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Mainstreaming administrative detention

Israel is currently imprisoning over 350 Palestinians and three Jewish Israelis without trial and with no way of defending themselves against charges they often aren’t even allowed to see. As Palestinians demand international intervention, Israeli lawmakers move to codify the practice.

Palestinians protest in front of the ICRC building in Nablus holding photos of loved-ones being held in administrative detention by Israel. The demonstrators were demanding that the ICRC intervene to stop the practice, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians protest in front of the ICRC building in Nablus holding photos of loved-ones being held in administrative detention by Israel. The demonstrators were demanding that the ICRC intervene to stop the practice, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Activists in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday demanded that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) intervene on behalf of Palestinians being held by Israel in administrative detention.

Administrative detention is a practice, taken from British Mandate law, which Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and some Jews) without charge or trial — indefinitely.

Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are often not told of what alleged crimes they are being accused or shown the evidence against them. The result is that it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.

Israel is currently holding 350 Palestinians and three Jewish Israelis in administrative detention.

The practice has been the focus of unusual public attention in recent months. International attention tends to surround Palestinian administrative detainees, mainly including Khader Adnan, Muhammad Allan and Oday Stiti, who won their freedom after staging lengthy and dangerous hunger strikes.

More recently, following the murder of three members of a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma, Israel announced it would start using administrative detention against Jewish terrorism suspects. (I wrote earlier this week about how Israeli authorities are using administrative detention as a substitute for good ol’ fashion police work.)

Children inside the burned Dawabsha family home before the funeral of Reham Dawabsha in the West Bank village of Duma, September 7, 2015. Reham was the third family member to die as a result of the July arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Children inside the burned Dawabsha family home before the funeral of Reham Dawabsha in the West Bank village of Duma, September 7, 2015. Reham was the third family member to die as a result of the July arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A man raises a Palestinian flag and photos of administrative detainees outside the ICRC building in Nablus during a protest against administrative detention, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

A man raises a Palestinian flag and photos of administrative detainees outside the ICRC building in Nablus during a protest against administrative detention, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The Israeli government is using the Duma murders — and authorities’ difficulty in prosecuting those responsible — in order to push through massive, new anti-terrorism legislation. The draft law, which consecutive governments have been failed to push through the parliament for years, seriously erodes already tenuous civil liberties and due process, and recklessly expands the definition of what constitutes terrorism and who can be classified a terrorist.

In addition, the new law takes a number of draconian Mandate-era “emergency laws” such as administrative detention, and codifies them into regular Israeli civilian law. If it passes, administrative detention will become even more mainstreamed and acceptable when security forces have trouble bringing strong enough indictments.

An unnecessary practice

In most modern legal systems, police or prosecutors release suspects when they don’t have enough evidence to charge them with a crime. In Israel, especially when the suspect is Palestinian, prosecutors and security forces find other ways to keep them behind bars.

Several years ago, at the height of mass hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, a senior Israeli security official confirmed that the state uses administrative detention in many cases out of laziness and when it just hadn’t bothered to collect enough evidence.

Then-public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich recommended to security officials at the time that administrative detention be used “only if there is a need and not in all cases,” an implicit admission that the practice was being applied in far more cases than the exceptional, extreme circumstances in which international law permits its use.

In a number of recent high profile cases, Israel has implicitly exposed once again that it is using administrative detention as a first, and not last resort.

Women hold posters depicting imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar at a protest against administrative detention in Nablus. Jarrar was put under administrative detention before Israel finally indicted her under international pressure, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Women hold posters depicting imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar at a protest against administrative detention in Nablus. Jarrar was put under administrative detention before Israel finally indicted her under international pressure, Nablus, West Bank. September 10, 2015. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Among the demonstrators in Nablus on Thursday were supporters and family members of Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar. The Israeli army arrested Jarrar in her Ramallah-area home in March of this year and placed her under administrative detention a few days later. The accusation against her was that she had failed to comply with a military order exiling her from her hometown.

Because she is a woman, an elected parliamentarian and because of the ludicrously trivial allegations against her, an international pressure campaign was launched, demanding that Israel cancel her administrative detention order. It worked. But instead of releasing Jarrar, the Israeli military prosecutor conjured up an equally ludicrous indictment. Why wasn’t Jarrar charged in the first place? Laziness.

When the military prosecutor finally charged Jarrar in military court, however, the judge did something entirely uncharacteristic of the system in he serves: he ordered Jarrar released on bail. It turns out that the list of 12 farcical charges against her, which largely consist of crimes related to membership in the political party she represents in the Palestinian parliament, did not make her a threat to public safety.

That didn’t fly, however. The prosecution appealed, and won, and Jarrar has remained in jail since. Twice ordered released. Still in prison.

Back in Nablus, a few dozen Palestinians are still hoping that the international community, played here by the ICRC, might intervene against the entire codified system of injustice used to oppress them and deny them even the most basic civil rights.

Unfortunately, with Israel’s hardening nationalist politicians advancing broad new counter-terrorism laws, it appears that those systems of oppression and denial of basic rights are only becoming more mainstream.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Weiss

      The most “moral” country in the world strikes again…

      Conditioning the sheep to think this is normal.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Nah Weiss ya got it all wrong.

        Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are the most moral groups/country in this world according to communist propagandists like you.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Khalida Jarrar is a political prisoner. As are many others the Israelis lock up for years and years without evidence or trial. This was a show trial. This is the kind of thing the Chinese do to the Tibetans and the Uighurs and their own Han Chinese dissidents. One difference is the Chinese don’t give a damn what the rest of the world thinks. Since Israel does give a damn, partially, sometimes–that is, it likes to keep up appearances for strategic reasons, it goes through charades. Another difference is that China, because it doesn’t give a damn because it doesn’t depend on American influence and American largesse or a narrative of being a pure democracy and being a bosom buddy ally, doesn’t have in place an utterly ruthless quasi-foreign agent kowtowing to Xi Jinping while masquerading as the American Chinese Public Affairs Committee.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        And on whose largesse does that so called peace maker does Abbas depend?

        I ask that question because Abbas insists on the release of child murdering terrorists in exchange for pretending to negotiate peace terms with Israel.

        Yet who do our idiot Jews, like Weiss and Benny, single out for obsessive criticism? Israel of course. And who do they absolve from all criticism and pretend that he is a peace maker? Abbas of course. Any wonder then that the rest of us imperfect Jews call them idiot Jews?

        Reply to Comment