Enough With Administrative Detentions

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Hisham Abu Hawash's son at a protest in Dura, in January.
Hisham Abu Hawash's son at a protest in Dura, in January. Credit: MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/רויטר

After 141 days during which the life of administrative detainee Hisham Abu Hawash was in danger, an agreement was reached Tuesday for him to be released on February 26.

It’s a pity that only after Abu Hawash spent four and a half months on hunger strike to protest his detention without trial, and in the wake of unrest in the Palestinian Authority and threats by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, was this rightful result achieved.

Abu Hawash is hospitalized in serious condition at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in central Israel, after losing about half his body weight, and he could have died at any moment. Israel suspended his arrest warrant last week, but Abu Hawash continued his hunger strike, demanding that the order be withdrawn completely. He knew that if he stopped his hunger strike without obtaining this there would be no guarantee that the nightmare of his administrative detention would not resume immediately.

Abu Hawash, 40 and a father of five, was arrested in his home in Dura, south of Hebron, in late October 2020. Military prosecutors had no unclassified evidence on which to draft an indictment to present to a military court. But in the Shin Bet security service state, “confidential material” is enough for a military commander to sign an order for six months of administrative detention, and an additional one six months later, repeat ad infinitum.

After decades of occupation, it seems that almost no one in Israel has the energy or interest to speak out on behalf of one more Palestinian who’s been wronged. One more, one less, what can we do anyway? For many people in Israel, “Palestinian” and “terrorist” are synonyms, and Israelis apparently prefer to believe that the state would not be doing these injustices unless if there was something there.

But if there is something there, why have more than 14 months elapsed without an indictment? If the state had evidence against Abu Hawash, it should have charged him. If not, it had to release him immediately.

Israel’s insistence on keeping a man in custody without trial could have cost us military escalation in the Gaza Strip and popular unrest in the Palestinian Authority.

It’s a pity that the current government, which includes centrist and left-wing partners, is following in the footsteps of the previous governments and is being dragged against its will, until the last moment, at which point it needs regional mediation by parties including Egypt, and threats that make it seem as if it only responds to force, to extricate itself from the mess.

It’s time for Israel to learn to forgo this undemocratic, corrupt practice of unlimited administrative detention, without evidence or charges that can be refuted.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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