Wholesale Administrative Detention Is No Remedy for Terrorism

This is an exceptional measure that should be used only when there is near-certainty of a real danger and there is no other way to prevent it from unfolding.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Masked Jewish settlers clash with Palestinians in the West Bank village of Assira al-Kibliya, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011.
Masked Jewish settlers clash with Palestinians in the West Bank village of Assira al-Kibliya, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Credit: AP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon last week signed administrative detention orders for three suspected Jewish terror operatives: Meir Ettinger, Eviatar Slonim and Mordechai Meyer. At first glance, one might be heartened by the fact that the government is finally taking action against Jewish terror and has stopped discriminating between Jewish and Arab terror suspects.

But this would be a mistaken approach. Administrative detention is an extreme measure that deprives a person of his freedom without a trial, with the evidence against him generally not made available to him so he has no real way of defending himself.

This is an exceptional measure that should be used only when there is near-certainty of a real danger and there is no other way to prevent it from unfolding. The wholesale administrative detention of Palestinians over the years is unacceptable, and so is the administrative detention of Jews. This is not a remedy for terrorism.

Over the years, the accumulating evidence points to the inability of law enforcement agencies to deal with terror originating from the extreme right. A report in June by the NGO Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, for example, showed that the military has been evading its responsibility to protect the Palestinian population in the West Bank from violations by Israeli citizens. As a soldier from the Nahal Brigade told researchers, “If a Jew throws stones, the soldiers will call the police, they won’t point a weapon at him. They won’t arrest him, they won’t do anything. It’s likely the police [won’t do anything] either, but will [only] reprimand him.”

Other data collected by the organization show that 97 percent of investigations opened into the uprooting of Palestinian olive trees are closed because of police failures. According to the NGO B’Tselem, over the past three years there have been nine arson attacks on Palestinian homes, seemingly by Jewish terrorists, and yet none of the perpetrators has been caught.

For years, the authorities have been apathetic with regard to violence by the extreme right against Palestinians, against Palestinian property and, first and foremost, the violence expressed by seizing Palestinian lands and establishing outposts on them – and they do not enforce the law. It seems that now, when the threat has grown to monstrous proportions, as evidenced by the torching of the Duma home with its occupants inside, they have suddenly discovered a new panacea: administrative detention.

But the solution to the problem of terror isn’t found there; it will arrive only through thorough law enforcement of crimes by settlers and right-wing extremists. The long-standing lack of enforcement against the settlers and hilltop youth cannot now be papered over by administrative detentions. Instead, the government must withdraw the legitimacy it grants to their regular violations of the law.

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