Opinion

Israel’s Golden Calf of ‘Security Reasons’

Of all people, Palestinian administrative detainees, on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment without trial, are expressing faith in Israelis’ ability to stop worshipping idols

Six-year-old Adam Hemo

With no fanfare, a query to the Shin Bet security service by my colleague Nurit Wurgaft removed an obstacle that prevented a retired 73-year-old teacher from visiting his son, a doctor who has cancer. The father, Ahmed Hamad, lives in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. His son lives in Jericho in the West Bank. Hamad’s application for an exit permit was denied “for security reasons.”

Imagine the pain and distress that accompanied him every day since he found out about his son’s illness about six months ago. Imagine how the pain and distress deepened because higher powers forbade him from going to see his son.

The superior reasons disappeared when Wurgaft wondered how a 73-year-old man had suddenly become dangerous and how a visit to his sick son endangered the security of Israel and the Jewish people. The obstacle was removed, and he could expect a response (a permit) from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories in a few days, “security officials” told her. In her July 29 Hebrew-language column in Haaretz, Wurgaft reported on the positive outcome in one brief, modest sentence, without calling it an achievement.

The tenacity of a human rights group or journalistic scrutiny sometimes eliminates a security excuse that sabotages a basic human act like a family meeting or the pursuit of work. Even when the security motive is suddenly lifted, the bureaucrats and the officers who decide fates with a click of their keyboard remain anonymous and impervious to all criticism.

Their decision-making process is at no risk of exposure and they won’t be asked about their earlier reasons for deciding what they decided. The golden calf of security is sacred, and the people in Israel bow down to it and sacrifice to it any free thought, consideration or human emotion.

In the name of “security” the Israeli authorities let themselves abuse a mother and her four children just a little more. Some of you will surely remember Adam Hemo, not yet 6 years old, whom COGAT, the District Coordination and Liaison and High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg didn’t let out of Gaza to move with his mother and siblings back to the West Bank because his address in the Population Registry is Rafah in Gaza. He should follow the rare and complicated procedure of “settling in the West Bank,” the above agencies determined, ignoring his natural dependence on his mother, whose address is in the West Bank.

In mid-July, after two and a half years of mental torture and material distress, the Jerusalem district prosecutor’s officer informed rights group Gisha, which appealed the decision in the name of the mother and son, that Adam would be allowed to leave Gaza.

But not immediately, perish the thought, because – the district prosecutor wrote – his mother and siblings should undergo a new security check to determine whether they are allowed to leave Gaza. The security check she underwent two and a half years ago is no longer valid. Who knows, maybe since the last check and right as they’re about to be released from the largest incarceration facility in the world, Gaza, they decided to harm Israel’s security and the well-being of the Jewish people.

District Court Judge David Gideoni knows which way the wind blows, and he allowed the prosecution to submit a new response to little Adam’s appeal, based on a new security check, until August 15. Adam’s birthday is August 20. His grandmother and grandfather in Kafr Malik were hoping to celebrate it with him. But it turned out there was another celebration. The representative of the Jerusalem district prosecution in Hemo’s case is getting married and going on her honeymoon. She’ll only be back on August 18.

“In light of the above, the respondents need a brief additional period of one week to submit an updated response by August 25,” the representative wrote, asking the judge for another postponement.

The case, as we know, is so complex that no other lawyer on behalf of the state can replace her. We’ll extend the anguish a bit longer, we’ll prevent the boy from celebrating his birthday on time, we’ll make it difficult for the Hemo children to register in their new school. Why not, if it’s possible? Gideoni once again granted the postponement.

With that same mentality of worshipping security and a lack of transparency, military commanders in the West Bank issued administrative detention orders in July against 100 Palestinians; 28 of the orders were new and the rest were extensions of detention, according to a report by the Palestinian commission for prisoner affairs.

In recent years, the number of Palestinian administrative detainees has continued to hover around 500. These are people who have been held in Israeli jails for many years without trial – pulled out of their homes, away from their families, jobs and studies, released after a year or two and then put back in jail. And all this has happened without the military prosecution bothering to show a shred of evidence against them, without the authorities making an effort to respect even a semblance of their right to a defense and the presumption of innocence.

They’re dangerous and that’s that, some anonymous Shin Bet coordinator decides. A military commander issues an order and a military judge salutes and signs off on it. Go prove that political opinions, social activism and sometimes charisma aren’t crimes.

Eleven administrative detainees launched a hunger strike a few weeks ago to protest their unlimited detention without trial. It was reported that about 20 other inmates joined the strike last week in solidarity. It was also reported that two detainees suspended their strike because they were promised that their detention order would not be renewed. Of all people, it’s the Palestinian hunger strikers who show faith in the Israelis’ ability to stop worshipping idols.