy!” The people who were denying black people their rights, Rock explains, have simply become less crazy.

Of course, it is also crazy that for 47 years millions of people have been living with no civil rights under military occupation with separate and unequal legal systems. We can only look forward to a little less insanity on that front. But hey, a start’s a start.

2. Freedom, dignity and Palestinian protesters in Israel

Out of roughly 1,500 Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel who were arrested by Israeli police this summer during protests and demonstrations, the state has only indicted 350, according to a press release by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

In most of the arrests, Adalah notes, the police had no reason or justification for dispersing the mostly legal demonstrations and therefore, had no basis to make arrests. Other arrests, Adalah wrote, took place even before demonstrations got started.

Israeli police have been taking heat in recent months — both from the courts and the attorney general — for very heavy-handed decisions to file their own indictments against protesters, even when the state prosecutor’s office itself declined to press charges. (Yes, the police can do that in Israel.) Those cases, however, almost entirely involved Jewish social justice protesters who were arrested in Tel Aviv. The chances of such rebukes being made on behalf of Palestinians arrested in Jerusalem or Umm al-Fahm are slim, although not nil.

In the High Court ruling ordering the closure of Holot on Monday, one of the justices wrote in the majority opinion (my translation):

Spending days, weeks and months in a closed facility (prison), means that [one loses control over] every aspect of one’s life — leisure time, the food one eats, the people with whom one spends time and comes into contact … that is a serious blow to freedom and dignity.

In other words, imprisoning somebody who has not committed a crime is a serious infringement on their rights to freedom and human dignity. That is exactly what is happening if you go back a few paragraphs and re-read that only 350 out of 1,500 Palestinian political protesters were charged with a crime. Most of the others were simply arrested for no reason. They were locked up and deprived of their most basic rights for the sake of operational expediency and political disagreement.

3. Assassinated, maybe, if you read Hebrew

The Hebrew-language coverage this morning of the deaths of two primary suspects in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens was very different than the English coverage. Almost all of the Hebrew coverage referred to the killings as “eliminations” or an “assassination.” English-language coverage tended to portray the deaths as being the result of a fire fight during a raid. Not even a raid gone wrong — just a firefight during a raid.

Ynet in English ran a headline that read: “Suspects in murder of Israeli teens killed in West Bank raid”. Ynet in Hebrew’s headline was (my translation): “The score is settled: Israel assassinated the youths’ murderers”.

A subsequent English-language article detailing the raid suggests that the first suspect was killed when he raised his head out of a hole — after the army had bulldozed half of the home he was hiding in — and allegedly brandished a rifle. The second suspect was reportedly killed by grenades that were thrown into the room he was believed to be in. In other words, the second suspect posed no immediate threat to the army forces.

This would be a good time to remember that — even if this was an assassination and not an arrest raid — these two men were not convicted of any crime. It’s entirely possible they were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three innocent Israelis. But even under Israeli military law, to which all Palestinians are subject, one should be tried before being sentenced. And this is not a case — like the assassinations of Hamas figures in Gaza — where Israel didn’t have the capacity to make arrests. The Israeli commanders on the scene simply decided to carry out the raid “in a way which would not endanger the forces raiding the building,” or in other words, not make any real effort to capture them alive.

A number of Israeli ministers later praised the “assassination” (khisul in Hebrew). Housing Minister Uri Ariel put out a message first thing in the morning, saying, “The success of the security forces in assassinating the disgusting terrorists is the success of the entire State of Israel … I congratulate the security forces on the successful assassination.”

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    1. Richard

      The Rockefeller Brothers are taking their money out of fossil fuels – definitely a break from the family’s historically close ties to the Arab world. Bad news for you guys.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard

      Is there some reason your financial statement identifies the countries where you’ve sourced funding except for the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which is German? Seems like a “(Germany)” is needed after that one.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        So you can make insinuations that anti-zionists are all on the payroll of the Rockefellers and the Gulf monarchies. Then how is it “antisemitic” when people make “Jewish banker” conspiracy theories.

        Reply to Comment
    3. bor

      Adalah is not a trustworthy source. Do you have another? Please, I don’t mean loonie far-left, anti-Israel groups. Just a serious, trusted source.

      As for the killing of the two kidnappers, whose name has been provided by other witnesses and who were heard on the recording in the car celebrating the murder of three Jewish civilian teenagers in cold blood, why would you risk the life of any soldier to apprehend them? They were waving a gun? They might have grenades? That makes them a threat and a target.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Bor (בור) in Hebrew means ignorant

        Reply to Comment
    4. Adam Dayton

      “This would be a good time to remember that — even if this was an assassination and not an arrest raid — these two men had not been convicted of any crime.”

      It’s tremendously obtuse to imply that a state of affairs cannot be considered to have occurred unless a trial also occurred and determined as such.

      Hitler never had a trial. He was never convicted of a crime. I guess we must withhold judgment as to his responsibility regarding the Holocaust.

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        That really isn’t as smart as you think, Adam. There are numerous documents open to researchers establishing Hitler’s role in WWII and the attendant mass killings and on top of that many of his subordinates were convicted of warcrimes and crimes against humanity. Their responsible positions under Hitler were fully enumerated as part of the Nuremberg Trials.

        These were two people no one knows anything about and their guilt in kidnapping the teens is impossible to establish with any third party research. The general public has nothing outside the claims of the Israeli military and Shin Bet. Considering Israeli military courts tend to convict based on confessions, there’s no reason to believe killed by the IDF = guilty.

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        • Adam Dayton

          Not relevant. The entire argument was predicated upon the lack of a trial. At any rate, if you took the time to look at the available evidence, you would see that it more than sufficiently proves that these two were behind the murder.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Sholom

      Adam Dayton,
      Killing someone who doesn’t pose an immediate danger, and who hasn’t been convicted of a crime punishable by death under the law is called murder.

      You may think you want to live in a country where soldiers can commit murder, but trust me, you really don’t.

      Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        Using your logic, dropping a bomb on a group of terrorists having coffee constitutes murder. Following that logic, the great majority of the democratic world has participated in murder either directly or in a supportive role.

        At any rate, “immediate danger,” is an incredibly lax term. Members who have engaged in armed hostilities against the state of Israel and its citizens should not be considered at the same threat level as a 90 year old grandma.

        What was done, even if there was no immediate threat, was justice. Proportionality is the cornerstone of justice, and an eye was taken for the eye that was taken.

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        • Sholom

          An eye for an eye, eh? That’s some old school, biblical justice. I hear ya.

          Reply to Comment
          • Adam Dayton

            Ah yes, your line of thinking: morality is determined by the amount of times the earth has revolved around the sun. They did something in the biblical era. They sun has sure done a lot of revolutions since then, therefore that system of morality is flawed. An eye for an eye is the height of justice.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Sounds like an excellent case for bringing back the Spanish Inquisition and punishing the Jews for killing Christ. Some people might consider that the height of justice, too.

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    6. JohnW

      “You may think you want to live in a country where soldiers can commit murder, but trust me, you really don’t.”

      Really? This was murder was it? This was a case of of the suspects barricading themselves instead of surrendering when the army came to arrest them. In such situations, elsewhere in the world too, people end up getting killed. It is just a fact of life, suspects who resist arrest make a decision which often costs them their lives.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        JohnW – Yep, ‘suspects who resist arrest make a decision that costs them their lives’ is a true enough statement. All enforcement agencies are liable to end up killing suspects in some circumstances.

        However, it is usually not in a siege situation. The suspects have nowhere to go and generally the police will patiently negotiate and try to resolve the issue without loss of life. This can take days.

        The telling thing about the killing of the suspects, is not so much the killing, but its characterisation in Hebrew media. Its the stupidity of the Hebrew media – do they really think that English translations are not going to leak out?

        Is Israeli society so complacent in their occupation/siege of the Palestinians, so confident that the West will mindlessly accept their characterisation of both violent and non-violent resistance as ‘terrorism’ that they forget to play the game properly. Do you really think we are unable to distinguish between common criminal activity, individual lone wolf hate crimes and legitimate resistance?

        In any case, when suspects are killed, you express regret and you certainly do not call it an assassination or gleefully declare justice has been served. If memory serves, even when the USA killed Bin Laden, they were careful to state that the preferred option was to capture him alive. (Don’t believe a word of it personally, but do so appreciate the nod to my sensibility to mindless killing.)

        You really can’t complain that Israel is slowly and surely losing support amongst the people of the West. What on earth can we have in common with Israel?

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        • JohnW

          “… that they forget to play the game properly.”

          That sentence sums up the essence of what you said Eliza. True, we all play games at times but for people who profess your ideology, lip service, political correctness and superficiality is an art form.

          Me? I like to see the world as it is. War is a nasty business. And given that even in peaceful countries police can turn very nasty, yes even in siege situations (look up how French police shot the Toulouse murderer in a siege), I am not going to put on airs and graces about the shooting of terrorist idiots who refuse to surrender when cornered. Particularly since there is hardly any doubt about the fact that they were callous murderers of three of our teenagers.

          Wanna hate me for it, Eliza? Please yourself, please do. I could not care less, particularly since I know that you and many like you hate me irrespective of this. I am comfortable in the knowledge that for everyone of your kind, there are dozens of right minded people who side with us and who know that humanity is once again on the threshold of having to gear up to do whatever is necessary to defeat evil. The modern Nazis are knocking at the door with Jihad on their lips and murder in their hearts. We cannot afford to be squeamish when confronting them. We need to fight fire with fire

          Reply to Comment
    7. ***It is just a fact of life, suspects who resist arrest make a decision which often costs them their lives.***

      It’s a ‘fact of life’ in certain countries, where law enforcement is very trigger happy and a considerable part of the general public are A-OK with that sorry state of affairs.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “It’s a ‘fact of life’ in certain countries, where law enforcement is very trigger happy and a considerable part of the general public are A-OK with that sorry state of affairs.”

        Like France, the USA and Australia for instance? just a quick Google will bring up dozens of cases in which suspects lost their lives in those countries in police sieges.

        Reply to Comment
    8. ***Using your logic, dropping a bomb on a group of terrorists having coffee constitutes murder. Following that logic, the great majority of the democratic world has participated in murder either directly or in a supportive role. ***

      Whether or not it constitutes murder depends on several factors, not in the least whether due diligence in serving justice has been carried out or not.

      No doubt a considerable part of the ‘democratic world’ has participated in murder, even mass murder, by ‘legal’ extrajudicial killings.

      One can of course rubber stamp anything if one is in authority, including torture and killing. It makes the latter two no less grisly, ‘democratically justified’ or not.

      History is full of laws we now consider to be abhorrently immoral. Perhaps one day, some of what we do today will be considered as such too.

      Not ‘progress’, just ‘less craziness’…

      Reply to Comment
    9. Mikesailor

      Why was this ‘execution’ inevitable? Because a trial, even a show trial before a so-called military tribunal, could have serious repercussions to the mythos of Israel. What would happen if the Palestinians were able to mount a defense? It might show “respect’ for the rule of law but Israel doesn’t respect law anyway, particularly when the defendant isn’t Jewish. Remember when Netanyahu said he had evidence and would release it publicly? Well that “promise’ proved to be a non-starter and evidence was never produced, only ‘statenment’ by the secusrity services. No luve testimonyty, no crosss-examination…mo nothing. Istead, we have been regaled with a story, a myth. The Israelis have demonised these two that I would submit they would never get a fair trial. Funny how cowardly regimes get when trials, attended by the press and public occur. Because they have the possibility of ruining the carefully scripted demonisation of the defendant. Whether Guantanamo, or the Israeli farce they call a justice system, both are geared to ensure only the script is ecacted and justice be damned. If you have any questions, ask the late travelers on the Mavi Marmara who were carefully executed with a shot behind the ear.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        “Remember when Netanyahu said he had evidence and would release it publicly? Well that “promise’ proved to be a non-starter and evidence was never produced,”

        He did not have to, Mikey. Hamas themselves admitted that those two were the murderers. Here, feast your jaundiced eyes on this:

        “Hamas condemned the killings of the two suspects, and praised “the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Qawasmeh played in chasing down Israeli settlers”, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.”

        And this is what one of the terrorist’s own uncle admitted:

        “According to court documents, Qawasmeh stated that Hamas members in Gaza financed the recruitment and arming of the killers.[26][27]”

        And then there is this evidence too:

        “On 26 June, the Israel Security Agency released the identities of two Hamas suspects in the kidnapping.[1] Both ISA and Palestinian authorities said that the two men have been missing since the night of the kidnapping, and the ISA stated that both had engaged in terrorism, been arrested, and served time in the past, and were considered suspects immediately after the kidnapping. A senior Palestinian intelligence official said off the record that their disappearance constituted clear evidence the two suspects have links with the abduction.[2]”

        I know what you are going to say Mikey. “It’s all lies” because nothing constitutes enough evidence for you when it is about Israel. So, I tell you what. We don’t care what the likes of you think. I just produced these snippets of relevant information, to counter your lies about us. So you won’t be able to fool decent people out there.

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    10. James

      The loonie Israel-hating far-left thinks that every defensive measure Israel takes is “crazy.” If Israel doesn’t want 50,000 homeless starving African refugees roaming the streets robbing Israelis then Israel is “crazy.” If Israel doesn’t want insane jihadists to use Gaza as a launching pad to attack Israel then Israel is “crazy.” If Israel protects its citizens then Israel is “crazy.” if Israel doesn’t want Israelis mass-murdered like Syria mass-murders and like many of Israel’s neighbors want to do to Jews, then Israel is “crazy.”

      It must be a miserable life, to be a self-hating extreme-left “Jew” whose sole mission in this world appears to be to try to make Israeli Jews weaker, smaller, more vulnerable to attack and in more danger.

      Reply to Comment
    11. James

      It’s “crazy” of Israel to not want 50,000 homeless African refugees roaming the streets of Israel, likely robbing people because they have no money or food?


      I think people who criticize Israel for stuff like this literally just want Israel erased as a state. Which sure seems antisemitic, if they don’t want Arab countries erased as states, or Muslim countries erased, and only want the one tiny Jewish state erased.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        James – I don’t think anybody is saying that Israel is crazy for not wanting ‘50,000 homeless starving African refugees roaming the streets robbing Israelis’ or for not wanting Israelis ‘mass-murdered’ etc. Not at all.

        I think the lunacy charged against Israel is due the measures it takes when attempting to avoid these things. How can indefinite detention (where presumably the State will have to foot the food bill) preferable to other options? If you were starving, would you steal to survive? So why not have the State still foot the food bill but not detain indefinitely? Israel is not the only State having to deal with an influx of refugees. What about the efforts of Jordon, Turkey and even Iraq?

        People who criticise Israel for these sorts of things, including the assassination of suspects rather than their trial, do not do so because they want Israel to be erased. Saying that, there is nothing necessarily sacred about the existence of a Nation State. Its quite possible that Syria and Iraq may cease to exist in their present form. Its quite possible that a new sovereign state of Kurdistan comes into being. It may not, of course. But I care very little if Syria, Iraq etc exist or not. I do care that the people who currently live in Syria, Iraq are able to live peaceful lives as full citizens of a State.

        Similarly with Israel/Palestine. One or both of these States can disappear for all I care. But I do care that the people, whether they identify as Jewish, Muslim, Christian or whatever, are able to live peaceful lives with as full citizens of a State.

        I understand that many Israelis clearly want Israel to continue to exist. I don’t understand how you think this is more likely to happen if Israel assassinates suspects in a siege situation. I understand that sometimes things go wrong and suspects are killed by law enforcers, but the grown-ups don’t openly rejoice. The real grown-ups don’t rejoice at all.

        Reply to Comment
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