Administrative Detentions are a perplexing phenomenon, as they contradict all the basic notions that we have about justice and the rule of law.
Today (Monday, August 7, 2017) we had another exemplary “round” of this strange process in the Haifa district court. The families of the detainees, together with some of the main leaders of the Arab Palestinian population and democratic activists, gathered out of the closed doors of the courtroom of Judge Yizhak Cohen, the court’s vice president, who was “reviewing” the administrative detention of three youth from “the Triangle”.
When the lawyers emerged from the closed court, everybody flocked around them, but people found it hard to understand the process… Were they sentenced to 6 months? No, they were not sentenced at all. They were arrested on July 23 for a period of 6 months by the order of Israel’s war minister, Avigdor Liberman. The judge only reviewed the administrative orders and confirmed their validity according to Israel’s law that upholds such unlawful detentions.
When I tell friends about this detention they ask me: “What are they accuse of?” Well, sincerely, I don’t know. “Did you see their lawyers? They must know”, people continue to ask nervously… But the lawyers, and even the detainees themselves, who were allowed to be inside the courtroom for parts of the “review”, are also not allowed to know what “threat” they are supposed to constitute against “state security”. All the evidence is “secret” and it is presented by the security services (the “Shabak”) only to the judge.
Today’s 3 detainees
The detainees are three young Palestinians, aged 24-30. One, Mu’atasem Mahamid is from Mu’awiya, near Umm al-Fahm, and the other two, Ahmad Mar’i and Adham D’eif from Ara-Ar’ara, a few kilometers to the south.
As the hearing started the guards didn’t only block us from entering but also glued papers to seal the glass window in the door, to prevent the families even from waving hello from afar to their loved sons and brothers. As we scorned the justice of this system that hides behind closed doors one of the guards apologized and said he is only a small screw in the machine, it is only his work and he was acting on orders from above.
The first lawyer that came out was ‘Adel Bwerat, a private lawyer that represents Mr. D’eif. He was very proud to say that the judge reduced the period of the detention from 6 to 2 months. At first I thought this decision covered al the 3 detainees. Soon I understood that the “review” process for the other two was just beginning. Some two hours later lawyers Omar Khamaisi and Mustafa Mahamid from Al-Mizan, who represent the other detainees, came out with the bad news that their clients’ detention was approved to the full extent of 6 months.
In a declaration to the (Hebrew) site Local Call lawyer Bwerat said that the judge, after reviewing the secret evidence, was convinced that the danger from his client was low-level. Well, this is the type of things we celebrate today, when for an imaginary low level potential that you might do some harm you get just 2 months of prison without trial.
Some historic perspective
Whenever some Palestinians inside the green line get Administrative Detention many people put the same astonished face: We know this kind of detention is massively used in the occupied West Bank, but are they really used also against citizens of Israel? It is a severe precedent!
It might be helpful to remember that Israel is under “emergency laws” for all and every of the 69 years from its establishment in 1948. Every area of the country has its “military governor” that has absolute authority to detain or restrict the freedom of any citizen. Until 1966 the military government was the main tool of the state to handle the Arab population in the 1948 occupied territories. The first Arab national party to organize after the Nakba, Al-Ard, was successfully oppressed out of existence by such measures.
In the 1980s Arab student leaders (among others) from both the Israeli communist party and the (leftist Palestinian) Abna Al-Balad movement were regularly confined to their villages of origin by military decrees. In 1987 and 1988, after the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada, about 10 of the leaders of Abna Al-Balad and like-minded movements spent time in Administrative Detention for organizing solidarity action.
In the last 2 decades the usage of administrative detentions against Arab citizens of Israel actually never stopped, but it was becoming rather rare, used on individual basis.
Assessment of the latest development
When Muhammad Ibrahim from Kabul was put under administrative detention last year, probably for his indulgence with the Al-Aqsa mosque, it was a challenge for the Arab population. For the first 6 month nobody said anything. As administrative detention is not limited in time – it can be extended indefinitely – it is a very stressful situation for the detainee, his family and his lawyers. There are always those people that advise you to keep low profile in order not to annoy the security apparatus even more.
After 6 month of keeping quiet, Muhammad Ibrahim’s detention was extended for another 6 months for no reason at all. The popular committee in Kabul and “The follow-up Committee” – the united leadership of the ’48 Palestinians – started to organize public protest. Finally the detention was shortened and he was released.
The case of the three youth from the Triangle is different. Muhammad Ibrahim was initially detained and interrogated by the Shabak. Only after they failed to force a “confession” out of him he was transferred to administrative detention. Our new detainees were administrative to start with, not suspected of anything and not interrogated about anything.
Collective administrative detention, not known since the 1980s, is also a sign both of escalating oppression and of the politicization of the process. Over the last month some ministers, including Liberman himself, demanded to issue administrative detention against Sheikh Raed Salah, the legendary leader of the Islamic movement.
While the crisis around Al-Aqsa and the provocative Israeli “security” checks around it was at its height, Israel’s housing minister, General Galant, from the “moderate” Kulanu party, suggested to give up the magnetometers and use mass administrative detentions instead (see an Hebrew news item here). So we see that the issue of administrative detention became both a political game for racist politicians competing for the love of the racist electorate and another indiscriminate way to pursue “collective punishment” in the disguise of “security measures” against the Arab public.
Now we know that at least one more Arab citizen of Israel is under administrative detention but nothing was reported about it. So, if you happen to live in “democratic” Israel and a neighbor suddenly disappears you can still hope that he is alive and well, just spending some time in Magido prison, where the 3 detainees from the Triangle are staying now.