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Administrative detention: 'Because I said so' ruling

Administrative detention does not allow the accused to learn the charges against him, and therefore cannot defend himself against it. It’s a sort of parallel universe where due process doesn’t exist, and you go to jail simply because someone said so.

By Talal Jabari

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes with Israeli police in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in East Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth throw stones during clashes with Israeli police in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in East Jerusalem, November 5, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In February, a viral video showed an Israeli passenger on an Israeli airline who really wanted to purchase duty-free chocolate and who felt that she was being neglected by the flight attendant. That feeling of neglect quickly turned into anger, and she began shouting, “What am I, an Arab?” to the support of at least one other passenger, who echoed, “What is she, an Arab? Sell her the chocolate!”

How horrific it must have felt for them to be treated as Arabs, which, in their eyes, as naturally inferior.

And if Israelis get that riled up about chocolate, I can’t even begin to imagine how they must feel about their government’s recent decision to implement administrative detention against Israeli citizens.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of administrative detention, because so far it’s been a Palestinian affliction, and as such, not of major concern, the practice is, to me understood as the “because I said so” ruling. You know, when you were a child and you asked your parents for something that you thought was reasonable and they said no. You asked why, and they said, “because I said so.”

It’s the same thing with administrative detention. If there is concrete evidence of any wrong-doing–and that’s a big if–you are not privy to it, and therefore cannot defend yourself against it. It’s a sort of parallel universe where due process doesn’t exist, and you go to jail simply because someone said so.

Currently, there are 370 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli facilities according to the human rights watch group B’Tselem. The majority of them were sentenced to six months, which many times is repeatedly extended before the period is over, with the same disregard for due process.

The overwhelming majority of those detainees have done nothing wrong besides belonging to Palestinian political factions. In some cases, the security establishment’s crystal ball indicates that they might do something to compromise the security of the state at some point in the future. In many cases, they are directly related to someone who has committed an offense, thus, guilty by association.

How can I be so sure they haven’t done anything wrong? Because we’re talking about a state in which 14 year-old boys receive quarter of a century jail sentences for throwing rocks. These guys are only getting six months.

The UN mentions 331 incidents in 2014 where setters, often heavily armed, have attacked Palestinian people and property. This ranges from breaking the branches off fruit trees that are bearing fruit to burning entire olive orchards. From killing sheep to burning toddlers alive. This year there have been over 100 such incidents reported, one of the most recent an attack on the Palestinian village of Duma, which left an 18-month-old baby and his father dead.

Often the perpetrators of attacks against Palestinians conveniently can not be found by Israeli security officials. When they are found, they are given a slap on the wrist. And isn’t that what this new decision to implement administrative detention on Israelis really is?

In the case of Duma, a number of Israeli terrorists walked up to a house in the middle of the night. The house did not look abandoned, so it was safe to assume the residents were inside and asleep, which speaks to premeditation. They firebombed the house from multiple vantages.

In a country that actually respects the rule of law, like the US, if a band of thugs firebomb a house, killing two residents, they would be facing at the very least two counts of manslaughter, two more counts of attempted murder, three to four counts of destroying private property with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, several hate-crime-related charges, three to four counts of trespassing. If convicted, I guarantee you they wouldn’t be going home after six months to a celebratory welcome home party.

If they were Palestinians who had firebombed an Israeli house, and hadn’t been conveniently killed during the arrest, they would have been sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences. However, Israeli terrorists, who over the past 18 months have committed close to 500 acts of terrorism against Palestinians continue to walk free, or face a six month administrative detention that will elevate them to the status of heroes amongst their peers.

While Netanyahu has tried to draw a parallel between the way he deals with “Palestinian terrorists” and “Jewish terrorists,”the latter are growing more brazen with every attack. They can sleep soundly at night knowing that they aren’t going to be treated as badly as Arabs.

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