Israel's Military Justice System Seems to Have Gone Too Far

The increasingly violent resistance to the occupation does not give Israel and its security apparatuses a license to deny liberty to innocent people.

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar walks with Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, an alliance of four small Arab-backed parties, after her release from an Israeli prison at Jabara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Friday, June 3, 2016.
Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar walks with Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, after her release from an Israeli prison at Jabara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, June 3, 2016. Majdi Mohammed, AP

Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar was released on Friday after 14 months in an Israeli prison. Jarrar was a political detainee, and her detention was a political detention.

At first Israel wanted to detain her without trial; only after an international protest was she prosecuted in a military court for a series of offenses, most of which were ridiculous and silly: attending a book fair, paying a condolence call to a Palestinian family and the like. The fact that Jarrar is an elected representative meant to enjoy a degree of immunity is meaningless to the military justice system; there are other Palestinian MPs who are in Israeli prisons.

Jarrar, who headed the Palestinian Legislative Council’s political prisoners committee, devoted many years to working on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, trying to win their release. But 700 Palestinian administrative detainees are currently in Israeli jails, some of whom have been incarcerated for lengthy periods without trial. While Jarrar was imprisoned another record was broken; there are 61 female Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, 14 of them minors. The Israel Prison Service had to open a new wing in Damon Prison, in addition to the one in Hasharon Prison, to hold them all.

Together with the total number of minors imprisoned by Israel – more than 400, according to B’Tselem – these numbers are evidence of the military justice system’s intolerable, disgraceful imprisonment policy toward Palestinians. No one expects it to operate like a real criminal justice system, but even for a military justice system it seems to have gone too far in recent months, with Israel allowing itself to deny freedom to the people living under its occupation without almost any restraint.

No security situation justifies the detention of a Palestinian legislator for her public activities. No stone-throwing validates the mass arrests of children, and nothing can rationalize detention without trial, a practice that is unacceptable and intolerable in a country governed by civil laws. The increasingly violent resistance to the occupation does not give Israel and its security apparatuses a license to deny liberty to innocent people.

When Jarrar was set free and faced the many people who came to greet her, including Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, who called her a freedom fighter, she said, “I know that the occupation wants to put all of Palestinian society into prison.” The policy of arrests and detentions by the army and the Shin Bet security service lately indeed proves that this could indeed be the face of Israel in the future.