Israel Must Free Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar

Judging by all the evidence, Jarrar is not a terrorist but rather a nonviolent activist who is working to liberate her people from the occupation.

Khalida Jarrar.
Khalida Jarrar. AFP

For a month now, Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar has been held in an Israeli prison after being arrested. Israel initially ordered that she be held for six months without trial, in administrative detention, on the grounds of violating a military order to remain in Jericho for six months. When the arbitrary arrest attracted protest from overseas, the Military Advocate General’s office decided to press charges against her.

Jarrar’s parliamentary activities have focused on obtaining the release of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian application to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague. She was charged in an Israeli military court with 12 security offenses, including membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and incitement to abduct an Israeli soldier as a bargaining chip.

Even after the filing of the charges, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Jarrar’s arrest was political in nature, meant as payback for her public activities regarding the ICC. The fact that she was charged with crimes only after the international protest reinforces this suspicion. Judging by all the evidence, including the indictment, Jarrar is not a terrorist. She is a nonviolent and determined activist who is working to liberate her people from the occupation. Israel has no right to punish her for that.

The detention of a Palestinian legislator who was elected in democratic elections was met with total indifference in Israel. According to the Israeli understanding of democracy, the Israel Defense Forces has the right to invade her home, which ostensibly is located in territory that is under full Palestinian control; to search it; to order her exile and detain her without trial on account of her political activity.

The Knesset did not rail against the violation of its Palestinian counterpart – there are already 16 Palestinian MPs in Israeli jails – and the majority of Knesset members did not rise up against Israel’s violation of the parliamentary immunity of their Palestinian counterparts. Most Israeli women’s organizations did not protest the detention of the feminist activist, and the Israeli media mostly ignored Jarrar’s detention and the opposition it provoked abroad.

Deliberations on Jarrar’s case will begin this week, and next week discussions over her administrative detention are set to continue. Israel is operating along both these tracks in an effort to guarantee her continued detention. Jarrar’s administrative detention should be canceled immediately, and her trial should continue only if there is concrete evidence that she has committed genuine security offenses. She deserves freedom, not incarceration, while this judgment is being made.