Analysis |

When the Shin Bet Sneers at Israeli Army Judges

Remember Palestinian teen Amal Nakhleh? During his 40 days out of jail he tried to catch up with his studies and had some medical tests. But then he was sent to administrative detention – just as the Shin Bet had promised

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Megiddo Prison, in northern Israel
Megiddo Prison. The IDF told Amal Nakhleh's father that the teen was taken in for questioning, but he was not questioned and was incarcerated. Two days later the administrative detention order came.Credit: Alon Ron
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The Shin Bet security service (and its emissary on earth, the Military Prosecution) has achieved its aim: Amal Nakhleh, 17, was rearrested and is now under administrative detention. Just as the Military Prosecution threatened would happen, from the start. Apparently the decision by two military judges to release Nakhleh on bail infuriated the Shin Bet.

Now the Shin Bet is hiding behind the oh-so-convenient excuse that it has “up-to-date” classified information about the teenager. On Sunday it made the same claim before another military judge, Shmuel Ashuel, who is due to ratify the six-month administrative order. In short: detention without evidence, without hearing the suspicions, without a right to defense. An order that will ruin Nakhleh’s last year in high school.

To recap: On November 2, 2020 Nakhleh was arrested and accused of throwing stones. On December 10 he was released on bail.

Amal Nakhleh lives in Ramallah, his mother is a doctor, from the village of Qarawat Bani Zeid north of Ramallah, in the West Bank. His father, a journalist and lawyer, was born in the Jalazun refugee camp. The father’s family is originally from the destroyed village of Beit Nabala.

Nakhleh suffers from a rare and serious autoimmune disease. In the summer he underwent surgery for the removal of his thymus gland and a benign tumor that was growing on it. As a result of his illness, he has difficulties breathing and swallowing. In addition to his medication, he requires close medical supervision because occasionally there can be a deterioration in his condition – due to infection, or physical or emotional stress. Such deterioration requires a change in dosages of medicine. He also receives immunosuppressive treatment, which is necessary to prevent a new outbreak of his disease.

Amal Nakhleh, who was freed on bail and rearrested last month. The fact that he suffers from a rare and serious autoimmune disease does not seem to bother military prosecutors or the Shin Bet.Credit: No credit

After a year in which our lives have been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, experience has taught us – and we can also conclude – that if this young man is infected, God forbid, he is likely to develop serious complications. If and when he is vaccinated, the vaccination will be less safe. And meanwhile in Israeli prisons the number of inmates that have fallen ill with the coronavirus is increasing.

All that is of no interest to the Shin Bet or the military prosecution, which fought vigorously so that Nakhleh would remain in detention until the conclusion of legal proceedings. It also offered a number of deals to the lawyers from the Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, who are representing him (one year in prison, which was then reduced to a half-year sentence with a possibility of administrative detention immediately afterward). The military prosecution was not interested in Nakhleh’s medical condition when it threatened that if he were released on bail he would be placed under administrative detention, or when on November 24 it appealed the decision of Judge Lt. Col Sharon Keinan, to release Nakhleh on bail.

Even when Military Appeals Court Judge Lt. Col. Yair Tirosh rejected the appeal of the military prosecution on December 10, the prosecution stuck to its guns: It once again demanded that the youth not be released from jail. Tirosh did not accede to the request, nor did he have the impression that the classified evidence presented to him was serious.

Nakhleh was out of prison for 40 days. His parents said that he spent the time both catching up on his studies (this year he is taking the matriculation exams) and undergoing several medical tests. There is some disagreement among his doctors regarding the medication he is receiving.

After the first article was published about him here (“Israeli Military Prosecutors: If Freed, Palestinian Teen at Risk for COVID-19 Will Be Detained Without Trial,” Dec. 12), an Israeli doctor, an expert in Nakhleh’s rare disease, contacted his mother and was supposed to examine her son and offer her advice. On Sunday, January 17, someone from the Palestinian General Intelligence Service called Amal’s father: Bring the boy to us, they said. The two were in the middle of a test in a hospital.

What if we come tomorrow? asked Nakhleh’s father. All right, they said. But despite that, the Mukhabarat, the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, called back later that same day and urgently demanded that Nakhleh’s father bring him in as soon as possible.

At 6 P.M. he arrived at the headquarters of the Mukhabarat on El Irsal Street in the northern part of the city of El Bireh: This is a complex of several residential buildings built in the 1990s and later converted into service’s headquarters. A sentry, several concrete barricades and Palestinian military vehicles hint at the security-related nature of this compound.

Palestinian intelligence officials told Nakhleh that the Israelis were insisting on rearresting him: that they claimed that he is an inciter, a troublemaker, and that he talks too much – which is why keeping him with them was a type of protective detention.

This indicates something about the nature of the relationship between the two sides. The Israeli side discloses a few details (certainly not everything) to its Palestinian counterpart about people – and certainly not all of them – whom it is planning to arrest. Or perhaps security personnel from both sides exchange information incidentally, and a Palestinian officer in this case felt uncomfortable with the knowledge that the Israelis were planning to rearrest the teenage.

Nakhleh remained until the next day in the custody of Palestinian General Intelligence. They promised him that they had spoken to the Israeli side and that “the problem was solved.” But four days later, on Thursday, January 21, early in the morning, soldiers broke into his house and arrested him. They told him, “Take your medications,” his mother recalled.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit told Haaretz that day that Nakhleh would be interrogated (about the alleged new suspicions against him). As far as his father knows, however, his son was not interrogated once he was rearrested, and that same night or the next day he was already incarcerated in Megiddo Prison, in a COVID-19 quarantine wing. A day or two later, as anticipated, the administrative detention order was issued.

The Shin Bet and the Military Prosecution thus kept their promise of late last year and sent a clear message to the military judges who released Amal Nakhleh on bail: We don’t give a damn what you decide, either.

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