When Evil Sustains a Blow to the Ego, a Rarity in Israel's Military Courts

Two Israeli military judges deviated from the usual submissive route and used their judgment in the case of Amal Nakhleh, a young, ill Palestinian, freeing him on bail from prison

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Megiddo Prison in northern Israel
Megiddo Prison. Amal Nakhleh, who suffers from an auto-immune disease, was finally released from there last Thursday following a court session via video conference.Credit: Itzik Ben-Malki
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Amal Nakhleh, not yet 17, and suffering from a rare auto-immune disease, was released on bail from Megiddo Prison on Thursday evening. The military prosecution failed in its attempts to leave him in prison until the conclusion of court proceedings – or alternatively, to arrange the second “option”: administrative detention (that is, unlimited detention, without evidence, without charges, without a trial). Two military judges deviated from the usual submissive route and used their judgment. Thus evil sustained a blow to the ego – a rare sign in these parts.

The session took place in the military appeals court on the morning of December 10. On its agenda was the appeal filed by the military prosecution against the original decision by military youth court judge Lt.Col. Sharon Keinan, on November 24, to release Nakhleh on bail rather than keeping him in detention “until the conclusion of proceedings.” 

Such detention, until conclusion of proceedings, is routine procedure in the military legal system in the West Bank. It ensures that the Palestinian defendants, including many minors, will prefer to plead guilty to what they have been accused of rather than embark on an evidentiary hearing: Ultimately, they may be acquitted, or have fewer charges filed against them, but chances are that they would remain in prison for a longer period than the term they would have received had they accepted the deal immediately.

A military judge, Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Yair Tirosh, rejected the appeal and ruled that the ruling of his colleague, Keinan, should be implemented. Tirosh also rejected the request by the military prosecution to postpone implementation of his ruling by 72 hours, during which the prosecution hoped that an administrative detention order would be issued against the minor.

Amal Nakhleh, who's being held in jail, pending an appeal. His mother, Dr. Iman Arar, doesn't know details of his incarceration and worries he's not getting his medication. Credit: No credit

The proceeding took place via video conference: the teenage son in prison; the judge, the prosecution, defense attorney Firas Sabah and the father – in a prefab structure in the Ofer military base. Also present was attorney Moriah Shlomot, executive director of Parents Against Child Detention. Amal’s father, Muammar, made the bail payment of 3,000 shekels (ִ$922) and toward evening traveled north to Nablus, awaiting the final notification that his son was indeed being released from prison.

“At about 6 P.M. the boy called, said that he was at the Jalameh checkpoint,” which is north of Jenin, said the father. “I told him to take one of the taxis, and that we’d meet in the middle.” At 7 P.M. they were reunited, and together drove home, to Ramallah.

Nakhleh was arrested on November 2 at an impromptu checkpoint near Bir Zeit. He was accused of throwing stones. The military prosecution made sure to note in its indictment the precise number of stones that he allegedly threw. On the other hand, the exact dates when he allegedly threw the stones are not known to the military prosecution. In other words, it has no objective information regarding the suspect.

That is also routine in the Israeli military’s legal system: vague indictments, based on the assumption that the defendant will prefer to confess to something like “between January 1 and May 35, 2020, between Jenin and Never-Never Land, he threw eight stones and six of them hit military vehicles.”

The Shin Bet security service, the military prosecution and the army – everyone who was behind Nakhleh’s arrest – were well aware that he underwent surgery in July to remove his thymus gland (due to a benign tumor that was growing there). They have also heard of COVID-19 and the danger of infection in Israel’s prisons, and about the danger of complications of the illness in a teenager that is suffering from a rare disease that causes difficulty in swallowing and breathing.

But the authorities insisted that the teenager be arrested and held in detention. Otherwise, the security of our rule in the West Bank and the welfare of our perpetual superiority would have been in danger.

The military prosecution offered several options: a one-year plea bargain (in other words, the minor pleading guilty in court, without the prosecution having to worry about specific evidence or witnesses). Afterward the prosecution compromised, agreeing to six months in prison – but with a chance of administrative detention immediately afterward, or administrative detention in the terrible event that said minor was released.

The military authorities and the Shin Bet are again using the weapon of administrative detention with increasing success, to freeze life for as many Palestinians as possible, and as fast as possible. The facile use of prolonged detention without evidence and without counsel – and with zero pretensions to conducting a fair legal process – does not attest to the Palestinians and the extent of their struggle against the military occupier. It does not attest only to the military legal system, whose objective is to keep an entire people in constant fear.

Such detention attests mainly to Israeli society, including its respected and learned legal authorities. Our domination over the land bears fruit that erases red lines, historical analogies, values that we were once proud of (for example, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another”). The material benefits amassed by Israeli society from its military occupation create endless justifications for its systematic deviation from basic liberal norms, the ones that cause Western countries to mistakenly describe Israel as “democratic.”

Amal Nakhleh’s father also told Haaretz: “In the discussion of the prosecution’s appeal, on Thursday, I told the judge that the boy should be given an opportunity to feel the positive things in life too, attitudes of understanding and tolerance. If he remains in jail, he will experience the injustice. And I, as a father, won’t be able to keep an eye on him.”

The military prosecution was represented by two female attorneys, who fought in favor of the demand to leave the sick minor in detention until the conclusion of proceedings or until an order for administrative detention was issued. Both women are pregnant.

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